Let’s Get Dirty

Sex. Alright, now that I’ve got your attention, let’s talk about, well… sex. For the most part, people avoid talking about sex, for a variety of reasons. Either from embarrassment, shyness or awkwardness, it’s usually a taboo subject for most folks. But it’s one of those things that’s part of the human condition. And if you have Type-1 Diabetes, it can be an even more awkward thorn in your side.

Honestly, today’s post isn’t necessarily about the difficulties Type-1 Diabetes causes during sexual encounters. I covered that off in-depth during a previous post I wrote, Cue The Barry White Music… So I won’t get too deep into those complications. However, I’ll provide that those difficulties include high or low blood sugars, neurological and blood vessel damage can lead to sexual organ difficulties in women and erectile difficulties in men.

No, I’m here to discuss the old myth that “sex before a big game” is a bad idea. There’s a standing tradition in the sporting world, and even martial arts, that having sex during training or before a big event will increase one’s chance of defeat. Well, I hate to break it to all those old school coaches, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“Women Weaken Legs!”

– Mickey Goldmill, Rocky (1976)

There was a really good article posted by National Geographic, that explains the majority of the benefits behind the practice as opposed to the perpetuated myth. But I couldn’t read it through without entering my email and joining a list, which I wasn’t willing to do. Sex lowers blood pressure, increases one’s immune system, improves sleep patterns and is even considered a natural form of pain-relief. There’s also a measurable release of testosterone, which can actually help one win a big fight as opposed to losing it.

One of my favourite athletes, Ronda Rousey, is quotes as saying that having sex “raises your testosterone so I try to have as much sex as possible before I fight, actually.” For Rousey, an increased level of sex before a big match is not only part of her routine but an important part in helping to ensure a victory. Although she’s referring mostly to increasing testosterone in female fighters, she also doesn’t hold much faith in male fighters’ belief that sex drains your testosterone. In fact, she feels that long-term abstinence will result in producing less testosterone, overall.

You can read the entire article on Business Insider, which also includes a link to the National Geographic article, if you’re game to add your email to a mailing list. But the reality is that the perpetuated myth that sex before the big game is bad just isn’t accurate. Or true. Good news for some. Not so much for others. Research shows that indulging in a “solo act” won’t release the same levels of oxytocin or provide all the same benefits as having an active partner. But I digress…

As a martial artists, I feel it important to point out that abstaining from sex for any length of time for the purpose of “improving” your training is absurd and unnecessary. As a Type-1 Diabetic I feel it’s important to advise that if you believe that having sex is forthcoming, which may be presumptuous (a point I made in my linked post above) you’ll want to ensure your blood sugar levels are controlled, you have fluids and fast-acting glucose at your disposal in case you need it and be mindful of where your equipment is located if you’re a pump user. ☯

The Cold Reality Of Winter

Winter is coming! I’m not really a Game Of Thrones fan, but I love that line. Granted, I’ve never actually seen it as I don’t have cable. I am, however, a pretty big fan of the Rocky movies, which probably dates me more than I care to admit. But the one that comes to mind is the fourth instalment, where the antagonist kills one of Rocky’s best friends during an boxing match and Rocky travels to Russia to train for a revenge fight.

In this movie is likely one of the best winter training montages I’d ever seen at the time and even since then. With Vince Dicola’s “Training Montage” playing in the background, you can see Rocky using unorthodox training methods to build and develop himself in preparation for his fight against Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren). I included a YouTube video of the scene I’m referring to. Now would be a good time to point out that I have no ownership in the video nor am I responsible for it; it’s just a linked video I found on YouTube.

The scene actually demonstrates a clear difference between intensive training using machinery and a comfortable environment versus using the elements and whatever one has at their disposal. And now that I’m writing about it, I need to find a copy of this damn movie so I can watch it again! But in all seriousness, it got me to thinking about the effects of training in a cold weather environment.

First of all, let me just say that I’m a bit of a fussy bastard when it comes to temperature. I don’t like it when the temperature is very cold and I don’t like it when the temperature is very warm. So I’m basically screwed, all year long, living in Saskatchewan. But realistically speaking, I’ve found myself training in just about every climate and temperature I have available to me, and a couple that I don’t.

What I mean by the latter, is that when I travelled to Japan in 2001, we trained almost every day in 40 degree weather. It felt tropical to us, but it was autumn to the Okinawans. I was drinking litres upon litres of water and rarely went to the washroom. My body was literally using the hydration as fast as I could provide it. But the flip side to this, and the purpose behind this post, is that I’ve also gone running in snow storms. Not recently, mind you. I’m old as disco, now.

Back when I was training for my black belt, I would get off work at 1 in the morning, head home, change into workout gear and grab my walkman (think iPod, but much bigger) and circumvent my hometown of Dalhousie. This made for about 10 kilometres of running in wintery conditions, which is not a lot by my cycling standards. But I guarantee that it felt like forever while I was doing it. It probably doesn’t help that Dalhousie stands on the side of a reasonably steep hill that slopes down into the Restigouche Bay, so there was a fair bit of uphill running.

Let’s start on a positive note, because I am frequently way more negative than I should be, and let’s discuss the benefits of training in extreme cold weather. According to a post written by Dr. Adam Tenforde for the Harvard University website, working out in colder weather can help improve your endurance as “your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you sweat less, and expend less energy, all of which means you can exercise more efficiently.”

The article goes on to explain how working out in the winter can give you some exposure to sunlight, which people tend to get much less of during the winter, as well as helping to transform certain areas of white fat, like the stomach and thighs, into a calorie-burning fat. This can be helpful if you’re like me and are struggling to tone down some of the “Micheline effect” I seem to have developed in my midsection.

Another benefit is that if you have a preferred trail that you run on, you’ll likely have it to yourself as most people have an unfortunate aversion to working out in the cold and likely won’t be sharing your enthusiasm. Now, if only I could guarantee the trail around Wascana Lake would be vacant and ice-free, I’d bike around that bad boy all winter! But I digress…

Since all the world is balance, we wouldn’t have the positive if not for the negative. So let’s cover off some bad aspects. If you have an underlying or chronic medical condition, cold weather training may not be for you. Listen to me, I sound like one of those commercials for a new prescription drug. “Talk to your doctor, if you think that running outdoors and freezing like a dumb ass may be right for you…” But seriously, things like heart conditions, asthma and many others can be adversely affected by pushing yourself when it’s cold outside.

Next, one needs to consider all the typical wintery hazards such as frostbite, which can affect any patch of exposed skin, hypothermia and even dehydration. Yes, that’s right! You can dehydrate in the cold; it’s not just an extreme heat thing. People also forget to consider sunblock when running on sunny days in the winter, despite the fact that UV rays are UV rays, regardless of the temperature. But maintaining your core temperature is important in order to prevent getting sick, as well.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you should dress in layers. Their article says to start with a synthetic layer that wicks moisture away from your body, followed by a layer of fleece or wool for insulation, topped with a breathable, waterproof outer layer. They also mention that you may have to experiment and try a few different combinations to find what’s right for you.

I use a base layer of Under Armour, specifically their “cold gear” apparel, which moves moisture away from the body but also helps to keep my body’s heat contained. I follow this up with a cotton shirt, since I don’t have fleece or wool. Even if cotton has a propensity to stay wet, it also provides a layer that will absorb moisture that makes its way through. then I have a waterproof Columbia jacket I throw on top of that. Couple it all up with a comfortable pair of waterproof boots and some windproof pants over thermals and you’ve got yourself a winter running outfit.

The last aspect I’ll cover off is the Diabetic one. Obviously, all of the problems I’ve described can affect someone with Type-1 Diabetes in some given way, shape or form. One of the bigger problems is that the cold will sometimes block or numb some of the recognizable signs of hypoglycemia, which can potentially be dangerous if you’re running far from home. Here’s where technology pays its due, as you should be carrying a cell phone and/or letting your family know where you’re going, if training outside.

The winter season shouldn’t be an excuse to stop working out. I’ll admit, I much prefer curling up on the couch with my wife, munching on nachos and binge-watching Kitchen Nightmares. But Diabetes doesn’t take a day off and neither should your health and fitness! Dress well, monitor your blood sugars and stay hydrated. Whether we like it or not, the colder season will be in full swing, shortly. ☯

Mild Bragging Rights

I’ve been working on bring down my Hemoglobin A1C for about the past ten years. It hasn’t been easy; shift work, stress and basic lifestyle make it somewhat difficult to maintain decent blood sugars at the best of times. This was one of the main reasons behind why I decided to start on pump therapy. Over the past five years or so, I’ve been slowly creeping my way down.

For those of you who don’t speak the Diabetes dialect, Hemoglobin A1C (or simply A1C) is a measurement of the average blood glucose levels over three months by measuring the percentage of glycated hemoglobin in the blood. Anything over 6.5% is usually indicative of someone who has Diabetes. Anything below that is generally considered normal. There can be some exceptions to these levels, but it’s pretty basic and has been one of the most-used evaluations to measure how controlled someone’s blood sugar levels have been.

The big problem is that in the past five to ten years, improving A1C results have yielded to increasing one’s blood sugar’s “time in range.” That is to say, maintaining more time between 5.5 to 7.0 mmol/L. The big problem is that one’s A1C level can be manipulated over three months thought extreme highs and lows. Time in range cannot. Keeping your blood sugar in range can’t be manipulated, which is where my new pump and CGM come into play.

Auto mode on the new Medtronic 670G (or newish to me, at least) uses continuous glucose monitoring to verify my blood sugars every five minutes. That means that my blood sugar levels are measured 288 times a day, assuming the sensor and auto mode are working right. The best I’ve ever managed is about once an hour, without taking into consideration that I try to sleep for eight hours a day and work. Meaning that I may get lucky and test my blood six to eight times in the course of a day with a traditional blood glucose monitor.

Combine the fact that auto mode works to correct blood sugar levels with each and every one of those readings and you greatly increase your odds of improving your time “in range.” Listen to me, I sound like a damn infomercial. I should be getting commission from Medtronic for endorsing their products. But seriously, my insulin pump and CGM have been great tools for helping me lower my A1C’s over the past few years.

Just to give you some reference, I started out with an A1C of about 8.4% five years ago. At those levels over an extended period of time, this A1C level will eventually cause vision problems, blood vessel and organ complications, heart disease and stroke. It stands to reason that I would want to try and lower it. But considering what I wrote in the previous paragraphs, why am I still focused on A1C’s? Shouldn’t I be working on “time in range?” Yes. Yes, I should. That’s why I’m doing both.

Better time in range means a better overall A1C. So the bottom line is I’m working on both. A week ago, I visited with my endocrinologist and was advised that my A1C level was at 7.2%, which is the lowest it’s been in years. My overall goal is to get to at least 6.9%. That would be a feather in my cap, as my doctor would say, and is hopefully a goal I will be able to achieve by my next appointment in March. ☯

Not All Sugars Are Created Equal

Back in the 1980’s, my parents were of the opinion that all I required for proper Diabetes control was to avoid “sugar.” The concept of carbohydrates never entered their mind (and somehow my dieticians never brought it up, either). So plenty f high-carb consumables, such as bread, milk and apple juice never entered their minds as something that could affect blood sugar. Thank the light that i took control of my own Diabetes care before any permanent damage was done.

I can’t place TOTAL blame on my parents; like most parents, I was their first exposure to Diabetes and they did the best they could. But their best can’t answer for the multitude of comas I suffered through as a child, or the Diabetic Retinopathy I had to deal with in later years, as a result. And truth be told, carbohydrates have gotten a pretty bad rap in recent decades. Multiple “fad” diets have burned carbohydrates (pun fully intended) in such a way where people genuinely believe that carbohydrates should be eliminated from their daily diets.

Here’s the thing: carbohydrates are a necessary form of energy on a person’s everyday diet. And although it’s possible to reduce your sugar consumption (you won’t catch me eating donuts every morning), reducing your carbohydrate intake is a bit trickier, since your body needs it as a primary source of fuel. But are sugars created equal? I would certainly say no!

You would think that sugar is sugar, right? It’s all 100% carbohydrates. But carbs are actually a combination of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, which is what makes up the name carbohydrates. There are many more complexities behind this, and I don’t want to drop y’all down the rabbit hole to an extreme extent, but it gives you an idea of what carbs truly are, besides the usual “you need them” rhetoric I usually stuff down your throat.

So, although regular, everyday processed sugar is 100% carbohydrates (100 grams of sugar is 100 grams of carbs), did you know that brown sugar is actually a couple of grams less in carbohydrates for 100 grams of sugar? Although that doesn’t make a huge difference in terms of usage, over the long it can mean a lower carb-count for the amount of sugar you’re using.

I’m on a bit of rant in terms of sugar, but my point is that you can never be sure of how many carbs you’re actually taking in unless you do the research and the measuring yourself. Even some nutritional information labels may not be accurate, although it can be hard to tell as your insulin sensitivity plays a big role in how you deal with those carbs.

That’s why a well-informed nutritionist or dietitian can be an invaluable tool, in tandem with your endocrinologist being on top of his or her game in ensuring your pump settings are on the ball. And most importantly, remember that not all foods, even sugar, are created equally. ☯

There Are No Shortcuts To A Thin Waistline

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in recent years is the thickening of my mid-section. Although I’ve never really been a big fan of a traditional six-pack (traditional Okinawan karate’s custom believes the hara, or the source of life, is in the midsection), I’m also not a big fan of having a hanging gut. Most people tend to forget that insulin is a hormone and can cause weight gain depending on its use. And given that I’ve reached my 40’s, my metabolism is no longer what it used to be.

Most of the time, and as I’ve written before, fad diets and gimmicks are usually useless. There is generally only one true, effective way to lose weight and burn fat and that’s to burn more calories than you consume. The prospect of reducing your food consumption or filling up on foods that are low in calories, such as lean meats and vegetables, are obvious ways to accomplish that goal when combined with rigorous exercise performed several times a week.

That fact doesn’t prevent some people from trying their best with things that they believe will help them along on their weight-loss journey. I’m saddened to admit that even I gave it the old college try, back in 2015. Despite how hard and how often I was working out, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and look into a supplement that I was told was “guaranteed” to help trim stomach fat. I’m talking about Conjugated Linoleic Acid, or CLA.

CLA is a fatty acid that can be found naturally in a number of foods, but it is not an “essential” fatty acid. This means that you don’t necessarily need it in order to be healthy. We consume CLA through these natural sources, but many people use an artificial CLA supplement in order to help shed some weight. For the most part, the jury is out and although it shows SOME potential towards shedding weight, it’s negligible.

According to an article posted by Healthline.ca, there have been numerous studies performed in relation to CLA and weight loss. The results usually showed only a minimal loss of fat compared to those who were given a placebo. The article talks about a matter of half a pound per month. For those who are a bit weaker in math, this means that consistent use of CLA supplements over a full year would see you lose no more than about six pounds.

The article actually offers a sadder total, estimating that long-term use of CLA over the course of six to twelve months only reduced body fat by 2.93 pounds. That’s pretty pathetic, when compared to the cost of paying for the supplements, coupled with some of the negative side effects that one will likely develop from its use. You can click on Healthline’s link above to read about some of those, but wouldn’t it be easier to simply exercise more?

I was living proof of these studies when I used CLA supplements for the better part of a year. My muscle mass increased with all the exercising I was doing but in terms of body fat, there were no results. Plus, I had dished out a bunch of money on buying the supplements when I could have been using that added money on lean meats. I love lean meats. And fish… Damn, I’m getting hungry now…

Just to give you a bit of an idea behind the financial toll this attempt took on me, I would purchase a 60-capsule bottle at about $25. I won’t make myself civilly actionable by naming the retail chain I purchased the capsules from, but the dosage is 3 to 5 capsules a day. So at the lowest dosage, I would need another bottle roughly every three weeks. This means that over the course of a year, I paid $450 for those supplements. At the highest dosage, I would need to replace the bottle every two weeks, meaning I would have paid $650 over the course of a year. Thank the light I only stuck to the lowest dose…

There are no easy shortcuts to weight loss. No magic pill or secret formula you can consume will make the fat magically melt off your gut. This is one of those things in life where you need to put the time and the work in. Despite the fact I should have known better, I had to learn it the hard way. And sometimes it needs to be that way, but I’m hoping that my post will help some understand.

Eat well, rest well and exercise well and you can be assured that weight loss will happen in its own time. And remember that every person and every person’s metabolism is different, and what works for one person may not work for you. Hopefully you won’t waste a bunch of money figuring that out. But if you are thinking of trying out a new supplement, be sure to consult your medical practitioner and do your research. ☯

I’m In An Awkward Position

Anyone who reads my posts on the regular knows that I tend to bitch about Diabetes complications a lot. And with good reason; Type-1 Diabetes affects just about every system and every organ in the body, to one extent or another. Sleep is no different, with fluctuating blood sugars causing insomnia, nightmares or restless leg syndrome. There’s plenty that can go wrong during a Diabetic night’s sleep, including being woken from a drop in blood sugar. Believe me when I say that I’m grateful that I DO wake up. But for the most part, I haven’t had a full, uninterrupted eight hours of sleep in a very long time.

The focus of today’s post isn’t exactly a symptom, per se. But rather an unfortunate side effect of the current Diabetes therapy I use. I’m referring to trying to get a full night’s sleep while wearing an insulin pump and/or CGM. It stands to reason that as I sleep, I need to carefully consider how I position myself in order to avoid kinking my cannula (say THAT three times fast) or applying consistent pressure to the CGM sensor, which may cause it to fail.

There are all sorts of websites that provide some interesting (if not altogether accurate) explanations regarding different sleep positions, what they mean and apparently describe your personality. I’m not a big believer of that last one, but to each their own. My point is that for the longest time, I’ve slept on my stomach. I have no other explanation for this other than it’s always felt the most comfortable. But over the past year or so, I’ve slowly adjusted myself to remain on my back while sleeping, due in part to the pump set sitting on my abdomen and the CGM sensor embedded in my tricep.

There have been a number of times where I’ve rolled over during the night, since the average person can’t necessarily control their movements while asleep. This has caused a score of issues including but not limited to, my pump slipping out of my pocket, my infusion set being pulled out and even my pump slipping off the bed and yanking at the injection site. Wanna talk about rude awakening? That’ll do it for ya! I’ve rectified this with a silicone sleeve, which makes the pump less slippery and less prone to slipping out of my pyjama pockets. There are also neoprene belts you can purchase, if you don’t mind paying a fortune.

CGM sensors are a different bastard, since any sustained pressure against their injection site will cause them to fail. This means that if I roll to my side and my tricep is pushed against my mattress, it prevents the sensor from reading the interstitial fluid in a way that’s required for consistent CGM readings. And since the Medtronic 670G absolutely LOVES chirping at me in the middle of the night, it only takes a few minutes before the pump wakes me with an alarm to tell me that something’s wrong. Two times out of three, if I’ve kinked or blocked the sensor in this way, it won’t right itself and I find myself disposing of a sensor long before I was due for a change.

I’m likely making it sound worse than it actually is. In reality, the sensors aren’t AS delicate as the previous paragraph makes them out to be. But it’s a very real concern. The biggest concern, which has happened before, is having the pump’s infusion set pulled out of my injection site. The problem with this one is that it can take a long time before my CGM acknowledges that my blood sugars are starting to rise. And even as they do, the Auto Mode will start pumping out more insulin to compensate, which will do nothing but soak into the bedsheets.

After a long enough period of time, an alarm will start beeping on the pump to warn me that my intervention is required since the insulin isn’t working. But by then, my blood sugar level can have potentially gotten high enough to require multiple boluses, monitoring for hours and plenty of fluid intake. Something everyone LOVES to spend the overnight hours doing. Luckily, this has only happened to me a few times, and the sting from the adhesive being pulled usually wakes me anyway.

When we talk about Diabetes complications, most people associate the term with vision problems, organ failures, amputations or Ketoacidosis. But we often forget that the technology we use, although helpful in many respects, can be a hindrance in others. This is what’s led me to sleep like a poorly posed Egyptian mummy. If you’re on pump therapy, try and train yourself to sleep in a position that will prevent issues with your equipment. Store your pump in a protective silicone sleeve in case it tumbles out of bed or consider using pyjamas that have zippered pockets. It makes the sleep process more complicated, but it’s a small price to pay for decent blood sugar control. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a nap… ☯

Excuse Me, Have You Seen My Dojo?

Most people have been adversely affected by COVID-19 over the past six to eight months. Either their finances or their jobs have been affected, people unable to pay their mortgages or rental fees, not to mention the poor souls who have contracted the virus and those who have unfortunately succumbed to it. Some areas of Canada have been doing fine, with the virus practically non-existent. Other areas haven’t been so lucky (like Ontario and Quebec).

But some of the smaller things can have a big impact on a person’s day-to-day life as well. For myself, one of the biggest losses I’ve suffered throughout the pandemic is the closing of the karate school I frequent. Although fortunate and grateful that my job, finances and home have not been affected and that no one in my family has contracted COVID-19, Tuesdays and Thursdays bring about a reminder that not only do I no longer have a dojo to train in, but the world is a long way from returning to normal.

Riding on the coat tails of yesterday’s post, the colder weather has had a profound effect on my level of motivation. Every joint in my body has started to ache every morning, thanks to 32 years of intensive training that’s caused wear and tear on almost everything. My feet are cold due to lack of circulation, thanks to Type-1 Diabetes. My sleep has always been horrible, but it’s all the worse now, with the fact that the sun doesn’t rise for almost an hour AFTER my alarm goes off.

All in all, the cold weather and pandemic have had a profound effect on my level of fitness and motivation. It’s already starting to be too cold for extended bicycle rides, even if I could sneak in a short one here and there in the afternoons. And with the renovation of our basement starting in a couple of weeks, we’ve started to move most of our belongings from the basement to the garage, thereby taking away my little “at home dojo” that I recently wrote about. I’ve also started to indulge in morning naps when my 1-year old takes his (my 5-year old is gone to school), which is a terrible habit to get into as my body has come to expect it. It’s gonna suck when I go back to regular work!

Can I train at home? Absolutely. DO I train at home? Most certainly. But there’s a lot to be said for training in the dojo environment. Not only to you get to feed off everyone’s else energy and motivation, thereby increasing your own, there’s a camaraderie that one gets to enjoy that can’t be found elsewhere. Unlike working out in a gym or by yourself, social interaction within the dojo is basically a requirement. Although not impossible, it’s quite difficult to train for an entire class without interacting with at least a few of your classmates.

The selfish side of me is disgruntled at the fact my dojo has remained closed throughout all of this. Considering the dojo runs on the school schedule and schools have let in, and the few students we have ensures a better chance at social distancing and lower percentage of contracting the virus than most classroom settings currently have, in some ways it makes little sense. The sensible side of me understands that a karate school is a far cry from being a “necessary service,” and that it would be an unnecessary risk to allow classes to resume.

There are some sources that have expressed that the world may factually never completely return to normal and that social distancing practices will become the new standard. If this is so, perhaps the dojo will never reopen. That would truly be heart-breaking, as it could mean the severe decline of modern martial arts and the possibilities that some arts may be lost. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I need to find my own motivation and continue to forge ahead, feeling that small twinge of loss every week when Tuesdays and Thursdays roll around. ☯

Cold Thoughts

If there’s one thing that’s usually consistent, it’s the changing of the seasons. Maybe not consistent in the fact that it always starts happening on the exact same date every year, but one could bet good money that autumn will follow summer and winter will follow autumn. So on and so forth. Although most people I know aren’t exactly huge fans of the cold, the seasons bring about the same process where most people complain about the heat in the summer and complain about the cold in the winter.

Personally, I’m a fan of autumn. Not only is the weather cooler so that I’m not sweating bullets when I’m outside, I’m not forced to shovel the copious amounts of snow that drift into my vehicle due to Saskatchewan winds. The autumn also brings a lot of beauty with the changing of the leaves and it almost feels like there’s a change in the atmosphere. Because there is. Even though we’re not in the swing of winter yet and there’s no snow on the ground (at least here in Saskatchewan), the weather has already started to drop and this has some measurable effects on the body and one’s mood.

First thing’s first: let’s dispel the old rumour that the cold weather causes a person’s blood to thicken. Not only is that total bullshit, your blood actually has a better chance of thickening in the hot weather, due to the dehydrating of fluids in the blood. But the colder weather does seem to bring a yearning for curling up and binge-watching a show with various pumpkin spice-flavoured snacks, compulsive napping and most importantly, lack of motivation.

That last one is rather important, especially if you have Type-1 Diabetes. Motivation is a key element in maintaining one’s eating habits, sleeping habits and fitness habits; all of which are affected by colder weather. One of the main conditions that help to make things worse is the fact that the days get shorter and darkness hangs around for longer. This causes change in our moods, appetite and sleep cycles, which brings us to the next problem: Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Yes, cold weather can bring on an actual disorder and it can play hell on your system. According to an article posted by the Mayo Clinic, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, can cause lower levels in energy, lack of motivation or mood, difficulties concentrating and loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. There are a lot more symptoms, and I’d invite you to click the Mayo Clinic’s link to see them all.

The problem with SAD, especially during the colder seasons (the article does show that there’s a summer version as well) is that it can lead to nasty things like overeating, weight gain, lack of energy and flat out, good old fashioned laziness. As previously mentioned, all of these things are absolutely horrible for people in general, but even more so if you have Diabetes.

Although most health professionals will tell you that you can eat whatever you want so long as you take the appropriate level of insulin for it, that doesn’t protect you form the weight gain you may experience from doing so. If your sleep is affected, your blood sugar levels will be affected. If you have a lack of energy and motivation, the lack of exercise will also adversely affect your blood sugar levels and your overall health.

It can get tough to focus on routine and the status quo, when cold weather kicks in and all a person wants to do is curl up under a warm blanket and binge-watch Star Trek reruns for hours on end. No? Just me? Alrighty, then… But it’s important to maintain proper diet, sleep and exercise, Diabetic or not, in order to maintain one’s health and well-being. Especially since the winter season has the highest percentage of depression of the rest of the year. With the colder weather approaching, self-care and keeping a routine is most important. ☯

Auto-Mode 2: Electric Boogaloo

Advancing to pump therapy and including Continuous Glucose Monitoring has been something of a rough journey for me over the past five years. All things being equal, the concept of Auto-Mode is a little bit scary. If your blood sugars start to rise, your pump will start trickling some extra insulin into your system. If you begin to drop, it will taper off your basal delivery (or suspend it, depending on how low you’re going). It demands a certain level of trust in an inanimate object that most humans won’t necessarily have. Myself included.

Artificial devices are the new way to go, since transplanting an actual pancreas is more complicated than it sounds, comes with its own batch of complications and has a pretty low success rate. Therefore, finding some other way to replicate or imitate the functions of a pancreas is the next logical step. Something akin to obtaining a prosthetic limb after an amputation. My new Medtronic pump, when including CGM and on Auto-mode, is about as close to what they refer to as a “closed-loop system” as you can get. The hardware and software basically work towards controlling your highs and lows on its own.

Sounds a bit like Skynet is taking over to me, but whatevs. Given my age and the fact I’m not getting any younger or stronger means I need to be open to new therapies and methods of controlling my Diabetes. The decision was ultimately taken away from me around mid-July, when constant issues with Auto-mode and multiple faulty sensor issues caused me to scrap the whole thing and simply use my new pump manually. I got some further coaching and guidance and have now been on CGM for well over two months, with minimal problems and/or difficulties.

That’s why, after being contacted by Medtronic to ask me “how Auto-mode is going,” I thought I should take another crack at it. With a fresh vial of insulin, fresh sensor set and a bit of patience, I activated Auto-mode and have been on it for about the past two weeks. Given that the pump has had two months to accumulate data for the purposes of Auto-Mode, I would have been pretty pissed off if it didn’t take. But I have to say, its been going much smoother and my blood sugar levels have been fantastic.

I’m still a bit leery and I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop because, well… this is me, we’re talking about. But besides my pump clip breaking last week (don’t even get me started on that one), I’ve had no issues except one infusion set failure, which was mostly due to scar tissue. Auto-mode certainly includes more alerts than I’m used to on manual mode, but I’m getting used to them. Skynet seems to be working just fine.

I guess it’s still better than having an internal artificial organ that I can’t see, or have any direct control over. And as long as it continues to do its job, I guess I’ll have one less aspect of Diabetes to bitch about. As with all new technologies, all it takes is a little patience and some getting used to. ☯

Bad Habits Make For Bad Results

As human beings, we’re creatures of habit. And to be honest, most of those habits are terrible for us. Smoking, drinking, gambling, addiction to electronics or social media… It’s all horrible and it all has terrible short and long-term effects on a person’s health. I can promise you without any doubt, that any of the people whose life was brought to a sooner end as a result of any of these bad habits wish they had never gotten into them in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong; in the past twenty years, I’ve effectively indulged in everything I’ve listed above at one time or another. Even now, I admit to being guilty if enjoying the occasional cigar or having a bottle of wine while watching Lord of the Rings and contemplating life. I don’t really do the whole gambling thing, unless you count my weekly lottery ticket (don’t get me started on THAT one). And since I’m currently writing this blog on a laptop, the use of electronics speaks for itself.

My grandfather lived to be 96 years old, after surviving active service in World War II and enjoying his drink just a little bit more than the average person. Actually, if I’d fought on active front lines during World War II, I’d likely enjoy my drink a LOT more than I do. But I digress… My point is, some people have the ability to manage their vices without it being detrimental to their lives. And as I’ve often said, all things in moderation. But here’s the part that sucks: all of it is worse for someone with Type-1 Diabetes.

Although I can totally admit that gambling is more of a detriment on one’s life in general, it’s mostly the consumption of alcohol and smoking that has some measurable effects on the system of anyone living with Diabetes. And yes, this applies to both Type-1 and Type-2, as well as any of the unpleasant in between versions of Diabetes that I’ve written about before.

As far as alcohol is concerned, a Diabetic first needs to be knowledgeable on the amount of carbohydrates contained in their drink of choice. The average can of beer usually contains about 11 grams of carbs. That likely doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you sit to an evening with your pals during your favourite UFC pay-per-view and down a six pack on your own, you’re looking at 66 grams of carbs you need to bolus for! And that’s without taking into consideration the fact that by your sixth beer, you’re likely starting to forget you should bolus.

Wines and spirits are just a little bit better, with wine coming in at about 4 grams of carbs per glass and most pure spirits having no carbohydrates at all. One of the secondary concerns is that we tend to snack on some rather nasty snack foods when we drink, which can also lead to bad blood sugar control. Don’t get me started on the fact that increased alcohol consumption can lead to higher blood pressure, sleep and weight issues, all of which can adversely affect Diabetes.

Next, let’s look at smoking. Because I enjoy bumming everyone out. It’s no secret that smoking will lead to a host of health complications, not least of which includes high blood pressure and cancer. But according to an article posted by the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation, an important study was conducted from 1983 to 1993, which was named the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial. It found that increased levels of smoking led to higher HbA1C results, increased chances of retinopathy and kidney issues. The only good news is that the Diabetes-realted complications disappear almost immediately, if you quit smoking.

The bottom line is that poorly-controlled Diabetes will cause increased blood pressure on its own. Why make it worse by introducing something that will aggravate that condition? This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a beer with your friends. It simply means to consider moderation, monitor your blog glucose levels closely and don’t allow yourself to get into a situation where you start neglecting your insulin and/or blood sugar levels. ☯