Monday, October 1, 2007

Learning about diabetes

This is not going to be a post about something I've read, it's about what I'm doing to help my husband learn to control his diabetes. First, a little background. We've only been married since December of 2006, I don't have a clue what his ex-wife did to help him, other than she used to set up his pills every other week in his pill-keeper/scheduler thingy. I do know that after she left him, he ate a lot of tv dinners and cereal, and I know that his BGs are not under control. Getting him to test on a consistent basis is like pulling teeth.
Now, since I'm not diabetic, most of what I know about it is what little I've read in passing. He was diagnosed with diabetes when he got his separation physical from the Navy 13 years ago (and who knows how long he had really been diabetic before that and just undiagnosed, he was in the Navy for 20 years and I don't have a clue how often they do complete physicals with blood work-ups, etc). His parents were both diabetic, and a couple of his brothers are too.
He sees a doctor at the VA hospital in St Cloud, and at his last physical check-up, she told him he needed to lose weight (he's 5' 10" and 252 lbs, has been that weight, within a pound or 2 for the last 5 years). He weighed 220 when he go out of the Navy (at 38), so he gained 30 lbs in the first 8 years after retiring (to age 46), and hasn't gained any in the last 5 years (now 51). She spouted the calories in/calories out thing (I had to bite my tongue on that one), told him she was setting him up with an appointment with a case manager (I'm assuming this is a nutritionist) to get his BGs under control (they range anywhere from 100 to 250, depending on what he's eaten and when he tests). She didn't say what his A1C was (I think that's what it is), just that it needed to reach at least 7, so it probably was higher than that.
So, I have been doing some research online (and that's where my reading fat acceptance blogs has been such a help, thanks guys, you've given me some ideas of where to look and how to decide if what I'm finding is credible). Basically, I've figured out that he doesn't need to lose weight to get his blood sugar under control, what he needs to do is change what he eats (less starch and simple carbohydrates and sugar) and test more often to see how that affects his blood sugar. If it was up to him, he would eat meat, rice, corn, green beans, and potatoes, with chips, snack cakes, cookies, popcorn and mixed nuts thrown in for snacking after supper and before bed. When he works, he takes sandwiches (bread, butter, lunch meat), chips, and cereal bars for his lunch (he did before we got married, now he takes left-overs from supper the night before, and I'm trying to make those meals better for him).
I got a book that was recommended, The First Year: Type 2 Diabetes and am reading that. I've been looking at diabetes websites, and researching carb counts, glycemic index, etc. So I am talking to him, finding out what's on the list of recommended foods that he likes, and adding those to our grocery list. I'm cutting back on the things that will spike his blood sugar (I won't cut them out altogether, but there are less of them in the house) and trying to add more low/no carb veggies, more fruits, more complex carbs. Trying to make sense of nutrition labels isn't easy, especially on things like breads and cereals. But from what I've read, and anyone reading this correct me if I'm wrong, the carb count can be average if the fiber content and whole grain content is higher because it takes longer to digest those and therefore they affect blood sugar more slowly (gradual rise and fall instead of spike and crash?).
Now, since we need to make healthier choices, and I've been researching HAES, I think this is a good plan for both of us to follow, but the baby steps are killing me (gradual changes seem to work better as far as he's concerned). When I decide to do something, I usually just do it, but that was when I was single and didn't have to take anyone else's thoughts/feelings into consideration. And having been single from 18 to 53 (as a single parent, I was in charge of what my son ate at home), adapting to being part of a couple is different, to say the least, especially when both of us have health issues (his diabetes, eye complications, and arthritis, my arthritis and mobility issues).
It's funny too, how a person's likes and dislikes change throughout their lifetime. I used to hate broccoli and cauliflower, now, they aren't too bad (I don't think they are delicious, but I can eat them without going ewwwwww). I don't know if I would like asparagus or not, Mike won't eat it, but I might get some, just to see if I like it now. I like spinach (used to eat the canned kind with vinegar all the time, not sure about fresh, might have to check on that too). I love pickled beets, and cucumbers in vinegar. I like vinegar, I think in part because we had it on spinach, beets, and cucumbers when I was a kid, mainly because my dad liked it. He liked it because when he was kid, he got into some lye, and the doctor back then told his mother he needed to drink vinegar to counter-act the lye (at least, that's what Grandma said). Funny how likes and dislikes come about (to this day, I hate breaded tomatoes the way my mom made them: canned tomatoes boiled in a pot, add sugar, tear up bread and add, stir and serve, blechhhh!, slimy, nasty and forced to eat them).


  1. Yeah, I think I agree with you about the "breaded tomatoes."

    Just wondering if your DH would be interested in getting back into PT ("physical training"), since he was military for so long. Strength and cross-training especially seem to do great things for blood sugar issues, and there's a lot of satisfaction in lifting, etc. that one doesn't get from slogging it on a treadmill. He might even have some buddies from his Navy days who are still working out or playing football or whatever that he could get together with.

    Just a thought. Hang in there!

  2. I thought of that, but most of his Navy buddies are in different states. I'm thinking maybe one of those bowflex machines would be pretty cool, I've wanted one for me for a while now. Just a matter of working it into the budget. We could take turns working out, which would be an incentive for both of us. Maybe I can find a used one.
    Thanks for the PT idea, that's what made me think of the bowflex.

  3. Dude, I lust after a Bowflex.

    We just discovered that our local community center has a small gym with an unreal membership price (it's something like $35 for three months). If there's something similar near you, that might be a good way around the expense of the Bowflex. If he got accustomed to military levels of physical activity, I bet strength training would make him feel great -- and I always find that adequate exercise makes me less interested in high-GI foods, too.

  4. I understand about the "baby steps," (I just go for it, myself) but if that's what works for him, that's what you need to do.

    The best source I know for diabetes control is the site of this doctor:

    His story is pretty interesting; for instance, he got a blood sugar meter back when they were first invented, since his wife was a physician (and he was not, yet) and was instrumental in lobbying to allow patients to have them.

    I know several people who follow his program and have been able to eliminate their meds, which is an amazing thing.

    And you are absolutely right to do your own research, since I think the ADA is way off base with their recommendations.

    Diabetes runs in my family, and I eat this way myself, because I think there is persuasive evidence that it's a way to prevent diabetes, as well.

  5. Werebear:
    Yeah, it runs in my family too. My mother's grandmother had it (type 2), but I don't know if anyone else had it (my mom has problems with low blood sugar). And my dad, who is now 74, was diagnosed with type 2 last year. So I'm thinking it wouldn't hurt for me to follow the same plan as DH, just to be on the safe side. It's not like it's going to hurt to me to do that, ya know?
    We have a couple of gyms in town, I can check on the cost. I thought about Curves (we have one here), but their cost is more than we can afford right now,(same with the bowflex, which is why we don't have one and I don't think they would appreciate me bringing my husband along to Curves.
    One day, when I am rich and famous.......

  6. (Sorry. I'm running in Geek Answer Mode today.) If you're thinking about a bowflex, you might want to play with exercise bands for a while to see if you like those sorts of routines. And, if you do go on to get other equipment, you can always use the bands when traveling, etc. I've found them at department stores for under ten bucks each, and most physical therapists have the stuff available by the foot. What's great is, as you get stronger, you can double up the bands, or switch to one with heavier resistance. I keep my old set at work, since I'm using free weights at home, and they're great to have around to play with. (And, you can just loop 'em around a grandkid if you want more resistance!)

  7. Vesta, I have been diagnosed as a diabetic for over 9 years and my A1c has never gone over 7. Most of the time it's around 6. I don't claim this as a moral victory because it isn't. It's education by reading tons of books the first year and then discovering the marvelous resources of the internet including bulletin boards, mailing lists and various websites.

    I'm glad you found Gretchen's book. It's a great resource. Have you joined the diabetesworld Yahoo mailing list? Gretchen posts on that list as do several other people who I have found to be very helpful. Jennifer's letter on testing is a classic and she usually posts it whenever someone asks questions on what to eat.

    I personally use all of the resources at my disposal. I'm on medication and use insulin. I control my carbs but I don't worry about whether they are refined or from whole foods since it doesn't make any difference to how my body reacts. For me a carb is a carb whether it comes from cabbage or cake. Of course cabbage is a lot lower in carbs per ounce but for me 10 grams of carb is 10 grams. This has been helpful to me because it means no foods are forbidden.

    I hate to exercise but when I lift weights twice a week, it's much easier to control my blood sugar. I bought free weights as I needed to increase the amount I lifted and it didn't bust my budget. I use the exercises from "Strong Women Stay Young." I have an exercise bike that cost less than $100 but I am less successful in making myself use it on a regular basis.

    I hope your husband isn't a smoker since this appears to increase the probability and severity of complications. From what I read it seems weight really doesn't. This is a personal observation on my part since I've never seen any reports that come right out and say this.

    From reading your blog and your comments elsewhere, I think you are a reader and a researcher too so it won't be long before you have a handle on this.

  8. Totally unrelated comment -- just noticed your music list. Ohmigawd, I love Flogging Molly. Are you familiar with the Celtic Music News podcast ( Aaron's no longer producing shows, but he has about three years available for download -- incredible celtoid stuff.

    OK, back to your regularly scheduled conversation.

  9. Kell, the exercise bands sound like a good idea, I've thought about them before, just never had the inclination to do it. Now I do.

    Caprice, DH has never been a smoker, and I quit long before we met and have no desire to start again, so that's all good. And yeah, I'm a voracious reader, and I love researching on the computer, so I'll have a handle on this pretty soon, I think. I joined the fa-diab list on yahoo, and have been getting some great help from people there (that's where I got the recommendation for Gretchen's book).

  10. Vesta, the FA-DIAB list has some really nice people but join the diabetesworld list as well. The list is owned by Dr. Arturo Rolla and is moderated by two people who keep it on topic. Dr. Rolla can be counted on to step in when he thinks something is BS. I lurk but don't post and while I don't agree with everything, I find it an invaluable resource.

  11. Thanks, Caprice, I will look for that one and join it too.

  12. Forget looking for gyms; look for a community center or municipal building. They sometimes have gyms for local residents that are much cheaper than even the Y. Something that calls itself a gym first and foremost will not.

  13. Fillyjonk, I'll have to check and see what we have in town, I've only been here about 10 months and am still finding out what all is available (I did manage to find the library, books rule my Not sure if there's a community center or not, will look into that, though, it's got to be cheaper than a gym.

  14. I don't know if your husband does already or not, but from what I've read, any activity will help control (and prevnt) diabetes. So until you guys get that Bowflex, what about walking?

  15. He can walk, but I can't. I have problems with my back cramping up if I have to stand for more than 5 minutes, and walking, well, about 50 feet is it for me, then my back cramps and my legs go numb. That's why I'm looking for exercise/strength training I can do sitting down.

  16. PBS has a program called "Sit and Be Fit." I've never checked it out, though.

  17. I looked for it, and our PBS station here in MN doesn't carry it. Why does that not surprise me? Not exactly in the middle of nowhere, but I can see it from my front door. The listings at PBS online do say it's on VHS, so maybe it's on DVD as well and I can find it that way.


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