Learning to Run the Marathon
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Every day, we are reminded by media sources about what a pandemic diabetes is turning out to be. Whichever the type, we are assured again and again, that numbers are rising. A new, ratings-worthy piece of media is written and the blame is placed squarely on the patients; they are told they could either cure themselves, or that they gave this to themselves – and thus we move on as a society. Despite this constant alarmism, however, doctors don’t regularly screen for pre-diabetes, or diabetes – nor do they regularly educate their patients on what diabetes even is.

Newly Diagnosed aren’t Educated About How to Manage Diabetes

So, when a person is diagnosed, it’s no shocker to me that they are also not made aware as to what they should do to control it. And I don’t even know if it strikes many a medical professional’s common sense to help people understand the ‘physics’ behind diabetes, ‘if you would.’ Diabetes is a condition in which the body has a hard time processing glucose – either because the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin, or because the insulin it produces is no longer able to engage well with organs and cell tissues, or both.

And then it becomes a problem of people not understanding biology or nutrition, at all. For they think the body is just full of sugar – like the condiment. They think they ought to just avoid having table sugar, and things will be fine! So when they discover that the body converts mostly all carbohydrates into glucose, and not just sweets – well, it’s almost like they feel they’ve invented the wheel! If I had a dime for every person who writes me informing me that they have discovered a way in which to manage their glucose, and that I should go ahead and try it, and tell everyone, and that that method is controlling how many carbohydrates they eat, then I’d be rich. I kid you not. It’s pathetic. I mean, I am super happy for these patients, don’t get me wrong. But it’s pathetic. They should be told this from day 1. No one should have to be their own scientist, nor invest in $3,000 worth of equipment (as one guy once did), in order to find out that it’s the total amount of carbohydrates that they eat which regulates their glucose levels!

Understand the Big Picture

Furthermore, we don’t help patients understand the big picture. Patients who think medicines don’t work and are the enemy, so they’re going to ditch them, and instead not eat carbs. Listen – it’s a three pronged approach: you make your diet be mostly non-starchy vegetables and fiber, lean protein and fats, and some whole grain carbohydrates; you exercise regularly; and then you take your medicine. Your medicine was not supposed to be a supplantation for eating less starchy carbohydrates and exercising – just a support for being able to eat with a bit more normalcy, and (in the case of Metformin and insulin) for giving your pancreas a REST from having to make so much insulin. That’s why it ‘wasn’t working.’ You were eating a boatload of carbohydrates, and pretending your medicine do all the clean-up.

Usually, these folks who want to ‘educate’ me on their new discovery, will also follow it up with ‘but it’s hard, it’s so, so hard.’ Well, yeah. It’s hard because you aren’t seeing the big picture. And how can you? You’ve only had this for a month, or less than a year. In your anxiety you have chosen to believe a myth that medications are bad, or need to be put off until the final straw breaks the camel’s back. You have chosen to damage quality of life, for the sake of feeling like you’ve beat diabetes. But perhaps what you may not realize is that you don’t have to eat 60 carbohydrates a meal to feel good, but you also don’t have to eat 15. Just make your meals be 50% non-starchy vegetables, and take your medicine. Pay the salad tax! It’s what it’s there for.

We all need to find our path for dealing and managing our chronic health conditions.  I suggest we need to learn to make amends with our condition – to learn to run the marathon that it is, and not a sprint – and to realize that quality of life is so many, many things, for this psychosocial health condition, which is diabetes. Diabetes isn’t about depriving ourselves from a good and healthful life – it’s about learning how to not overwhelm our bodies with more than it can handle at a time. If you have questions as to what might work for you, seek the counsel of a Certified Diabetes Educator, or a Registered Dietitian specializing in diabetes. But don’t torture yourself.

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