Peanut Butter May Still Be the Death of Me

I woke up at 2:30 a.m. shaking, while Cosmo, my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) vibrated and beeped at me from the nightstand to my right. I pushed its button, acknowledging the warnings, and saw the screen light up with the number 45.

I didn’t need to check my blood sugar level with my glucometer. My heart was pounding, and the room was blurry. I thought of the orange juice in the fridge but decided to go for the Reese’s egg in the freezer. I knew from recent calculations that this chocolate-covered, peanut-butter filled egg contained 25 grams of carbohydrates (mostly sugar).

That should do it, I thought. Norm, my two-year-old tabby walked into my bedroom and sat on the floor in front of my bed with a quizzical look. The egg didn’t feel like enough even though I knew it was. I checked my insulin pump, which confirmed there was no active insulin in my system. My basal rate was set to decrease from .600 units to .400 at 3 a.m. to account for those middle-of-the-night lows.

I knew I would be okay, but I was still shaking, and my heart was pounding. My body felt weak and depleted, and I craved sugar – the sustenance necessary for instant energy. Earlier that day I had made the mistake of buying a few bags of Reese’s pieces eggs, now 50 percent off in the post-Easter haze. Continue reading

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Weightless

Sometimes it can be one look in the mirror. Sometimes it can be the tightening feeling of a pencil skirt. Sometimes it can be that bloated feeling right before the monthly cycle. Sometimes it can be the fact that one hasn’t been on a date in six months. Sometimes it can be the wintry mix outside and the mood it brings.

But whatever it is, it’s not good. It leads to a feeling of failure, of powerlessness over the fate of one’s body. All of those negative, self-critical thoughts come flooding back, and no matter how bright the sun peaks through the blackout curtains, the darkness overwhelms the room.

People asked how it is I lost weight in the past year. My response was always “I don’t know.” A five-hour daily commute. A failed relationship. Depression. Disease. I tried to believe it’s because I finally had a good body image. I listened to my diabetes, and I stayed active (this mostly constituted walking a mile to and from the train every day). Continue reading

Diabulimia: A Personal Struggle With Body Image and Diabetes

Strawberry-Cream-PieAccording to the American Diabetes Association, diabetic women are nearly three times more likely to develop an eating disorder than non-diabetic women.

Diabulimia is one of the more prevalent eating disorders among Type 1 diabetic women, that is reducing the amount of insulin one takes to lose weight. Scary, right? It certainly is.

Because not only do eating disorders lead to their own series of problems (slow heart rate, low blood pressure, brittle bones, hair loss, severe dehydration, etc.), but when a Type 1 diabetic does not take the insulin he or she needs, this just adds to the complications which may lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, stroke, and even death.

Unfortunately, I was one of those Type 1 women, and still am, to a certain extent because I believe one never completely finishes the battle with body image. But my story started before I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2009. It started at 13 when I noticed I no longer fit into my clothes and asked the one irrevocable question: Am I fat? Continue reading

Show Me Your Pump

I’ve been a Type 1 diabetic for five years and an insulin pump wearer for two, but I still struggle with putting “Gizmo” out there. Recently, Sierra Sandison’s #showmeyourpump campaign has been trending on Twitter and among diabetes communities. I have to admit I am in awe. For one, I don’t usually wear my insulin pump with my bathing suit because it’s not waterproof, and two, I don’t want the stares and questions.

But now that I have Cosmo, my continuous glucose monitoring system, I’ve had to reconsider. This is something I can’t unplug at a moment’s notice (although as often as the tape stops adhering to my skin, I almost want to). Yesterday, I decided to “be brave,” so to speak, and wear my insulin pump on the outside of my pencil skirt. Not only did it make for easier access, but it reminded my coworkers and myself that yes, diabetes is a part of me, but it doesn’t control me.

In the end, no one commented on it. Maybe they stared, but I didn’t notice. Or maybe they’ve just gotten used to me being a vibrating machine because between Gizmo and Cosmo and my phone, even my boyfriend never knows which medical device is calling me.

I Am a Rose of Sharon

I can’t stop my leg from shaking. The needle hasn’t even pricked my skin, and even though the tattoo artist in front of me is probably annoyed, he smiles.

“This is never going to look like a fleur de lis if you keep that up,” he jokes. My friend Britteny from work sits on the other side of me. She smiles, trying to reassure me. Everyone’s nervous their first time, she tells me with her pale blue eyes. It shouldn’t be natural to want to permanently imprint an image onto my body for the sake of art and beauty, for the sake of remembering where I came from.

I always wanted a tattoo, but because of its permanent effect, it took me four years to figure out where and what I wanted. I decided on a fleur de lis, a symbol of my hometown, Louisville, KY, named after the French King Louis XVI. Britteny encouraged me to use color so I chose my two favorite colors: blue and purple.

I finally calm down enough so that the tattoo artist can begin his work. He’s big with a short, gray beard, but a gentle touch. He outlines the French symbol on my ankle; I wince every time he nears the bone, but I do not cry. I never cry in public. I refuse to show weakness. It takes longer than I expect, but time passes quickly as Britteny tries to keep me calm, and I watch mesmerized by the needle. Continue reading

Food Junkie

For the first time in 16 years, binging hasn’t been an issue. In my book Sugarcoated, I refer to myself as a “food junkie.” I love late night snacks such as peanut butter ice cream, sweet potato cinnamon crackers, pumpkin flax seed granola, etc.

Ever since college, I’ve conditioned myself to eat less during the day so I can binge for dinner or later. I grew up with the rule “if you finish dinner, you can have dessert.” I’ve never been able to break this. Even when binging got out of control to the point where I stuffed myself until I felt pain, I would throw it all up, refuse to take insulin, or starve myself the next day so I wouldn’t gain weight (for more insight, check out “Half Empty” in Sugarcoated).

I no longer practice these nasty habits, but I still can’t help overeating at night, whether it is summer or winter … until now. So what has changed? Suddenly, I’m not interested in food? I forget to eat lunch or can’t even finish my dinner much less make it to dessert. Usually when I stop eating, it’s because I’m depressed.

But I recently started a new job, which I love, and moved in with my boyfriend of three years (we were doing long distance before then). I have my own place, financial security (minus thousands in student loan debt), and maintain a healthy lifestyle (although I wish I exercised more but with a 1.5 to 2.5 hour commute each way, it’s a challenge).

Could it be I stopped binging because I’m happy? Researchers from the University of Central Florida (2003) found a positive relationship between happiness and these aspects of body esteem: sexual attractiveness, weight concern, and physical condition.

Furthermore, eating disorders such as binging are more common among women with diabetes than women without diabetes. For those with Type 1 (like me), this is referred to as “diabulimia.” I admit even before I was diagnosed with diabetes at 22, I had issues with body image and eating disorders. Diabetes just added an extra element including increased health risks (Joslin Diabetes Center) such as: Continue reading