Just an Everyday Way to Live

By Merry Carol Cotton

Just an Everyday Way to Live

Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem…I’d tried them all and I’d lost weight, but eventually my lost weight found me, and once again I’d made promises to myself I hadn’t kept. But nothing changed my eating habits until one particular medical exam.

I had changed physicians. So, meeting a new physician was a bit unsettling and when he came into the examining room, I was nervous. He introduced himself and after making some small talk, he said, “Your blood tests show you have Type 2 Diabetes. Did you know you’re diabetic?”

I was stunned as that wasn’t anything I’d even remotely suspected, and, in fact, responded with, “You must be mistaking me for some other patient as I don’t have diabetes…no one in my family is diabetic.” I soon learned that having Type 2 diabetes isn’t always an inherited health issue.

The doctor calmly replied that perhaps I needed to have another blood test to make certain he wasn’t mistaken. So, I returned to the lab for more blood work and went home smug with self-righteousness knowing someone had made a mistake, and I wasn’t diabetic.

About a week later, still smug knowing I was correct, I confidently returned for my second follow-up visit and found that the second blood test confirmed that the first blood test and that the new physician’s report were correct; I did have Type 2 diabetes.

So, between shedding tears of self-pity for myself and tears of anger with the physician for making a correct diagnosis, I shared my diabetes diagnosis with my family. They listened, and said I should follow the doctor’s strong recommendation that I attend a diabetes education class held at the local hospital. There, an entirely new world of medical terms and information initially overwhelmed me. I was frustrated and discouraged but knew I had to learn about smart choices for a diet that would be part of the rest of my life.

I soon realized that having diabetes requires thinking differently, not just about what I’d eat but how much I’d eat and when I’d eat. So, after the diabetes education class, I felt I was fairly secure with food choices…that is, until I discovered that “sugar free candy” and “sugar free ice cream” may be sugar free but not carbohydrate free and carbohydrates are carbohydrates however they appear.

That’s when I learned I needed to include carbohydrates from many good sources such as beans, whole wheat products and brown rice to mention a few.

High glycemic carbs, not the good kind, include white potatoes – and I love mashed, scalloped, baked and French fries – white rice and white flour products such as cake, cookies – you know, all the good snack foods. Much to my chagrin I found that a vegetable like corn is a not a good choice as it, too, is high in carbohydrates. The really “devastating” food news was that my favorite foods such as spaghetti, lasagna and pizza are also high glycemic carbs. But moderation is the key to success with all foods.

While this wasn’t exactly news, I knew that I needed to include healthy proteins such as lean, not deep fried, chicken, roasted turkey and broiled or grilled salmon. Eggs, whether scrambled, hard-boiled or poached, also help me with my protein allowances. Clearly, there are many other sources for healthy proteins. And then when all else fails, I go to my diabetic cookbooks.

I also needed to change my diet to include more fiber like whole-grain products found in cereals, breads, and even some pasta products.

Another big hurdle I had was to learn to use a glucose monitor or meter to check my blood sugar levels. The levels should read between 70 and 120 mg/dL. I’m certain you’ve seen them advertised on television. Using a meter was easier to do than I expected, because the thought of pricking my finger two or three times a day and placing that drop of blood on a specially coated test strip wasn’t something I felt I wanted to do or even could do.

After the first few attempts to get a mere, small drop of blood onto a specially treated test strip, and I was still okay and still standing, inserting the test strip into the meter was simple. As usual, my imagination had temporarily controlled me, and the procedure turned out to be simple and virtually painless. The screen of the meter immediately flashes a digital display of my blood sugar reading. And there are times when my readings are not in the 70 to 120 range, so I need to change what I am eating and how much I’m eating until it comes back into the normal range. A glucose meter is a great tool to help maintain one’s diet, as seeing a high reading helps me make wiser food choices.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of a physical exercise schedule. I wanted to exercise at something I like to do because I need to exercise at least five days a week. What has worked best for me is a morning walk, and in the summer I exercise with the neighborhood ladies at the community pool for an hour three times a week. Exercising helps prevent some of the complications associated with being diabetic such as heart and kidney disease, eye problems and nerve damage. So, it doesn’t take much to keep me motivated.

And last, as well as first, maintaining regular visits to a physician who can help monitor blood sugar levels with an A1C test. That test is done at the doctor’s office through blood tests. The A1C reflects a three-month average to determine how much glucose (blood sugar) is in my blood and helps the doctor determine the appropriate course of treatment for a quality life as a diabetic.

He or she will probably recommend medication to help lower glucose or blood sugar levels. Many of the medications are oral and are taken each morning and evening. Sometimes, they are also taken at meal times. And, most certainly, a diabetic must use medications exactly as the doctor prescribes. I take a few pills in the morning and a couple in the evening.

While I am by no means an expert on diabetes, I have been living this life style for nearly ten years. I just know having a physician skilled in diabetes treatment is a must, and I also know that having Type 2 Diabetes was and is not the end of the road…at least, I refuse to let it be that…instead, I have to remind myself that it is just an everyday way to live.

About this writer

  • Merry Carol Cotton Merry Carol Cotton arrived in Pawleys Island over five years ago after having taught high school English in Michigan for nearly thirty years. She has published in the National Council of Teachers of English Journal, edited medical textbooks, and contributed many articles to church-related publications. She and her husband have three grown children and seven grandchildren.

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