As a child, I remember adults talking about sugar diabetes. I know my grandmother died of it and my mother spent three years in a nursing home with diabetes-related dementia before she died. Earlier, when she began to give herself insulin shots, I started monitoring my own blood sugar and found it elevated but not dangerous.
It has now been almost 25 years of this sugar dance. The good news is that I am making some progress; the less good news is I still act as if I don’t have to follow the rules, that somehow, I can get away with eating sugary foods and not pay the piper.
I am amazingly healthy and would like to stay that way as long as possible. My blood sugar has a narrow zone of tolerance for carbs and sugars. Pair that with a yearning for sweet food and the result is choice points which appear way too frequently. In my calm moments, the decision is easy: health. The other 80% of the time, my rebellious teenager emerges and says, “I don’t care; this is what I want! I deserve it!”
Or maybe that's my unloved self that doesn’t know any other way to feel cared for. Last night was an example. I was tired from a short sleep night, but had gotten a lot done and was half-way through the evening when thoughts of sugar appeared. The house has almost no sugar or carbs lurking about … but I found some, not a lot and definitely not an appealing lot, but enough to shoot my blood sugar into the danger zone this morning after several days of being right where it should have been.
It’s not a worry because I know what to do, however, it is a red flag making me wonder about this pattern and how to find other, non-sugar, ways to comfort or soothe myself. The evening sugar impulse was contrary to my guideline of avoiding "solo sugar." Obviously, I need something more than a guideline.
So, I went to Professor Google for advice and hoped to get something other than the normal platitudes … you know … the take a long hot bath with candles stuff. An article from Health Work Collective came up with an appropriate image and an article: 5 Self-Care Strategies For Dealing With Sugar Level Stress. Sounded good although I didn’t want to open the article assuming I would find the same-old, same-old drivel. I don’t lack for information; I lack understanding … what triggers this sugar impulse and how to deal with it in a way that’s loving to myself.
However, I slowly inched into the article, somewhat like a child turning the handle on a jack-in-the-box toy and expecting well-known trivia to explode at any moment, I reached #1: Don’t ignore your feelings. Well, I know that, but it’s not a platitude. Last night I was sleep deprived and it had been, for me, a stressful day including a printing problem for a client and a recognition that my current project needed a major revision. I felt depleted, somewhat like the collapse that comes with weathering a storm (small though it was). When sugar tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Remember me?” I just blew off rational thinking and said, “Yes!”
Article advice: “When you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed — whether it’s because of your diabetes or anything else — it’s all too easy to push these feelings down and ignore them, rather than confronting them. Although you may feel better doing this for a bit, this is not a strategy that is going to help you in the long run.
Recognizing signs and accepting that you’re stressed will help you to deal with sugar level stress much more than ignoring the problem."
Ok, that was helpful … what’s next? 2. Look after your physical needs. Duh.
Article advice: "When you’re feeling overwhelmed, the levels of stress hormones in your body go up, which can also directly affect glucose levels."
Standard sleep, diet, meds, exercise advice, however, I do need to think about exercise.
On to #3. Talk to people. I recognize the benefit of this advice; however, sugar is faster. To make this advice work, I would need to pause long enough to recognize the pattern and make a decision to go outside my normal response of finding something sweet. I would have to allow myself to be supported … admit a lack of perfection, a need for support. And, I would have to trust my friends enough to know that I would be supported and accept the support. This would be an act of vulnerability, not my strong suit.
Put this one into the “try this if you’re serious about making peace with sugar column.” Let’s see what’s next.
4. Tap into the power of exercise. I know this one is good and I’ve been struggling with it, blaming weather and mood rather than just doing it.
Article Advice: "Exercise increases the amount of glucose used by your muscles and helps your body use insulin more efficiently. Many people with diabetes are also turning to yoga to improve their quality of life and control their condition. Yoga is a great practice that can help to lower your blood pressure and reduce your levels of stress by promoting relaxation and a sense of peace."
I like yoga and it would be very easy to just stop and do a few minutes of yoga … if I could find that pause between stimulus (thought) and response (eating).
And last, and most expected:
5. Take time to do the things you enjoy. Again, good advice but not all that helpful in breaking the pattern of responding to stress or fatigue with sugar.
All of this made me think I need a Pause Plan … a way to deal with these sugar impulses … so here’s a first cut with a meme posted at the opening.
Pause Plan for Sugar Impulses
1. 5-minute timer ... in order to contemplate the moment and make a rational decision.
2. Explore my feelings … understand that I am feeling tired, stressed, feeling vulnerable or lonely and make a decision other than eating something sweet.
3. Exercise: yoga or walk … do 3 yoga poses or a series of stair steps (which might or might not lead to more) in order to break the pattern. Or, if daylight, walk for 10 minutes.
4. Call a friend … or text or email if it’s too late or early.
So now I have a plan. I feel a little more at peace. Let’s see what happens next.