Nuts, bolts and successful Type 2 strategies.

download

Many people have inquired about the specifics of how I personally control my condition. Breaking with my usual focus on the behavioral aspects of management, I thought I’d share more about the nuts and bolts that I find helpful, or essential. Because something works for me, there’s no guarantee it’ll do the same for you.

At the end of this post I’ll share a link to an amazing nutritionist, health consultant and food wizard, whose recipes and extensive knowledge turned things around for me.

So this is a summary of the best and most effective ways I maintain being fit and healthy, not just despite having Type 2, but because of it.

Choose what you want, try it to ascertain the results, and leave the rest!

 

Food

Starting off with food, as it’s the most central issue for us all. For those who are serious about containing their diabetes and attempting to forestall any complications, it’s unwise to think “I’ll get to the food thing later”.

I started out being serious about it. From the moment I was diagnosed, which foods are ‘safe’ became an obsession. Over the top maybe, but I saw it as one area I could make wise choices, with significant benefits down the road. For those who struggle with delayed gratification, this will be a more difficult motivator.

Time to hit “reset”.

I refer to myself as a functional cook. I can prepare tasty meals, but it was more a chore than a joy. I never followed recipes, preferring instead to be creative and cook up what was around. The results ranged from fine to uninspired.

Aside from all the nutritional research I’ve delved into, I’ve eventually whittled it down to several rules I follow.

Due to weight loss and low carbs, I’m no longer resistant to the hormones ghrelin and leptin. I eat only when physically hungry and stop when full. This helps manage portion control. I limit any protein to 2-3 ozs and learnt to eyeball it (around the size of your palm).

14604751

I eat plant-derived carbs, from non-starchy veggies, and full fats as a source of energy. Mostly this means the lowest carb full fat dairy like greek yogurt, half and half or coconut milk (regular cow’s milk is too high in sugar (lactose) content. I use extra virgin cold pressed olive oil and either coconut vinegar, lemon or lime for salad dressing. When baking or cooking, the  I only use organic virgin coconut oil, or organic butter.

I avoid all grains and flours, so instead I bake with almond or flax meal, coconut flour or psyllium husk.

One “secret helper” I’ve used occasionally if there is limited food choice, or the ingredients unknown or possibly suspect, is white bean extract capsules. They block carbohydrate absorption. I don’t use them as an excuse to eat carbs, but sparingly if that’s the best option at a restaurant.

 

Sleep

One of the triggers in developing Type 2 was significant sleep deprivation over a

imagesperiod of time. Due to severe menopausal symptoms, my sleep patterns were abysmal. At most I slept 4-5 hours down from my normal 7.5-8. Night after night I woke up due to ‘power surges’ of heat and energy causing my central nervous system to become aroused, and my body temperature rising and falling well outside a comfortable range. Sweating to shivering hourly…

 

This required a literal cooling down – I kept a damp cold face cloth next to the bed, windows wide open year round, light bedding and minimal contact with my partner, who tended to run hot.

Even as my body eventually cooled, turning shivery before normalizing, my mind was equally aroused, with thoughts torpedoing around that further pushed sleep away. After 18 months of this misery, I mentioned it to my MD who asked me why I was suffering like that? Not having a good answer, she prescribed sleeping pills. Never having tried them before, reluctantly I took them as clearly I needed to sleepBut knowing them to be addictive, this wasn’t a long-term solution.

Fast forward to today, what still works so well even though my sleeping has greatly improved as the flashes have decreased, is taking 1000 mg L-Tryptophan. This is an amino acid that’s a precursor (triggers production) of Serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates sleep (and appetite). It works! I also add 360 mg Magnesium Taurate which helps as a muscle relaxer, further ensuring sound sleep.

So I take both 30 minutes or so before bedtime, and sleeplessness is history. Consequently, given the connection between sufficient sleep, blood glucose level and appetite, all are better regulated.

 

Exercise

Diabetes happened despite my regular daily workouts for years. As I learn how imperative exercise is to my new regime, I kicked it up several notches in intensity. Working well initially, it helped to sustain lower BG readings. But after several months, I noticed a troubling change.

images (1)

Typically, I’d test before, during and after exercising to gauge the impact. As a trend upwards to higher numbers began to show, initially baffled, eventually I traced it to the effect of intense exercise releasing cortisol, or adrenaline, which pushed up BG levels! Who’d have thought it! Backing down slightly to a moderate workout, this no longer happens.

Now, I fine-tune my exercise needs to fit with the balance of BG needs daily.

To avoid boredom, I mix strength or resistance training (very important as toned muscles vacuum up excess glucose carried in the blood due to being unable to enter the cells) with cardio, yoga, dance or hiking.

 

Stress

Often, things well beyond our control happen. How we respond is crucial. To strengthen my being able to let things go, or not ruminate on them, I stepped up my meditation practice.

Yoga and Diabetes Research

My favorite advice on how long to sit is a Zen master, who when asked, replied “Sit for 10 or 15 minutes, unless you’re really busy. Then sit for an hour”. Perfect antidote for this ADD time we live in.

I reinforced the ritual around sitting daily, so it didn’t require a decision to be made each time. After choosing the time and place that works and keeping my cushion and bench there, I just “show up” as part of my morning routine. Once I settle in the familiar posture,  immediately I notice my mind becomes calmer, more focused.

This results in increased concentration, a slower respiratory system (a feeling of being calmer), more deliberate chosen actions, less emotional reactivity, and better decision-making as patience kicks in. Any mental or physical agitation or restlessness dissipates, and I’m able to instead purposely move through tasks tending to each one effectively.

No more spinning, flitting ineffectively from one thing to another.

If a stress-inducing thought arrives in my mind, I internally respond by a “Not now” or “I’ll deal with that later”. It works well, until the stress builds up again. Repeat again and again until it becomes a ‘call and response’ automatically.

This is just a snippet of what’s worked for me. Perhaps it’ll inspire you to make some healthy changes by introducing new habits or items to your pantry. It’s by no means inclusive, just a taster…

I promised to share at the beginning the website of an amazing nutritionist, here’s where you can find amazingly healthy recipes and nutritional knowledge that won’t spike BG! What could be better…?

 

What’s worked for you? Can you share your own tips?

Mindfully Managing the Holidays – my interview on the Discuss Diabetes Blog

It’s hard to believe the holiday season is fast approaching! This time of year presents many challenges for those of us living with Type 2.

Discuss Diabetes Blog

I recently spoke with Laura Kolodjeski of the Discuss Diabetes Blog about how we can use mindfulness to continue eating for maximum health and wellness – even during the holidays!

Click here to read the interview. How do you manage the challenges associated with the holidays? Leave a comment to let us know!

“I’ve never told anyone this, but…”

 

 

images

 

Someone emailed me recently in response to a post I wrote. Like myself, this person lives with Type 2 diabetes. But astoundingly, aside from their doctor, they have told no one! That they disclosed this information to me speaks to the sense of safety in the anonymity of email. This person confessed to be ashamed of having this condition, hence the “secret “. They also carried the burden of the belief of not having been able to avoid developing Type 2.

 

Maybe they’d taken to heart the frequent urging found everywhere in the media. If you just lose weight, eat “right”, exercise, choose different parents, you can avoid ending up with diabetes. Reading the email, my heart softened, and I felt sadness imagining their loneliness around such a massive part of their life.

 

Although I don’t know this person, it sounded like they carried such a level of responsibility towards this outcome and had made their condition so personal that having become diabetic equaled failure! They obviously felt they hadn’t done the “correct” things, having allowed this condition to develop due to their own bad habits, and now was paying for a lackadaisical attitude by developing this chronic condition. As if Type 2 isn’t sufficient on it’s own to manage, they have to put in considerable effort keeping it hidden. I can’t speak to if there is any physical suffering, but I can read the immense mental pain they’re enduring.

 

Shame…secrets…the difference between them, and why we keep certain things hidden.

 

If someone leans in close to you, clearly wanting to share something and starts off with the statement “I’ve never told this to anyone…”, how do you react?

 

Like most of us, your ears prick up. You’d pay attention, intrigued maybe honored that you’ve been chosen to receive. Your curiosity gets triggered by what deep secret is about to be

images (2)aired. But not just to anyone, to you…like your being who you are occasioned this sharing. From that often comes a sense of being special to that person.

 

Let’s take a deeper look at this. Chances are the person sharing either no longer has to hold onto the secret, or has decided they need to let go of something they feel shameful about. On the surface, these two options may appear quite similar. A secret about to be shared is often prefaced by “Don’t tell anyone…” or a version of that. It’s far less personal, maybe something to do with a person, but not specifically about a person.

 

“I’ve never told anyone, but…” usually pre-empts a disclosure about the self. But the belief they’re about to disclose is an unacceptable, yet integral, part of themselves, something kept hidden, often convinced they’ll barely survive it being known, it’s that despicable in their mind. Just thinking about it fills the body/mind with shame, a deep emotional energy that makes us feel if others only knew this shameful fact about us, they’d see we’re unworthy, or utterly unlovable.

 

It’s a rare therapy client who hasn’t eventually led up to haltingly admitting an aspect of themselves, a dream, a behavior, a long-ago choice made but now second-guessed that they buried under layers of more acceptable stuff to show the world. The common belief is that if they don’t let anyone know, they’ll eventually come to believe it didn’t happen!

 

How can you recognize shame, this emotion behind feeling deeply embarrassed? One clue – do you entertain many judgmental thoughts towards yourself and others? Investigate this concept if you’re unsure. If you harbor negative critical attitudes about yourself more frequently than not, and (not so coincidentally) notice an absence of kindness, odds are your thoughts tend towards the similar in others.

 

images (1)

 

Those who’ve developed judgmental attitudes are frequently shame-based. You have to dig around deeply, because these attitudes can be deeply encrusted. For others, you’ll know immediately what I’m referring to, even if it rarely sees light outside of your own mind.

 

The connection here is that shame makes us smaller, contracted. Judging distances us from others, and from ourselves.

 

 

Feeling shame around illness

So back to the person who admitted feeling ashamed, because I know they’re not alone…

 

The body will do what it has to. Sure, we can often influence it, be proactive, take better care, make wise choices…and still genetics may trump all that. Despite our best efforts, our bodies can be robust, they can be frail. Universally, they traverse the full range over time. Eventually, sooner or later, virtually every body has the audacity to malfunction! Let’s face it, we rent the physical body for a few decades. Once born, or coming into being, there’s no other way out, it must whither, and die off.

 

For around a decade, from the mid 80′s – 90′s, I worked as a clinician in San Francisco, California, with those suffering with, and dying from, AIDS. I sat with patients on the medical wards or in their homes, during the time when it was certainly fatal, and before its name was universally known. Still striking mostly youngish gay men, I worked with my patients literally until their untimely, tragic deaths. In my personal life too, losses from this disease multiplied. Completing the immersion, my doctoral research was conducted upon the population of those with AIDS.

 

Countless of those brave, terrified souls taught me profound life lessons. Not least was the one about how to die. But the point is virtually universally they railed against it, the unfairness of it, the horror of loss of control, and yes, the shame of it.

 

But something unfurled the closer they came to the end of their life. The horror dissolved, the raging stopped, the desire for the sense of control evaporated. Acceptance regarding their inevitable fate seeped in.

 

And transformation appeared. You could visually see it, their ravaged bodies grew looser and movement became more fluid, their features softened, their words became more caring, even a little gallows humor snuck in. Process happened, in some cases reconciliation with family who had learned of their son’s gay identity the same time they had to absorb the news of their terminal diagnosis.

 

Any shame, and there was tons of it going around, took second place under the process of accepting what was happening. Eventually, it dissipated due to their growing ability to accept reality.

 

But back to the person who emailed me. Why would a person go to such lengths to conceal having Type 2?

 

In order to avoid feeling shame.

 

By contrast, my own reaction to being diagnosed was great disappointment, as I’d hoped I could manage to avoid dealing with the same illness that my father died from almost 50 years earlier. Aware that unchecked, disappointment may contribute to developing a degree of shame, I consciously took the pathway leading directly away.

 

I publicized it, which led to this blog you’re reading!

 

This isn’t a “my way is better than yours” point. I simply used it to illustrate how shame can lead to feelings of toxicity and isolation, while the other path of disclosure brings freedom. Actually, I’ll go further than that. Since beginning this blog, I’ve been astonished by the support I’ve received. A whole vibrant community mirrors back my experience, easing any mental suffering or resentment, minimizing any “poor me” or “why me” holes to fall into.

 

Hopefully you’ve stuck with me this far to receive the message.

 

Shame wants us to hide. It’s about who we are, not what we’ve done (that’s guilt). It’s powerful, and very uncomfortable! That which makes you squirm probably is something you’re ashamed of.

 

So what to do about it?

 

Deeply uncomfortable, the solution to feeling shame is unbelievably simple. The antidote is the very thing which you’d rather die than do…disclose it!

 

 

That’s right, you read it correctly. The instruction is simple, the action not so much.

 

Prepare yourself a little first. Don’t just take a deep breathe and blurt it out. First, soften the heart by cultivating self-kindness. Be especially compassionate, caring, open-hearted towards yourself. And include in your kindness and caring, all the feelings that you carry around this.

 

Acknowledge that you kept it hidden for protection, to be safe. That you needed, even deserved to be safe, still do. Perhaps back when, you didn’t feel safe, you were too vulnerable when that which you’re ashamed of happened.

 

If that rings true for you, cultivate and incline your heart to open lovingly towards yourself.

 

Don’t judge yourself. Chances are you didn’t choose to live like this. And if you can let go of

images (3)your internal judge, you’ll trust that others won’t be judging you. If there’s no threat of being judged, shame has no place to grow and fester. Awareness around this will bring acceptance.

 

 

 

 

Like a mantra, repeat to yourself;

 

May I be safe.
May I be healthy.
May I be happy.
May I live with ease.

 

Repeat those phrases, the lovingkindness, or metta, “prayer” as often as you can. If other words feel better yet convey the same meaning, use those. Pay attention, and you’ll notice a softening in your heart towards yourself or another you’ve directed metta towards.

 

By hiding it, you perpetuate that sense of being vulnerable. You effectively freeze that moment in time.

 

Choose carefully who to disclose it to.

 

A family member, longtime intimate friend, a therapist, someone whom you trust not to judge you. The non-judging is more important than to whom. Tread lightly, ensure you’re ready, that the timing is OK for both of you.

 

Ironically, some find it preferably to disclose to a stranger, a person who has no past or ongoing connection to your life or anyone you know. If that feels safer, go for it.

 

And here’s the kicker, the more frequently you repeat this disclosure, the less triggered you’ll be. You know it’s become just another fact about you when it can be talked about like any other aspect of your experience.