If you’re looking for a model diabetes patient, look no further than Adam Brown. Adam, a senior editor at the online diabetes publication diaTribe, has helped hundreds of thousands of people with diabetes become their best selves. Readers flock to his popular column, Adam’s Corner, where he shares his discoveries and advice for living well with diabetes.
But Adam is the first to admit that this hasn’t always been the case. As a teenager, Adam did extremely poorly with his diabetes. It wasn’t until he began taking nutrition classes in college and met his bodybuilder roommate that he was inspired to do better. One summer, he attended a panel on a newfangled technology called Continuous Glucose Monitoring. Once he discovered CGMs as a learning tool, he never looked back.
Now Adam has gathered his hard-earned knowledge and written a handy guidebook for people with diabetes. Bright Spots & Landmines: The Diabetes Guide I Wish Someone Had Handed Me is scheduled for release this spring! Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients will find practical tips and tricks. Sounds interesting? You’re in luck. At this year’s Bay Area Diabetes Summit, Adam hosted a session where he gave us a sneak peek into his new book. Keep reading to find out more about Bright Spots & Landmines:
WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?
Bright Spots & Landmines is a practical guidebook for living well with diabetes. In his book, Adam shares what he has identified as the Bright Spots (things to do) and the Landmines (things to avoid). In all, he shares 42 Bright Spots and 17 Landmines, spread out among 4 basic categories: Food, Mindset, Exercise, and Sleep.
WHAT ARE BRIGHT SPOTS AND LANDMINES?
- What’s going well in my diabetes that I should keep doing?
- What happens on my best days and how can I have more days like them?
- What foods and decisions keep my blood glucose in a tight range?
- What puts me in a positive frame of mind?
- How can I do more of these things each day?
Bright spots are interesting because they are uplifting. So much of diabetes is focused on the negative and on what went wrong. It’s a whole new way of viewing diabetes!
- What decisions do I make repeatedly that explode into out-of-range BGs?
- What happens on my most challenging/ hardest days?
- What choices do I always regret?
- What repeatedly brings on negative feelings?
- How can I do fewer of these things each day?
It’s important to talk about Landmines, because if you can figure them out up front, you can plan how to address them. In fact, most people tend to manage their diabetes by focusing on their Landmines: what went wrong and what isn’t working. The premise of Adam’s book is that it’s more important to focus on Bright Spots than Landmines. Instead of focusing on your weaknesses, build on your strengths.
WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF BRIGHT SPOTS AND LANDMINES?
Here are some examples of Bright Spots and Landmines that Adam shared with the standing-room-only audience:
Bright Spot: Eat less than 30 grams of carbs at one time
Conventional diabetes advice is to eat whatever you want and take insulin for it. This only works as long as you are an expert at doing and counting carbs, and if you are willing to spend every minute of every day on diabetes. Adam is a big proponent of low carb diets for managing his diabetes. He likens it to putting his diabetes on cruise control. Here are some reasons why:
- It takes less diabetes work. When you eat low carb, there is no need to count carbs or calculate insulin doses
- He doses just 1 insulin unit instead of 10, so errors are reduced
- No longer chasing lows or chasing highs.
If the thought of eating low carb is daunting, or if you simply can’t eat low carb the entire day, Adam recommends that people start with a low carb breakfast. Try having eggs and veggies for breakfast, or try Adam’s Chia Pudding recipe.
Yes, eating low carb can be difficult. But instead of focusing on what you lose, focus on what you gain: you spend less time on diabetes.
Landmine: Go on a hypoglycemia binge
Overeating to correct a low or using a low as an excuse to “treat yourself” is counterproductive. Here are some tips for setting safeguards to avoid this situation:
- Have a go-to automatic correction for hypoglycemia that is quantity limited and unappealing to overeat. For example, to correct lows, Adam only eats glucose tabs and Smarties. He knows they will work, he knows exactly how many to have to correct his low, and he knows that he will not overeat them.
- Figure out exactly how many carbs you have to eat to get back on target. Fill in the blanks: Eating — amout of —- food raises my blood sugar by — mg/dl (ex: Eating one glucose tab raises my blood sugar by 20 mg/dl). This may take some trial and error, so give it a couple of tries and record your results.
- trial and error
- Do not use hypoglycemia as a justification to eat junk. Period.
Bright Spot: Think of the positive benefits of taking care of your diabetes
Teens are always warned about the bad things that can happen to them in the long term if they don’t take care of their diabetes. This doesn’t work because it’s such a negative message. Also, for a teen, the consequences seem too far in the future to matter.
Instead of focusing on the negative things that will happen when your blood sugar is out of range, focus on the positive things that happen when you blood sugar is in range. When your blood sugar is in range, you are a better athlete and a better student, You smile more. Your mood is better. You are far less stressed, kinder and more patient, You sleep better and think more clearly, You are at your best self when your blood sugar is in range
Having blood sugar in range matters today, not just in the future!
Landmine: Unproductive questions
Listen to the sound of your diabetes questions. There is no value in negative questions like these:
- Why did this happen to me?
- Why is this not working?
- Why did i eat that?
- Why can’t I control this?
- Why is diabetes so unfair?
Instead, turn negative questions into positive ones:
- What can i learn from this?
- What is can I still do even with diabetes?
- What am i grateful for?
- Is there anything i can do differently tomorrow to keep my BG in range?
- What is one thing going well in my diabetes, eve if it’s small?
It takes relentless policing of yourself but it can really make a big difference
Bright Spot: Walk
Walking is one of the most underrated strategies for diabetes. Adam recommends walking, especially after meals, to help correct a high BG. After meals, when he is high, his first response is to go for a walk for 20 minutes. Walking is so predictable; it almost always lowers blood sugar. Adam has figured that it almost always his blood sugar by 1 mg/dL per minute, and if he is walking uphill, it might even be more.
Bright Spot: Get at least 7 hours of sleep
Sleep can have a huge impact on blood sugars. Adam found that when he gets 7 hours of sleep, When you get enough sleep, you have more energy and your mood improves. When you are sleep deprived, you have less willpower and less energy. You tend to make worse decisions. There is also research that suggests people crave more carbs when they lack sleep. Here are some tips to help yourself get more sleep:
- Figure out how much sleep you are getting (track with a journal, apps, devices, fitbits, etc…)
- Have a firm get-ready-for-bed time, and set a phone alarm that goes off at that time, every night. You can even have 2 alarms, the first acting as a “yellow light” warning and the second being your “red light” bedtime deadline.
- Pair up with someone. Ask a loved one to join me in a quest to sleep more.
“Bright Spots & Landmines: The Diabetes Guide I Wish Someone Had Handed Me” by Adam Brown will be published in the Spring of 2017. Go to diaTribe to get a free digital copy of Adam’s book when it comes out, and enter to win a print copy!