Monthly Archives: June 2013

No mobile phone?

This happened yesterday morning. I was running late for work. When I reached my local train station, as I was taking my train pass out of my bag, I felt the pocket where my mobile phone should have been was empty. Empty! I left my mobile phone at home, and at that moment I saw in my mind’s eye exactly where it was. I had a choice: Go back home and be late for work, or spend my day without my phone. Guess what? I was running quite late.

Although I told myself not to be so concerned about not having my phone at hand, I was initially anxious about having left it at home. Until very recently, my phone was just a phone, but I have started using it as my camera (you are free to check my instagram photos). In addition, the social apps bug bit me recently, and I’ve become a little more reliant on my phone for things other than making or receiving phone calls. There’s myfitnesspal, twitter, facebook, endomondo and access to my emails. So, I was expecting some sort of withdrawal symptoms for leaving my phone at home. But there were none.

Really, no withdrawal symptoms? Yes, really. How is that possible? Let me speculate.

First of all, I grew up without mobile phones. This means that I got by without mobile phones. If I was running late, then I was late. If anything unexpected happened, I had to find a phone. It wasn’t easy, but I survived. I got my first mobile phone when I was already working. In those days mobile phones were the size of bricks and, where I was from, you had to be extra careful in using them to make sure no one was using a radar to swipe your phone details (for illegal calls). Thus, phone use was limited.

Second, I realized that I did not have anything that important on my phone. If people (including my husband) needed to contact me, they can find me at the office. I still use a datebook and a pen, instead of the icalendar. If I see a photo opportunity, I just shrug my shoulders for not having my iphone camera, and try my best to commit the moment to memory. There was no reason to panic.

Third, I had reading material in my bag. I recently signed on to Twitter. I use it, not so much for tracking my friends’ interesting thoughts, but to be introduced to interesting articles and websites in a heartbeat, well, compared to the much longer time needed if one were to go through an internet web search engine. But I’m not that reliant on the internet, as I always have a magazine or book in my bag to keep me company when nothing interesting shows up on my Twitter feed, or should my phone die on me.

So, how did my day go? Brilliantly. I did not miss my phone much. I did not really need it. I certainly did not go ballistic or chew on my nails all day for not having my phone stuck to me like a leech.

Lesson learned – I can survive without my phone. So, if one of those apocalyptic movies do come true, even a zombie world domination scenario, I know I’ll survive without my mobile phone.

Yoga

I started my lazy Sunday today with yoga. It’s my first yoga practice since my leg injury in March. I did not realize how much I missed it until this morning. When I finished the practice, I felt as if I was whole again.

While I was lying down in savasana, it dawned on me that I’ve viewed yoga largely as an activity that enhanced my running and skiing, and reduced my risk of injury. It was simply a means to stretch and tone my muscles. I was not into the spiritual or mental aspects of it.

Even so, I still benefitted from the many things that yoga has to offer. Over the years, constant practice has taught me to focus my mind, calm my senses, and reduce my stress. I have become stronger physically and mentally. I would like to think that it has also made me more accepting of others, and less judgmental of myself and other people. I think it has made me a less angry and a more positive individual. I know that it has carried me through crises and cleared my mind for important decisions, as much as running has.

But, I know little about it. It’s embarrassing to admit that after all these years, I don’t even know the names of many yoga poses, its history, its various disciplines and styles of practice, and its philosophies and traditions. I should learn more about this discipline that has enriched my physical, mental and to an extent spiritual well-being. It’s about time.

 

Personal cheerleaders

The recent issue of Runners’ World is dedicated to the Boston marathon. One article that I especially liked was “Standing Ovation” by Mark Remy. This article paid tribute to the spectators who make marathons and other road races bearable, fun and enjoyable, and to personal spectators (meaning spouses, other family members, boyfriends, girlfriends, and friends) who support, love and encourage their road warriors. Road races, but especially marathons, are not just about the runners; they are also about the volunteers, the communities, the organizers, the families, the friends, and the strangers who stand by the side of the road for no reason other than to cheer.

I personally related to the article because I know how much energy a marathoner can draw from the crowd. The free oranges, chocolates and drinks, the shouts of “gambatte” (do your best), “faitto” (fight) or “you can do it,” and free offers of “ice spray” or something like it for my cramping calves, all from spectators I have never met before or since, have helped push me towards the finish line. And I probably would not even have made it to any starting line without my most enthusiastic supporter, my husband, behind me. Although my husband is not a runner, he wakes up when I wake up for a run (no matter how much I try to be silent as I change into my running clothes). He makes my post-run shakes. He adjusts our schedule so I can fit in a long run. He reminds me not to overdo it. He massages my legs. He’s my cheerleader. He is there, at whatever race I enter, drenched in cold rain or boiling under the sun, hurrying from one spot to another, standing and waiting, just so that he can be there when I run past. And, like other spectators, he doesn’t have to be there, but he always is.

The article also resonated with me as a diabetic. I find it interesting that many diabetics, mostly non-runners, describe diabetes as a marathon. We diabetics have to deal with our condition one day at a time, one meal at a time, one step at a time, very much like a marathon. And, just as spectators make marathons bearable, our support group makes our diabetic life bearable for us and everyone around us.

Take my case. It’s so easy for me to see diabetes as being just about me. I can be consumed by my diabetic needs and problems that I sometimes forget that others don’t have diabetes, that they too have their own needs and problems, and that I too have to be there for them as much as they are there for me. It’s so tempting to whine and wallow in self-pity instead of facing the daily challenges of controlling one’s diabetes, just as it is so tempting to stop at the 38 km. mark.

Thankfully, my husband is the master of nipping my diabetes-induced self-centeredness, “woe is me” attitude and self-importance in the bud. He is my main support system. He’s been with me right from my diagnosis and through my roller coaster ride of emotions, adjustments and challenges. He understands me as a diabetic and as a runner. He is my constant reminder that life is not just about my chronic condition and is certainly not just about me. He got the raw end of the deal, I think, as he married not only a runner but a diabetic as well.

I also owe a lot to other people. I’ve been so lucky to have found my GP and endocrinologist who are both compassionate, caring and knowledgeable, their nurses and staff, as well as other non-principal (but still important) members of my medical team. To me, they are more than “prescription writers” or an inconvenient necessity to get my regular tests. They are vital collaborators in maintaining my health.

I also have my family and friends. My father who is a type 2 diabetic himself is a source of information on how to live with diabetes. Although we have different diabetes management strategies, and certainly do not always see things eye to eye, I learn from him how to deal with this disease. My brothers have been supportive and are simply the best. My friends who know my condition have been respectful and trusting of my decisions and choices. They do not second guess me, and are certainly not the food police.

As I have written above, many diabetics have likened diabetes to a marathon. Until the research community finds a cure, then we’re in here for the long haul. It will be a sad, lonely and difficult journey to do alone, without our support system. So, if you haven’t expressed it yet, it’s time we let our personal cheerleaders know how much we appreciate them. They may not have our diabetes, but they certainly share it, and sometimes live it, with us.

A Diabetic

I am currently reading the old articles and posts of a respected blogger who has Type 2 diabetes. I came across an old article where he referred to “diabetic” as a politically incorrect term to refer to someone who has diabetes. I’ve encountered several people on online boards and blogs expressing their resentment of the use of “diabetic” as a noun. Their reason is that diabetes does not define the person, which for them is what the noun “diabetic” suggests.

Although I’ve always referred to myself as a diabetic, I spent some time today rethinking about my approach on this matter. I most definitely agree that diabetes does not wholly define anyone. But how does the word “diabetic” define anyone? I’ve always wondered how a “diabetic” is substantially different from a “person with diabetes,” “person who has diabetes” or “person living with diabetes.” Maybe my mind is too simplistic (I wouldn’t entirely discount that notion myself).

I call myself a diabetic. I’m lazy (rather, I’m “word efficient”) and it is easier to say and write “diabetic” than “person with diabetes,” “person living with diabetes” or “person who has diabetes,” and, personally, is far preferable to the acronym PWD (like a few others, POW comes to mind). Anyway, I never considered the word “diabetic” as setting up limitations on me. Maybe because I am used to people trying to throw various labels at me, and my mother telling me to never let those labels stick. Maybe because I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at a point in my life when I’m comfortable in my own skin, after I’ve met failures and challenges, and when I’ve had successes and achievements, so what people think of me are not as important as they would have been had I been younger. I wonder if my attitude would have been different had I been diagnosed much much earlier.

Basically, I don’t mind how people refer to me in reference to diabetes. But I do mind if they say it in a derogatory or condescending manner, or if they treat me with contempt and disrespect. As they say, action speaks louder than words.

One realization I reached today was that I call myself a diabetic because I am one. Diabetes is a part of me, no matter how much I distance myself from it. It is in me. It has wrecked havoc on my metabolic system. I live with it every second of the day, every day. With my diagnosis, I was faced with my mortality and physical vulnerability, I had to seriously review how I want to live (not just survive or exist) the rest of my life with this condition, and I learned much more about myself. So, yeah, it defines me to a degree, in the same way that my ethnicity, my nationality, my job, my family, my education, my hobbies, my experiences, my decisions, and so on and so forth about me, define me to a degree, in the sense that they all contribute to me being me. My diabetes is no different, and should not be treated differently. I mean, for instance, people usually identify themselves by their profession, knowing that their profession does not “define” them. I own every single thing, whether good or bad, that made me who and what I am. In the same line of thinking, I own the word “diabetic”, and I own diabetes.

I understand that others think differently, and I respect their views. But if you are a person with diabetes who happens to read my blog, please don’t take offense if I refer to me as a diabetic and to us as diabetics, as no offense, insult or thoughtlessness of any form is intended.

Local festival

When I went out for my walk-run late this morning, I ran past the Tamagawa Sengen Jinja and it was filled with excitement. It turned out that the excitement was due to the shrine’s matsuri (festival). Today, they brought out the omikoshi (portable shrine). This jinja takes out its omikoshi, and local volunteers carry it around the neighborhood, once every 3 years, and today marks the third year. They started at around 8:00 am, and were expected to return to the shrine after sundown.

Portable shrine

Portable shrine

Hoping to catch the end of the festivities, my husband and I went over to the shrine at sunset. The steps leading to the shrine were festooned with lanterns with the character 祭 (matsuri) or festival.  People were paying their respects at the shrine. Below, the street was closed to traffic, and was crowded with revellers.

Climbing the stairs to the shrine

Climbing the stairs to the shrine

Jinja

Jinja

Matsuri

Matsuri

Yukata

Yukata

We arrived just in time to catch the omikoshi carriers in a well-deserved break, before they carried the omikoshi back to the shrine. The omikoshi, although it’s portable, is heavy. I carried one years ago, and my shoulders and upper back were black and sore for more than one week. But it was fun to do it, not just for the experience of carrying the portable shrine, but the  camaraderie among neighbors, sharing the weight of the omikoshi for hours under the sun and sharing sake or beer during breaks. Those carrying the omikoshi can get into a frenzy, which can spill over to the crowd. I managed to speak to some of them. Maybe it’s the charged atmosphere or it’s the sake, but they were so excited to talk about the festival. I wish I had a tape recorder with me.

Carrying the portable shrine

Carrying the portable shrineFrenzy

Frenzy

It was an absolutely delightful afternoon and experience. To cap this lovely day, my husband and I enjoyed the rest of the festivities dining outside our favorite cafe. Since I had an active day, with all the walking and some running, I rewarded myself with Baileys with ice cream.

The shrine was still abuzz when we started our walk home.

Night time

Night time

Today’s walk

It was past noon when I went out for my planned walk-run. At the last minute I decided to just walk around my neighborhood with my camera. Like many neighborhoods in Japan, my area is full of short winding roads that usually lead to a dead end, or somewhere you would never expect to appear. Hence, walking and driving here are usually an adventure. I just make sure I don’t give in to the temptation to wander at night, since I am never sure where I am going to arrive.

This afternoon I discovered a small cemetery that I have not noticed before. It was tucked behind a small shrine. My neighborhood has a number of shrines and cemeteries. I’ve walked past this shrine several times, when I take the longer route to the train station. It’s lodged among apartments and houses and is easy to miss. I decide to go in. The ground was really, really small. It’s like someone’s garden. If I wasn’t looking around for a photo subject, I would have missed the narrow pathway which lead to the tiny cemetery.

The cemetery was probably no more than one and a half the size of our apartment. There was no one else there. That gave me the chance to look more closely at the graves and take some photos.

Cemetery

Some graves have offerings. Most of the graves have cups, some turned up, some turned down. I wonder if this reflects a practice of offering sake to the dead. I realize I don’t know much about this aspect of Japanese culture (note to self to find out more).

Speaking of sake, I spotted a grave with a full bottle of sake in a plastic bag. I was tempted to take it home with me, but I will not dare rob a grave. And who knows? Someone could be  watching me.

Sake in a cemetery

At another grave, I spotted an empty can of beer.

Who drank the beer?

I know it’s silly, but it’s tempting to ask – who drank the beer?

“How to Cure Type 2 Diabetes” or so some people claim

The claim of a cure

I recently chanced upon a blog post titled “Dr. Jay Wortman Cured His Type 2 Diabetes with Low-Carb Eating” from a blog site called Diabetic Mediterranean Diet. I clicked a link in this post which led me to the blog post “How to Cure Type 2 Diabetes” from the site called Diet Doctor. (Please feel free to search for them.) While I generally ignore blogs, ads and articles with similar titles and claims, I read a few from time to time just to see what non-science based mumbo jumbo is out there. So against my better judgment, I checked these posts.

The main post (How to Cure Type 2 Diabetes) features self-professed diet doctor Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt’s interview with Dr. Jay Wortman, a doctor who is also a Type 2 diabetic, while they were on a low-carb cruise. This post and the repost refer to how Dr. Wortman apparently cured his Type 2 diabetes by adopting a very low-carb diet.

My angry reaction

This is not the first time that I’ve come across claims of a cure for Type 2 diabetes. I usually am merely annoyed by the ludicrous claims. But this time, my reaction to the posts was more than exasperation; it was anger. The way the posts are written, by  medical doctors (I don’t really know but I’ll take their word for it), made it seem that a very low-carb diet can cure Type 2 diabetes, and by implication is the only way to address this illness, disorder, condition or whatever else you want to call it. I found the posts nothing more than a cheap, disingenuous and manipulative ploy to sell low-carb and very low-carb diets.

My stance on low-carb

Don’t get me wrong. I have no beef with low-carb diets.

Before I move on, let me make clear that I do not call my diet low-carb. The closest description, if that information is important to you, is probably “lower carb,” by which I mean my carb intake is generally lower than that of most Western population, but is not necessarily low-carb. Sometimes I say I’m a moderate-carb person.

But, I have no problem with low-carb diets as a whole. I’m a Type 2 diabetic for heaven’s sake! I acknowledge the significant role that reduced carb diets play in managing and controlling one’s diabetes. And it works for many, many people, both non-diabetics to lose weight and be healthy, and diabetics to lose weight, stay healthy and control their diabetes.

I do have a major problem with those who brandish low-carb diets about as a cure for Type 2 diabetes. Low-carb, very low-carb or, let’s take things to the max, zero-carb, diets do not cure or reverse Type 2 diabetes. (If I’m wrong, please tell me the science and which research and scientific study I should read to realize my mistake.) A low-carb diet, together with exercise, medication, insulin or even stress release (in various combinations), will certainly help many people living with diabetes achieve blood sugar levels close to a non-diabetic’s level, most of the time. Low-carbing alone may even be enough, as shown by Dr. Wortman’s example, but it does not rid one of diabetes. Low-carbing diabetics may claim to have no complications, but they are still diabetic.

Is it a question of semantics?

Dr. Eenfeldt thinks so. In the comment section of the post in question, Dr. Eenfeldt also asked “Do you really still have a disease if you are completely symptom free, possibly forever?” It sounds clever, doesn’t it? But it’s faulty. The question was raised regarding a Type 2 diabetic who controls his diabetes through a very low-carb diet alone. But this question equally applies to a Type 2 diabetic who controls his diabetes through other means. So, does a Type 2 diabetic who takes medication really still have diabetes if he is completely symptom free, possibly forever? If we apply the logic behind the original question, then many Type 2 diabetics can claim that they are “cured” through medication and without having to subject themselves to a dietary regimen that does not work for them. Yehey. We should all rejoice!

The reality

But I don’t dwell in fantasy land. The fact is, regardless of how I control my diabetes, I am not cured. If I have to keep taking medication to keep my blood glucose level under control, then I’m not cured. By the same token, if the only way I can have a blood glucose level that is the same as my non-diabetic husband’s, is to restrict my carb intake per meal, per day, every day, for the rest of my life, then how can I or anyone else claim that I’m cured?

For as long as I cannot eat chow mein and treacle tart with vanilla ice cream on the side, without my blood glucose going through the roof, then I am not cured. Whether or not I want to stuff myself with loads of carbohydrates every meal is beside the point. But personally, I want to have a large bowl of fruits, or a huge serving of mashed potatoes, or a plate of spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino, every now and then, whenever I want to without worrying about my blood glucose. If I can’t do any of those despite adopting a very low-carb diet, then I’m not cured.

I may be healthier than a lot of non-diabetic people, I may have the A1c of a non-diabetic, and I may have staved off diabetic complications, but I’m not cured. I will consider a “cure” as a cure if and only if, after going through the “cure”, I can eat the amount of carbs that my husband can eat and get his blood sugar levels.

Misrepresentation

Now, can someone please tell me why some low carb advocates need to resort to gimmickry and false premises to lure people to their diet? Why is it not enough to credit low-carbing as an important tool in a diabetic’s arsenal to control diabetes? Because that is what it is, a tool, not a cure. The claim that low-carbing is “how one cures Type 2 diabetes” is a misrepresentation, and a misrepresentation is just a fancy name for a lie. And that does not sit well with me at all.

Healthy “sweets”

Sweets are generally bad for people with diabetes. Well, they are generally bad for everyone, at least if you have too much of them.

But there are sweets that are good for you. Here are some of them:

  1. Sweet smile
  2. Home sweet home
  3. Sweetie (that’s what I call my husband if I want something)
  4. Honey pie (I use this if “sweetie” does not work) 🙂
  5. Honeymoon
  6. Sweetheart
  7. Sweet pea
  8. Sweet dreams
  9. Sweet sixteen or whatever age you want
  10. Sweet kisses

Good night everyone. Sweet dreams.