Running and Diabetes Part 2

Shoes and mini eggs. The Diabetes Diet
Yes, yes, I’ve been RUNNING, therefore I need carbs.

Runners don’t smile at you when you pass them—a sign, I always thought, of why you shouldn’t add running to your life.

Aye, that painful grimace tells you all you need to know… Running is a fool’s game; its rewards are not worth the pain. If you’re not built for distance slogging—i.e. Kenyan skinny—give anything other than a dash for the bus a miss.

Some foolish notion, however, made me take running up once more at the end of last year. And it was okay. I didn’t grin madly at people, but I got the runner’s high. Albeit, the buzz doesn’t last long enough to justify the effort you put in.

And I got to listen to a lot of podcasts. “This is learning by osmosis, EB!” I said to myself. I picked worthy ones, such as those designed to help me improve my writing career. If I just listened to what the gurus told me why bother putting any of it in place? The lessons would all filter through subconsciously. Sales would result! [Spoiler alert—not so far.]

Then I thought entering the Glasgow half-marathon would be fun. Which it was, in January—y’know, when it was months away. And now the end of April hurtles ever nearer and I’m no further forward than eight and a half kilometres (five miles), less than half the distance. Woe!

I’ve upped my game. The five miles feels like an achievement, seeing as I haven’t pushed beyond three in years. My training plan, thus, is add one kilometre every week to the big run and run another two 5ks a week. Do Pilates once a week to stop self seizing up.

As for tempo training, HIIT stuff and dragging myself up and down hills and all that other serious runner stuff, forget it.

Goal? Half-marathon completion, even if it means walking some of the distance.

Running with type 1 diabetes is challenging. Any endurance exercise is. As well as dealing with breathing, effort, aching legs and all that, we battle see-sawing blood sugars not only during the run but afterwards too.

Blood sugar levels that are too high make you tired and exercise will often send them soaring higher. When your sugar levels dip too low, tiredness happens too, you’re at risk of collapsing and you need to eat.

Picture of a Hike bar. The Diabetes Diet
Hike bars–great running fuel.

Here’s what I’ve learned…

  • The best runs are when I’ve had level blood sugars all day.
  • Hike bars—the Aldi cheap version of a protein bar—are brilliant running fuel. I have half of one before, half afterwards. The raspberry one is nicer than the cocoa one.
  • I’ve a talent for finding routes that are treadmill flat. And sticking to them.
  • A runner’s backpack is worth buying. I ran my last half-marathon, clutching a bag of jelly babies and my blood sugar equipment in my sweaty hand. If you’ve ever run holding something in your hand, you’ll know how irritating it is. By the end of the race, the jelly babies had morphed into a gelatinous mass.
  • Your Fitbit shows you getting fitter as the time I’m spending in peak heart rate zone has come down since I’ve started tracking the runs. It’s gratifying.
  • The Type 1 Run Podcast (mentioned here) is incredibly useful. It amuses me that I’ve had diabetes and exercised with it longer than most of the guests have been alive, but you’re on a lifelong learning curve when you have diabetes. I learn something from every guest.
  • I seem to run well the day after drinking. My body welcomes the chance of sweating it all out. As it leaves my body, the alcohol acts like petrol… Don’t do this at home though kids!

This time round, I’m planning a support crew. When I did the half-marathon ten years ago, I did the race with another runner, but had no-one waiting for me at the end or around the course. (Cue violins.) In September, I’ll have my husband and friends dotted at four-mile intervals, armed with food and water. And umbrellas for themselves. It’ll be late September, and this is Glasgow. Rain’s 95 percent guaranteed.

And is it too early to plan my post-race meal? Readers, I’m low-carb most of the time, but the minute I cross that finish line, I plan to fall face down on a ginormous plate of fish and chips, doused in salt and malt vinegar.

Only places that do light, crispy batter, crisp chips that are fluffy on the inside, home-made onion rings and mushy peas need apply.

Massive disclaimer here—my experiences are personal. They are not recommendations, especially the last one. On a serious note, endurance events can be dangerous, not just for people with diabetes, as this year’s London Marathon proved again.

 

Why it’s Great to Have Diabetes!

Another thing! You get to do blood tests every day. Yay!

It’s GREAT having diabetes! Bear with me… If you have diabetes, no doubt you’ll have read the many things that can go wrong with you. It’s depressing. And in my 20s when I didn’t bother looking after myself, being told what could go wrong didn’t motivate me.

Most of us are carrots, not sticks people.

I’ve done this exercise before, but it’s worth repeating. Here is what I think makes having diabetes amazing…

I am a special wee snowflake. Yes, I am. Not that many people have type 1 diabetes. We’re in an exclusive gang. We like people with type 2 diabetes too. They can join our gang any day!

I’m very organised. You have to be with diabetes. Daily life needs to be organised around it – working out what medication you need, when and if prescriptions need to be picked up, working out your food choices for the day, scheduling in exercise, and taking everything you need with you when you go out. Do employers look for people with superb organisational skills? You bet they do.

I get regular health checks. People without diabetes can live with conditions for a long time, but my HbA1 levels and kidney function are tested every six months, my liver function and the nerves on my feet every year, and my retinas are screened twice a year. I’ve probably left something out, but I think you can agree I’m subject to regular checks that can pick up issues at an early stage.

I get to be obsessed with food, legitimately. While making food the primary focus in your life isn’t the best idea, I do get to spend a reasonable time Googling recipes and working out meal plans because that helps my health and well-being. I can also be fussy about what and where I eat, again because what I eat is crucial to my health and not because I’m an awkward wee sod.

I have a high pain threshold. I must have, right? I inject myself every day, and people are always taking blood out of my arm (see above!). A high pain threshold is handy if you want to get your legs waxed*.

I have a ready-made excuse. I try not to play the diabetic card, but it does come in useful from time to time. Need to get out of something and stuck for an excuse? High blood sugar levels are a legitimate way to wriggle out of anything…

Finally, here’s my favourite one as suggested by the comedian Arthur Smith, himself a type 2 diabetic. As I have diabetes, that is yet another thing that differentiates me from Donald Trump. Hooray!

 

*Okay, I’m scraping the barrel now.

 

Low Carbing at Christmas

Low-carb chocolate fudge
Low-carb chocolate fudge

Are you low-carbing for Christmas? A lot of traditional Christmas food fits well with a low-carb diet and, with the addition of a few good substitutes, you don’t need to feel you are missing out on anything.

Crisps and dips. Most dipsguacamole, blue cheese dip etc – are low-carb. For dipping, use raw vegetables instead of crisps.

Starters. Pates can be served without toast or oatcakes and prawn cocktail without the bread. The latter is a nice light starter. Serve the prawns and sauce in Little Germ lettuce leaves. To make cocktail sauce to dress 200g prawns, mix four tablespoons of mayonnaise with one of tomato puree. Add a teaspoon of brandy and a few drops of Tabasco. Or try this broccoli and Stilton soup for green-y goodness.

Turkey, ham and sausages are all obvious. Help yourself! Remember, that a meal such as this will be heavy in protein. People on insulin need to take this into account. Our book The Diabetes Diet highlights what you do to cover protein, but see this post too for further clarification.

Gravy does have carbs because it is usually thickened with flour. However, this isn’t significant so don’t worry about it unless you are on a gluten-free diet. Cornflour is suitable for gluten-free diets and this can be used instead.

The classic stuffing uses sausage meat and bread crumbs, both of which have carbs. If you want some, keep it to a small amount.

SONY DSCBread sauce, roast and mashed potatoes all have carbs, but there are low-carb equivalents you can make. Pureed cauliflower can be substituted for mashed potatoes and braised celeriac are another delicious substitution for potatoes in general. My sister served up cauliflower cheese for Christmas dinner a couple of years ago – and I’d rather have that than potatoes or bread sauce any day. You can also try these delicious Parmesan-crusted cauliflower steaks from Nourished Peach.

Cranberry sauce. Most commercial sauces are packed with sugar. You can make a version with cranberries and sweetener instead which will still have some carbs but not as many.

Christmas cakes, pudding and mince pies. There aren’t really substitutes for these things because they depend so heavily on dried fruit, flour and sugar. Christmas pudding and cake isn’t a winner with everyone anyway because of its heavy fruit content. When you’ve eaten low carb for a while, you often find you lose your sweet tooth , so having a pudding at the end of a meal is no longer as appealing. However, if you do want something sweet, may we suggest Tiramisu and Key Lime Pie.

Dig in - it's good for you.
Dig in – it’s good for you.

Another idea is the cheese course – much better than pudding! You don’t need the biscuits. Celery sticks or carrot sticks will give you some crunch, as will walnuts or apple slices. A good cheese board has roughly four cheeses – a Farmhouse cheddar, a blue such as Stilton or Roquefort, a soft one (Brie or Camembert) and AN Other. Goat’s cheese is my preference.

Chocolate. It’s hard to escape chocolate at Christmas. From the special offer wraps piled up at the front of supermarkets, to the yule logs, chocolate Santas and stockings, the stuff is everywhere. If you love chocolate, a few squares of good quality dark chocolate do not contain many carbohydrates. Treat yourself to a good quality bar to make the occasion. You could also make this chocolate peanut fudge, which is easy to make and very low-carb.

Finally, the trick to remember with Christmas is that it is one day of the year. When it comes to low-carbing consistency is the key. If you’re low-carb most of the time but for one or two days you decide to dig in, do so guilt-free. Do this mindfully, enjoying everything but keeping an eye on portions. This is especially important if you are on insulin as you will need to know how much to take to cover what you are eating.

Happy Christmas all!

Pensioner Celebrates 80 Years of Living With Type 1 Diabetes

Pic thanks to Diabetes UK

Congratulations to Clifford Whittaker – who this week celebrated living with type 1 diabetes for 80 years.

The Essex pensioner received an HG Wells medal from Diabetes UK in recognition of how long he has lived with the condition.

Mr Whittaker told the BBC he had never allowed his diabetes to stop him from doing anything and that his late wife Doreen had played a part in keeping him healthy over the years. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 8 and only stopped driving two years ago.

Sharon Roberts of Diabetes UK said Mr Clifford was an inspiration, showing people that it was possible to live a long life with diabetes if you managed your condition well.

Read the full story here. Pic thanks to Diabetes UK.

If you want help managing your diabetes for great blood sugar control, check out the Diabetes Diet