The power of small, simple steps

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SPLENDA® Naturals. The opinions and text are all mine.


I can be a little stubborn sometimes. I believe being stubborn can be a helpful attribute – especially for diabetes management and trying to stay healthy.

When diabetes throws me a curve ball, it’s up to me to recalibrate my expectations and get back on track. Being stubborn is useful in those cases, but tends to undermine my efforts in other ways.

Simple steps

Too often, I try to change too much at one time or try to make huge changes quickly. I make the mistake of thinking I can just “stubborn” my way through changes and I don’t take a strategic approach. But I’m learning to appreciate the power of simple, consistent steps thanks in large part to noticing SPLENDA® Naturals and how they always highlight the power of small, consistent steps in such an empowering way.

Earlier this summer I shared that I was working with them on a few of the small steps of my own that I wanted to work on. Some of those steps included enjoying smoothies in the morning and drinking more water. Or maybe trying to add some coffee or tea with SPLENDA® Naturals instead of sugar to satisfy my urge for sweetness without adding calories or carbs and drinking less Diet Coke during the day.

My daughter often enjoys iced coffee, and I decided to try some of that too (also sweetened with SPLENDA® Naturals) as an occasional drink. You know what? I really like it and have started switching that into my beverage mix through the week, too.

I started many mornings with a smoothie, which was rich, tasty, and satisfied my sweet tooth yet didn’t have extra carbs or calories because I used SPLENDA® Naturals instead of other sweeteners. I felt satisfied and snacked less through the late mornings, which was a nice bonus.

That’s it. I didn’t set up big goals or giant behavior changes. I’ve made that mistake before and failed too many times. The plan here is small steps that are easy to do. In the past three months, I have made a lot of small steps. I haven’t been perfect, but I’ve made progress. Much more progress than without small steps.

I’m also working with a coach who’s teaching me to celebrate my wins, no matter how small. Learning to change the energy around my efforts is another important aspect of positive change which has made a big difference.

A sudden realization

One morning in September I realized something huge! It dawned on me that through the small steps above (drinking more water, coffee & tea), I was drinking less Diet Coke at work. How much less? About half as much!

Incredible!

Note – I did not take the approach of limiting my Diet Coke consumption. Instead, I started the small by drinking more water, coffee & tea. I also didn’t attach any numbers or quantities here. I drank those things first and whenever it crossed my mind, then I enjoyed my Diet Coke with no regrets.

It didn’t hit me that my Diet Coke consumption was cut in half until I realized my regular supply run was lasting twice as long!

Don’t wait – just start

One of the biggest things I learned working with SPLENDA® Naturals on this campaign is the importance of not waiting to start something. For example, it’s common for me to come up with a plan, but not start anything until Monday.

Monday’s are great days to start, right? Yeah, of course.

But you know what other days are good days to start? ANY DAY! I don’t have to wait for Monday to start or to get back on track! Waiting for Mondays is just a fancy way to procrastinate for me.

So I stopped waiting for Monday. As soon as I decided on a change or behavior I wanted to start, I jumped right in no matter what day of the week it is. Likewise, and maybe more importantly, when I fell off the horse I didn’t beat myself up or procrastinate by waiting for a clean, fresh start. I pulled myself back together and started again no matter what day of the week it was.

That behavior change is huge all by itself, and I appreciate this SPLENDA® Naturals campaign for helping me see that.

Have I noticed anything else?

Yep, you bet. My thinking feels clearer and I seem to have more overall energy. I also feel empowered by learning a new skill – leveraging the power of small steps.

I’m also proud of myself for getting back on track so quickly whenever I found myself struggling, and that’s a big win.

How about you? Have any simple steps or small changes lead to big improvements in your life?


Disclosure:

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Splenda. The opinions and text are all mine. Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.

Do you bolus for protein?

I have heard from two different groups of people on this one.  One group that does not bolus for protein at all, and another who boluses for a portion of their protein.

Somewhere in the big “diabetes info” vault of my brain, I think I can recall something about 60% of the protein you eat gets metabolized into carbs over an extended period.  Does that sound familiar to anyone?

When you eat a meal with a lot of protein, do you find your blood sugars go up much later?  I do.  I think that I need to experiment with bolusing for a portion of the protein, and running that bolus over an extended time.

So, now the meal math gets even more complex (because more complication in my life is exactly what I need, right?).  So we’ve got X% of the protein grams, bolused for over X amount of time, then 100% of the carb grams (minus fiber, if that’s your thing too), plus or minus some insulin based on your current blood sugar.

Is it worth it?

What do you do?

Food Issues? Duh!

I have food issues.

I don’t know if these issues exist apart from diabetes, or because of diabetes.

My recent dLife column is about an experience where diabetes was clearly the culprit.  If you have a moment, would you take a look?

I would love to hear what some of you think about food and our diabetes.  What are your experiences?

One of my favorite bloggers, Lee Ann Thill (The Butter Compartment), has recently posted some great stuff around eating disorders and diabetes, and I totally consider her to be a great champion for raising awareness about it.

There was also a page about diabetes and eating disorders in an awesome book that made me smirk.  I’ll be posting about soon (in the meantime check out the posts by Lee Ann and Chris).

Food issues and diabetes.  Check.

Making The Same Mistakes

I’ve been wresting with myself the past few days.

I did something I knew very well I shouldn’t.  In fact I did it three times.  And each time I was miserable and scared afterward.  And once I was done being scared I felt guilty.

Mistakes in life happen, and are necessary.  We need to make mistakes in order to learn.  We are supposed to learn from our mistakes, and then not repeat them if possible.  Sometimes it takes a few times for the lesson to sink in, and sometimes the scenarios change a little bit, forcing us to translate the experience a little bit in order to learn from it.

But I’ve made this mistake so many times in my life, and just don’t know why I keep doing it again and again.  Without diabetes it would be unhealthy.  But with diabetes is it downright dangerous.

The details of this mistake might not matter much, and it can all be thrown in to the “binge eating” bucket.  This particular binge eating bucket was full of melted Velveeta cheese and tortilla chips, which I know damn well causes me a lot of problems with my blood sugar — both up front and hours (and hours) later.

Fooling myself into thinking that I might be able to indulge AND manage my blood sugars, I took a crapload of insulin.  Then I ate until I couldn’t stuff another cheese covered chip into my mouth.  No counting, no measuring, no thinking.  Just eating (and eating and eating).

My blood sugars were a mess for the rest of the day.  I had started a wild and reckless swing of ups and downs, highs and lows, and a lot of emotions about my failing to control my impulses.  It’s just chips and cheese.  How could I let something so stupid invade my (hole-filled) fortress of self-control?

But here is what is more crazy.  I did this exact same thing three times in three days.  It was as if I knew I needed to get rid of it all so it wouldn’t temp me again – except instead of just throwing it away I ate it all, in two separate sittings.  What the heck is THAT all about?

InsertBrainHere

I don’t understand what goes on in my head sometimes.  Why do I think it is alright to get so reckless?  No, that’s not the right question.  Why do I get so reckless when I KNOW it is not alright?

Measuring Handfuls

I have another bad habit that I would like to share with you all.

I often grab handfuls of food here and there. Most often after I eat an unbalanced meal that leaves me craving something more, and most often I am pouring dry cereal into my hand and eating that.

Maybe it’s like a desert of sorts.

One night after I ate my dinner and was munching on cereal I found myself thinking on things. As I was stuffing my mouth full of unbolused for carbohydrates, I wondered just how many grams could it possibly be.

So I checked.

pop_nutriI pulled out my Eat Smart Nutrition Scale and punched in the figures for the Honey Nut Cheerios and placed a typical handful of them on the scale. For each “handful” of cheerios I was inhaling, I was eating about 8 grams of carbohydrates.

Stunned, I sat there and thought about how many handfuls I would mindlessly eat in one sitting. Four? Five? Eight? Holy crap batman!

Then I starting thinking about how long I have had this habit, and how often I would do this. Way too long and way too often.

It makes total sense if you think about it. I wouldn’t take me many handfuls to fill up a cereal bowl full of cheerios.

Here I thought (or tried to convince myself) that what I was eating didn’t really add up to much and wouldn’t matter. Now that I am aware of just how many carbs I am eating when I do this, it has been much easier to avoid the habitual behaviour.

Funny how the context of things can skew our perceptions sometimes.

Funny how the reality of things can help us adjust our actions.

Silly Self-Conscious Moment?

My family and I were recently at one of the YMCA’s in the area.

My wife and I were walking around the track. It’s up on the second level and goes around both the basketball gym on one half and then the kids recreation area on the other half. It’s a good setup because when we’re up on the track we can see the exits of the kids recreation area and actually see the kids for half of the trip around the track.

The kids recreation area is pretty cool. It’s a big room with some short basketball hoops and balls, then a big section of padded floor (what I picture gymnasts using?) and a bunch of big cushy gym mats. The floor is kind of springy, so the kids usually build a big pile of the gym mats, then back up and take off! They run and jump into the pile of mats. It’s a blast!

They are doing a lot of construction at this YMCA (which, I guess, justifies why they keep raising the rates). Because of this construction they temporarily moved a group of stationary bikes into the kids rec room.

There was a guy riding one of these bikes when we were there. This guy was pretty intense. A late middle-aged man. Thin, not an ounce of fat on him, and though his muscles were not big, they were just flippin’ ripped. You know, where you can see the strands of muscles along his shoulders. He looked to be in great shape, and judging by the way he was attacking that poor stationary bike, he worked hard to get there and even harder to stay there.

Every time we went around that part of the track this dude was looking at us. It was quite uncomfortable. I kept joking with my wife that he was checking her out, and she kept joking with me that he was checking ME out… It was weird, either way.

After we had walked for a while I started feeling funny. Sometimes when you are exercising it’s hard to tell if you are feeling funny from exercise, or if it is a low. I checked my blood sugar, and even though I reduced my breakfast bolus, I was low. And still had a boatload of insulin on board from breakfast. Doesn’t it always seem like a boatload of insulin on board if you’re low (and not enough when you’re high)?

An old tube of glucose tabs pictured next to a new tube.I didn’t think that all of my breakfast had digested, but I couldn’t just wait for it. I had to treat the low. I had a full tube of glucose tablets in my pocket, that is 40g of carbs. If you can believe it, according to how much insulin I had on board, that wouldn’t cut it. It might have given whatever undigested breakfast time to catch up, but I also wasn’t done exercising. I didn’t want to risk being low again in a bit. So I check my wallet. It was a great day – I had a five-dollar bill and a ten-dollar bill.

While my wife kept walking I went looking for the vending machines. I had my mind set on a nice cold bottle of OJ or apple juice. But because of the construction there was only one vending machine in the building, and it was a snack machine (not a drink machine). It also would not accept a fiver. I begged the women at the front desk for change, and got some one-dollar bills. Back to the vending machine for a bag of skittles. After I got my fix I started chowing down and went back to the entrance to the gym.

Those parents out there will understand that I didn’t want to let the kiddos see me with a bag of candy when I didn’t have any for them. So I stayed near the door to the gym while I ate my skittles and waited for my blood sugar to come up. A slight sweat on my head and a wet spot in the middle of my shirt. Breathing hard. I was tearing those skittles up. Cramming more into my mouth at one time than my teeth and tongue could manage. Damn low bg.

Out of the corner of my eye I see spinner dude, heading right for the door. The one I’m standing in. Great. The irrational part of my mind (read: majority) starts running wild.

I can only imagine what he’s thinking. “Look at that fatass. He was just up there trying to work it off, and now he’s here eating candy faster than his mouth can handle it. Pitiful.”

I stepped to the side and avoided even looking in his direction as he passed by.

The moment stuck in my head. He didn’t know I didn’t have a choice. I had to do it.

As irrational as it may be, even with the health club fitness nut mentality that some people have, it doesn’t mean he was thinking that.

Even if he was – who cares? It was literally all in my head. But that’s how my head works sometimes. Especially when I’m low.

I Don’t Want to Know…

I know that food is my downfall. I know that food is the cause of most of my diabetes management woes. I know that I need to know more about food.

I know that the Glycemic Index is a pretty important aspect of food. It is a measurement of how fast certain foods raise blood sugar.

David Mendosa has been talking about the glycemic index for a very long time, and I’m sure that he is where I first heard of it. David has written about diabetes for about as long as I can remember reading about it. I view his information as very credible and well researched, and I urge all of you to take a look at his website and to subscribe to his blog.

About a month ago I caught a burst of health related motivation. I rushed off to the bookstore determined to pick up a book on the glycemic index. I wanted to learn all that I could about this important measurement about food.

As usual, I was so juiced up and excited to learn, I didn’t buy ONE book, but rather three or four. Rather than doing the smart thing, spending a bit of cash and buying a single book to see whether it was useful to me, I spent a bunch of cash and bought a bunch of books. I’m really good at not being smart about stuff when I get excited about it.

keep-calm-and-bury-head-in-sandYou know how much of the first book I’ve read so far? About twenty pages. And it has been painful. I can’t get into the book, but that is no fault of the book. I just don’t want to know. I’m not motivated to keep reading.

I’m trying my damnedest to ignore the fact that I need to change my food ways.

I can finish a huge computer book in a single weekend. I can polish off a book about kayaking or geocaching in a few days. I can read a novel at bedtime, little by little, and find that it keeps me up later than I should be up. Books that suck me in and don’t let me put it down.

A good book about helping me change my dietary habits – my brain just refuses to get into it.

I am so completely amazed at the depth of my food issues. This is one fight that I am having real trouble fighting.

I would rather ignore the problem altogether and have some Doritos. What good comes from rebellion of this sort? None! So why is it so hard to stop?

I Hate Food

I hate food.

I hate that I love to eat.

I hate that I don’t really love to eat because there is all kinds of mental bullshit attached to it.

I hate it doesn’t even matter if the food is good or not. I sometimes keep eating in hopes that the next bite will somehow magically taste so much better than the last.

I hate that I sometimes eat just to fill time.

I hate that I eat because I’m tired or bored or upset about something.

I hate that food plays such a big role in managing diabetes.

I hate feeling so damn uneducated about nutrition.

I hate using that as an excuse for poor choices and poor lifestyle.

I hate knowing that I would probably struggle with food issues even if I didn’t have diabetes.

I hate thinking that maybe I have food issues BECAUSE of diabetes and the baggage it attaches to food.

I hate that I know enough to know that I shouldn’t be eating so much of certain things.

I hate that I love carbs.

I hate that it is carbs that do the blood sugar damage (why oh why couldn’t it be rabbit meat or something strange and gross like that?).

I hate that I hate so much of the other things (fruits, veggies, salads, healthy proteins, meat).

I hate that I don’t use good healthy food to fuel and repair my body.

I hate that there is so much to learn, and that I keep procrastinating.

I hate that I really know it is not that difficult or hard to do, but I keep using that as an excuse to take the first step.

I hate that I am not genuinely interested in learning about food and how that undermines my efforts to do so.

I hate that I understand I need to acknowledge the role that food plays in my diabetes and lifestyle management in order to move in the right direction.

I Hate Food.

Hate You - Srsly

Liberation in a Meal Plan

What are the first few things you think of when you hear the words “meal plan”?

Me? I think of very strict, hard and fast rules about what I can eat. I think of very “old school” words like “2 starches, 2 proteins, 1 dairy, 1 fruit, and 1 fat”. I think of nothing other than foods I DON’T like to eat, and am forced to anyway.

I remember back to days at “Camp Needlepoint”, long ago when “exchanges” were the way things were done. Not eating meat, I was instructed to replace my “protein exchanges” with something else. You know what it usually was? A whole freaking cup of creamy peanut butter. Literally — a CUP of creamy peanut butter, with a spoon.

And they wondered why I got sick each and every year I went.

All of this ran through my head when I started to talk with my dietitian about a meal plan.

Was I really uttering those words – the words that meant nothing but guilt and anxiety to me? Words that made me feel “weird” for not liking “normal” foods?

Yes I was.

Because I recognized that lack of a plan got me into trouble every night, I was ready to make some changes.

I get home from work later than the rest of the family. They are well done with dinner by the time I get there. Not being sure of what I wanted to eat, I would just fly by the seat of my pants. I would make something that I thought I wanted, eat it, not feel satisfied, and start making something else! By the time it was all said and done, I would have eaten three or four dinners by the time I felt satisfied or just too damn full to eat anymore (even though I was STILL not satisfied!).

With the sheer quantity of food I was eating, my carb counting got real sloppy. I would over-estimate and run low in the middle of the night – causing a kitchen raid (again), or I would under-estimate and run high all night. Neither one is good for weight management or A1C tests.

So I faced the dreaded “Meal Plan”.

I have nothing but great things to say about my dietitian – I’ve raved about her before. She helped me put together a meal plan that I would actually follow. Eating foods I like, just watching the balance and the quantities.

But I was still scared.

plan

Rules and regulations? Measured quantities? Eating what is planned rather than what I feel like? Can I do it?

What about my Cool Ranch Doritos, or handfuls of M&M’s from the work candy jar? What about my …? What? What about all that crap? Well, it’s still there, every once in a while.

I was very worried about feeling confined and trapped by having a meal plan. I was worried about losing the very flexibility that has graced my life with worrisome A1C results. I needed a change, and this was the place to start.

For the first three or four weeks, at least during the weekdays, I was eating the same things every day at about the same times. And I was seeing fantastic results. Mind blowing results. Results that were evidence enough of the power that food choices had in regards to diabetes management.

But I knew I was setting myself up for failure.

The first taste of which happened when I ran out of the dried blueberries I tried (and liked!). I went back to the store to buy more, and was devastated when they didn’t have them anymore.

What was I going to do?!

Please remember, I am not the normal eater, and losing this critical item from my limited food menu horizon was a show-stopper. Luckily enough I was able to find them at a different store in the area, but the scare was enough to convince me. I needed to make another appointment (with my dietitian) and come up with options, which I did.

A couple years ago I lost a bunch of weight. I did it by carefully counting calories, and burning more than I consumed (it’s simple math folks, it’s just that the truth hurts most of the time). I tried going the same route again recently, and found that it was just way too much to keep track of. One would think that if you are already counting carbohydrates, that adding calories to the mix should not be that hard! Try it. I burned out real quick.

wallace-freedomOne of the surprising things that I have found as a result of following my meal plan – freedom. I plan my meals, and know ahead of time what they contain for calories and carbs. It is surprisingly liberating to not have to count all that stuff! I mean, sure – I still count it, but just not in the heat of the moment. It’s all planned.

I know that the menu I put together is good for me, and provides what I need, and usually satisfies me. It is really liberating. Exactly opposite of what I thought it would be.

Sticking with the meal plan is a challenge, but I know that I get immediate and positive feedback when I do. Awesome BG days where the “line” doesn’t leave the target zone, great energy and stamina on the basketball court, and just general “feel good” periods!

Now if I could figure out how to resist those cheesy tots at Burger King…