As diabetics, we have learned that if we reduce our carbs, it will lower our numbers. Easy, right? Easy in concept, anyway. Since I am recovering from a big slip yesterday and the yucky feeling, high numbers, and being lethargic are still fresh in my mind, I want to write about things that may cause you to slip as you walk farther on the low carb path. Pictured above is a ketostick. You use them to test your urine to make sure you are burning fat instead of glucose. The darker the reading the more ketones you are burning. Sunday, my ketones were somewhere in the range of the two darkest on the right. Today, because of my carb binge, I am about as far to the left as I can go.
It is tough getting into ketosis, and it will probably take me 3-4 days to get back into it fully. Why do I want to be in ketosis? The body can burn either fat or carbs for fuel. When we eat an extra amount of carbs that we don’t immediately need, (and this amount will vary by individual, activity level, etc) the body takes the extra fuel and fills up the liver with glycogen, then converts the rest to fat and stores it on the body. The liver is the unknown factor in controlling diabetes. We have dawn phenomenon to deal with, if we skip a meal the body thinks it is starving to death and will do a glucose dump. If you can get the glycogen depleted from your liver you will start having more stable and lower numbers.
However, if you eat a heavy carb meal, you go right back to square one. Where I am at today. It will not be quite as bad for me. Since me body is used to it, it will adapt back pretty quickly. There is where many people fail. Going into ketosis, especially the first time is tough. You can get an upset stomach, mild to bad headache, nausea, and a host of other symptoms. These symptoms can last from days to a week or two. Here is the key to the transition that I have found. The more carbs you can initially cut, the faster the liver will be emptied, and the shorter the transition will be. If you eat enough carbs to just barely start draining the liver, it can go on for quite a while.
Protein is another factor that has to be considered. The body is such a efficient producer and converter of energy, that we have to work within it’s guidelines. Fat can only be burned for fuel. It cannot be converted into fat. Let me say this another way; eating fat will not make you fat. What does the farmer feed his cow to get a better price at market? Grain. Grain will turn into glucose and what is not stored in the liver will then be converted to fat. The process that concerns protein is not very efficient, but the body can convert part of it into glucose. That is why a snack of meat at late night may cause a higher morning number. While you sleep, your body is converting the meat to fuel an any excess into some glucose.
The best balance is to eat very low carb, moderate protein, and high fat. You will need to figure out what your percentages are. As you change your body fat percentage (losing weight), you will need to adjust accordingly. This is much easier for the diabetic to do than try to mind read what the liver is going to do.
Triggers can come in all kinds of shape and sizes. It will vary from individual to individual. As I stood in the garage yesterday debating on whether to try and throw up on not, I realized that some carb-laden foods are like crack cocaine to a druggie. And they are.
The above study found that some foods were more addictive than cocaine. So, craving them is not your fault. Keeping them away from you is your first step in defeating the craving.
COUPLES – I hear of a lot of couples that struggle with having carb food around. There needs to be an understanding of the dangers and consequences to the non-diabetic spouse. Educating them that “a little piece of cake” won’t hurt you is totally wrong. If they had any idea of the struggle us diabetics go though every day, or the complications that little piece of cake might cause, they would understand better.
FAMILIES – “When are you going to stop that fad diet and eat some good food? That’s all that is wrong with you.” Again, it comes down to how knowledgeable they are about your disease. Some will want to listen and some won’t. You need to learn to pick your battles. The ones that won’t budge need to be neutralized. Ignoring them or acting like you didn’t hear them are a couple of ways. They should get the idea and back off after a while. Be prepared for the, “I just don’t understand why John has to eat THAT way.” This said to a third party, trying to draw them into the conflict and re-open things. Don’t fall for THAT trap.
GET TOGETHERS – This is a tough one. Not only is all the food that you shouldn’t eat around, you are with the people that were around you when you were eating it before. If nothing else, the body loves patterns. That is so why it is so easy to fall back into an old groove. That’s what happened to me yesterday. I couple of ways to combat that is to bring your own food or even eat a large meal of the correct food before getting there.
EMOTIONS – When we get upset, our bodies naturally want to feel immediately better. Binge carb eating is one way to do so. The sad thing is, you don’t feel better for long, if at all. The carbs cause a crash that totally wipes us out. Even today, 24 hours later, I can still feel the effects slightly. The point is you need to treat your body as a younger and immature you. It does not know what is best for it. You need to maintain control. That is key. Keeping your emotions in check will help that a bunch.
DEHYDRATION – Hard to believe, but sometimes a hunger or craving feeling is miss-read and is actually a call to hydrate. Experts say that instead of eating when you suspect you are getting hungry, drink some water first. Give that a little bit. See if it was hunger or thirst. Over time you may learn to distinguish the difference.
IN GENERAL – The NA program (narcotics anonymous) have a saying, “If you keep going to a barber shop, you eventually will get a haircut”. What they are meaning by this is that if you keep running in the same circles, having forbidden foods around, have friends and family constantly trying to draw you away from the way you need to eat to keep from damaging your body, there is a good chance you will fall off your horse. You need to remember that if your friends and family realized just how important to your health your way of eating is, they would change their attitude 180 degrees. And I hate to say it, if they don’t you may have to separate yourself from their influence for as long as you have to. The following video was created to show what happens when diabetes is uncontrolled. Might try showing that to your friend or loved one. I can attest the impact of it and I am the one that did the final editing of it.
Learn to experiment with what keeps you away from carb binging. And most important of all, if you fall off your horse, dust your britches off, straighten your hat, and get back on that horse and ride! You can do this! Join a group of other individuals that have the same problems. Some days you can give them strength, other days you may need some from them! Good Luck!