I just returned from two weeks holiday in London and Holland visiting friends and family. It was truly a fabulous trip, rich in every way, unfortunately also including the almost constant and frustrating lack of control I had over my blood sugar.
I have decided perhaps there are five basics to managing diabetes: food, activity, medicine, stress-management and routine.
Here at home what I eat, including my carb load, and when I eat doesn’t vary very much, including an hour walk I usually take in the morning. Checking my blood sugar at home, usually four or five times a day, I pretty much get the blood glucose numbers I expect.
But, whoosh, get on an airplane and everything goes out the window. Just how do you manage your blood sugar when confronted with the following:
- Airplane food, and I use the term “food” loosely. Coming home they called something oozing from its little box, “quiche”
- Losing five hours in your day
- Jet lag that mucks up your mind
- Breakfasting on a cheese sandwich on country slabs of thick dense bread (delicious but awful for my blood sugar). There's no way to know how many carbs it contains and I won't be caught dead paying 30 euro ($47.40) for a hotel breakfast. I've also discovered the muesli I love that comes in bags with no carb count, or at the breakfast buffet where breakfast is included in the cost of your room, requires three times the insulin my at home oatmeal breakfast requires.
- A two hour bicycle ride through eye-popping rural Holland that exhausted my blood glucose bank for two whole days causing constant lows
Well, you get the idea. Getting blood sugar numbers I did expect, checking pre and post every meal, was the exception, no longer the rule. I was under- or over-guessing my insulin with so few clues to go on. How do you shoot up for bread fresh baked next door at the bakery rather than bread at home that comes as a plastic-wrapped loaf from our over-refining processing factories?
I have no great wisdom to share how to do this better for I don’t know. An abundance of restaurant meals and lack of routine will always be my Achilles heel and my only recourse currently is to test frequently and correct. Further, as much as long- acting and short-acting insulins have released most of us from having to eat at a certain hour, guessing the match between insulin and not your usual foods, for me is a Herculean mental task.
Then, admittedly, when cows, sheep, ducks, pastures and canals beckon me to turn to my sister in law after 75 minutes of cycling and say, “Let’s go just another 45 minutes,” I now know better. That will require less insulin for the next 24-48 hours. Boom, those were mighty drops! Six years ago I stopped cycling when I removed my bicycle from my closet as my husband’s clothes moved in (there’s nowhere to put a bicycle in a tiny city apartment). And I realized riding around New York City was just as likely to get me killed as well toned.
So, I’m home now and while a piece of my heart is still in Europe, the piece of my head that’s going to make my morning oatmeal, spinach salad for lunch and fish and veggies for dinner is feeling so relaxed by merely not being on vacation.