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Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in April of 1980. I recognize the incredible mental struggle of living with diabetes. I hope to share my struggles, my successes, and everything in between.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Liberation in a Meal Plan

What are the first few things you think of when you hear the words "meal plan"?

Me? I think of very strict, hard and fast rules about what I can eat. I think of very "old school" words like "2 starches, 2 proteins, 1 dairy, 1 fruit, and 1 fat". I think of nothing other than foods I DON'T like to eat, and am forced to anyway.

I remember back to days at "Camp Needlepoint", long ago when "exchanges" were the way things were done. Not eating meat, I was instructed to replace my "protein exchanges" with something else. You know what it usually was? A whole freaking cup of creamy peanut butter. Literally -- a CUP of creamy peanut butter, with a spoon.

And they wondered why I got sick each and every year I went.

All of this ran through my head when I started to talk with my dietitian about a meal plan.

Was I really uttering those words - the words that meant nothing but guilt and anxiety to me? Words that made me feel "weird" for not liking "normal" foods?

Yes I was.

Because I recognized that lack of a plan got me into trouble every night, I was ready to make some changes.

I get home from work later than the rest of the family. They are well done with dinner by the time I get there. Not being sure of what I wanted to eat, I would just fly by the seat of my pants. I would make something that I thought I wanted, eat it, not feel satisfied, and start making something else! By the time it was all said and done, I would have eaten three or four dinners by the time I felt satisfied or just too damn full to eat anymore (even though I was STILL not satisfied!).

With the sheer quantity of food I was eating, my carb counting got real sloppy. I would over-estimate and run low in the middle of the night - causing a kitchen raid (again), or I would under-estimate and run high all night. Neither one is good for weight management or A1C tests.

So I faced the dreaded "Meal Plan".

I have nothing but great things to say about my dietitian - I've raved about her before. She helped me put together a meal plan that I would actually follow. Eating foods I like, just watching the balance and the quantities.

But I was still scared.

Rules and regulations? Measured quantities? Eating what is planned rather than what I feel like? Can I do it?

What about my Cool Ranch Doritos, or handfuls of M&M's from the work candy jar? What about my ...? What? What about all that crap? Well, it's still there, every once in a while.

I was very worried about feeling confined and trapped by having a meal plan. I was worried about losing the very flexibility that has graced my life with worrisome A1C results. I needed a change, and this was the place to start.

For the first three or four weeks, at least during the weekdays, I was eating the same things every day at about the same times. And I was seeing fantastic results. Mind blowing results. Results that were evidence enough of the power that food choices had in regards to diabetes management.

But I knew I was setting myself up for failure.

The first taste of which happened when I ran out of the dried blueberries I tried (and liked!). I went back to the store to buy more, and was devastated when they didn't have them anymore.

What was I going to do?!

Please remember, I am not the normal eater, and losing this critical item from my limited food menu horizon was a show-stopper. Luckily enough I was able to find them at a different store in the area, but the scare was enough to convince me. I needed to make another appointment (with my dietitian) and come up with options, which I did.

A couple years ago I lost a bunch of weight. I did it by carefully counting calories, and burning more than I consumed (it's simple math folks, it's just that the truth hurts most of the time). I tried going the same route again recently, and found that it was just way too much to keep track of. One would think that if you are already counting carbohydrates, that adding calories to the mix should not be that hard! Try it. I burned out real quick.

One of the surprising things that I have found as a result of following my meal plan - freedom. I plan my meals, and know ahead of time what they contain for calories and carbs. It is surprisingly liberating to not have to count all that stuff! I mean, sure - I still count it, but just not in the heat of the moment. It's all planned.

I know that the menu I put together is good for me, and provides what I need, and usually satisfies me. It is really liberating. Exactly opposite of what I thought it would be.

Sticking with the meal plan is a challenge, but I know that I get immediate and positive feedback when I do. Awesome BG days where the "line" doesn't leave the target zone, great energy and stamina on the basketball court, and just general "feel good" periods!

Now if I could figure out how to resist those cheesy tots at Burger King...

10 Comments:

Blogger Johnboy said...

Scott, good for you, man! Sounds like being very intentional has its benefits for sure.

BTW, the first thing that popped into my head called a "meal plan" was the cafeteria at college.

Oh, and I love dried blueberries, too!

3:54 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Sounds great, man.

I think you're dead on in terms of reducing the mental stress of counting carbs, if you can plan a meal, count it once (or twice or three times, or whatever) and then KNOW: "This Lunch has 68CHO" and bolus appropriately.

While it's restrictive in one sense, it's also liberating in another: one less calculation/thing to worry about.

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Jayne said...

Thank you so much~! After years maxing out the flexibility the pump affords....my A1C is way up...I'm ready for this. Thanks for the inspiration!

7:50 AM  
Blogger Molly said...

Scott-
Hey, I remember those days at Camp Needlepoint! Only I would have been thrilled to eat that much peanut butter, but I always got stuck with some gross, brown meat sandwich. Ugh! I remember what a treat "smunchies" were! (remember the graham cracker with frozen pudding and peanut butter sandwich?!) We used to run around like crazy to make sure our glucose (urine testing) was negative so that we would be able to eat a bunch of those.

I eat the same breakfast and lunch every day, and find comfort in knowing the carbs and not having to calculate on the spot. I'm trying to be more exact at dinner. I got a Salter scale for Xmas, and have been using that with success.

I ended up buying a dehydrater to do my own fruits, as it's so much cheaper! I love dried apples, and dry chicken for Dixie.

I bet we met at Camp sometime in our past--I was there '77-'94.

Keep up the great work!

10:02 AM  
Blogger Carey said...

Man, gotta be so hard. Good luck with this.

10:20 AM  
Blogger Kendra said...

Best wishes, Scott! I'd love to do something as dedicated as this but I tend to eat out a LOT when traveling...which I do a lot of, unfortunately...I still haven't found a mealplan that will make that foolproof ;)

You're dead on though - when you eat similar meals day after day the blood sugars definitely show it. I've got Subway with a bag of baked Lays down to a SCIENCE! Too bad it's deathly boring.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Minnesota Nice said...

What a wise and insightful post, Scott. I was reading it this morning at work, with a bowl of boring oatmeal in front of me, knowing it was a co-workers birthday and soon there would be treats in the lunch room. I was ready to throw a pity party with only one participant.
For those of us with db (and maybe other too), there is indeed freedom in having a plan. Eating the oatmeal allowed me to think clearly the entire morning, and not have the brain fog from my bg jumping all over the place and having to stop and correct and then waiting for the drop. It allowed me the freedom that comes with feeling well.
Having a plan allows me the freedom to know that I am truly doing the best I can to care for a complex condition.
Do I have a plan for most of my days? - Yes. Do I follow it every day? - Of course not.
I guess I haven't been to Burger King in quite some time, as I have no idea what cheesy tots are - but man, do they sound good!
Build on this victory, Scott.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Zazzy said...

Good for you! This is still something I'm struggling with and I'm in the process of revising The Plan™. You sound like you have a great attitude - and success feels good.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

Hey Scott,

I've been lurking on your site for a little under a year, and I finally got around to making a blog, so I thought I'd finally take the leap and comment you as well!

Like johnboy said, the first thing that I thought of when I read the words "meal plan" was the food I'm eating at college these days and how my meal plan is set up here. :-p

It's good that you're taking control and restrictively liberating yourself. As long as you are eating things that satisfy you, you're gonna be going in the right direction. Good luck with this, man. I wish I had the self-control these days necessary to stick to a meal plan.

But hey, dried blueberries... yum!

11:22 AM  
Blogger Scott K. Johnson said...

Thanks everyone!

Tom - glad you "took the plunge"! You'll have to share your blog address when you're ready so I can stop by!

12:13 PM  

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