Category Archives: Dietetics

Exams and diabetes

101004freakout

I was freaking out.

I was a couple days off from my first final of the semester, and I was completely wigging. It was an upper-level research course. I had been doing well. I knew the material. By all accounts, I should have been confident. But no, I was in full-blown freak-out mode. I don’t like exams, and no matter how well I know the material, I generally get over-run by anxiety. But this time was different. This time was worse.

Dear Diabetes had gotten in my head.

Not surprising, really. The midterm was a bloody gong show. Normally my blood sugars run high for exams. It’s that whole anxiety thing setting up the fight or flight response, shooting up the adrenaline – and the blood sugars. But for the midterm, Dear Diabetes decided to take me on a different kind of roller coaster. Instead of high blood sugars, they bottomed out 10 minutes prior to the start of the exam. I scarfed down handfuls of dried apricots. It was no use.

High blood sugars, as long as they don’t go above 13 mmol, I can deal with. But low blood sugars, no.

The first 30 minutes of the exam was awash. The words bounced all over the pages for the first 10-15 minutes, and then the next 15 minutes, it was a mumbo of confusion. I couldn’t make out the research abstracts. I didn’t understand what the questions were asking. I knew time was ticking. The anxiety rose. I started to sweat. It was all I could do to stop from hitting my head in all-out frustration.

My moms, and all her hippie friends voices filled my head. I closed my eyes for what felt like an hour but was likely only 2 minutes, doing everything in my power to calm my mind, my heart, my blood sugars.

Finally, the words made sense.

So, the final. I studied the slides. I studied my lecture notes. I asked friends in the class for clarification on some of the smallest details. I studied my diabetes. I looked for trends. I made adjustments. I planned the day’s fuel, and made sure I cut and measured the carbs of the apple for complete bolus accuracy. If Dear Diabetes had plans for me, I was going to be ready, I was going to be beyond prepared – both in material and body.

Dear Diabetes was not going to win this battle. Not this time.

The final was last Tuesday.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t safe from the anxiety; the blood sugars continuously creeped up prior to the exam. I bolused an insulin-correction 10 minutes before going in. As long as they didn’t go too high, though, I’d be safe from nausea.

The highs don’t cripple my brain.

As for the exam, I was 5,000 per cent solid. Results were posted the other night; I scored 91%.

Dear Diabetes: FACE!

Food: What can we do?

I don’t know why I didn’t put up my hand.

I don’t know why I didn’t ask the question filling my brain the entire time she was talking.

I’ve rarely been one to shy from asking questions.

I’ve got journalism in my blood for goodness sake; I should have asked the question.

This week I attended the latest installment of the UBC Reads Sustainability series, a program that brings well-known authors to campus to discuss issues of sustainability. It was the first I’d heard of the program, and was intrigued for a few reasons:

1) The speaker, Simran Sethi, is a journalist (see blood above) and her book is called Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love. For those of you who’ve been long-time readers, you already know, but for those of you new to the PoP ways, chocolate might as well BE my blood.

2) I am currently taking a Land, Food, Systems course, which is a year-long prerequisite for the dietetics program all about sustainability, systems-thinking, multifunctionalism, etc., which is, without a doubt, my favourite course. The lecturer is super engaging, and my extensive experience as a newspaper journalist in one of the major farming communities of the province gives me a solid base for the content.

Ms. Sethi’s book is an exploration of the changing lands of agriculture through those beloved foods, and the devastating impact of the homogenization of our food that’s been taking over since the industrial revolution.

She talked about how one third of our soils have been eroded.

You can’t grow good food in eroded soils, she said.

She talked about the global trend towards sameness, about how our crops have become a saturated monoculture, one breed of cow for all dairy and meat products, one type of corn, a handful of apple crops versus thousands that used to be grown.

If disaster strikes, we are potentially at risk, she said.

Diversification ensures we have a back-up plan, she said.

We are losing diversification.

She said we need to change things, that we need to invest in our collections, make sure we have a seed vault containing all our seed systems just in case “dooms day” comes; that we need to preserve our wild growth; and support our small farmers.

But she didn’t say how.

I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say the approximate 50 or so people in that room were interested and invested in making agriculture more sustainable, steering our farms away from the monoculture of the industrial revolution, committed to supporting our local farmers and farmers’ markets. She was already preaching to the choir.

But, in this case, we are the 1%.

What about the vast majority of the population who is so ingrained in shopping at supermarkets, buying the cheapest product available, either because they can’t afford to do otherwise, or because it’s what they’ve always done. How do we get those people on board?

In order to enact change, in order to stop the small farmers from going under, in order to have a country with food options, a world with biodiversity, it is those people we need to educate and support. Until then, I remain cynical and question whether real change will be made.

I mentioned in my last post that I have been working with the Royal City Farmers’ Market since last January to bring about more education on the value (nutrient and monetary) of farmers’ markets. Last spring, I embarked on a $40 challenge where I spend $40 every market on market-fresh product and outline how long it lasts, the tastes, the meals we get out of it, etc.. For our family, both the taste and monetary savings to our vegetable budget has been a huge eye opener.

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When the market went on break for a month between the summer market and winter market, I was so disappointed with every salad I ate in that time. The flavour was just not there.

You can read the posts via the 10th to the Fraser online magazine at www.tenthtothefraser.ca/category/eats-and-drinks/