the power of hormones, family history, and SUGAR ::::
Back in April, I posted my thoughts on my recently diagnosed gestational diabetes. Through that process, while adjusting my diet and becoming creative with food combinations, I checked blood sugar four times a day and ketones once. My diabetes dietician and nurse were a fabulous team and encouragers. I met with them once a week, then every two weeks to review my daily numbers. Now that Sky-Girl is just over 3 months old, I’ve had time to have follow-up appointments, lab testing, and jumping back into a “normal” diet without worrying about blood sugars too much. I was told by my diabetes educators not to worry about the blood sugars too much right after delivery. Despite this recommendation, I did check a few times in the first couple of months after meals, carb-loaded, and my numbers looked okay. I ate candy. I had plates of noodles. I ate raw vegetables and a fair amount of fresh fruit. But I still tried to load up on protein. When my official labs were done recently, I finally relaxed more.
Thoughts on my gestational diabetes experience:
1. I should have taken stock out in Fage Greek yogurt. I tried other brands, that shall remain nameless, but the flavor and texture wasn’t the same. Some brands even use cornstarch in their Greek yogurt, which is akin to eating a glue-flavored yogurt. Fage makes great plain yogurt (and the flavored are nice too, if you can handle the sugar) in three basic fat levels: 0%, 2% and Total. I focused on the 0% and 2% for my snacks, but have used the Total for my fabulous honeyed yogurt and goat cheese tart with a pistachio crust in the past. I don’t find the Total often, but when I do, I pause in front of the refrigerator aisle and try to quickly come up with a recipe I can use it for. It’s not that I wouldn’t eat it on its own, but, honestly, it’s so rich and creamy, I think I’d overdo it. Even my excuse of being pregnant, diabetic and without the ability to indulge in creamy, yogurty desserts, and needing some extra calories couldn’t convince me to buy a tub of it. (Although, I should have argued it could fatten up Grub’s thighs a little more….) A cheesecake pales in comparison to the yogurt-goat cheese tart above, and much of it has to do with that Total, rich, thick Fage yogurt. While I am a fan of plain, unsweetened yogurt, I was itching to dive back into honey and almonds topping my yogurt, or some fresh apricot compote, or something with a little SUGAR.
2. I ate an ongodly number of cheese sandwiches. I love cheese. It has had a place in my life since I was very young. I have been shaped my many-a-cheese experience in Europe. I’ve tasted stinky ones, sweet and sour ones, fungusy ones, round ones, square ones, runny and rock hard ones. But now, I think I’m ready to have a well-deserved cheesy break. NO MORE CHEESE SANDWICHES.
3. I welcomed meat back into my regular diet. I’m not anti-meat, but I’ve been veering away from animal protein more and more. With the gestational diabetes diagnosis, I had to revamp my acceptable protein sources, bringing meat and daily eggs back in for awhile. This choice was also pragmatic: I couldn’t see myself or my family subsisting on protein powders or cheese sandwiches for every meal.
4. I’m glad that I experimented a little. Yes, I had a little dessert on my trip to Portland and the blood sugar was a little high afterwards. But I had dessert the night before with no spike. Maybe my protein consumption ahead of time was better the first night, and helped slow down the sugar breakdown process. I tried new recipes fit for a diabetic diet that I may have not tried in a non-diabetic state. I topped some Greek yogurt with sweetened fruit, in moderation, without post-prandial sugar guilt.
5. I learned to better balance my meals, in general. And to not gorge on things that probably weren’t all that healthy anyway. I started to get a little careless in the end, for the good. I started joking with myself that my carb counting was like card counting, like I was in Vegas in some sort of calorie-obsessed hotel and casino where every food item in the buffet had a number that I had to keep track of. Later on in my pregnancy, because my overall control was good, I sometimes didn’t stress about what I was eating, especially since I knew I didn’t have to check the sugars an hour later sometimes. For example, my bedtime snack sometimes consisted of a non-alcoholic beer. It has carbs, some calories, not much nourishment, but who cares? Once in a while is not going to send my sugar or diabetes over the edge, as long as I didn’t go overboard. Consistency is key.
6. Walking is great exercise. Large muscle exercise helps decrease blood sugar. This is SO important for you. Try to enjoy your exercise choice as much as you can. That I even had the ability to walk every day for 40 minutes or more, that I could arrange my schedule to do this, shows me that anyone, ANYONE, can make time for exercise, even if your blood sugar doesn’t depend on it for normalcy.
7. Just before giving birth, I noticed my blood sugar was better controlled, despite my similar menu choices compared to the beginning of my diabetes experience. The diabetes educators explained that the placenta was preparing for birth, so the blood sugar was actually going down in prep. We were also worried about my weight gain not being enough later on in the pregnancy. Since I was walking so much and the sugar was controlled, it was recommended that I walk less and build up the calories. The food choice recommended by the dietician: Häagen Dazs ice cream, with the highest fat I could find. The fat would slow down the sugar absorption and I would get the calories AND get a real dessert. Awesome! I only ate this a couple of times before Sky-Girl was born. I never would have guessed a diabetes dietician would recommend this food choice.
8. I am relieved that my follow-up testing post-partum (a one-hour oral glucose test) came up normal. This does not obviate the fact that I still need to be cognizant of balanced eating and exercising now, nor does it make me immune to developing diabetes later in life. It’s all about moderation. That plate of noodles is okay, once in a awhile. I don’t want to eat half of a pecan pie in one sitting. I love fresh fruits and vegetables. Protein is my friend. This experience taught me to think about my food even more than I already did.
9. And it also helped me appreciate food in a whole new way. I found new menus and recipes for great food that kept my sugars under control, and learned to understand some of the pregnant physiology behind my diabetes. After I got the hang of it, finding healthy, flavorful food to eat while controlling my blood sugar wasn’t difficult. Bottom line: if you have diabetes, gestational or otherwise, you can be healthy! We are bombarded with so many food choices in industrialized countries, as well as ways to sit on our asses. There are inexpensive, flavorful, healthy food choices for you. And exercise comes in all forms: running, walking, swimming, biking, cleaning, gardening. Can’t walk well because of back pain? No access to a pool? Knees hurt when you ride a bike? Low-impact exercise videos are widely available, offering instruction on yoga, tai-chi, aerobics, and more. There IS something for you.
10. And most importantly, Sky-Girl is a healthy, beautiful baby. I am blessed.
My next post? Back to the recipes! I’ll be sharing a birthday celebration for our now three-year-old Grub!
Need more information on gestational diabetes? Here are some resources:
The American Diabetes Association
Mayo Clinic’s info on gestational diabetes
American Pregnancy Association’s info