My Wires Are Crossed
Recognizing and dealing with confusing feelings.
By Scott Johnson
November 2007 — I think that we are all supposed to have some sort of natural "check and balance" system built into our bodies. Something that tells us we are hungry. Something that tells us we are full. Our cravings that tell us we are lacking a certain nutrient. Thirst to tell us we need water.
Normally, this is a well-oiled machine working in harmony with what our bodies need to survive. I believe I'm broken in this regard.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1980. NPH and Regular insulin is what I used growing up. Peaks and valleys in the insulin activity that mirrored those of a major mountain range. The only thing that kept those peaks and valleys from causing trouble was food.
I would have to eat at certain times to match the peaks of my insulin. I had to eat whether I was hungry or not. I had to eat when I was already full. I remember it being a real mess. This went on for many years - enough years to really confuse my internal wiring.
I can't remember not eating when I was hungry. But I think that there were many rebellious periods where I just didn't care what that extra food would do to my blood sugar. I know that I wouldn't take an extra shot to cover extra food until shortly before I started using an insulin pump. That was only a little over ten years ago.
Now that I am trying to pay attention to weight loss and listening more to what my body is telling me, I realize that I am very confused about what I think I'm feeling. As a person with diabetes, I have that other layer to consider – my blood sugar.
Does my blood sugar influence what I'm feeling in regards to alleged hunger and cravings? Based on nothing more than my personal experiences, I believe there is a very strong connection.
There have been times when my food seems to take longer than usual to start digesting. I'm physically very full, but my blood sugar is going low. My insulin is lowering my blood sugar faster than the food is being digested to raise it. These moments scare the heck out of me.
I have to eat to treat the low, but the thought of putting another thing in my mouth makes me want to puke. What do I do? Often it has a lot to do with what is available. If there is juice or regular pop (sorry – there's my Minnesota showing again. I mean "soda" or "Coke") around I will drink some of that. Glucose tabs? Maybe, but they are not my first choice. I'm uncomfortably full but am forced by my low blood sugar to stuff more food into my mouth.
I also notice that when my blood sugar is high (especially at or crossing through the 200 mg/dl point) I have terrible munchies and carb cravings. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment! The last thing I need to do is eat more! There is some physiological signal there that I don't completely understand yet. Maybe my body feels crummy and is looking for those "feel good" endorphins.
Join all of that stuff with the very common emotional eating or eating because I'm tired or bored, and you can see that it is not quite as easy as "eat when you're hungry" for me.
There are also some people with diabetes now using Symlin (an injected synthetic form of the hormone amylin that is released alongside insulin in non-diabetic people, which is also missing in people with diabetes) who say that they feel full and satisfied for the first time since diagnosis. Maybe those other hormones that were too quickly dismissed as "useless" deserve more investigation?
If you ask me, it's a complicated equation. I simplify my struggles with it by saying "my wires are all crossed up." Even though it is much easier said than done, I try to recognize that and do the best I can.
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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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