Lessons from Diabetes: Part 2
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
Let it be known that growing up (and even today) I was never very organized. I’ve had to put a significant amount of effort into molding my environments to reach goals and change bad habits. From school assignments to to-do lists, I was always quick to forget/to stray/to change my mind. When it came to my diabetes, there was carb counting, blood sugar logging and insulin calculations. Each of the steps came with a profound realization.
Carb counting gave a metric to something I never had to confront before. I was a pencil-thin 8 year old with an appetite for anything on the plate. My first endocrinologist and I set up a meal plan to make sure I was eating enough to match the insulin I was taking. It went something like:
These numbers may not mean much to you. That is, until you get that searing post-dinner hankering for more food and all you’ve got in your little plastic baggy is 3 Nilla Wafers. That feeling stuck with me. I started doing carb-math during grocery runs. 30g of potato chips feels a whole lot different than 30g of a sweet potato. 20 carbs of that cake was just frosting?! It was important for me to see the discipline that went in to sticking with a plan and the trade-offs necessary between "what I want now" and "what I'll need later".
Blood sugar logging meant writing down every day in a little spiral notebook the times I would test my blood sugar. It seemed horribly tedious and not all that beneficial at the time. I didn't bother with it. At my first appointment with my endocrinologist, she asked for my log book... and heard crickets. She gave me the palms up, like "what the hell!?".
She explained that this was the point where I decided what sort of diabetic I would be. One that was in control or one that was disaster control.
Logging gave insight to trends, she explained, and put the power in my hands to see how things were working. There was no guesswork when it came to logging. Hard data gave rise to intelligent decisions. Without the log, she was giving general advice based on the entirely unscientific and biased opinions I had of how I felt. She said that our future meetings could either be productive or superficial. I was embarrassed to have thought myself better than the process. I got to logging and instantly found what she said to be true.
A lot of people seeking to improve their health need these sorts of little epiphanies, some context for how what they eat fits into their daily needs. Thinking bigger picture, they also need to see how such far-reaching and futuristic goals are really built on simple concepts executed on a daily, habitual basis.
I've (sometimes begrudgingly) taken all the tedious counting and logging and implemented it in my diet and fitness routine. From PRs to weekly programs, calorie surpluses/deficits to portion control, the habits of measuring and adjusting accordingly are a crux of true fitness and thus, true health.