Without a doubt, one of the hardest aspects of Diabetes HAS to be carb counting. It probably doesn’t help that I really didn’t start carb counting until 2015 when I started using an insulin pump. Before that, the subject of carb counting was never bought up by any medical practitioner or dietitian that I had retained. This likely isn’t any fault of theirs; they no doubt did the best with what they thought was working. But I have to admit that I certainly don’t miss the days of randomly guessing how many units of insulin to inject at mealtimes.
First of all, I’d like to remind everyone that carbohydrates are a necessity for a healthy life. Carbs are a fuel source and in fact, is the body’s primary fuel source. This means that you can’t TOTALLY eliminate carbs from your body, or you’ll suffer the effects. That being said, a reduction in carbohydrates can result in weight loss when the body starts to depend on its secondary fuel source: fat.
But carbs are insidious. They pop up where you least expect them, and not always in the amounts one would assume. A good example would be a vegetarian snack I purchased some week ago. Kung Pao broccoli. Yes, you read that right! I don’t know what’s worse, the “Kung Pao broccoli” part or the fact I bought something vegetarian. Regardless, I decided to try it out (along with its counterpart, “Buffalo Cauliflower.” Totally not kidding!). On a particular day, I decided to try it out as my lunch. I figured, why not? A bowl of broccoli is healthy and there are worse ways to have a reduced carb lunch.
When it was done baking, I mixed it with the Kung Pao sauce and checked the box to see how little I would have to bolus for it. The contents of the small box totalled in at about 80 grams of carbs! I daresay, I was flabbergasted! I could eat half a frozen pizza for the same amount of carbs! The problem is the light coating of batter over the broccoli as well as the sauce itself. It packed a bigger wallop than I thought. Then again, the makers probably didn’t count on someone eating an entire box as a meal; broccoli or not.
The next big problem is family. Not that family IS inherently a problem, but they can be a hindrance to proper blood sugar balance at mealtimes. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve prepared myself a bowl of food, sat down at the table and started eating only to have Nathan come running up, “Daddy, I’m hungry! That looks good, can I have it?” Knowing he has neither the patience nor the attention span to wait, I’ll usually surrender my meal to him and go make something else. In the meantime, the insulin I just bolused in response to the expected meal is coursing through my system and lowering my blood sugar, which will likely result in a low.
Trying out new foods is also a problem. Sometimes I’ll try something new like the broccoli, especially when I see that everyone else is eating or has had their lunch already. But something new will usually result in one of my family members deciding they wants to try some. The Kung Pao broccoli was an example of this. I asked if it was to be split or if they’d just be trying a piece to see what it tastes like. “I’ll see after I’ve tried it” is the usual response, which is the worst thing I can hear. This leaves me in a position where I don’t know if I’m calculating my bolus for half the amount or the entire amount of food.
Last but not least is incorrect or inaccurate nutritional labels. I always check the nutritional information label on the food I eat. Everyone should, Diabetic or not. And sometimes my blood sugars will go crazy despite a precise serving and supposed exact amount of carbs. There can be a lot of reasons behind this, including how quickly specific foods are absorbed, a person’s insulin sensitivity or a score of different physical conditions. But more often than not, bolusing for 10 grams of one type of carbs will require a different insulin dose than 10 grams of another type.
Carb counting is not only important but it prevents problems on a day-to-day basis. I can’t tell you how many meals I’ve consumed where I bolused what I thought I needed, only to suffer a low because the food was processed too slowly or an extreme high because it was more than I thought it’d be. Then I’d take added insulin to correct the high, only to have it boomerang and crash. Diabetes is a lovely roller coaster of bullshit. ☯