Thursday, August 25, 2011

How Sweet are You?

It may be a pain in the fingers, but I heart my glucometer. 

By teaching me how my body reacts to the things that I eat, this device has given me a new measure of gustatory freedom.  I've learned a lot, and have had a lot of surprises along the way. 

Our sense of taste does not always alert us when our food contains carbohydrate, and we can be lulled into a false sense of security when a meal appears to be heavy on the meat or vegetables.

One of the best uses of a glucometer is to understand whether the food you enjoy at your favorite restaurants or workplace cafeteria, or your aunt's famous [insert name of recipe], is as healthy and appropriate as you think it is for your WOE. 

Asian food is delicious, but particularly insidious in this regard. You may think that your beef and broccoli fits within your dietary restrictions, but the truth of the matter is that the sauce the meat and veggies are cooked or served in may be loaded with sugar and starch, and the saltiness of the food often masks the taste of the sweet stuff.  Barbeque is the same way.  I've ordered the dry rubbed ribs to avoid the rib sauce, and only learned belatedly that the "rub" contained a lot more brown sugar than I was able to taste.  And, how about dear old dad's famous turkey/pork chops/chicken breasts?  It may suck to learn that the brine he soaks the meat in contains 2 liters of HFCS-laden ginger ale or a pound of sugar.

Admittedly, testing your glucose after you've already eaten a meal is the very definition of trial and error.  But at least it takes you away from the realm of speculating about what the nutritional content of your food was, and helps you to make decisions about what you will eat in the future.  Information is power, my friend.

And think about it, when was the last time you came home from a meal out without a doggie bag in hand?  That meal may have turned out to be sweet agony, but imagine how much worse it would have been if you'd enjoyed the same level of carbiness in the form of lunch leftovers for the next two days.  That, my friends, could mean the difference between a bump in the road and a trainwreck (metabolically speaking, of course).  Thank you, glucometer!

The rewards of using a glucometer can be huge and meaningful to you.  I can't describe how I felt when I discovered that I could eat buffalo wings and blue cheese dressing from my favorite pub, to my heart's content… or that I could have a mountain of sesame green beans and chicken skewers at my local Chinese restaurant (and still watch my glucose stay under 100 at one and two hours after the meal).  Best of all, was testing my reaction to dark chocolate, and seeing that my blood glucose did not budge one whit afterwards.  I can't tell you how much brighter life seemed when I was able to allow myself to eat a bit of chocolate every day, and when I learned that there were menu items for me at my favorite happy hour joint (because I am a social person, and jealously watching other people eat and drink is no fun).  It just made it easier to adhere to the WOE and live my regular life.

I think the glucometer is also a really good tool for people whose weight loss has hit a plateau.  You may have been successful in the beginning, and suddenly, the same WOE that worked for you last month doesn't seem to be doing much for you now.  Instead of getting discouraged, keep a closer eye on your carbs, and use the glucometer to track how the food that you eat affects your body. 

You may be surprised at what triggers your glucose spike.  It could be your yogurt snack, the breakfast sausage that you ordered with your eggs (cheap sausages contain starchy fillers), or that healthy handful of nuts that gets you to dinner.  Carbs are sneaky that way!

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