Cauliflower is the new steak

Because steak will never be the new cauliflower, I’ve been making this recipe for cauliflower steaks out of Bon Appetit magazine, as often as possible lately.

Often I tell people that, while I can eat anything with diabetes that I want as long as I cover it with insulin and exercise, etc., I generally avoid white foods, as these tend to be laden with quick-burning, simple carbs.

Of course the cauliflower stands in stark defiance of this rule. For example, if you eat a whole head of cauliflower* you have consumed only 146 calories. That is crazy. Also only 29 grams of carbs and a whopping 12 grams of fiber. For reference, one Clif bar has roughly 250 calories, 42 grams of carbs, and 5 grams of fiber.* As you can see, raw cauliflower is clearly the better cross-country road trip snack.

That’s a joke, but the cauli steak recipe really has changed the way I think about this Brassica. It’s buttery, rich, and delicious, and goes great underneath sauteed ground pork with sage, and I imagine underneath many other meat and vegetarian-based proteins. Plus, diabetically* speaking, the steaks and the accompanying puree both have an almost potato-like heartiness that I often miss, without delivering a big punch of carbs. And also it’s totally beautiful to look at before you eat it or serve it to your loved ones. Let me know your thoughts and variations if you try it out!

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*https://www.nutritionix.com/i/clif-bar/cool-mint-chocolate/5b4f8589a9db904b1fcf24f1

*USDA, google sidebar

*As always, this is a made up word (but aren’t they all?) that you shouldn’t use in scientific papers or elsewhere.

Just don’t touch me, part 1

This is the first in a series (2 part, more?) called, “Just don’t touch me.”

A couple of weeks ago I was walking home from work in the afternoon. I was wearing one of my favorite dresses, black and sleeveless with multi-colored print around the hem. Is this relevant? One never knows.

I was deep in thought; lost in the twists and turns of my mind, but beginning to unravel and straighten things out. I came to an intersection where the fast road meets the city roads and things slow; sort of the awkward convergence of residential and business, sidewalks in pieces and people sparse.

Up ahead, a man approaches. He’s wearing a hat, sunglasses, somewhat clean clothes sans much style. He looks younger than me by a bit. We’re heading towards each other. Typically, you might imagine the scene unfolding in the following way:

  • Our paths meet
  • We look at each
  • One or the other says hello, or nods, or doesn’t
  • We both continue on our path
  • The end.

But it didn’t go down quite like that. As I approach the man, who I would characterize all around as blasé and non-descript, I can tell he’s staring at me hard, despite the sunglasses. We’re even with each other now and instead of walking by parallel to me, he seems to block my path. An altercation is imminent; I can feel it.

Then, with a gross mixture of authority and insecurity [bravado], he says, “You’re coming with me,” to which I reply, “No I’m not,” scoffing and attempting to walk away. He sort of side follows me, like walking backwards beside me, and says, “Yes you are. I’m going to take you by the hand and you’re coming with me.” So I sort of side look at him and feel a spout of words erupting: “Don’t touch me.”

“Alright, alright, settle down,” he says. I should settle down. True, my blood pressure had gone up. He was right. Thank goodness he was looking out for my well-being.

“Settle down. I’m not going to touch you unless you say it’s ok.” Wait, are we having a discussion about this? Is there a world in which he thought I was just going to say, “Ok, yeah. I’m ready. I don’t have anything else going on. Also, I trust that your hands are clean and that you’re going to lead me somewhere safe and provide an interesting conversation – let’s go!”

No.

That’s crazy. Just like the man who was now following me.

So what’s a woman to do?

He says, “I just want to get to know you better.” Better than what? Better than absolutely not at all? Better than my favorite black dress?

“That’s nice,” I said. Nearly walking out in front of traffic to get away from him. “What, you don’t like me?” he asks(?) still following me.

Now here, I could have said one of two things (or nothing, which may have been the safest choice, in hindsight). I could have said what I did, which was, “I just have other things to do.” This was true. But what was also true would have been, “No, I don’t like you. I am experiencing strong dislike for you. In fact, this is a prime example of how someone feels when they really can’t stand another person.” Why did I have to give him a pleasant excuse? Why did I have to protect his feelings? Is it because I’ve been so conditioned by the patriarchy that I am complicit in appeasing others over speaking my truth? Maybe a little, but overall, I would say it’s because he posed a threat to my physical security and taking care of myself necessitated placating him.

Hmmm.

I hurried across a street, dodging traffic. He didn’t follow me, I don’t think, but the rage he ignited did. My thoughts had been completely hijacked. He’d exerted his power to distract me from my world and insert himself as a centrifuge of anger and fear. It is hard to get much done when one is spiraling in anger and fear.

What does this have to do with diabetes? Nothing and everything. As I mentioned in a previous post, diabetes is inextricably part of who I am now – so it makes more sense to me now to blog about life, which inevitably includes diabetes. Autoimmune conditions involve a self-attack, the body’s immune system going into overdrive and turning on its own cells, etc. In the case of Type 1 diabetes, the body attacks and destroys its insulin-producing cells (beta cells). In opposition to emotional autoimmunity* (term created), I don’t intend to let anger wreak havoc inside of me. Instead of swallowing my anger, you could say this post is a way of releasing it – so that I can get back to what I was doing.

 

 

Does diabetes limit your life?

My dad came to visit me for Father’s Day this past weekend. After dinner one night we got to talking about my work and about how the landscape of diabetes and its management has changed over the years. He asked about my experience of living with diabetes and how it had changed over the past 12 years or so. Dad, who I probably haven’t ever talked as openly about diabetes with, was more willing to be curious than I previously remembered. He asked me: “So – do you find that it (diabetes) limits your life?”

What an interesting question.

If you had asked me two days after diagnosis, I would have started bawling and talked about all of the dreams I had that I could never do now that I had to tote diabetes around with me. Dreams like: hiking the AT, kayaking in a remote jungle, abandoning society with no cellphone or attachment to the outside world…

If you had asked me two weeks after diagnosis I would have given some sort of manic response cloaked in coping positivity, like, “No! It has made me stronger, more organized, and more appreciative of life!”

If you had asked me two years after diagnosis I would have probably given you some more truthful examples, like how hard it was to be a summer camp counselor only 5 months after I’d been diagnosed; to be chipper and on full-time, while trying to give myself shots, check my blood sugar, eat someone else’s cooking, sleep in a cabin full of 8-year-olds, and otherwise make sure everyone was safe and entertained.

And then there have been other moments when the thought of doing it and doing diabetes, was just too much. I’ve said no to weekend plans and trips with friends, stayed in at night because I didn’t want to have to keep strategizing about my blood sugar so that I made sure to be at a good level to drive a car.

But – and I may be conveniently forgetting something – I’ve never not done anything I really wanted to do because of diabetes. Maybe I’ve been more exhausted before, during, and after it, maybe it’s made me ask myself how important something was to me before committing, but I’ve kayaked in a jungle, have gone on long trips, and have otherwise lived the life that I wanted to.

And – what’s interesting is how the “life that I wanted” has changed. My desires seem to be increasingly able to co-exist with a life that gives me space for diabetes management.

Natalie Goldberg says our obsessions can be our inspiration – and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t obsessed with diabetes. But I’d also be lying if I pretended that obsessions wasn’t a prerequisite of diabetes; either you’re obsessed with it upfront in order to manage the moment to moment decisions and tasks, or you end up obsessed with the symptoms of high or low blood sugar, and other short and long-term complications. And to say I’m obsessed with diabetes is really barely scratching the surface – what I’m obsessed with is what diabetes represents – the interaction between our bodies and our environments. Between the internal and external world. Diabetes gives you a front row seat to watch the effects of every bite of food, every step you take, every bit of anxiety you hold on to, minute of sleep you get, sunburn, bug bite, cold, allergy, all of it – it’s all a weird dance. Or orchestra. Or rowdy old-time band (represented by featured image taken at Shakori Hills music festival, 2018).

So, after traveling a long and winding mental road to an answer, I replied to Dad that the question didn’t quite fit for me anymore. It was the first time I’d realized this, that the answer required a reimagining of the question. Deciphering whether diabetes limits my life, or impacts it in positive or negative ways doesn’t make sense anymore, because it’s an inseparable part of my life and experience. And letting go of that qualifying, deciphering, and even meaning making, feels like a relief.

Snakes (and diabetes)

Just kidding. This is just about snakes.

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One snake, really.

Sometimes I hear people say things like, “I hate snakes.”

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Ok. Maybe they have their reasons.

But, in case they don’t…

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I would advocate for a reappraisal.

I’m not saying they’re good to cuddle, or would make a great pet (why reduce wildness, anyway?).

Of all the vicious forces in the world, she seems an unlikely enemy.

Waffle Fries and Celery Root

February can be rough. The days are short, the weather is temperamental, winter closes us inside of its blue shutters…

But luckily, we have created several traditions to get us through, one of my favorite being, in atypical fashion, SUPERBOWL SUNDAY!

I, like many of you, went to a Superbowl party a couple weeks back and found myself so INSPIRED. Let me preface this by saying that in between the 2017 and 2018 Superbowls, I watched 0 minutes of football. So, it’s always a fresh experience for me. I couldn’t believe how physically strong the players were. I was also very captivated by how delicious the various party foods involving potatoes were. There were waffle fries (not from Chick-fil-A!), homemade potato chips (in three varieties!), and baked potatoes with gruyere. So, based on these two observations, I added two resolutions to my list for this year: 1) workout more; 2) eat more potatoes.

When I got home from the party, my blood sugar, despite a lot of extra insulin and monitoring, was above 200 mg/dl. I don’t like this – I don’t feel good when my bg is high and taking extra insulin before bed is a little frightening because of aforementioned nighttime lows. So I put the potatoes on the back burner, so to speak.

I did start moving more though. Yoga and walking have been good, along with a class or two at the student rec center. So with goal #1 underway, I got back to the potatoes.

Recently, I ordered a dish with shaved celery root when out at a restaurant. Between ordering and receiving my food, I forgot about this, and when it came I thought I was eating hashbrowns. Fancy hashbrowns, but still. So this weekend at the grocery store, remembering my positive celery root experience, I decided to branch out of my cooking rut.

If you’ve ever bought a celery root (also known as Celeriac), you know just how unappetizing it looks in its natural form. Celery root is, in fact, so ugly that I can’t believe we discovered it was edible. I can’t imagine being that first person to look at it and think, “I’m gonna eat that.”

But someone did and I’m glad.

It’s really a vegetable that you have to tackle – which goes well with the general metaphor of this post. I used this recipe from Bon Appetit for Celery Root Steaks with Tomatillo Salsa Verde as a basis.

Except I didn’t make the salsa because I planned to just pile my other food on top of the steaks.

Here’s a detailed play-by-play:

  1. Scrub that thing! – I took my veggie brush and I scrubbed the root thoroughly, rinsing under cool water.
  2. Peel it! – I took a carrot peeler and shaved off the rough skin (yes, even though I’d just scrubbed it), until it had a mostly smooth texture. Then I used the scooped end of the peeler to get out the fuzzy, radish like whiskers (ugh) near the end and smoothed once again over the top and bottom.
  3. Preheat it! – I was already baking brussels sprouts, so my oven was on 450 degrees.
  4. Slice it! – I sliced it into rounds, about a 1/2 inch in thickness, until I’d cut up about half of it. Then I cut it in half so I could lay it flat and cut half-moons of the same thickness.
  5. Sauté it! – I added quite a bit of olive oil to a big cast iron skillet, set this to heating on the stove, and laid the slices down into it, turning it down to about 6. I let them sizzle on each side for about 5 minutes total, flipping impatiently. I think the recipe is correct – 4 minutes each side with only one flip would have given a better, golden brown to each.
  6. Bake it! – About 10 minutes on high heat for a nice, tender texture (recipe says until it can be easily pierced with a fork or butter knife).

Pro tip: if the steaks are tender but you want more of a golden brown look, flip them over to serve; most likely they are browned on the pan side.

So, how do celery steaks stack up to potatoes, ounce for ounce?

1 cup celery root weighs in at 66 calories, 14 grams of carbs, and packs a powerful punch of 2.8 grams fiber, according to google.

Potato comes in at nearly double all of the above (except fiber): 116 calories, 26 grams carbs, 3.4 grams fiber, per cup.

So to me, diabetically speaking, Celeriac is the clear winner!

Oh and finally, Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

 

 

FreeStyle Libre

If you don’t have diabetes (and you speak a little Spanish), you might think I’ve come up with a new intention for how I want to live my life, sort of a ‘take it easy’ non-attachment type attitude. She’s living free style, libre man. But if you do have diabetes, you’ve probably checked your bg on a FreeStyle meter and at least heard of the new device that was just approved for sales in the U.S., the FreeStyle Libre.

I both like and hate the tendency of medical companies to give chronic illness management supplies names that inspire images of smiling people flying kites on the beach without a care. I dislike this tendency because it’s a false promise. These words couldn’t attract us to the product if it wasn’t true that diabetes, like many chronic conditions, imposes it’s own barriers. I won’t talk about those right now – maybe later. But what I like, is that these companies are recognizing what is truly hard about diabetes: not simply the pain of finger pricks or shots, but the hassle, the baggage, the constant back-of-the-mind thought (as covered previously) that it inspires.

For the past few weeks, I’ve really been wanting a break. There’s nothing to do with this desire, no accrued vacation time to take, no money to spend that can buy it. And yes, there are some strategies that one could employ to alleviate some of the pressure in these moments, but even thinking those up and navigating their implementation is the opposite of a break. It’s effort. A lot of effort.

And then, suddenly: FreeStyle Libre Now Available in US Pharmacies

In case you’re not familiar, the FreeStyle ‘reader’ looks like a normal blood sugar meter, but it is equipped to scan a little sensor, about the size of a large quarter, that you wear on the back of your upper arm, in order to measure blood sugar in interstitial fluid. I bought myself a reader and three sensors. For the past ten days, I could know my blood sugar anytime I wanted to, but not when I didn’t. Unlike a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which I’ve always resisted, the Libre let me remain in control of the amount of information I receive. As someone prone to over-management, this is ideal.

A couple of specific examples:

  • Saturday night I was driving myself and a couple of friends to a concert. About 30 minutes before leaving I scanned the sensor on my arm. 90 mg/dl. 5 minutes later I scanned again 85 mg/dl. I was dropping a little. I ate half a tablespoon of honey. 10 minutes later I scanned: 95 mg/dl – stabilizing and good to drive, probably some fat and protein from my dinner hitting me now too. Because of the Libre, I was able to monitor while getting ready without poking my finger 3 or 4 times in 20 minutes and getting blood on my outfit. I could eat the right amount of carbs so as not to skyrocket into high bg, but also allow me to drive, and be ready on time without stress.
  • Another night, I was about to go into the movie theatre with a friend (a lot of recreation this past week) and wanted to have some popcorn, which is my fav. We’re in line, just a few minutes ahead of start time, I’m wearing gloves, a puffy coat, and holding my wallet. I scan, bg is a little low, and I know how much insulin to take once we find our seats. Again, no fumbling, no blood, no running out of time. I feel magical, like a superhuman.

So here it is, the day after my sensor ended and I haven’t put on a new one yet. I feel like I just got back from a diabetes vacation. I feel restored. I’ll put the new sensor on soon, but I’m rationing them, because my insurance plan still doesn’t cover them, and while they are relatively affordable out-of-pocket compared to a CGM, test strips, or an insulin pump, they still feel like an indulgence at this point.

Indulgence. It shouldn’t be an indulgence to know what your blood sugar is, right? I feel like it should be, how do I want to say this…a basic human right. But it does feel like an indulgence, because I know that my many of my friends in Bolivia and elsewhere who are living with diabetes, can’t afford to check their blood sugar more than twice a day, on a good day. Here I am, able to scan willy-nilly, a luxurious level of management that is not at all equitable across the globe. And it is an injustice.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – a day to celebrate the undeterred pursuit of social justice. It’s not always clear what this means or what the clearest path to it might be, and I often find myself uncertain of how to nourish solutions rather than feeding problems. In this situation, there are big questions I have to ask myself when it comes to wearing this device while others can’t. I haven’t answered them yet, but I do know that this is a situation to at the very least, recognize my privilege and remain aware that the current state of inequity in access to medical care and technology is not OK. It’s also a time, I think, like many (most? all?), to be grateful. I’m grateful to the developers of this technology, to those who’ve funded the research behind it, those who’ve advocated for its coverage by Medicare, those who will tirelessly advocate for other insurance plans to cover it, and for the new found freedom it has afforded me. Finally, it’s a time for action, to ensure that all children and adults with diabetes can enjoy more freedom from disease and greater opportunity for wellness.