Waiting Period

The struggle to treat a low blood sugar without going overboard.

Scott K. JohnsonBy Scott Johnson

February 2008 — I would like to know how they do it. The waiting I mean. How do they keep themselves from over-treating?

Restraining myself from eating too much when I'm low is something I have a really hard time with. I just can't stop myself. I keep going and going until I've gone much farther than I need to go. Then, I end up feeling miserable afterwards, both physically and psychologically. I feel that I'm failing to do the right thing, or that I'm not strong enough to stop myself from going overboard.

What really bothers me is when I go berserk treating a low and I'm thinking as clear as a bell. I know that I'm eating ten times more than I need to, but I use the low to justify my overindulgence. I use my low blood sugar to make it alright for me to eat so much. I eat so much that I need to take insulin.

Does it seem weird to take a bolus when treating a low blood sugar?

Logically, I know better. I know in my head that I only need to eat a little something to treat the low, then patiently WAIT. I know that after my blood sugar comes up a bit, I won't feel so ravenously hungry. But the waiting seems like pure and simple torture. And it feels so very good to just keep eating until I feel better. It's hard to stop myself.

I think that it takes real discipline to wait after treating the low. You are mentally overriding every signal that your body is sending you. We're not talking about signals that are coming from our higher "evolved" mind. We're talking about primitive, survival driven, brain stem signals. These signals are not easy to ignore.

There are the extreme situations when I'm low where I'm clearly not thinking straight. My head is foggy and I can't seem to make sense out of my thoughts. It's like a thick mud is stuck all over everything. But one thing is coming through loud and clear: I need food.

In those cases it seems that the primitive survival instinct takes over. Even though I'm not thinking clearly, or struggling to make sense of crazy nonsensical things floating through my head. It knows I need to eat and is operating my body. I'm on autopilot. A little while later, and after destroying (ahem) some food, I come to my senses and survey the damage. Then do my best to bolus accordingly for what I've eaten. It's almost like surveying a battle ground or an area that some wild storm went through.

I don't beat myself up too badly in those situations where I'm not thinking clearly. For one, they are few and far between for me, and for two, I wasn't really in control. I did what I had to do in order to survive the low. I can take steps to try and figure out why I went low, and if possible, try my best to avoid another one like it.

I do feel bad when I overindulge and am thinking clearly. Although it's almost heavenly during the few minutes when I'm eating like there's no tomorrow. It's as if I can feel the glucose screaming into my blood, and it feels so good. Afterwards, I think about how much extra stuff I ate, and just let my head hang in defeat. I know the "rule of 15", but just can't seem to stick to it all the time (or even most of the time).

But that is what we are supposed to do, stick to the rules. Maybe if I look at it as a skill to be polished and practiced, rather than some hard and fast rule, I will be able to work towards that goal instead of beating myself up for failing.

Visit Scott's blog.


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.


Last Modified Date: June 17, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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