Dieting with my dog--and my type 2 diabetes
By Ilene Raymond Rush
April 2010 — With a January A1C reading of 6.2, and my type 2 diabetes appearing to stabilize over these past two wintry months, I planned to pen a column about my dog Noodle and her on again, off again diet plan. Not because Noodle (yes, I named her after my favorite carbohydrate) has diabetes, but because having control over a fellow creature's food intake is a thankless and surprisingly difficult task. Monitoring Noodle's diet reminds me of my mother, who worked unsuccessfully to monitor my late father's type 2 diabetes food plans. It's frustrating enough to have to constantly think about balancing your own portions with your energy expenditures, without taking on the responsibility of another's.
But before wrote that column, diabetes beat me to the punch. My yearly visit to my retina specialist revealed that while my eyes showed no signs of diabetic retinopathy, my diabetes-influenced cataracts -- spoke-like cataracts that indicate fluctuating sugar levels -- had worsened. Without an operation, the cataracts can't get better, but my doctor – a fellow type 2 – once again recommended that I call a sharp halt to carbohydrates in general and white flour in specific to keep any further progression at bay.
Readers of this column will know that thanks to hard work and Byetta, I've lost about 18 pounds in the past year. Eating a diet of no carbs stripped off five more pounds in the past few weeks. But the super low carbohydrate diet popped me straight back into the same conundrum I encountered the last time I considered my eye-doctor's Spartan recommendations: how not to become insanely bored by the choices of meat, eggs, fish, chicken – rinse and repeat.
All of which leads me back to Noodle. A miniature schnauzer who has never lived up to the "mini" in her name, Noodle has always been rather large for her breed. We like to say she's ‘big-boned' but chances are it's one or three too many Milk Bones a day. Like many of us, it's not that Noodle eats unhealthily, but that she likes to eat a lot of whatever is put before her. And she's not adverse to human food as well.
The frustration of a dieting Noodle is seen in the constant wet path on the side of my thigh as she salivates over whatever I'm eating at breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention eyes that challenge the pathos of Oliver Twist begging for beautiful gruel.
Our problems collide in a basic decision – do we choose good health and long life? Or go for the cannolis and pork rinds?
As Noodle's owner, I know the answer: an overweight dog is an unhealthy dog. It's my duty to cut down on her treats and to refuse to mainline her table scraps. The tough truth is that while I can rationalize slipping Noodle a bit of chicken as easily as I can justify sliding half of a Rocky Road brownie into my mouth – it isn't a whole brownie after all – Noodle and my metabolisms remain blind to such delicate rationalizations. Noodle tends towards the dumpling side of dog, while I have cataracts to prove that while I am managing my type 2 diabetes, I could be doing it a bit better.
This is what makes type 2 diabetes so frustrating. My doctor has recommended that I test my blood sugar an hour after each meal to see if my medications – Byetta and Glucophage and Amryl – are doing their job. Noodle's vet has advised breaking up her meals into two smaller servings and doling out her kibble with a measuring cup.
Let's be honest: Neither Noodle or I are thrilled with the new plans, but with luck and math, we'll emerge healthier. And, we'll have more control over how many years we have to frolic at the dog park and snuffle into the bed pillows at night.
Woman's best friend, indeed.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...