Gestational Diabetes: How I Stay Within Healthy Levels

I think that staying within your range is not a cookie cutter solution for all moms to be with high blood sugar.  Our bodies all handle and process carbs differently, and your level of physical activity plays into your results as well.  However, here are some things that are working for me.  Posting this to help other moms with gestational diabetes who may be searching for ideas.

DISCLAIMER: I am no doctor, so vet whatever I say with your own health care provider.  These are examples of what is and is not working for me, I am not saying you should do things exactly like me, so don’t unless your doctor says its ok. 

From what I have read on the Baby Center and What to Expect message boards, it seems that depending on what part of the country you live in, the advice and guidelines tend to vary. I have no idea why that is, but for the record, I am in Northern Virginia, so what I am being taught by my health care providers may look different than what you are being taught. In any event, I think that no matter where you live, we can all agree that if you are going to keep your blood sugar at healthy levels, you can’t cheat on the diet. This is step one. I say this because IT IS SO EASY TO FUDGE (no pun intended) on diets. A little taste of a cookie someone brought into work or half of your husband’s donut could spike your blood sugar in ways that you wouldn’t believe. So no cheating!!

At the same time, be sure you are eating some carbs.  I learned that if we don’t eat our recommended daily carb allotment, our livers will naturally produce more glucose and that is why sometime we see high morning (fasting) numbers.  For example, the nights I don’t eat my 1 carb “snack” after dinner, my waking/fasting numbers are ALWAYS higher. Luckily for me, they are never over 95 (the limit) but I am talking a 10-15 point difference when I do/don’t eat that one last carb serving of the day.  This is completely counter-intuitive to me, but I am learning to rethink these things now that I am equipped with more info from my dietician.

When I was first diagnosed, I stuck religiously to my eating plan. After two weeks of excellent numbers — well below the required limits — I began to “try out” some carbs I would have otherwise avoided, but still staying within my recommended daily allotment of carb choices. I found that the white flour/refined sugar carbs KILL ME. One Panera Bagel spiked my blood sugar to 148! That was my highest reading ever. I also found out that lemonade is bad for me, luckily I only had a 2 point overage after 2 glasses of lemonade with dinner, but now I know I just cant do fruit juices of any kind or white flour foods.

I was pleased to discover that my blood sugar doesn’t mind frozen yogurt, and I don’t mean TCBY (is that even still around?) but REAL frozen yogurt like Pinkberry and Red Mango. Both are all natural and I found that I could enjoy a small size serving with limited fresh fruit toppings and still remain below my blood sugar limits. This discovery has been so wonderful for me to have a healthy way to satisfy my sweet tooth. And I mean, the whole Pinkberry brand is so fun, visit their website and make sure your sound is on, their little song is the bomb! http://www.pinkberry.com/

The bottom line is, after you stick to plan for a while and if your numbers are staying low, its ok to try other things and see how they work for you as long as you are staying within your daily carb limits.  You may find frozen yogurt to be your blood’s worst nightmare, but bagels don’t bother you at all.  You may also find that eating the “white” carbs at certain times of day react differently with your blood sugar. Every body is different, so get to know yours.  This is one of the small benefits of taking your blood all day, you really do get a sense for what your body will accept and reject.  I told my husband I wish they had a similar personal blood test device for him to check his cholesterol!

Another big tip I got from my dietician was to exercise after eating a big meal.  For example, if I were to eat some pasta or chicken pot pie for dinner, that I should walk right after dinner and before testing my blood sugar, the numbers will go down because you will burn up some of the glucose through the exercise.  I have been doing this and seen good results from it.  I used to be a morning exerciser, but now I am an after dinner exerciser because I need more help with the sugar after dinner.  This was a huge discovery I made about how my body works, and I will likely continue this practice beyond pregnancy.

I have also found that eating protein with my carb choices helps level things out.  One of the biggest things I am learning through all of this is BALANCE.  I used to make dinner for us and skip the salad.  Now I strive to never skip the salad because the balance of nutrients in my body impacts how my body processes the carbs/sugars.  As I plan out my daily meals and snacks my priority is balance between carbs/protein/greens rather than focusing only on calories.

This is the first time in my life I have been on a “diet” for a reason other than to lose weight.  My new approach to eating has nothing to do with weight loss or how I look.  It has to do strictly with health benefits, first to my child and second to me. This change of mindset has been revolutionary for me.

I am a classic yo-yo dieter and I have always had a love/hate; up/down relationship with my scale.  The clothes in my closet range from size 6 to 16! In the past I have tried everything from the fad “grapefruit diets” and the more established Weight Watchers and South Beach diets. Even though the WW and SB diets do encourage you to eat a balanced meal, I always ignored all that. I focused on points only or limiting carbs only, I didn’t try to eat balanced meals at all. But now, I am starting to see proof of how important balance in my food choices can be to how my body processes the foods I consume.  Maybe because now I can actually test and see my blood sugar real time and have a better understanding of how out of balance my eating had become.

“Calories in Calories out” was a motto of mine, so I foolishly went about my days thinking “Well, I burned 600 calories on the elliptical today at the gym, so that should cancel out the 600 calories I will eat in pizza.” My body just doesn’t operate on that math.  To maintain healthy weight and blood sugar I need balance between all of these things: nutrients, physical activity, rest… all of it.

So when I talk about Gestational Diabetes, I strive to think and talk holistically and long-term, continuing to choose to look at this as a blessing in disguise, and taking advantage of these new resources I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to, and learn more about how my body works and reacts to the types and amounts of food I eat.

Even though it sucks to have to go through this, I am glad I am learning these new things now (before life gets really crazy) so that I can teach my daughter healthy habits and hopefully she wont have to re-learn how to eat later in life because she watched me follow unhealthy patterns.  I am doing this for both of us, for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy life.

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2 thoughts on “Gestational Diabetes: How I Stay Within Healthy Levels

  1. SueEllen says:

    This is the best read AnnieLaurie!!
    Your thoughts are very inspiring and right on target for all who have issues with their diet.

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