Sunday, October 10, 2010

Brief Update and Brilliant Breakfast

I started grad school and a new job (well, an unexpected promotion at the Division of Public Health that caused me to remain with the Division past August, my original end date) 4 days after my last post. This is why I have not blogged for one and a half months. Today, 10/10/10, I woke up and made a delicious power breakfast. When I've described this breakfast to others, I've been met with scrunched noses. Even Matt, the number one fan of my cooking, admitted to not being thrilled about this morning's breakfast choice. His resistance compelled me to post this recipe and invite others to delight in its warmth and comforting flavors.

Some exciting news worth mentioning is that I had my A1C tested a few weeks ago. My score was 6.9. My A1C has not been this low in years!!! To give you an idea of what these A1C numbers mean, here is an A1C grading scale:

4.0 - 5.5 A++ (This is the typical range for non-diabetics)
5.6 - 6.0 A+
6.1 - 6.5 A
6.6 - 7.0 A-
7.1 - 7.5 B+
7.6 - 8.0 B-
8.1 - 8.5 C
8.6 - 8.9 D
9.0 + F

I was beside myself with excitement to have finally brought my A1C down below 7.0. My Papa, on the other hand, recently had to go to the hospital because he kept getting dizzy spells. The lab work demonstrated that his heart, thankfully, was okay but that he was severely anemic. He is home now and feeling better but is fairly certain that he will not be making the trip to Belize. I'm sad that he probably won't be in Belize for our wedding but am happy that this blog has encouraged him to eat more veggies and cook more plant-based, healthy meals.

Friday, August 20, 2010

2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

is the pattern in which I make progress with my diabetes. The past couple blog entries have been written with a “yes we can” attitude – I have made progress with my diabetes and so has my Papa. But this past weekend I was far from a straight-A student.

My best friend (and maid of honor), Emily, has lived far away from me ever since she graduated high school a year ahead of me and left Orange Country for the forward-thinking, hippie-loving town of Berkeley. Since then we’ve both moved to a few different places but the land distance between us has always been great enough to limit our visits to about 2 (if we’re lucky, 3) per year (with the brief exception of a couple years when I was in Santa Cruz and Emily was in San Francisco). When Emily was accepted to UVA for grad school I was beside myself with the excitement that one of my favorite people would no longer be a full day of airplane travel away, but instead just a 3 hour and 40 minute drive. Last weekend was my first visit to Thomas Jefferson’s old stomping grounds and the first opportunity to celebrate Emily’s relocation to the east coast. Emily and I did what we always do when we see each other: talk, laugh, tell stories, eat good food, go on long walks, stay up late, be merry, and drink bubbly wine and pink cosmos.

My BGLs (blood glucose levels) were awful all weekend. The problems with drinking alcohol are:

  1. I tend to eat less healthy foods after having too many drinks (this weekend’s most notable digression: frozen yogurt)
  2. I improperly gauge the amount of carbohydrates in the foods I’m eating
  3. I delay giving myself insulin – okay, let’s be honest, I forget to give myself insulin, then I remember a little while later – the result is that my BGL has already climbed up before I give myself insulin, then the insulin takes 1-2 hours to take effect. Thus, my BGL remains higher for longer than usual.
  4. I don’t sleep as well after having too much alcohol. I’ve noticed that my BGL tends to be higher when I have not gotten enough sleep.
  5. The next morning I wake up with the usual hangover many people experience, in addition to a dosage of guilt that I have just taken steps away from the state of health I usually work so hard to achieve.

Since returning home to Carrboro I have had very little to drink and have obsessively been checking my BGL. I went running last night, had a challenging and yummy yoga session this morning, and plan to take a long run tomorrow morning before visiting the farmers market. These activities make me feel good. I feel clean and brilliant after days filled with fresh veggies, exercise and conscious breathing. Despite feeling calm yet energized from such healthy living, I still find myself craving the fun, loose-lipped, social evenings infused with more than one drink. I don’t want to give up these social evenings but I do want to continue to decrease my intake of alcohol so I need to find a way to experience these evenings without alcohol. Thankfully I have the support of my future husband, Matt, who is also committed to this goal. Tasks are always easier when you have a teammate.

This past week Matt and I hosted two very active and inspiring friends, Jean and Trent. Jean introduced me to Franklin Street Yoga and Lori, the excellent instructor who kicked my asana this morning while speaking words of kindness and love. Jean and Trent encouraged me to sign up for the Outer Banks half-marathon by describing the route as fairly flat and the people as friendly and supportive. When I first heard the term “peer pressure” as a teenager, it had a negative connotation. However, as I have surrounded myself with active, well-intentioned, healthy people, I have found that peer pressure can actually be a very good thing.

This week’s menu is:

Weelicious Spinach Ricotta Bites

To cut back on the cheese I: added an egg and used 1/2 cup chia seed jelly and only 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese (instead of ½ a cup) and 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese (instead of ½ cup). Chia seed jelly ratio: mix 1 Tbsp chia seed into 4.5 oz water; chia seeds can be found at:

Heirloom Tomato, Summer Peach, and Fresh Herb Gazpacho Salad

Quinoa with Garlic and Onions

Steamed Broccoli Seasoned with Butter, Salt and Pepper

Saturday, August 7, 2010

106 Papa, 78 Me, and 95 Grandma

The morning after eating last week’s meal, these were the blood sugars that my Papa, my grandma (who controls her type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise), and I woke up with. Diabetics constantly check their blood sugars. A three-year old friend of mine recently asked, “why are you always doing your diabetes?” (translation: checking my blood sugar and giving myself insulin) – I explained to him that my diabetes never goes away so I always need to check how much sugar is in my blood. If there is too much sugar in my blood, I give myself a shot of insulin; if there is too little sugar in my blood, I eat an orange-flavored glucose tablet or two; and if there is just the right amount of sugar in my blood I smile, nod my head, and contain the urge to get up and dance in celebration.

Getting one’s blood sugar (also called, “blood glucose level” – will use “BGL” here for short) into the healthy range and keeping it in that range can be a heated battle for diabetics, especially those with type 1. A person’s BGL can be affected by: stress, exercise, hormone levels, menstruation, pregnancy, food, insulin, medication, illness, alcohol, etc. One of the first things I had to wrap my head around when I was learning about diabetes as a kid was the fact that a diabetic could have too low a blood sugar. I remember my Papa having yet another high blood sugar and saying to me, “too high, again” to which I, as a not-yet-diabetic 8 year old, replied, “I wish your blood sugar was 0”. This comment prompted my Papa to say, “oh – no, no, no, no, don’t wish that – you need to have some sugar in your blood.” I was baffled that BGL could be too high and too low – this disease suddenly seemed completely impossible.

The numbers listed in the heading of this entry are perfect. They are those beautiful, hard-to-attain, numbers that diabetics wish they could see every time they stick their finger and put blood on a test strip for their glucose machine to read. If I were to grade BGL in a traditional A-F academic style, it would look something like this (keep in mind, each diabetic would probably set these grades slightly differently):

200 and above: F

180-200: D

150-179: C

120-149: B

70-119: A

60-69: B

55-59: C

45-55: D

45 and below: F

My grandma has woken up with A+ blood sugars for the past four days and has not eaten meat for 5 days. This prompted my grandma to email the following question: “would no meat affect my blood sugars?” I think the answer to this question is that the foods she’s been filling up on in place of her usual meat intake have been affecting her blood sugars. It takes a lot more vegetables to satiate a person than it does meat. While abstaining from meat my grandparents have been eating more vegetables – zucchini pancakes with zucchini from their garden is their latest discovery. I am thrilled that my grandparents are both eating more veggies. I’m also thrilled that they feel motivated to continue cooking these weekly menus because of the immediate effects they’ve seen on their blood sugars. I’m proud to share that I too have been experiencing some impressive results. I’ve been cooking more often, eating more veggies, running more, and practicing yoga ever since starting this blog. The result is that my BGL logbook is filled with far more A’s and far fewer F’s than I’ve seen in years J

This week’s meal is the first meal for which each recipe was completely new to me. Two of the recipes came from my new cookbook, “Fast, Fresh and Green” by Susie Middleton. I invited over the Wunkler family, which consists of two foodie friends who love playing ultimate Frisbee and their awesome dog, Kaya. They brought over a beautiful bouquet of flowers (photographed above with my dog, Abby). This week’s meal had a citrus theme that I didn’t notice until partway through dinner. The potatoes were flavored with lemon and the green beans with orange. I made the green beans a second time this week and placed them on top of brown rice – the result was delicious.

This week’s menu:

Tomato Basil Salad

Caramelized Green Beans and Sweet Onions

Oven-roasted Baby Potatoes with Creamy Lemon Dressing

Saturday, July 31, 2010

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, love you, love you, love you”

is what my Papa said at the end of a 2 minute-long voicemail he left for me – his first ever on my cell phone – the morning after making last week’s recipe (tempeh noodle casserole and mixed greens with carrots and apples). He sounded invigorated, happy, energized, excited, and – most important – loveful. I was beside myself to hear him sounding so good and so vibrant. I’d like to think it was the delicious dosage of vitamins, fiber and other nutrients that caused him to sleep well and wake up feeling like he was on top of the world.

Listening to his voicemail a few days later I realize that he sounds the way I feel right now after a morning yoga session. I am clear-headed, focused, energized and far more balanced than I've been in quite a while. The first few times I tried yoga, I didn’t understand all the hype. I was in my teens and yoga was too slow for me. I felt the need – and still do – to break a sweat, get out of breath, and make my heart race whenever I exercise. This doesn't always happen during downward-facing dogs, pigeons, and child poses. The class I recently found uses all of the aforementioned poses but the pace is quick and the movements dynamic enough to require my complete focus. As a result I am prevented from getting lost in my obsessive monkey-mind – it is really nice … and quiet.

My Saturday morning trip to the farmer’s market this week inspired a beautiful meal with marinated farmers market peppers, cucumbers, watermelon and other fresh ingredients. A search through the allrecipe website, a macrobiotic cookbook filled with recipes by Harriet McNear, and online juice recipes yielded this week’s menu. I feel a little self-conscious tooting my own horn here but, the dinner was off-the-wall delicious.

At the end of the meal Dave, our guest of the week, said he was full then stopped to clarify, “but I don’t feel bad, it feels good – there should be a word for that,” to which Matt responded, “it sits well in the stomach.” Matt and Dave, who share an interest in computer programming and are constantly brainstorming, talked about making a website that allows users to create new words based on different etymological orderings. The conversation then turned to the history of Perl6, a computer programming language, and Larry Wall’s IRC nick “TimToady” (apparently derived from “There Is More Than One Way To Do It” – TIMTOWTDI). As the computer jargon gradually turned into white noise, I started writing this week’s blog in my head ☺

Menu of the week:

Mixed Green Salad with Avocado and Kalamata Olives

Marinated Farmers Market Peppers on Toasted Sourdough topped with Feta

Gingered Adzuki Beans with Carrots and Leeks

Watermelon and Cucumber juice with a Spritz of Lime

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rabbit Food

is what my Papa will be eating at lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays with “the boys” with whom he has played softball since I was two. I called my Papa to tell him about my new blog and its purpose: to get him in to good enough health to walk me down the aisle at my Belizean wedding and to improve my own health in the process. I shared with him all the brilliance of my plan (to write about our journeys towards better health and open this journal to public scrutiny so that we may buckle to peer pressure and bring our A1Cs down to 6.0%), yet his response was what it always is when I bring up his diabetes: humor. It was clear that I needed to bring out the big guns so, I told my Papa that I will send “the boys” the link to my blog so that they heckle him every Tuesday and every Thursday during their biweekly lunches. My hope is that they will ask him whether he has gotten any closer to the dock off Maya beach where I plan to say “I do” in December of this year. To this my Papa responded with disbelief: “Awww, I’m going to have to eat rabbit food when I get lunch with the boys??” For those of you who don’t know my grandfather (who I call “Papa”), “rabbit food” is anything predominantly green in color, free of meat, and healthy. As a type 1 diabetic with full dreams for the future, I eat a lot of rabbit food. My Papa, on the other hand, will flirt with the idea of eating only salads and dropping 60 lbs (returning him to his weight when he was a pole vaulting athlete in high school), then quickly resume his usual eating habits.

I’ve become accustomed to this struggle with my Papa who has always had a hidden stash of Big Hunks, Hershey bars with almonds, lemon drops, and peppermint candies in his den. He is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the great pleasure of knowing and he has taught me more than a million things in the 24 years I’ve known him. Ever since I fell in love 4 years ago and began (for the first time in my life) daydreaming about my wedding day, I envisioned my Papa walking me down the aisle and later making a show of dancing with me and singing along to the tunes of his favorite tenor, Frank Sinatra. And so, when I told him that Matt and I were officially engaged and that I wanted him to fly to Belize to be at my side during this momentous occasion, he said with a big, thick, proud smile in his voice, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world”. Since this conversation, he has become progressively concerned about his health and now fears that he will not be able to fly to Belize in December. My response: this blog. Each week I will come up with recipes for a plant-based meal that we will both cook (he in Saratoga, CA and me in Carrboro, NC). We will talk on the phone and share our successes, failures, challenges and thoughts about our health, our future and our diabetes (type 2 for him, type 1 for me).

I’ve decided to make the weekly recipes large enough to serve four and invite over different members of my community each week. This week my fiancĂ©, Matt, and I shared dinner with a recently retired elementary school principal. After years of running out the door without packing a lunch and, thus, having no choice but to eat the food in the school cafeteria, she is fully aware of the need to reform school lunch. The past 6 months that she has been retired have been “the best 6 months of my life” – filled with yoga teacher training, a trip to Paris, and time with her three very fluffy dogs.

This week’s menu:

Tempeh Noodle Casserole with Spinach Mushrooms and Thyme

Mixed Green Salad with Apples and Goddess Dressing