Last week when I was in California visiting my family, I was getting ready for breakfast and my mother came into the room to check in on me. I told her I was getting ready to go and have breakfast. We had had a large dinner the night before, and my mother asked me if I was hungry. I have never liked being asked about my eating habits and I was very defensive. The truth is, I was a little hungry, but probably not hungry enough to have breakfast right at that time.
My mother observed that it seemed that most of the time I eat because “it’s time” not necessarily because I’m hungry. I remember when I first went on the insulin pump when I was 15 years old that I had a very difficult times giving up snacks. The reason, I think, is snacks had become so ingrained into my daily schedule that giving them up seemed like an interruption to my day. My day was built around the meals and taking them out was like taking out my structure. It made me very anxious.
I just read a post by Mel and she said that her goal is to focus on eating when she is hungry, not because it’s lunchtime or dinnertime. It’s one of those habitual patterns that sneak into our lives when we’re not looking because we have diabetes. I know it seems like people with type 1 diabetes shouldn’t have to worry so much about being overweight because being overweight is not why we were diagnosed with diabetes. But I think being overweight could almost being considered one of the complications – or perhaps just a side effect – of having type 1 diabetes. My mother and I have often discussed whether I would have the food and weight issues that I do if I didn’t have diabetes. Because I was diagnosed in the mid-90s (it will be fourteen years on January 27), I was on a fixed dose of NPH and Regular insulin, and then NPH and Humalog, for six years. The fixed dose meant that I was forced to eat regardless of whether I was hungry or not or I would risk having a low blood sugar. Then when I actually had a low blood sugar, that meant more food – juice or crackers – even if I had a full meal already. Granted, when I’m low I usually crave food so that’s never an issue, but I was adding 100 or 200 calories to an already full plate. How many extra calories have I added to my diet over the year? Of course, I have never enjoyed exercise, so most of these calories were never burned off through activity. When I am at the gym and I have a low blood sugar, my juice box adds in another hundred calories that I just burned off. They were extra calories that I had to consume.
Even though I have an insulin pump, the expectation of eating on a fixed time and dealing with hypoglycemia leads to this constant pattern of consuming extra calories. I think the best way to work on this is to focus on eating healthy meals combined with exercise so that when we do have to consume extra calories it has less of an impact on our weight.
While we were in California, my mother also showed me an article in Good Housekeeping which said that the absolute best way to lose weight is to keep a food journal. I think this is why Weight Watchers works so well because it forces you to write down what you eat and how much. When you reflect back on it at the end of the day or at the end of the week, you can see all of your different food choices and make decisions about when you are slipping up or what a better option could have been so you can prepare better the next time you go to the grocery store. This is the same theory that goes into tracking your blood sugars. You really can’t see the patterns in eating unless you have a record of different days that you can compare. Keeping a food journal is one of my goals for the next 1,001 days, at least for part of the time. My hope is that by keeping a food journal, I can start isolating spots where I’m consuming extra calories during the day (such as that Starbucks Mocha I had with a co-worker this afternoon) so that when I overbolus for dinner and have to add an extra hundred calories of orange juice, I’m not ruining my chances of losing weight (which is another one of my goals for the next 1,001 days.
Once again, adding diabetes into the mix just makes whatever you want to do even harder.