Friday, May 16, 2014

My diabetes life hack

Friday - Diabetes Life Hacks

I don't have any hacks per se... most of them are medical in nature and I don't really feel like getting sued, so I won't be sharing them.  I'm not sure this counts as a hack, but one thing we have done since almost the very beginning is carb factors.  If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you may recognize the following post, but carb factors have truly saved our sanity around here.  Read on for why I think they are so awesome...

My name is Joanne and I weigh my daughter's food.

Pretty much everything she eats graces my kitchen scale.  And I'm okay with it.

It all started when she was diagnosed at the age of 12 months.  We quickly discovered that even 3g of carbs would raise her BG by 70-100.  Even these days when treating a low, we use 6g if we're dealing with anything 50 and above.  Just the other day, she was 53 and I gave her 6g.  A mere 10 minutes later, she was 134.

I guess she's just really sensitive to carbs. 

And I like weighing because it's the most precise way of counting carbs.  It also takes one thing out of the equation when you wind up with a wack-a-doo number after eating.  At least you know you counted the carbs correctly.

I love carb factors because they make it so easy to figure out carbs.  If you've never heard of carb factors before, here is a brief run-down:

Different foods are made up of different parts: carbs, fat, fiber... etc. Carb factors are the percentage of a food that is made up of carbs. Let's use a banana as an example. They are 20% carbs, or have a carb factor of .20. But how do I figure out exactly how many carbs are in the little bit that I give Elise for a snack?

To figure out exactly how many carbs are in that piece of banana, all I need to do is weigh the banana (in grams, not ounces). Since I know that any portion of a banana is 20% carbs, all I need to do is multiply the weight by .20 (the carb factor for a banana). So if a banana weighs 15 grams, the amount of carbs in that banana is 15 x .20 or 3g of carbs.

You can even use carb factors for pre-packaged foods. Elise LOVES goldfish crackers, but can't eat an entire serving. To figure out the carb factor for her crackers, I just divide the amount of carbs in a serving (19g), by the serving size (30g). Remember, all weights MUST be done in grams for it to work. So goldfish crackers have a carb factor of .63. To find out the carb factor of any packaged food, it's always carbs divided by grams.

Figuring out the carb factor for homemade food is easy too! Just figure out the # of carbs in each ingredient and weigh the whole thing and add up all the carbs and divide the total carbs by the total weight and you now have the carb factor for your food. So when I made a stew for dinner the other day, I weighed all the veggies and other ingredients that went into it. The whole pot of stew had 80g of carbs. When it was done, I poured the stew into a container, weighed it, and it came to 1560g (not including the weight of the container, of course!). Then I divided 80/1560, and found that my stew has a carb factor of .05.

My favourite thing about carb factors is how they make it easy to figure out the carbs of almost anything.  Even if you don't have the nutritional information, you can use a generic carb factor and come pretty darn close. 

For example, bread for the most part has a carb factor of between .47 and .59.  When eating out at a restaurant, I use a generic carb factor of .5 for that yummy, warm, soft bread that comes at the start of the meal, and it usually turns out fine.

Or pasta sauces are usually between .07 and .12 (hint: the more meat, the lower the carb factor).

Mashed potatoes generally run between .18 and .22.

Brown rice? .23.

Vanilla ice cream?  .23 to .25.

Because I have a good head for numbers, I can remember the carb factor for almost anything Elise has ever eaten.  It really has made eating out so much easier for us.  I can barely remember my own name, but I do know that nuggets at CFA have a carb factor of .1.

The other day I was making a cold oriental noodle salad dish for dinner.  It had noodles, chicken, carrots, edamame, and a "dressing".  I must have lost my brain somewhere that day, because I threw everything in a bowl without weighing and figuring out the dish's carb factor.  Oops.

I had never made it before, but I had made pasta salad lots of times, and they all have noodles, veggies and meat, so I decided to use the carb factor for one of my pasta salads (.15 if you're wondering).

The result?  She was 104 before dinner, and 124 about 3 1/2 hours later.  I call that, "rockin' the casbah".

And that's the main reason I weigh and use carb factors.  D throws so many other curves at us, I like to try and control what I can.  Sure sometimes we forget the scale.  And I always eyeball and SWAG the cupcakes at a birthday party, but I think weighing Elise's food has a lot to do with why her A1Cs are in the low 6s.

So that's my "diabetes life hack".  Stay calm and weigh on!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mantras and more

Thursday - Mantras and More
Yesterday we opened up how diabetes can bring us down. Today let's share what gets us through a hard day. Or more specifically, a hard diabetes day. Is there something positive you tell yourself? Are there mantras that you fall back on to get you through? Is there something specific you do when your mood needs a boost?

Today I'm phoning it in... I have a load of laundry going, another in the dryer and a dishwasher that needs to be emptied.  And a baby that is waking up and will want to nurse.  And let's not forget dinner.  

So, instead of imparting any wisdom I may have on this subject, I will rely on the words of others.  I love these two quotes; just reading them will simultaneously bring tears to my eyes while steeling my resolve to keep on, keeping on.

I hope they inspire you as well.

"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but rising every time we fall" 
-Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Type 1 and Mondays always bring me down

Wednesday - What Brings me Down
May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes.  What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you/and your loved one, and how do you cope?

It happened a few weeks ago, I was holding a sobbing Elise as her tears soaked through my shirt.  We had had a run of crazy numbers over the past couple days; highs crashing to lows, sustained lows that needed copious carbs just to keep her at 80, and sticky highs that would not budge no matter how much insulin we poured into her.

"I just hate this so much, Mama!  I don't want to live this way... it's too hard!  Everything hurts and I hate this!  I hate diabetes... having diabetes is AWFUL!"

I just held her and let her vent. At one point I said, "I know Elise.  I know."  And what I meant by that is I understand that it's awful for her.  I understand that she hates it.

But she jumped all over my choice of words and let me have it, "But you DON'T know.  You'll NEVER know.  You're not the one with diabetes, I AM!"


But she's right.

I hate the emotional side of this disease. I hate that I can't fix it, like I can a low with sugar, or a high with insulin.  I hate that people just don't understand the toll this disease takes on PWD and CWD emotionally. This by far is the hardest thing about type 1.

For now all I can do is hold her when she cries, listen and try to take on as much of the burden as I can.

I wish it were more.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Elise's Poetry Slam

Tuesday - Poetry Tuesday
Write a poem, rhyme, ballad, haiku, or any other form of poetry about diabetes.  After you've posted it on your blog, share it on the No Sugar Added Poetry page on TuDiabetes, and read what others have shared there as well.

I used to love writing poetry... not only because I lacked the attention span to write anything longer, but poetry was the perfect outlet for my first-world angst.  But I knew this topic would be perfect one for Elise to make her blogging debut; right now they're studying poetry at school, and she can pen some pretty epic quatrains.

The following is an Elise original.  I love the non-sequitur ending.

My Diabetes
Diabetes is hard to beat
But I can eat it like meat
Diabetes is strong,
But I am stronger
My CGM reads the numbers
Or else it will be a bummer
My monitor tells us the number
Pods are like turtle shells.

Here's my contribution:

Roses are red
Christmas trees are sappy
Diabetes + Strep throat + antibiotics + strep rash + hives
Are all really, really, really crappy

Monday, May 12, 2014


So. It's been a little quiet around here lately.  Lots to write and zero time to do it.  I was hoping that the fifth annual Dblog Week would be the kick in the pants I needed.  Let's see if I can make it work...

Monday - Change the World Let’s kick off Diabetes Blog Week by talking about the diabetes causes and issues that really get us fired up. Are you passionate about 504 plans and school safety? Do diabetes misconceptions irk you? Do you fight for CGM coverage for Medicare patients, SDP funding, or test strip accuracy? Do you work hard at creating diabetes connections and bringing support? Whether or not you “formally” advocate for any cause, share the issues that are important to you.

This one.  This. That word... advocate.  I'm stuck on that.  The problem is, I don't feel like one.  I look around the DOC and see everything that is being done; the Strip Safely Campaign, Children's Congress, Spare a rose, Save a Child... I know there are more, right now my brain is just a little tired.  

What I love about the DOC is their ability to start a grassroots campaign and run with it.  And I love how quickly everyone hops aboard.  I will usually hear about it and say, "Self... you need to look into that when you have some time."  My problem is that last word; time.  There just isn't enough of it.

But instead of beating myself up about my lack of involvement, I do what I can, where I can.  And that amounts to speaking at a newly diagnosed class at our Children's Hospital once a month.

Because reaching out to families that may be feeling like they are drowning is my passion.   Fred and I didn't have that at the beginning, and it was a very dark time for us.  So I try to be a tiny light in their new, strange world.  I tell them our story; how far we have come, how amazing Elise is, and I can usually get through it without shedding a tear these days. 

Interestingly enough, I usually see quite a few tears in the eyes of the people I'm speaking to.  And when they come up to me later, a lot of them tell me that they are tears of relief, knowing that someone has been there and come out the other side just fine.

It may not be a lot. I may not be blazing new trails and making my voice heard across the country, but for now, it's enough.  I'm making the difference where I can, and maybe one day it will lead to more, maybe not. But if it helps even one person, it's enough.  

Just like the starfish.