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Posted by on Sep 19, 2017 in Diet and Nutrition, Fitness, Travel

Inspiring Curiosity: What I Learned From Experimenting with My Diet

Inspiring Curiosity: What I Learned From Experimenting with My Diet

blood sugar diabetes diet

In the (almost) 20 years I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes, I have always maintained that this struggle has given me more than it has taken from me. I know that my experience isn’t shared by everyone but type 1 diabetes has been the driving force in my life, urging me to eschew complacency and accept accountability. I’ve summited Kilimanjaro, traveled the world on a very low budget, climbed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park, as well as many sheer walls and summits that almost no one would recognize by name or by sight.

This isn’t an “attitude is everything” locker-room speech lending inspiration in place of useful information. Inspiration is important, but its value fades rapidly when not matched with actionable information—tools that you may want to use.

The truth is that I have never been a gifted athlete. I am not fearless. I don’t do what I do because it’s easier for me than for any other rational person. I do it because I have taken 10,000 tiny little steps outside of my comfort zone—testing and optimizing to see how far I can stray beyond the limitations of being diabetic.

If there is a point of inspiration that I want to give you, it’s that there is hope. Today. Using the diabetes management tools that exist right here and now. I have found that of all the tools in my personal “kit,” the one that has given me the greatest leverage against the unpredictability of my diabetes has been diet. Strangely enough, this tool seems to get pushed aside too often for those of us with type 1, as though optimizing diet is tantamount to an admission of guilt for our diagnosis.

I have often gotten the question “How do you deal with low blood sugar while you’re climbing?” and my answer is simple: I almost never do. I wouldn’t venture into the vertical world if I had to fear my blood sugar crashing out beneath me as I dangle from a rope with my life (and my partner’s life) in my hands. There’s plenty of risk to manage already without throwing debilitating hypoglycemia into the mix!

Type 1 diabetes food

Experimenting with my diet over several years with the aid of a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) has allowed me to zero in on some key insights that have kept me pushing my limits without fearing the danger of crushing lows or soaring highs. I tried a raw, vegan 80-10-10 diet which is high in carbs and very low in fat: 80% carbs 10% protein and 10% fat. All of those carbs came from unprocessed, whole food sources.

I went to the complete opposite extreme after several months of a high-carb vegan diet into a ketogenic diet which is high in fat, moderate in protein and all but eliminates carbohydrates altogether. 75% of calories are fat and 25% are protein. All of the fat and protein came from unprocessed, whole food sources.

It may sound extreme to some, but visiting both ends of the spectrum and experimenting to see how my body responded gave me incredibly useful information. I know that you may be wondering which diet “works” better for me since they lie at polar extremes. My purpose in this post isn’t to sell anyone on the diet that works best for me. Rather, it’s to say that both “extreme” diets share one thing in common that worked well for me: the elimination of processed foods.

Diet matters. It’s a huge lever that shouldn’t be neglected in my opinion. Testing which type of macronutrient your body prefers isn’t extreme. It took time and attention to do it carefully but in the end, the information I discovered changed the possibility of life for me with an otherwise unpredictable condition. In simplest terms, needing to take less insulin means less guessing and less opportunity for dramatic shifts in blood glucose for me. That’s what I have sought and found in my years of diet optimization. For years I dismissed adherence to a specific diet as being on par with cinnamon pills and okra water. It was only the absolute need for blood glucose stability while climbing that forced me to explore the edges of the map. The impact of what I found out there has given me more than it’s taken—and that’s not an empty platitude. I’m doing more than I thought physically possible and I’m taking my diabetes to places that I once thought were unreachable for me.

If there is one thing I can give to others to consider, I hope it is my curiosity and willingness to experiment with diet. We don’t have to climb mountains but we all have to eat. Simple choices in food may unleash the freedom to climb mountains, even if that’s not your idea of a good time!

-Stephen Richert

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Posted by on Sep 11, 2017 in Advocacy, Community, School

Campus Connections: The College Diabetes Network Supports Students with Type 1 Diabetes

Campus Connections: The College Diabetes Network Supports Students with Type 1 Diabetes

When University of Massachusetts junior Christina Roth started a student group for others living with type 1 diabetes in 2009, she had no idea that her organization would quickly become the number one resource for young adults like her and would expand to college campuses all over the United States in eight short years. But that is exactly what has happened!

With eight full-time staff members, seasonal interns, boards and committees, as well as over 120 student leaders on campuses across the country, College Diabetes Network (CDN) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides peer-based programs to connect and empower students and young professionals to thrive with diabetes.

As Insulet is a supporter of CDN*, we wanted to introduce CDN on Podder Talk™, just in time for the start of the new school year! We sat down with Christina Roth to learn more about CDN and the services it provides from its Boston headquarters and campuses nationwide.

How did CDN get started?

CDN got started in 2009 at UMass Amherst, when I had the idea to start a student group for young adults living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) on campus. I created a website over winter break that year, and it quickly became the number one resource on Google for “College” and “Diabetes.” Students from across the country contacted me to learn how they could start similar groups on their campuses. It was apparent that there was a huge gap in resources for young adults with diabetes, and I applied for 501©3 status in 2010.

After graduating from college in 2011, I worked as a research assistant at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and CDN became my “5pm-10pm volunteer job.” In 2012, my fellow volunteer, Jo, and I both quit our jobs and gave ourselves six months to get CDN off the ground. We succeeded, and CDN has grown in size and scope each year since!

Who is your main constituency/audience?

While CDN’s primary focus is supporting young adults with type 1 diabetes (T1D), we also recognize the importance of supporting those around these young adults, too. CDN has programs and resources for T1D young adults as they transition into independence from high school, into college, and beyond. We also work with those who support these young adults, including parents and caregivers, clinicians, campus administration, roommates, and friends.

What are the different programs and services you offer to the T1D community?  Describe some of the unique challenges that young adults face and how your organization fills those gaps.

Being a young adult with T1D isn’t easy. Transitioning into college and adjusting to young adult life while also managing diabetes can be a challenge for many. CDN’s programs help provide the support, information, and resources young adults need by leveraging the power of peer support.

CDN offers a wide range of programs to support the needs of young adults with T1D, as well as those that support them. CDN’s centerpiece program is our Chapter Network, which currently includes over 110 affiliated student-led groups on college campuses across the country. Our Chapters provide local, in person support for young adults with and affected by diabetes. In addition to our Chapter Network, we also aim to help young adults have better access to opportunities to become the next generation of leaders in the diabetes sector, including professional conference attendance, internship matching, and our annual student leadership retreat.

CDN’s Off to College program helps to support young adults with T1D in their transition from home to college, and reaching independence in their management of diabetes. CDN has free “Off to College” booklets for both students and their parents, as well as resources for clinical providers to help them navigate the transition into independence with their young adult patients.

CDN recognizes the transition from college life to “the real world” can be just as challenging as the transition into college, so we are in the process of launching our new “Off to Work” program to help young professionals with diabetes transition successfully into the workforce. Other new programs coming out this year include our Newly Diagnosed Young Adult program, which addresses the unique needs of newly diagnosed young adults between the ages of 17-25, as well as our Campus Toolkit program, which is currently being piloted at 25 campuses for the 2017-18 school year to help campuses better support the needs of students with diabetes. Finally, keep an eye out for the CDN “Mental Health and Body Image Facebook Live Event,” which will be hosted this fall and discuss the issues many young adults with diabetes face surrounding depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and more.

What are CDN’s top three priorities?

  1. Expanding our network – We are close to having a CDN Chapter in every state! We would like to have a Chapter accessible to all T1D college students in the United States, be that a Chapter on their campus or one within driving distance.
  2. Off to College Program – The transition from home to college can be challenging for students with diabetes, as well as their families. CDN has compiled booklets with information for students and parents to help make that transition a little easier. Check out a preview of the Student Booklet and the Parent Booklet. If you want to request your own copies, click here!
  3. Newly Diagnosed Materials for Young Adults – This fall, CDN will be launching resources for people diagnosed with T1D between the ages of 17 and 25. This growing segment has unique considerations related to managing T1D, from social pressures to first jobs and everything in-between. Keep an eye on CDN’s Facebook page for information about these new resources.

What makes CDN unique?

CDN has fundamentally changed how the T1D community thinks about and supports young adults with diabetes. The organization is the gold standard in supporting this underserved population, and is widely recognized as the leaders in this space with a track record for successfully addressing gaps and creating change.

What makes CDN successful?

CDN makes sure to include students’ opinions and feedback on all new projects – from inception to implementation, CDN ensures that all programs are relevant and useful for the population we serve! Also, our staff are passionate about empowering young adults living with T1D. Most of them have T1D and know first-hand the trials and tribulations that come along with college life and managing a chronic illness. They are dedicated to making that process a little easier for the next generation.

How can people with diabetes or connected to the diabetes community connect with your organization or learn more?

Anyone can learn more by visiting our website and signing up for our newsletter and student membership. This is the best way to stay up-to-date about all of CDN’s great programs and resources.

If you are a student interested in starting or getting involved in a Chapter on your campus, contact us at chapters@collegediabetesnetwork.org

-Amy Bevan

*Insulet Corporation is silver-level corporate member of CDN, which helps CDN to continue to expand their programs without adding fees for resources or participation.

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Posted by on Sep 7, 2017 in Diet and Nutrition, School

A Healthy Start: 3 Low-Carb Breakfasts your Child will Love

A Healthy Start: 3 Low-Carb Breakfasts your Child will Love

Back to school – it has a whole different meaning for d-parents. As we begin to think about the many things needed to foster a great school experience, meetings with teachers and nurses, preparing supply boxes, reviewing 504 plans, etc., let’s not forget about the power of breakfast.

Breakfast is almost a dirty word when it comes to diabetes, isn’t it? It’s said to be the most important meal of the day but boy, oh boy, can it destroy blood sugars and set you and/or your child up for a roller coaster of a day. Having had type 1 for 30 years and being the mother of a 12-year-old son diagnosed a little over two years ago, I have a unique perspective of seeing both sides. I know how that roller coaster physically drains you like no other and leaves you feeling lousy. I also know that parental pain you get in the pit of your stomach when you see your child’s CGM graph looks like a mountain range or you hear it alarm for the one millionth time!

This desire to avoid the pitfalls of diabetes led me to try low carb breakfasts, and my son and I have had success. Low carb breakfasts? Am I talking about bacon and eggs? Well yes, but let’s face it  ̶  we all know that most school mornings barely allow time for teeth brushing, let alone bacon and eggs. Here are three kid approved, low-carb, make ahead breakfast recipes that you can have ready to go.

breakfast choices low carb diabetes kids

1. Double Chocolate Fudge Muffins: These are favorites of my entire family and don’t have to be limited to breakfast! It’s like eating chocolate cake without the sugar spike! In fact, these are so good that my son brought them in for his class to celebrate his 2nd diaversary (Yes, we believe diaversaries absolutely should be celebrated! It’s another year of kicking D’s butt and that needs to be honored!). His class LOVED them! The recipe can be found online here, at My Keto Kitchen – Recipes. My own tips for this recipe: use Swerve sweetener for the erythritol. It doesn’t have the aftertaste like most artificial sweeteners and use Lily’s sugar-free chocolate chips. While they’re not entirely sugar-free, they taste great and won’t spike sugars.

2. Pancakes: Low carb doesn’t mean you have to settle for flat pancakes. These fluffy pancakes have the same texture as traditional ones minus the sugar spike. Just be sure to use sugar free syrup with them. Let me tell ya, they have come a long way with sugar free syrups! I remember being a kid and trying it – YUCK! That is not the case anymore! My kids love sugar free syrup (and they don’t know how lucky they are to have missed out on the bad ones, lol). These pancakes can be personalized too! My daughter loves cinnamon in hers while my son prefers chocolate chips (those Lily’s chocolate chips come into play here too!) These can be frozen and thrown in the toaster or microwave for those busy school mornings. The recipe can be found online here.

3. Make-ahead Breakfast Sandwiches: A few years ago leading up to school starting I found a lifesaver in the recipe found here. Having these in the freezer was extremely helpful, however, I thought they were off the table for those of us trying to eat low-carb. Then I discovered another lifesaver: Carbquik. Think Bisquik, but with less carbs. I followed the recipe on the back of the box and made biscuits. Then, I followed the recipe in the link above (minus a few things like green onions and Cayenne pepper. We keep our eggs simple, lol.) I now have a bag full of breakfast sandwiches coming in at two net carbs each! As you can tell from the recipe, you can use the leftover eggs to make burritos, but we haven’t had much luck with low carb tortillas.

So there you have it  ̶  three breakfast recipes to help ease your school mornings and keep you/and or your child out of the blood sugar roller-coaster fog. Now if someone could just help with this anxiety I’m having about sending my baby to middle school!

-Jen Runyon

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Posted by on Sep 7, 2017 in Diabetes Management, School

Dear Teacher: A Back to School Letter

Dear Teacher: A Back to School Letter

diabetes toddler school teacher Being “that” parent can be a tough task for any caregiver/support staff. I am hoping to provide a few words of kindness, support and thanks to all who welcome the task of caring for my favorite guy, Colton. I want you to know that under my glazed, tired eyes and occasional bewildered glances, I am here to support you while you support him. I will do my best to answer any questions or concerns you have about the challenges of type 1 diabetes (T1D), from my perspective as his parent.

T1D can be scary if you are unfamiliar with the tools to treat it. Ok, the reality is that even with proper training, and active parents and school staff, the symptoms can be scary. Having said that, I know that with the tools and training available to us, we can manage the symptoms together and let him be little, learn lessons and play with his friends.

I pride myself in being upfront and honest about his health conditions, the facts, the myths, the barriers and stigmas that he faces each day. I am here to collaborate with you to make carb counting, meal planning, snack time, and treating highs and lows as seamless as possible so the primary focus can be on learning. I know that you will do your best to help him every day, and for that, I am grateful. I know that there will be times we battle to treat highs and lows.  Please know that I am only a phone call away.

As we attend conferences and meetings, I will do my part to be a resource to the planning team. I will advocate for Colton fiercely and admittedly selfishly at times to make sure that he has a voice in the meetings. I am willing to meet often to discuss the setbacks and small victories that make us both proud to be a part of his life. I will have your office number, cell number and room number on speed dial and will have multiple copies of my contact information available for distribution to each staff member that may have questions or concerns.

Now that I have warned you about the trying times you will have with him, I want you to know how much you mean to us. Thank you in advance for the snacks he may swipe, the corrections you may give and the happiness we will share together when his numbers stay in range.

-Jake Porter, Dad to three-year-old Colton

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