In 2012, you entered my life unexpectedly. You were the new chapter of my life. You changed my view on food and beverages. Before you came into my life, I used to eat whatever I wanted. Because of you, certain beverages and food items are off-limits such as sugary stuff, pizza rolls, French fries, dinner rolls, etc. It was hard to give them up, but it was for the best. I thought you would be the reason I couldn’t travel, but it turned out I was wrong.
Our relationship is full of ups and downs. The ups are days with perfect glucose levels and the willpower to avoid certain things that I can’t eat at parties or restaurants. I’m mostly a stickler for rules, routines, and schedules because of autism. The downs are accidentally overmedicating and overeating or eating the wrong stuff. Sometimes, I have high glucose levels all day, some days the levels are low, and some days are in-between. Sometimes, I have rebounds after being low. Sometimes, my autism causes stress which results in hyperglycemia. I used to panic when you gave me high numbers. I learned that it was better to be high than low. In fact, I learned lessons from my diabetic-related mistakes.
Because of you, I switched to better versions of chicken, fries, desserts, etc. I exercise a little more by dancing, running, and walking. A strict diet makes me healthier and skinnier than I used to be. After you came along, I was even more confident about myself. The number of my meltdowns decreased. Before you, I had autism-related meltdowns.
You and I will be together for life.
Carb counting and diabetes:
Carbohydrates are the main kind of food that raises blood sugar levels. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the amount of carbohydrates you eat. Simple carbohydrates, or sugar, will begin to raise blood sugar very soon after you eat them. Complex carbohydrates, or starchy foods, take longer for the body to change into sugar but will eventually be changed completely to sugar. Protein and fat have little effect on blood sugar levels.
Carbohydrate (or “carb”) counting can help you:
- Manage your blood sugar
- Be more flexible in your choice of foods and at mealtimes
- Eat more foods that you enjoy
To count carbs, you need to:
- Know which foods contain carbs and find out how many
- Read food labels and use measuring tools, such as measuring cups, spoons, or a food scale
- Work with your diabetes care team to decide how to divide your carbs among your meals and snacks
Many foods contain carbs. The foods that contain the most carbs are:
- Starches–all bread, cereal, crackers, grains, rice, pasta
- Starchy vegetables–potatoes, corn, peas, beans
- All fruits and fruit juices
- All milk and yogurt
- Sugary foods–candy, regular sodapop, jelly
- Sweets—cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream, sugar-free treats
In fact, the only food groups that generally don’t contain carbs are:
- Meats and meat substitutes, such as eggs and cheese
- Fats and oils
Because carbs raise blood sugar more than they nutrients, you may wonder why you should eat them all. You need to eat foods with carbs because they provide your body with energy, along with many vitamins and minerals. Sweets are okay to include in your meal plan once in a while. But keep in mind that sweets often contain a lot of carb, calories, and fat, with very little nutritional value.
Sugar alcohols are one kind of reduced-calorie sweetener. They include sweeteners like maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and isomalt. Sugar alcohols are used in some sugar-free candy, gum, and desserts. Despite their name, sugar alcohols do not contain alcohol. Products containing sugar alcohols are not always low in carbs or calories. So be sure to check the label on any of these products. The effect of sugar alcohols on your blood sugar can vary (i.e. pass gas).
Work with your dietician or another member of your diabetes care team to find the number of carbs you need in our meal plan. That’s the number that you should aim for each day. Your dietician or diabetes educator can help you easily divide your carbs among your meals and snacks. If you take diabetes pills or 1 to 2 injections of insulin a day, try to eat the same amount of carbs at the same meals and snacks each day. If you take 3 or more insulin injections, you may have more flexibility with your meal plan.
Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar, especially if you take insulin. If you include snacks in your meal plan, count the carbs!
Keep in mind that in the food lists, 1 carb unit equals 15 grams of carbohydrate. For example, a cranberry juice cocktail should be counted as 1 carb. That means that 1/2 cup of cranberry juice cocktail has about 15 carbs.
For foods that come in packages, the best place to find the carb count is on the Nutrition Facts label. The grams of total carbohydrate on the label are the key to carb counting. Don’t worry about counting the sugar and fiber grams. They are included in the total carb number. Check serving size. Information on the label is based on the serving size. See how many grams of carb are in each serving. Decide whether the food fits in your meal plan. Also, check the sugars on each food item and sugar alcohols on sugar-free sweets.
Being a person with both autism and diabetes has its ups and downs. I do the best I can to sail through the waters smoothly. I am a good person, a human being just like everyone else, not a hopeless case or a helpless person. I am driven by motivation and determination to do something amazing, incredible, or tremendous (i.e. a career or learning a new skill)—overcoming the obstacles of my conditions.
Those of you who deal with both conditions, a diagnosis or discovery on either or both conditions is not the end of the world, you can still lead a normal life just like everyone else. Don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of success in whatever you do. Don’t worry about other people say or think. People who discriminate or say incorrect things are wrong. They’re not in your shoes.
Diabetes may be a life and death disease, but don’t be scared if something happens like a high reading or something else. Don’t panic! Don’t get too stressed out. Zeus can hold onto his lightning bolts. Fear is the worst enemy. Autism causes stress, but that causes hyperglycemia. In a stressful situation, use a positive technique: stop and think. If you have a low reading or if something else is wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up! Take care of your diabetes properly. Do not do anything that will endanger your health. Improper healthcare equals death.
The keys to a successful life are bravery, confidence, and faith.
Be a warrior!
- Sugary foods: sweets, desserts, and soda (not diet) lack nutritional value and cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Instead, eat some delicious fruits such as berries, pears, apples, and oranges. They’ll give you plenty of fibers that will slow down the absorption of glucose. However, fruit also has sugar. Eat it in moderation.
- Fruit juices: they have sugar. Avoid drinking them even if they are labeled 100 percent fruit juice. Some fruit juices have vitamins and minerals to make them seem like a healthy choice. However, they could cause high glucose levels. Drink them only when you have hypoglycemia.
- Dried fruits: contain many nutrients and fiber, the dehydrated process used in their production can cause the natural sugars in the fruits to get super-concentrated. So, while snacking on dried apricots or raisins is better than cookie, don’t forget that it may spike up your levels. They also have sugar.
- White Bread, Rice, and Flour: causes of high glucose levels
- Full-Fat Dairy products: they raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of cardiac complications. These saturated fats can worsen the resistance of the body cells to insulin meaning the insulin produced in the pancreas or taken as an injection will be less effective in controlling your levels. Look for fat-free or low-fat products instead.
- Baked Goods and Packaged Snacks: pretzels, crackers, chips, doughnuts, cookies, and snack cakes have high amount of trans fats. Look for labels that list 0 grams of trans-fat.
- Fried Foods: French fries, potato chips, fried chicken, fried dough, etc. soak up tons of oil and are loaded with calories. Most of them are coated in breading first, thereby jacking up the calorie count even more. Overdoing on these greasy stuffs can cause blood-sugar chaos. Most of those foods are deep-fried in hydrogenated oils, which are laden with dangerous trans-fats. OR You can just take the skin off of fried chicken and eat the chicken parts.
- Alcohol: it can interfere with your levels and the action of your anti-diabetic drugs resulting in serious side effects. Consult your doctor to make sure whether it’s safe for you to drink alcohol and how much. I recommend one or two light beers or a one or two glasses of red or white wine
- Nachos: High in carbs and fats.
- Biscuits and Sausage Gravy: high in fats, calories, and sodium and mess up your levels
- Battered Fish Dinners: avoid stuff like that such as hush puppies, fries, and coleslaw. Instead, choose healthy cooking methods like roasting or baking and avoid those high-calorie sides.