Weight Loss & Type 1 Diabetes: Challenges, Suggestions, & A Fresh Perspective

So many of us are trying to live a healthier, more active lifestyle. Whether it’s to lose weight, get in shape, or just feel better, it’s a really fantastic move! I’ve been active and have eaten somewhat healthy for years now, but having two kids in two years in my mid to late 30s has wreaked havoc on my waistline! It’s time to shed some pounds. You’d think that chasing after two kids under 3 and training for a half marathon would do that. Nope. Thanks 30-something metabolism! I’m told it only gets worse once I hit 40, so it’s now or never as far as I’m concerned!

Losing weight is challenging for everyone. Losing weight with type 1 diabetes is extra difficult, in my opinion. As diabetics, blood sugar control is our first priority, right? I find that it’s nearly impossible to do that when I make drastic changes to my diet that involve completely cutting out carbohydrates, for example. Would I lose weight quickly? Probably. Is it the healthiest move for me? No. Rapid weight loss appeals to me (for obvious reasons…who doesn’t want to lose it quickly?!), but it just doesn’t work with type 1 diabetes. We need healthy carbohydrates to keep energy levels up and blood sugar levels stable. When I cut out carbohydrates it usually results in plummeting blood sugars and binge eating. While binge eating is emotionally satisfying, it’s not doing me or my waistline any favors. Everyone is different, I know. This is simply my experience with that weight loss route.

I prefer to stick to the USDA’s recommended portions. At each meal, about half of my plate is fruits and/or vegetables, a quarter carbohydrates, and a quarter protein. I try to pick high-fiber, multi-grain carbohydrates that allow me to feel full and eat less. If I am going to eat a starchier meal, I try to eat it earlier in the day. When I eat a lot of starch later in the evening I end up battling blood sugar problems all night.

Don’t get me wrong…I could live on nothing but Italian food, gourmet cheese, rosemary sourdough bread (my favorite), olive oil, and really good chocolate and I would LOVE every second of it. However, if I ever want to shed my extra weight I need to save that stuff for special occasions and eat smart the rest of the time. So, sticking to the USDA’s portions is what is working for me. It saves me from “grazing” all day (which generally doesn’t mean good things for my blood sugar) and helps me make better food choices.

Now, this is all fine and good until I get impatient. Impatience is my #1 obstacle to losing weight. I stick to a super healthy eating plan for 3 days, get frustrated that I haven’t lost 20 pounds yet, and quit. That probably sounds absurd, but it’s very difficult for me to stick with it!

I read a blog post called Level Up To Lose Weight on the zen habits blog earlier today that discussed this very problem, and it gave me a new perspective. I’ve been reading the zen habits blog for a couple of years now and I love it. It’s given me a fresh perspective on many things. Today’s post was about how starting small and progressing gradually will help you be more successful in your weight loss endeavors. I definitely recommend checking it out!

Weight loss is an ongoing struggle for so many of us. I plan to put the advice from zen habits into practice and see if it helps me stick with it. I’d love to know what’s working for you and how you’ve overcome the obstacles you’ve faced!

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Type 1 Diabetes & Our Love/Hate Relationship With Pizza

I love pizza. I LOVE it. It is my biggest culinary vice. I love deep dish, thin crust, and everything in between. Unfortunately, I also have type 1 diabetes. What is the deal with pizza and type 1 diabetes?! My blood sugar is nearly impossible to control after I eat pizza despite my best efforts, so I rarely eat a delectable little slice of heaven anymore.

My blood sugar tends to skyrocket about 4 hours after I eat pizza (which generally means bad things if I’ve had it for dinner because I’ll be sleeping when it rises). My insulin pump has a option to delay insulin delivery, and that helps, but I just cannot get it right. If you are one of the lucky ones that finds the right combination of delay and units of insulin, good for you! It’s a great option. It’s an ongoing trial and error process for me. I’ll find the right combination eventually! I’ve also tried making pizza. This, of course, is fun but did not translate into increased blood sugar control. It was still all wonky. Perhaps I didn’t use a diabetes-friendly recipe. I don’t know…

In my ongoing effort to solve this problem, I’ve found some articles and resources that I were very informative! If you’re curious, check them out and let me know what works for you!

Diabetes-friendly pizza recipes (I definitely plan to try these out…YUM!):

http://www.diabeticlivingonline.com/diabetic-recipes/main-dishes/homemade-pizza-recipes

Articles about pizza’s effect on blood sugar levels:

http://diatribe.org/pizza-and-blood-sugar-control-not-quite-easy-pie

http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/foods-strange-tricks/

http://www.diabetesincontrol.com/studies/2740-&action=1

Enjoy!

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Triathlons, Beaches, Kayaking, & Keeping Your Pump Dry

This week’s post comes a little earlier in the week than usual because we are headed to the beach tomorrow morning, and I always like to unplug at the beach! I am lucky to live close enough to the ocean to warrant a couple beach trips each summer, and boy am I ready to go!

The trip brought up an issue that I have yet to find the perfect solution for…keeping my pump dry when I’m swimming.

Every time I go to the beach I attach my pump to my bathing suit and wear it until I get in the water. No, it’s not cute and I don’t love it, but it’s a necessity. I have a cover up that masks the fact that I am wearing it, so it’s a little less obvious. I’m not much of an ocean swimmer, so even when I do go in it’s not for very long. Detaching my pump is usually okay, although I definitely prefer to leave it on continuously. Time without my pump attached always means blood sugar problems! The beach is just one example of a time when I really need a good, waterproof solution for my insulin pump…

Several years ago I did a sprint length triathlon. Not having ever done one before (and not knowing any type 1 diabetics who had experience with them), I figured I’d just leave my pump with my husband during the swim portion of the race, get it from him on my way out of the pool into the transition area, reconnect it and be on my way. Terrible idea. I was in line waiting to start my swim for a lot longer than I expected…which means I was without my insulin pump for a long time. When I reconnected my pump and tested my blood sugar, it was through the roof! I gave myself a correction bolus, but it takes some time to work so my bike ride felt like I was riding through molasses. It was a terrible race for me but a really great learning experience.

My husband and I went kayaking in the Outer Banks of North Carolina several years ago and I ran into the same dilemma…what on Earth am I going to do with my insulin pump while we’re kayaking? I mean, I certainly hope we don’t roll over in the boat, but if we do I need to be prepared and my pump needs to be protected. Again I searched for a solution.

I haven’t found the perfect solution yet, but I have found some that work really well. So, if you’re looking into ways to keep your insulin pump dry while you’re in the water, here are some ideas to explore. It’s worth noting that I am in no way guaranteeing that these work 100%. It’s always a good idea to do your homework and test these out before you dunk your pump in water!

1. I have a SeaLine Seal Pack. I bought this for my kayaking trip. For that reason, the orange color appealed to me, as did the fact that I could wear it so in the event that my kayak rolled, it would stay with me. It works well (although my boat didn’t roll, thankfully). My complaint is that I can’t use my pump when it’s in there because there’s no window. It has served it’s purpose on several trips however.

2. Aquapac makes some great waterproof products. Specifically they have one called the Insulin Pump Case. This one does have a window, so you can use your pump while it’s in there. It looks like it’s a little lower profile than the SeaLine one. It comes with an adjustable belt so you can wear it, which is a feature that I like. It’s officially certified at IPX7 which equals up to 5 seconds to a depth of 3 feet. Aquapac has received a lot of feedback from users who have used the case to swim with their pump and have had no problems at all. I definitely plan to purchase one and look forward to giving it a try!

3. A friend of mine (and fellow type 1 diabetic) uses the Pelican i1010 case. It’s a waterproof case that is designed for mp3 players, but he rigged it somehow to work for his insulin pump. I have no idea how, but it works for him. The nice thing about Pelican cases is that they are hard cases, so they are crushproof and dustproof in addition to being waterproof. If and when I have a use for a hard case for my insulin pump, I will definitely give this one a try. I have Pelican cases for other electronic devices and they are amazing!

As you can see, there are pros and cons to each of the solutions I’ve come across over the years. Compounding this is my worry that some of these pinch insulin pump tubing a bit, which results in blood sugar problems. So, I’d recommend keeping an eye on your blood sugar while you’re using them! There’s no perfect solution that I’ve found yet…but I’m still looking! In the meantime, these are some pretty good options.

Enjoy!

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Diabetes Gear

I’ve been lucky enough to have had an insulin pump for almost 19 years. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1995, when I was 18 years old (2 months after I started my freshman year in college). For the first year I took insulin shots 5 times a day. After about a year, my incredibly realistic endocrinologist (at the time…she’s no longer my doctor) said to me, “You’re 18 and a freshman in college. I can preach to you all day about what you need to eat, testing your blood sugar, and being very regimented about your insulin shots but you’re not going to listen to me. So, let’s talk about insulin pumps.” What a blessing that was! My first A1c was 13% I think….13%!!! Now it hovers between 6% and 7%. Insulin pumps have done a LOT for me.

My first insulin pump was the Medtronic Minimed 506 back in 1996. I admit at first I had a love/hate relationship with it. It stuck out. I couldn’t wear dresses. People asked me all the time if it was a pager (I know, I know…it was the 90’s). When you’re in your late teens and early twenties, these things are a big deal. However, I eventually got to the point where I appreciated everything it was doing for me. It took meeting a fellow diabetic who was legally blind and had lost several toes for reality to really set in, but it finally did. In any case, insulin pumps have come a LONG way since then! Over the years I’ve had a variety of pumps. They’ve all been wonderful and done amazing things for my A1c numbers. I’m really loving the one I have now though, so I thought I’d share it with you:

I just received the 530G with Enlite system from Medtronic Minimed. This is a pump and continuous glucose monitoring system and it’s fabulous. It does everything you’d expect from your continuous glucose monitor, and then some. My favorite features are the predictive alerts (it tells you that your blood sugar is going to be high or low a certain amount of time before it happens so you can treat it) and the Threshold Suspend feature. Threshold Suspend is great for diabetics like me who generally have trouble feeling their blood sugar dropping until it is REALLY low. It will automatically suspend the pump’s insulin delivery when your blood sugar drops below a predetermined number, and won’t turn back on until you tell it to. It can be a real life saver for those of us who have trouble feeling their low blood sugars and folks who tend to drop low overnight and don’t wake up!

I know there are other insulin pump manufacturers and continuous glucose monitoring systems out there that are incredible. My decision to go with this one boiled down to two things: my history with Medtronic Minimed products and insurance coverage. If you’re looking into pumps and/or continuous glucose monitoring systems I encourage you to explore what’s out there and find the best one for you!

I end with another “lesson” from that first endocrine group that I saw when I was diagnosed. The doctor that treated me in the hospital said that there is so much diabetes research going on that there will be huge strides, if not a cure, in my lifetime. However, while advancements may be able to help them treat or cure my diabetes, they won’t be able to undo any complications that I suffer because of it. He advised me to do what I had to do to find a balance and keep my health and blood sugar levels where they needed to be. Fantastic…and very real…advice.

It took me years to really figure that out (I admit I wasn’t the “best diabetic” in my late teens and early twenties), but insulin pumps helped me get there. Staying active and working hard to find a balance between activity and diabetes also helped me get there. Hopefully hearing about this stuff, as well as the rest of the content of this blog, will help others who may still be trying to find that balance!

I’ll discuss more gear next week…stay tuned!

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Reality Check

As I am sure you know, sometimes life gets in the way of our best laid plans. I was on a roll with my running routine…feeling great and making progress. Then it hit our house like a ton of bricks…the dreaded stomach bug. Ugh! There’s nothing like a good old fashioned stomach bug to completely throw a wrench in your workout routine. So, this week has been a bit rough. The good news is, my son and I got out for an early morning walk this morning. Everyone is healthy again and I have no doubt I will be back on my game this coming week!

On a lighter note, I am happy to report that I have returned to the cycling world again! I have not been on a bike in almost 3 years, thanks to my two pregnancies during that time. This past week (before the stomach bug hit us), we put the kids in a double bike trailer and took them on a ride on one of our local greenways. What a workout that was! There is something to be said for muscle memory, but it is still a challenge to get back into something after 3 years. While I towed the kids for a bit just to see what it felt like, my husband did the lion’s share of the work. Several other cyclists shouted words of encouragement as he rode by them. Pulling 50 pounds worth of kids in one of those trailers is no small task!

I only brought water and a supply of glucose tablets with me. It worked out fine, but looking back I probably should have brought a little more fuel. We didn’t go on a long ride, but it was VERY hot and quite hilly. As I mentioned in my last post, I often struggle with how to fuel for extended workouts. I usually bring either too much or too little…never just the right amount. The nice thing about training for an event (like the half marathon I am training for) is that you can practice fueling and really have it dialed in by race day. That’s not the case for the occasional excursion, but I do the best I can.

I’d love to know how other type 1 diabetics fuel for extended workouts. How do you dial in your insulin and balance your blood sugar? In my next post I plan to write about the insulin pump and CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) I use and how I dial in my insulin for early morning workouts…stay tuned.

Happy 4th of July!

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Running, Fueling and Sweat

Running is part of my workout regimen these days. Three or four mornings a week I wake up and head outside for a run at 6 am. It is my “mommy alone time” (I’ve been blessed with children who are fairly late sleepers), and the best free therapy out there, in my opinion.

I live in a part of the country where temperatures hover around 75 or 80 degrees and the air is thick and humid even that early in the morning, so having an effective way to keep the insulin in my insulin pump cold is an absolute necessity. I discovered Frio Insulin Cooling Cases several years ago and still swear by them. I’ve mentioned them in previous posts, because I also use them for camping and backpacking. While they are handy for trips where you won’t have access to refrigeration, they also do an incredible job of keeping insulin cool during daily runs.

I am lucky enough to have a partnership with the folks who make Frio Insulin Cooling Cases. If you are interested in buying one of their products, enter coupon code ACTIVET1 for a 10% discount!**

Fueling my body for these early morning runs has been a struggle for me. As a type 1 diabetic, I find that I need SOMETHING to eat before I go out for a run. However, digestive issues are never something you want to deal with on a run. So…what do you eat? How do you fuel yourself before your morning runs so your blood sugar remains stable but you don’t end up needing a bathroom halfway through your run? I often have luck with a simple piece of wheat toast and peanut butter. I don’t like to eat very much or anything too heavy before I run. I’d love to know what other folks do!

Fueling myself during long runs is also an ongoing struggle. I find that so many sports drinks are loaded with sugar and will make my blood sugar skyrocket. I have had success using Nuun Active hydration tablets in my water. They work well and have no added sugar. I’ve tried several different brands of gels as well, but haven’t found any that I love yet. What gels do you use? Hammer products have been recommended to me, but I haven’t tried them yet. I intend to and will let you know how my blood sugar fares!

Balancing blood sugar levels on early morning runs is challenging, and is not something that I’ve mastered yet. It’s an ongoing game of trial and error. I will continue to share what I have used and had success with, and I would love to know what other folks are using! What’s worked for you?

** Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I am compensated for the products sold with the ACTIVET1 coupon code.

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Long Time No See…

I know, I know. My last blog post was all about how I was relaunching The Active Diabetic and the big plans I had for future blog posts. Truth be told, shortly after that post I found out I was expecting my second child, and life got incredibly crazy in a very short time! Now I find myself with two young, active, adventurous children and I could not be happier.

Life is definitely not settling down anytime soon, but I can finally find the time to devote to this blog that I love so much.

My goal is to post once a week about a variety of topics: including (but not limited to) balancing type 1 diabetes with pregnancy and motherhood, along with the tips and knowledge I’ve gained in all of my outdoor experiences. If you have anything that you would like to know more about, let me know and I will do my best to gather some information for you!

My second half marathon had to be put on hold thanks to baby #2, but my training is now back on track. My next half marathon is in March 2016, so expect to see some posts about that!

We do a great deal of hiking with our kids and plan to start canoeing and kayaking with them in the near future. In addition to posts about balancing type 1 diabetes in the outdoors, I also want to discuss ways to stay active with kids while balancing it. For me it was a little tougher than I expected! How do you find the time to check your blood glucose levels? How do you eat healthy when you’re constantly on the go? These are things I struggled with a bit since my kids were born, but am now navigating a little better.

This time I mean it…The Active Diabetic is back. I am excited to finally…FINALLY…share all the knowledge I have gained over the years. It may have morphed into a more kid friendly blog, but there will definitely be something for everyone dealing with Type 1 diabetes.

Stay tuned…

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The Active Diabetic is back!

It is 2014 and I am ashamed to admit that it has been close to two years since my last post. I recently read another blog entry that referenced this blog and how much it helped connect a fellow diabetic to information and products that made their outdoor adventures easier and more enjoyable. That is what the Active Diabetic is all about! It thrilled me to read it and it inspired me to relaunch this blog and commit to regular posts.

Life has been moving at lightning speed since my last post. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy in October 2012 and he has kept me active and busy ever since! Look for upcoming posts about balancing diabetes and pregnancy and motherhood. It is an incredibly important arena that I have only recently learned about and experienced for myself.

On Monday I start training for my second half marathon. My first half marathon was exhilarating, but truth be told, I am definitely not a runner by nature. It is a challenge for me, but if I can do it you can do it. I plan to post about training for a distance event including how to keep blood glucose levels balanced during training and fueling yourself during a long run. I am constantly in search of fuel (gels, powders, etc.) to use during my long runs that aren’t loaded with sugar. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Stay tuned in 2014 for information on these topics and many others. If you have any suggestions for topics you’d like more information about, please let me know!

I am so excited to relaunch the Active Diabetic. I hope it continues to be a source of information for you and reinforces the fact that there are so many of us out there trying to live an active, healthy lifestyle with diabetes. I hope in 2014 we can connect with and support each other in our endeavors!

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Backpacking with Type 1 Diabetes

I admit, I was grossly unprepared for my first backpacking trip. We backpacked in Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park, Utah in August quite a few years ago. It remains one of my all-time favorite trips, but I had no idea how to properly prepare for that trip in that heat with diabetes. Fortunately, trips like that often turn out to be wonderful learning experiences! Here are the lessons I learned:

  • You will eat more food than you think you will. On the last day of our trip, we had 2 miles to go and I was out of glucose and only had a 1/2 of an energy bar left. Not a good situation to be in. If you rely on the serving sizes for many backpacking foods or judge how much food to bring based on what you eat normally, you run the risk of being without food. Remember, you will be on varied terrain with extra weight on your back. You will be burning a lot of calories! Bring extra food for yourself and make sure you have enough glucose to treat any low blood sugar (my blood sugar tends to drop a LOT on backpacking trips). If you use a pump and find that your blood sugar is dropping often on backpacking trips, talk to your endocrinologist about features on your insulin pump that allow you to set temporary basal rates. This may help raise your blood sugar without forcing you to eat constantly.
  • Monitor your blood sugar often. Make sure the people you are backpacking with know that you have diabetes and what that means. Help them understand that you will need to stop, check your blood sugar, and have a snack regularly. It’s a great opportunity for them to take a rest and enjoy the scenery! This will help make sure you don’t have any major medical incidents out in the wilderness.
  • You need to find a way to keep your insulin cold. You aren’t going to bring a cooler with you when you go backpacking, but you should always have extra insulin and supplies with you, and your insulin needs to stay cold. How do you do it? The product I use is called a Frio Insulin Cooling case. You soak it in water for several minutes, and the water causes the beads in the case to swell up and keep your insulin cool. It stays cool for several days. So as long as you have a water source every couple of days (which you should anyway), the Frio case will work great. I am sure there are other products out there as well. Check them out! This is definitely the one that I find works best for me. I am lucky enough to have a partnership with the folks who make Frio Insulin Cooling Cases. If you are interested in buying one of their products, enter coupon code ACTIVET1 for a 10% discount!**
  • Do not eat or keep food in your tent! I often get nervous about my blood sugar dropping in the middle of the night, and typically have glucose tablets or a granola bar handy at my bedside just in case. With all the animals and critters out there, you definitely want to avoid doing this when you are backpacking! Check your blood sugar right before you go to sleep and store your food away from your tent. If you have an emergency in the middle of the night, you are going to have to leave the tent to get your snack.

I am on a constant quest to lighten my backpacking load, as are many other backpackers I know. It is possible to bring your all of your backpacking equipment, as well as your diabetic supplies, and still carry a relatively light load. Backpacking is a fantastic way to get into the outdoors and enjoy all the gorgeous scenery that nature has to offer. I encourage you to give it a try if you haven’t been before. I find it calming, therapeutic, and incredibly rewarding. Hopefully, these tips will help make your next backpacking trip even more enjoyable!

** Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I am compensated for the products sold with the ACTIVET1 coupon code.

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Why bother being active?

There is an old Chinese proverb that I love and live by. It reads, “Better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.” My personal interpretation is this…I know it’s very easy to get frustrated, angry, and confused about your diabetes. Instead of cursing the disease and wallowing in your resentment, I argue that getting yourself out there and learning how to control your diabetes while doing the activities you love (or better yet…discover a new favorite activity!) is the best way to start embracing your diabetes and living the life you choose. Staying active will not only help you mentally and emotionally (it’s the best free therapy you’ll ever find!), it has many physical benefits as well.

Check out the Top 10 Benefits of Being Active for diabetics, according to the American Diabetes Association:

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/fitness/fitness-management/top-10-benefits-of-being.html

Getting active doesn’t have to mean going to the gym. While gyms are a wonderful way for folks to get fit, I prefer to go outside. If you’re trying to find an activity that is right for you, think outside the box! Gardening, swimming, golf, and hiking are all great options. If you are more of a social butterfly, join a kickball team, play volleyball, work with kids, or look into classes offered by your local Parks & Recreation Department. There are tons of options! I urge you to evaluate the countless benefits of getting out there and being active, and discover the ways you can incorporate activity into your own life. It is okay to start small. Baby steps are still steps in the right direction! It’s up to you to take the first step.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor when you are starting any kind of physical activity. Your doctors (especially your endocrinologist) are there to help you and serve as resources for you…utilize them!

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