Real Life with Diabetes - Meet Sue

Yoga can be used in diabetes management.
Yoga can be used in diabetes management. Yagi Studio/Getty Images

Meet Sue, a bundle of energy who doesn't let her type 2 diabetes slow her down. She is a mom, grandma, rancher, spinner, and weaver. She is also starting a new job as the online spinning editor for BellaOnline - The Voice of Women. She is a thoughtful, caring participant in the Diabetes Forum discussion group and is always ready to offer advice, humor or just plain moral support. Here is Sue's story.

Sue's Story of Living with Diabetes

I raise sheep, cattle and llamas. Sheep and cattle for the meat and sheep and llamas for their fleece. Before I inherited this ranch, I worked in town, as a bookstore clerk, owned and operated a bakery, worked as a hairdresser, and of course, the most important job: Super Mom.

My current passion is spinning and weaving with the fine wool we raise here in New Mexico. I love to pass the knowledge to kids, most especially, junior high boys. It is a love that will keep them out of trouble for the rest of their lives. Spinning is meditation time. Weaving is even more meditation.

I was diagnosed with diabetes about 8 years ago. My glucose level was sort of shocking to me. It was 385. I am a type 2

I didn't even get to start trying to manage this with diet and exercise alone. I started with a combo pill of metformin and glyburide. Now I am on Lantus and Glucophage ER.

I exercise using a combination of yoga, stretches and walking mostly for my daily exercises. I also do a tightly controlled food plan.

I firmly believe in low-carb food plans for diabetes. I follow a form of South Beach phase 2 with a few differences. It makes it easier to control my diabetes.

Sue's Food Plan for Diabetes - Modified South Beach Phase 2

The difference between the regular South Beach Diet and my food plan is the testing of each and every food to see what it does to my sugar levels.

Let's say that I like a new recipe promoted like for Carrot and Raisin salad. I prepare that dish and have a serving of it for snack time. I check my blood sugar before eating that serving, eat, then check again 90 minutes later. Ninety minutes is when my sugar levels peak. That is also why I recommend everyone check for about a week at 30-minute intervals, so they will know when their sugar levels peak.

I cannot ever have bananas, carrots, peas, frijoles (pinto beans, a staple of our diet in the Southwest), and several other things mentioned in suggested menus in the South Beach plan. When I was put on Lantus, I rechecked everything three years ago just to see what it would do. My doctor said that I would be able to have a greater variety in my food plan. In actuality, that is not quite true. I want to keep insulin to a minimum and still control the blood sugar levels. If I eat the above foods, my sugar level goes above my target of 150, and I need more insulin than what is available.

Also, any of the low-fat or fat-free milk products cause me to have high sugar levels. So I have full-fat cheeses, yogurts, milk and add cream to cottage cheese. I know all those items are fattening, but my cholesterol has come down to the normal range without taking pills to help bring it down. And I love my milk. All fat-free or low-fat products carry the same glycemic index load as the full-fat versions. So to keep them from spiking my sugar levels more than my target, I just have less of them in the full-fat versions. Fat keeps the carbohydrates from absorbing as fast and spiking the blood glucose levels.

[When I'm down, I look] for someone with a worse problem than I have. If that is on online forums, maybe I can even help them

Sue's Advice on Testing Foods for Impact on Blood Glucose

[I would advise someone to] test, test, test and test some more and journal all of it. Argue with your doctor and insurance company about how much you need to test. Testing and recording are the only ways you are going to get control.

For snack time either mid-morning or mid-afternoon, prepare a serving of a food. Test your glucose level, eat the food, and test every 30 minutes for about 2 hours. Journal all of it including the hours. Doing this for a week or two will give you a good idea of what you cannot ever eat safely and what you can eat. It will also tell you when your sugar levels peak after eating. Then you can just test before and after meals or snacks at a certain time period.

While you are testing and journaling, be sure to keep very accurate records. If you cheat, you are only cheating yourself. Note the hours, the blood glucose levels, what foods you ate, the exercise you got. And remember that exercise is not only working out at a gym or on the track, it is housework and outdoor chores like raking as well. It is rolling on the lawn with a child.

Slow down and take a deep breath, maybe two or three. Diabetes does not kill people. It's the complications of this disease that kills. Keeping complications to a minimum means gaining control over glucose levels by whatever means are available. And stress raises glucose levels, so breathe deeply and relax. Take whatever meds the doctors advise. After that, you may argue with the doctors about the meds' efficiency.

Eat a balanced food plan of about 40 percent protein, 30 percent fat, and 30 percent carbohydrates.

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