Can't, Shouldn't, Don't

Thursday, December 20, 2007 | 19 comment(s)

These aren't happy or festive words.
But 'tis the season of holiday parties and Christmas cookies and a constant barrage of sweets, so (sadly) these are the words that have been bouncing 'round my head lately.

When faced
It's really embarrassing how much time I have devoted in my life standing over such a tray and waging a gut-wrenching mental debate with myself over whether to eat something or not.

Just last week I was confronted with a plate of chocolate truffles put out as samples at Whole Foods. I probably stood there for 2 minutes at a maximum, but boy, did it feel like an eternity.

I am proud to report that I somehow turned around and walked away from this tray of chocolate morsels without having eaten any.

with a plate of cookies at a holiday party, does the voice in your head ever say: "I can't eat those, I have diabetes."

Yeah, me neither.

"Can't" is a very restrictive word.
It smacks of authoritarianism.
Stripped of freedom and choice.
Authoritarianism sucks.
And, besides, it inspires rebellion.

A slightly less restrictive word, but in the same vein, is "shouldn't".

As in: "I know I shouldn't eat these, but... (fill in your favorite rationalization here -- my favorite has something to do with 'knowing' how many carbs are in a given delectable).

There's a bit of gray in "shouldn't".
It's soft.
As in, yeah, I know I'll regret this, but I'm willing to pay that price.
There's a judgment call involved.
Something of a quick cost-benefit analysis going on subconsciously.
It rarely works.
The sweets almost always win.

A much finer, much more effective, word is "don't".

I find that when I'm faced with temptations my inner voice starts chirping.
Silence is Deadly
Getting the inner voice to engage is a crucial first step to will power defeating sweets. The next piece (and overall point of this post) is the realization that what that voice inside my head is telling me matters.

One thing I know for sure, when there's no mantra-repeating pep-talk going on in my head, I'm sunk. Cookies consumed, ice cream eaten, candy bar devoured. Almost in a haze.

Mental illness concerns aside, the voice inside my head is a good thing.

But phrases like:

"I can't eat that" is (like I said) way to authoritarian and I'm very likely to rebel just on principle and eat the damn whatever it is.

"I shouldn't eat this" is a step in the right direction, but it's as leaky as a spaghetti colander. The consumption of the sweet can almost always be (ir)rationalized.

Lately, I've found "I don't eat this/that because I have diabetes" to be a much more empowering sentence/mantra. There's a sense of independence and determination in it. It's a decision I've made. I'm stronger for making it. I know myself, I know my disease, I know my weaknesses, and I know what is right for me. Eventually it could evolve to simply "Cookies? Oh, I don't eat them," as if I'm talking about eggplant or mushrooms or anchovies or any other food that I'm not fond of. It has the potential to just become part of "who I am."

The Holiday Challenge (Again)
Similar to last year, I've taken an oath of abstinence from sweets through the holiday season. Last year, I was desperate to obtain an A1c reading below 7.0.
I didn't meet this goal. I know (now) that some portion of my failure has to do with stuffing my face with anything that didn't have sugar in it as a way to avoid eating anything with sugar in it (bad idea). Bottom line: Indiscriminate snacking of any kind leads to poor blood sugar control.

But for the most part I was clean -- completely off sweets for 4+ months.

This year, I'm just kinda disgusted by my eating habits. I blame a lot of this on my sleep deprivation, but I know that pointing fingers and making excuses doesn't change or improve my eating habits.

This year, I'm doing it because I need to.

You see, I have a problem.
I'm a bit of a sugar-junkie.
I have an almost insatiable sweet-tooth.

I drink about 100 oz. of Diet Coke per day to help quench this sweet need.

If I make myself a cup of tea or a bowl of oatmeal, I put 3 packets of Equal/Splenda
They Taste the Same to Me
I can't tell the difference. Even Sweet & Low does the trick for me. And if you believe what it says on the packets, that's equivalent to 6 teaspoons of sugar!

When it's put that way it I kinda gross myself out.

in it.

There is simply no such thing as "too sweet" for my palate.

My Achilles heel for sweets is ice cream. For quite some time now, we've had a household rule that bans ice cream from our freezer. If it's there, I hear it calling my name (it has a sweet, sweet voice, too). I wake up thinking about it. So (naturally), I have a nip for breakfast.

Megan has (mostly) been a good sport about this rule. But she too has a bit of a sweet tooth and has occasionally brought some ice cream in the house (which has lead to a few minor disputes). Our compromise has been that ice cream that I don't like is allowed in the house (e.g., coffee flavored ice cream), otherwise she goes across the street to a convenience store when an ice cream urge hits. And then there are the birthday celebrations or dinner with friends that we occasionally host and ice cream is often served. If we're on top of things we send folks home with leftover dessert items. Otherwise, the remnants of ice cream disappear
Depends on the Quantity
If there's just a little left, I've certainly been known to wolf it down. If there's 'more than a little' (admittedly, a vague measurement), I've also been known to fill up the ice cream container with water and dump it down the drain.

rather quickly.

When the babies were born this fall, we had incredibly generous help from Meg's parents and they stayed with us for 10 days or so. On the night before they were leaving my mother-in-law baked a banana cake. I came home from work, I was exhausted, everyone else had gone to bed and I was still downstairs cleaning up, and I proceeded to eat much of the cake (it was DEliciOUS). There was also some left over ice cream in the freezer (the in-laws are inveterate ice cream consumers) that I had so far successfully avoided. When I opened up the Breyer's Neapolitan Ice Cream, thankfully all the vanilla was gone and only a spoonful of chocolate left (much of the strawberry was left, but I'm not a fan).

After this little binge, I was quite upset. Initially, I was angry at my mother-in-law, but also at myself. I dumped the ice cream down the drain (it was mostly symbolic since it was just the strawberry left), and I wrapped up what was left of the cake in tin foil and a zip lock and placed it with some of the things my in-laws were going to be taking home with them.

The next morning, I asked my mother-in-law if she wanted to take the cake home with her. When she declined, I was probably a little too harsh when I dramatically dropped it into the garbage can and told her that she couldn't just bring ice cream and sweets into our house (and I'm sorry about that).

She was a little shocked. Since then she has been worried about not being able to have that rule at her house during Thanksgiving or what we can do for the holidays when they're in town. I assured her that having sweets in the house for special occasions was fine, but that for every-day-run-of-the-mill life, I can't have it in my house. When I'm out-and-about, I'm frequently faced with food choices and tempted by sweets. And for special occasions, I can steel myself and successfully avoid eating sweets. But for day-to-day, I don't want to have to deal with these temptations
It's an Addiction
Having ice cream in the freezer and/or leaving cake/cookies/brownies on the kitchen counter isn't all that different from leaving a 6-pack in the 'fridge at an alcoholic's house.

Not cool.

I'm not ready for any sort of 12-step program, but I do realize that acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step toward dealing with the problem.

in my home.

I know I'm only about half-way through peak sweets exposure season (aka, the holidays). I also know that abstaining from sweets is what is best for me. It's going to be hard, but I'm hoping the mental edge gleaned from this subtle phrase ("I don't eat that because I have diabetes.") helps me get through the season sweets-free.

So Much to Say

Monday, December 10, 2007 | 7 comment(s)

- Wow?!

- It's been how long?

- Really?

- Wow, that's hard to believe.

- Sorry 'bout that.

First and foremost, thanks to all of you who have sent your congratulations and well wishes our way. In addition, I have a few BIG THANK YOUs to shout about:
  • Minnesota Nice, for the totally rocking, Bob Marleyesque hats (which have been universally complemented by all who have seen them). The little melon heads are almost big enough for them these days -- if only the 50o and raining weather would hit the road! (and when that happens, fear not!, pictures will be taken and posted right here).
  • Chrissie in Belgium for the awesome European rattles. The little ones have already confirmed that they taste as good as they look.
  • And Art-Sweet for the bounty of sporty boys clothes that E will probably fit right into come Spring-time.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Both Megan and I were thrilled with these thoughtful gifts.

Obviously, a lot has happened since my last blog post. Most tellingly, the help from my mother and mother-in-law has left and Megan and I have been left to parent on our own. I am happy to report that not only are we surviving, but the babies are too! In fact, they're great. They're sneaking up on 3 months now and they're smiling and cooing and becoming more and more interactive each day. AND, they've recently started to sleep about 6 hours in a row! (which means Megan and I have started to regain some semblance of being cognitive humans).

(NB: Awesome silly hats are not from MN, but from Mr. & Mrs. K (thanks again!!)).

Next, is a segment from a post I started to write a month (or more) ago:

Diabetes and Parenthood: Things I Have Learned So Far
I believe that having diabetes all these years has actually helped me develop skills that have been extremely useful in my new role as a Dad.
  • Be prepared. Shit happens (literally). Always have the diaper bag stocked, keep the changing stations (we have two in our house) stocked, keep extra necessities nearby. Diabetes-wise, this is akin to my obsession with always having my pockets well-stocked, and always carrying my trusty backpack.
  • Having a schedule helps. A game plan, a check-list, a routine. These are helpful in managing diabetes as well as new born infants.
    Managing Infants
    I'm not sure the analogy holds up here. The phrase smacks of vapid business-speak -- it sounds like the title of a book that could be marketed in either the business section or the child development/family section of your local mega-bookstore.

    It also reminds me of the somewhat sexist phrase: "Ahhh, I see, so she wears the pants in the family." In a similar vein, the babies are not shy about letting you know who wears the diapers in the family. No doubt about it, they're the ones in charge!

    Who knew?
  • Constant troubleshooting. As a parent, I am constantly trying to figure out how to comfort the kiddos and keep them happy and satisfied. This isn't too different really from constant monitoring of blood sugars, carbohydrate intake, exercise regime, etc.
  • Be flexible. While this may seem to conflict with the whole routine bit, it doesn't really. It's important to have a structure, a framework, but it's also important to be prepared to improvise. Like some many other things in life and in diabetes care, it's all in the art of striking a balance.
I'm sure there was going to be more witty and insightful things, but I was operating on very few hours of sleep when I wrote these.


Things slipped quite a bit there in the weeks right after the arrival of the twins. I found myself regularly standing in front of the vending machine at around 3pm looking for a sugar jolt to keep me awake through the rest of the afternoon. Not good. I think it must have been 10 or 15 years since I last ate a "Ho-Ho". Sadly, I can not say that is true any longer.

I had an appointment with my Endo, and have resolved never to go back there again. I waited a full hour and a half before being seen. Inconsiderate at best, but for a parent with 6 week old infants at home, completely unacceptable. I walked in, told my doc that I just wanted my A1c result
Not bad, considering my meter averages:

Especially relative to my May averages when my A1c came back (unceremoniously) at 6.9:

and to then go home. I was so angry I couldn't even hold a conversation with her. I have seriously considered not paying my bill for that appointment.

I actually made an appointment and met with another Endo a week or so later. He was OK, but I'm not sure I like him *enough*. I think I would like to meet with a few others to see if I find someone I click with better. If anyone has a recommendation for an endocrinologist in the DC area, please don't hesitate to share it with me.

While I'm not sure we clicked so well, he did give me a good recommendation for a podiatrists. I've had a chronic pain in my foot for about 2 years now that comes and goes. I saw another podiatrist, had a Quantitative Sensory Test
Quantitative my Ass
I actually went to a plastic surgeon to have this test performed. He apparently specializes in a cutting-edge (no pun intended) surgery to release the tarsal tunnel and restore sensation in the feet (similar to the surgery performed for carpel tunnel syndrome). Anyway, the test involves taking your shoes and socks off, a clinician opening up a suitcase like contraption with prongs attached to the end and giving you a button like you're on "Jeopardy" and asking you to press it when you feel the prongs touch your feet.

I'm sure that this may be useful in some way, but I felt like it was a totally subjective test, and more-over, when I got back the written letter with the test results, there wasn't a single number on it! I thought that was the whole point of the test -- to quantify the presence/extent of neuropathy.

(QST) performed (which told me I have minor symptoms of neuropathy in my feet (no duh). And the old doc just blamed my foot pain on my diabetes -- end of story. New foot doc, was much better: Take an x-ray to check if there's a stress fracture (no), wrap it to shift weight off the painful area (metatarsal web space number 3, left foot), explain mechanics of walking and foot pressures, and make a cast mold of my feet for orthopedic inserts. Much more "let's see what we can do to make this better for you" and a lot less "Sorry buddy, you've got diabetes."

So, that's about it.

I've got another post percolating, and hopefully I'll get around to posting that before the end of the year (no promises, though). A while back, I was thinking a renaming of this blog might be in order. Something along the lines of "parenthetic (diabetic (dad))". But I must give props to Art-Sweet for the much better (and far more clever) renaming suggestion: "parent(hectic) diabetic".

It's funny 'cause it's true.