Biography Writing Teaching Appearances  

Energy, Community, and Diabetes

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I write for La Bloga every other Sunday.  On September 18, 2011, my piece on ire'ne lara silva will be featured. ire'ne is a Chicana poet who lives in Austin, Texas. ire'ne's most recent publication is her collection of poetry, furia which received an honorable mention at the 2011 International Latino Book Awards in Poetry. Currently, she is writing a novel, Naci, and is also writing another poetry collection she is calling, blood/sugar/canto.  


In La Bloga, I posted a Q&A regarding ire'ne's new poems in blood/sugar/canto which as she says, "look at diabetes from many different angles:" nutritional connections to diabetes, ire'ne's own personal history and experiences with the disease.  She talks about fear, the need for education, and hopes that the newly diagnosed will learn to forgive themselves.  "What's important is to work on your health from this point on."  And I agree.  No need to criticize and blame yourself (although this was indeed my own reaction when first diagnosed).  Shame is another unnecessary impulse.  

How can we avoid feelings of blame and shame when people ask, "How did you get it?  What did you do?"  In my case, they remark that I'm not overweight, I don't smoke, and they've never seen me eat a whole tub of ice cream.  How can I have diabetes?  Such questions do not help. If you are reading this entry, it means that you have some kind of access to computers and computer searching.  I encourage you to read David Mendosa's massive and comprehensive website on Diabetes.  I dare say that if not all-- most questions you have will be answered there!

In my Q&A with ire'ne, I ask how she felt when she was first diagnosed.  She said:  "I was incredibly depressed.  It isn't an exaggeration to say that I wanted to die.  It's not that I thought it was an automatic death sentence--after all, my father was diabetic for 24 years before he passed away in 2010.  I think it was more that I didn't have the capacity at the time to handle the news or process what it meant for me.  When the diagnosis came, I was working two jobs, taking care of my brother who is also dealing with diabetes, and was experiencing a lot of pain on a daily basis--I was overwhelmed.  Since then, I've had time to come to terms with being diabetic--at turns fighting it, denying it, accepting it, working around it . . . now trying to work with it."  

It took me (as it does most people with Diabetes) a long time to accept I had it.  We go through all the stages of grief not just once but over and over again.  We'll be doing well and suddenly we catch a cold, miss just one day of exercise, experience sudden stress, jet lag, have a  sleepless night, or for some reason we miss a meal or eat a little too much, and the glucose numbers either jump or creep up and we have to begin again all the while knowing that uncontrolled numbers are red flags for possible complications down the road.  

It's all a mind game.  Support groups, internet chat groups, blogs really help with maintaining sanity and realizing you are not alone.  Ever since I've "come out" on diabetes on the internet and in the community with my Diabetes Support Book Group, people I've known for years have either quietly and tentatively or very enthusiastically approached me about their chronic disease when all this time I never knew!  People are afraid to talk about their struggle with diabetes for many reasons.  Admitting you have diabetes-- especially if you grew up watching parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, go blind, lose limbs, die early and painful deaths is very difficult. Also, this chronic disease moves differently within each body because our chemical make-up is so very individual and this causes much frustration making people want to just turn off and pretend it doesn't exist.  

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Those of us with Diabetes have a real opportunity to make changes in everyone's diet because even individuals who do not have this chronic disease suffer effects from an overabundance of carbohydrates in the North American diet.  Case in point is a student who walked into my office one day wondering if I could help him improve his concentration skills. He told me he was suffering from headaches, fatigue, even sometimes depression.  As he spoke, I noticed he was carrying a 12 oz. can of Mountain Dew.  I immediately asked him, "Tell me how many carbohydrates are in that can of soda-- look at the "nutritional facts" label and tell me."  He seemed confused at my response to his question, but he dutifully put his backpack down and looked for the information on the can.  "46 carbohydrates," he said.  

46 carbohydrates is a huge dose of sugar in ones' system.  All the physical symptoms he was describing sounded very much like someone with hyperglycemia.  I showed him how to look at a nutritional facts label by ignoring the "sugar" content and instead noticing the "carbohydrate" number.  I said, "I'm not a doctor--but try this:  No sodas for two weeks.  Try some kind of exercise at least four times a week.  Drink a lot of water-- just water.  See what happens and come back and let me know."  

About a month later he didn't just walk into my office, he bounded in all smiley and energetic.  He said he did what I suggested and he was amazed at the difference.  He didn't have any more headaches, he could sleep better, he could concentrate, he was finally getting his work done and had so much energy!  

Mountain Dew is one of countless soda companies who profit from making us sick.  If you take a look at their website, they are marketing to children and young adults-- cool, slick formats (and they have a Facebook page as well) that even include dates for their "Mountain Dew Tour" with flashy pictures of popular singers and athletes. When you walk into any grocery store, don't you feel overwhelmed with food product marketing?  When you look carefully at these products, most contain high amounts of carbohydrates.  

I say let's change and challenge the nutritional status quo of fast food, processed meals, and the idea that "fat" is bad and non-fat eating (meaning high carbs, low fat content) is best.  Energize your life with delicious and amazing recipes!  Here are two:

1. For those of you who love mashed potatoes:  try Mashed Cauliflower!  
a.  cut up raw cauliflower
b. steam until "al dente" (you don't want it soupy)
c. place in food processor and add a pinch of salt or even a TBLSP of cream or soymilk.  

2. Here is a delicious recipe for a cold evening-- "Celeriac Soup"
Celeriac is celery root.  It is not very starchy and therefore is a low carb root vegetable. 
a. peel two heads of celeriac and then chop into squares
b. chop two or three shallots (shallots have much less carbs than an onion)
c. chop two cloves of garlic (or more if you like garlic)
d. heat the shallots and garlic in 2 TBLSP's of olive oil
e. add in 1 TBLSP (or more--depending on your taste) of curry powder
f. add in 1 tsp of cumin
g. a pinch of salt and pepper
h. cook the celeriac in the sauce for a few minutes
i. add 6 cups of either chicken or vegetable stock (try making your own stock without carrots because store-bought veggie stock can have a high carb content due to the carrots)
j. cook for 20 minutes
k. Puree it all in a food processor when the celeriac is soft
l. reheat and add either one cup of cream or unsweetened soymilk
m. add cilantro and/or parsley or basil

Enjoy and share!  Have a great week everyone!  I also want to thank ire'ne lara silva for her words and her courage.  Check out La Bloga and also check out ire'ne's website:
ire'ne's information:

1 Comment

Oye, Mujer!

I thought about you today when I heard an interview with the wonderful Jane McGonigal on NPR. Do you know her? She's a gamer and someone I would call a "new thinker," someone thinking of new ways, new approaches to solving the world's problems. Her book, 'Reality is Broken...' talks about how gamers and the gaming world may be best prepared to take on and actually solve problems. Take, for instance, the recent news that gamers discovered how to dismantle the AIDS virus getting medical scientists closer to a CURE!

Well, the interview I heard this morning was McGonigal talking about her new game, "Super Better." It's a game where participants can deal with an illness or injury, get through it, heal, and understand their new bodies. I was intrigued because of my knee surgery. She mentioned that Zappos (the online shoe store) was going to use the game for employees to deal with overeating and obesity, smoking...things we all know are bad but are hard as hell to kick. So, besides turning you on to McGonigal (if you don't know her work already) I'm curious if you would be willing to check out 'Super Better' and see if it would work for you. I realize that Diabetes is a chronic, progressive illness, but something in her words made me believe that this might be something to investigate. McGonigal is filled with hope and light. I've read and heard so much from you and Ire'ne Lara Silva about how fear and self-loathing are not only detrimental to diabetes patients' emotional and physical health but sadly, is often fueled by physicians!

Anyway, I'm very curious to hear your response to 'Super Better.' Let me know.


Belinda en Austin, Tejas

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