Diabetes Basics

Easy Summer Living with Diabetes

Ah, summertime when the living is easy! Sometimes it can be too easy for those of us who have diabetes.

Rest and relaxation is much of the reason why we love summer so much. We need relief from the stress of work, relationships, and city living. Stress produces cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone, and it increases the amount of blood sugar that we have.

But, like anything else, the rest and relaxation can go too far for our own good. When we rest so much that we are lying down or sitting most of the time, our bodies don’t get the activity they need by standing or walking. When we relax so much that we relax our standards of diabetes management, our blood sugar levels can go through the roof.

Summer vacations don’t have to mean eating so much food that we gain weight or eating those foods that we know from our experience will do a number on our levels. Wise eating for those of us who have diabetes is all about delayed gratification.

This means resisting the temptation for an immediate reward and waiting for a later reward. Delayed gratification is connected with resisting a smaller but more immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later in life.

The immediate reward from eating a bagel, a peanut butter cookie, or apple pie a la mode is tasting something yummy and perhaps just doing what your non-diabetic friends are doing. Resisting that temptation means that we can better manage our blood sugar levels so that we will have either a longer life or, even more likely, a better quality of life. None of us consciously want to live with any of the complications that high blood sugars bring in their wake.

At the same time, this doesn’t mean that we have to avoid all the food that will spike our blood sugar levels. When we manage our diabetes, we aren’t dieting in the traditional sense, because that’s a short-term activity. We are following a lifelong eating plan.

When we make exceptions to our plan, we aren’t cheating. We are simply making exceptions, as I wrote at “Low Carb Diets: What Constitutes Cheating.”

While I follow a very low-carb diet, I still do make exceptions from time to time. Particularly when I am on vacation. And I am on vacation in Alaska at the moment. A few days ago when I took the shuttle bus 92 miles into a lodge at the end of the Denali National Park road, they offered us peanut butter cookies that smelled so good that I couldn’t resist eating most of one. I knew that it would raise my blood sugar level. It was the biggest exception I have made on this trip. And I resisted the offer of more peanut butter cookies on the trip out of the park yesterday.

The ability to delay gratification comes with maturity, and that’s good. Children generally find it almost impossible to wait for rewards later.

But growing up for most of us means losing the sense of wonder and excitement that children have. Too many adults lose this as we mature. We have to retain that childlike quality. Living is all about balance.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • sean at

    I decided to start the low carb life style, some two to three months ago and anyone who is in process of doing this will know how difficult it is to change.
    what I have observed is that my blood sugar was very respectable before I started the low carb diet, with HbA1c of about 5.5%. I measure my blood glucose every morning and the days when I have had more than normal carbs, my blood glucose is quite acceptable, whereas the days when I have been strict with myself and consumed less than 60 grams of carb then the next morning my blood glucose will be HIGHER by at least few points. I can’t understand this.

    I have fallen off the wagon on more than few occasion and I have noticed this observation on almost every time. If you have an explanation, I’d be most grateful.

    • David Mendosa at

      Dear Sean,

      I suggest that you switch from measuring your fasting blood sugar levels to post-prandial levels. What you have been measuring is essentially the dawn phenomenon. Studies (that I wrote about years ago) show that they contribution more to higher A1C levels than fasting levels do. Measure 1.5 to 2 hours after the first bite of the meal; whether 1.5 or 2 isn’t terribly important, but it is important to be consistent.