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An Education.

In my quest for near diabetes superhero status, I have begun reading an absolute library’s worth of literature on the subject. Some are low-carb advice books that tie in with diabetes, some are merely low-carb cookbooks, some shared experiences from other type 1s on great forums and other blogging sites. But my first major step into the world of diabetes from a medical point of view was/is Dr Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution.

I first heard of this book many years ago and ever since then, when I’ve half-heartedly dipped in and out of understanding this complex disease, his name and that book have always cropped up. Like the annoying Facebook friend you keep ignoring coz you don’t really know who they are, this guy just keeps reappearing. I decided I couldn’t ignore him anymore, and was curious to see what all the fuss was about. So, many thanks Amazon, it plopped on my doormat a couple of days ago. I say plopped, the words ‘lead’ and ‘balloon’ spring to mind. It’s a bloody beast. What a ridiculous notion to be intimidated by a book. But I certainly approached the landing mat with some serious caution, even more so when I picked it up. I was not aware I was purchasing such a hefty piece of equipment. But I’m a fully paid up member. Much like my gym membership, this is something that’s gotta be done. And if nothing else, I have just managed to successfully use it to swot a particularly large and particularly noisy fly.

From my colourful dating experience, I am aware that just coz someone/thing looks meaty from the outside, doesn’t mean he’s/it’s full of wisdom on the inside. In fact, that’s rarely the case. But once again in the interests of becoming an all-singing all-dancing diabetes Empress of the East (of Yorkshire), I deigned to go beyond the rather unexciting and very American-looking cover. There are a lot of letters after his name (MD, FACE, FACN, FCCWS. I think he’s just showing off), which also set off alarm bells that this is going to be a very unsexy read.

Au contraire, my dear diabetic friends. While it’s not the most erotic piece of fiction ever written, (I wouldn’t know…) from the few chapters I’ve so far conquered I would say this bad boy, for any diabetic, is a must read. The jury’s still out, but I’m going to put it out there at this early stage of my relationship with Dr Bernstein (MD, JDENVFIRPPWMDJDNU) that if there was ever a diabetes superhero, this guy is it. Out of all the Gods, he’s a veritable living, breathing Zeus (who definitely owes me some royalties after that).

I want to at least get through the book before I fully jump off the fence and wheel out the promotional bandwagon, but if you’re thinking of going low-carb or just want to know more about this shoddy disease that’s decided to grace us with its presence, check it out for sure. The guy was insanely controversial for his time, but it’s partly thanks to him that we can even test our blood sugars in the way that we do today.

I’ve mentioned in many a post that the tools for good diabetes control are all in front of us, but putting them into practice while trying to live a rip-roaring rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle is another matter entirely. Although it’s 9pm on a Friday night and I’m typing this in bed. Livin’ on the edge…

The fact that Dr Bernstein states the very same thing on the very first page of the book that I promise I’m shortly about to shut up about speaks serious volumes. In fact it’s so early on in the book that our man of the moment’s yet to even take to the stage. It’s in the foreword, written by a chap called Frank Vinicor (who also has a lot of letters after his name). In his warm-up act, he manages to hit the nail completely on the head, and yet also entirely miss the point (wait a minute… they’re revoking my fan club membership?). It goes a little something like this… (Apologies, it appears I just briefly morphed into Run DMC there for a moment).

“Once diabetes is present, good care based on solid science now can prevent much of the devastation formerly caused by elevated blood sugars. But there remains a sizeable gap between what we know to do and how well and widely we are doing it. In other words, the “translation” of diabetes science into daily practice still has a way to go.”

The first sentence is absolutely true. And the essence of what’s being said here is spot on. But the use of the phrase “still has a way to go” makes me think that this dude reckons we’re one day gonna become so clever that we’ll never encounter any day-to-day real-life obstacles and thus magically close this “sizeable gap” (no kidding. Try Grand Canynon) between perfect diabetes treatment and having a life. Call me crazy but how can science solve the problem when you left for work in a rush and forgot to change your empty insulin cartridge? Or when you can’t do your injection because you’ve managed to somehow bend the needle in the three seconds between removing the safety cap and dialling the dose? As remarkable as scientific advances are, and as grateful as we should be for the fact that diabetics don’t die at 30 anymore, I don’t see this medical breakthrough happening anytime soon while there are scatty ladies like me in existence. If it was a simple case of maths none of us would have a HbA1c higher than 6.

At the same time I completely understand that 99% per cent of diabetes control is ultimately down to the individual. I need to be less scatty, eat less sugar, not run around without emergency bottles of Lucozade, resist the Ben and Jerry’s that screams “eat me” every time I walk into Tesco. To that end it’s important that I read these books and learn this stuff. But it’s a real shame that I’ve never been directed to take such a proactive approach to my illness in all my 14 years of living with it – I’m doing it now because ideally I would quite like to stay alive for as long as possible. And I think that’s partly why I became such a bad diabetic for a little while; I didn’t really know what the consequences were. I knew that high sugars were bad, and low sugars were also bad, and I needed to keep it at the sweet spot in between as much as possible. But without understanding why, you’re going to be much less happy about inconveniencing yourself for the sake of a meter reading because of some stupid disease you got lumbered with that you’ll ignore for the evening, thank you very much.

This is compounded by that fact that although I’m only 12 posts into my glittering blogging career, already the feedback I’m getting from my fellow non-working pancreas folk is absolutely overwhelming. There appears to be such a lack of straight-talking, honest advice out there that tells you diabetes can be an absolute pain in the arse, and that you’re not a bad person for getting angry about it. I started this blog, albeit selfishly, for me and me only – to track my own progress and see if the attempts at low-carbing would work. I was so scared about posting it on Facebook or Twitter that I fully refrained from doing so until after post number four. But thank god I did. I’ve never been reassured by so many people I’ve never met that what I’m doing is a good thing. This is why this stuff needs writing about. So many of us out there are just groping our way through in the dark. And while I don’t promise to shed much light on the ins and outs of good control for anyone but myself, at least we’re opening each other’s eyes to the fact that we’re really not alone. So for that, shitty diabetes, I thank you (for once). What a bloody beautiful thing you’ve inadvertently done.

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2 comments on “An Education.

  1. There are some dreadful Turf Wars concerning low-carbing in the diabetic world, which is so unfortunate as we each need to find what balance works for US, and us alone. To know how to find that, we need to be well-informed about the possible options. I’m not a low-carber myself, but am lucky that I don’t need that kind of discipline as my levels are OK, but I certainly won’t knock anyone who chooses that option! I hope that it works well for you, although it might be a struggle if the B&J has to go! 😉

  2. Thanks for the comment, I know what you mean low-carbing seems to be something that ultimately works but has not been publicized much… I certainly wish I’d heard about it years ago. My levels were okay before (HbA1c 8.0) but I’ve come to the conclusion that injection huge amounts of insulin is not a good idea so I want to inject as little as possible but still have good sugar levels. It is totally about finding out what works for you; but it’s a shame we often don’t get enough info to make that choice!

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