My best friend, Marsha, was just diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about six months ago. It has changed our life style. While I don’t have diabetes myself, it doesn’t matter. Since I live with my BFF and I am the cook, the way I look at food is totally different. I no longer walk through the grocery store and buy whatever I like. Every food choice I make goes through the filter of: Can Marsha have this? How will this affect her blood sugar? Is this something that I need to eat at work rather than at home?
Diabetes affects everyone around you, from your friends, your family and even your co-workers. The effects are seen and felt in the way you eat, exercise, sleep and monitor your sugar level. It even affects things like going to restaurants and nights out on the town. And don’t get me started on traveling…
There are several key issue that we have discovered since Marsha’s diagnosis. Each one has its own unique challenges. These key issues are:
- Exercise, but not how you might think
- Fast Food – Do you have to give it up?
- Are you eating enough carbs?
Exercise, but not how you might think…
Marsha and I have changed the way we eat, the way we exercise and even the way we run errands. We watch the clock to make sure meals aren’t being missed and keep snacks and water in the car for emergencies. If we know that we will be moving around more than normal for an afternoon, then more carbohydrates are added to lunch. Moving around doesn’t necessarily mean exercise in its traditional form.
Our biggest trouble is actually grocery shopping. Once a month, we have a big shopping trip to Sam’s Club and Kroger. It usually lasts several hours and we tend to go in the afternoon on a Saturday. When Marsha was first diagnosed and for a few months after that, Marsha would get sick and dizzy half way through our grocery shopping and for a while we couldn’t figure out why. Finally, it dawned on us, after taking classes about diabetes, that we were walking around Sam’s Club for several hours but our lunch was set up for an afternoon of watching TV. Now, we eat a slightly larger serving of carbohydrates before leaving for Sam’s Club and we take a snack with us for Marsha to eat if she starts feeling light headed. We found that her blood sugar was dropping because that is what exercise, even in the form of walking around the grocery store, does.
Fast Food – Do you have to give it up?
When you are diabetic, you can’t eat whatever you want. Fast food becomes a challenge of what you can eat from which restaurant and is it really worth it? Most of the time, it isn’t worth it. What you can eat at fast food restaurants and how much of it you can eat is an exercise in frustration. With a little research and knowing ahead of time what you can and cannot eat helps.
Our favorite fast food restaurant is Chick-fil-a. They have a wonderful Grilled Chicken Salad that is low in carbohydrates, tastes good and leave room for a small dessert of a Yogurt Parfait if you get the low carb version of dressing. It makes a wonderful and quick meal anytime but Sundays (as Chick-fil-a isn’t open on Sundays).
Salads are usually a great option when you are at any type of restaurant. Get grilled chicken on top for protein. Leave off the croutons and get the low carb salad dressing. You get a lot of food for very little carbs. Just be careful of the dressing. Low-fat is not low-carb!!!
Even foods that are high in carbs can be eaten if you pay attention to the serving size. Marsha was craving pizza which is a high carb food due to all the crust. After researching several different pizza types, we found that a medium garden fresh pizza at Papa John’s has 27g of carbs per slice. If Marsha only eats two slices then she can have pizza and since this is a garden fresh pizza, it has a ton of veggies on it.
Another food Marsha tends to crave is French fries which is another high carb food. I, too, love French fries and I am willing to share. I get a small fry with my sandwich. Marsha gets a salad without a dessert (see above) and I give her a few of my fries. She only get like 10 fries, but it is enough for her to have a taste without going overboard.
Remember, moderation is key.
Are you eating enough carbs?
The other major issue we found was that in the morning, Marsha woke up feeling sick, dizzy and starving. She would be shaky and have a hard time focusing. After our diabetes class, we found out that due to her medicine, her blood sugar would drop overnight. However, she needs that particular medicine during the day, so it isn’t one she can stop taking.
How did we resolve this dilemma? With a snack before bed. She is only allowed half the carbs she would normally get at a meal and she needed to pair it with some form of protein. Protein make the release of sugar into the blood stream into a steady flow over a few hours rather than a sudden flood in just a few minutes. Marsha loves chocolate ice cream with peanut butter. The ice cream gives the carbs and the peanut butter gives the protein. We measure out half a cup which has about 23g of carbs and she eats it about 30 minutes before bedtime. This also helps me as I have a sweet tooth and the thought of giving up all sugar was daunting. This gives me a sweet treat before bed too.
Of course, there are more things that are issues. These are just the three that we needed to find a solution for and quickly. Marsha doesn’t need to feel like crap just because she was getting up in the morning or going to the grocery store. I have my own medical issues (migraines) that makes cooking every night or even most nights a problem and Marsha can’t cook. We needed alternatives that wouldn’t make Marsha’s blood sugar go back into the 300s again.
Over the coming months, I plan to write more posts about Type 2 Diabetes. Not only does this allow me to organize my thoughts about what is happening but I’m hoping that this perspective will help those with diabetes and those who are helping friends and family members with diabetes. It’s a life changing disease but it isn’t something that you can just ignore. I’m hoping this will help someone. If you know someone with diabetes or helping someone with diabetes, let them know about this post. If you have any questions or comment, please fill out the form below. Just remember, what works for Marsha and I, might not work for you. You are a unique person. You will need a unique solution.