What I Learned About Weight Loss From Diabetes

No, this isn’t going to be a Scared Straight type of post, to get you to stop eating every carb in a 10-mile radius…

For my day job, I have been taking a crash course in diabetes treatment, for a new product I will be working on. We will be focusing on insulin pumps, rather than pharmaceuticals. My sister has been diagnosed recently with pre-diabetes, and is working to change her lifestyle to avoid it developing into full-blown Type 2 diabetes, but that’s about as close as I’ve come to front-row experience with this serious condition.

I got to round out my vague recollections from health class of diabetes having to do with pancreas and insulin issues with many, many diagrams and videos and a sea of words tailored for a 7th-grade reading level. In addition to the basics on why the disease happens, I read page after page of information on how insulin pumps and glucose level monitors work. The top-of-the-line iterations of these are technologies that are worn on the body in tandem and wirelessly communicate to give you the clearest picture of where your glucose levels are on a regular basis., while raising or lowering the insulin pumped into your body as needed. They warn you in advance when you begin to trend toward the danger zone, so you can take action to correct your levels.

The technology, which is a mainstay of Type 1 diabetes patients, but apparently not so much for Type 2 patients, is the alternative to multiple daily fingersticks and injections of insulin (although it doesn’t completely eliminate the need for either). What struck me most about the devices is how much preparation, observation, and work–personal advocacy, even–is needed to keep one’s glucose levels in an acceptable range.

And then I read a blog post on a company Web site, from a 14-year-old with Type 1 diabetes who had a summer camp experience that led her to realize that she knew more about controlling her sugar levels than the adults around her, like the camp nurse. While the nurse panicked and told the girl to lie down when her numbers were on the move, the girl enacted the daily routine she followed at home to care for herself, and ended up having no major problems.

I have heard and read similar stories, of young people who have to find creative ways to participate in physically demanding school activities while still rocking the technology, to calculating carbs and ramping up glucose before indulging in pizza, to what to do with an insulin pump when you have to take a shower. And it got me to thinking about all the things I do to keep weight gain at bay: calculating Weight Watchers points, never leaving home without a healthy, filling snack, investigating restaurant menus before dining out, talking myself down from excessive indulgences as needed, and more. This made me realize that I act as my own advocate when it comes to my ability to lose weight and keep it off, and that it has worked for me.

No one ever thinks much about their responsibility for gaining weight. It’s always a boring life, a stressful job, a boyfriend who dumps you, right? People who try to lose weight and struggle also often have a perception that the root of their problems lies with anyone other than them–holidays, pushy grandmothers, children who don’t completely clean their plates–but the truth is, any movement on the scale is a result of decisions we make, good or bad.

I have grumbled along with everyone else about social situations that are a minefield for eating badly. I have made excuses to myself when I have seen the numbers on the scale increase. For me, there’s a metaphor in there about how I am not taking full responsibility in other areas of my life, or how I’m letting others take the reins when I should be driving. Long story short, as I am learning in general in my life, there are things I can do in any situation to help myself, whether I have in my arsenal concrete actions I can take, or if it’s simply realizing something is beyond my control and that I need an attitude adjustment. I am not meant to be a spectator in my life, and neither are you.

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