Do you know where I am right now? Neither do I. That's because I am writing this to you from the past--or at least it's the past where I am now and ostensibly that would leave you reading this in the future and I can't predict precisely where I'll be when this post goes live. I promise that I didn't intend for this to be the lead off post for Diabetes Awareness Month. It's just that I'm dealing with a problem that I legitimately need to examine. It may be a problem you're familiar with too: my life is dominated by a social media addiction and it's time to talk about it.
by Steve Richert
It's been about 10 months since I've been roped up to do some climbing and with that kind of hiatus, it's hard to know what to expect. Stefanie and I decided to take a short trip to the Gunks in upstate New York--which is unmatched for its autumn beauty and its ability to punish the overconfident climber. This is where I grew up and learned how to hike as a toddler and how to climb as an adult. The grades in the Gunks are notoriously sandbagged. Many climbers get their egos checked when they flounder on "moderate" routes and to be honest, that's always been my experience. I've had my good days on sandstone or limestone but the yardstick by which I measure everything is how well I climb when I am back home.
It's been a while since I've actually done any climbing on "real" rock. This could be attributed to a variety of factors: distance from climbing, a nagging shoulder injury or a lack of time. The reality is that all of those played a role in keeping me grounded over the last several months and while it was hard for me be patient, it did give me the incentive to explore how I could leverage a more optimized diet and more accessible forms of outdoor exploration (read: running) to put me in a better place once I felt ready to get back after it.
This hiatus left a significant gap in my dietary analysis--knowing that my eating strategy works for running and hiking doesn't necessarily mean that it will work for climbing and if I can't climb while on a diet, it's a good bet that I won't stick with it. I love the way the ketogenic diet worked for my blood sugar control but it felt like I might have my dreams shattered once I started putting it through its paces in the climbing arena.
I feel like one thing that has been missing from my discussion of diets in the last few months of experimentation is my personal story with food. In fact, you should subscribe to the AdventureRx Podcast because that is going to be the next story I am going to tell in episode 28! There is a reason that I arrived at a place with my diabetes where I feel comfortable going to "extremes" and it didn't happen over night or because someone berated me into doing it. It all came from a desire to be able to climb more confidently. I don't necessarily mean climb "harder" because I am not the best climber out there by a long way. I mean being able to place less focus on my blood sugar and more focus on my climbing.
The vertical world has always been a drop-test for my diabetes and it has taught me much of what I know. Conversely, when people ask 'how do you treat lows on a climb?' or 'don't you worry about going low?' my response always goes back to what I have learned about eating. In short, when I need to focus on something beyond my diabetes, food is my first tool to implement that fix.
It's no secret that community is a big part of living successfully with type 1 diabetes. Given that fact, it's kind of surprising that it can often be almost as hard to come by as good health insurance. In this day and age it's hard to imagine that people don't think to reach out online and lurk in the forums and groups that exist--but if I had a nickel for every time I met someone with type 1 who said, 'Wow this is the first time I've ever actually hung out with another person with diabetes' I would be able to pay my web hosting fees without asking you to buy one of my photographs! That's part of the reason I started LivingVertical and that's exactly the reason Blake and I created the LivingVertical forum (which you SHOULD join and participate in if you haven't yet!
I promise that this is the next to last blog post about dietary stuff for a while. I just wanted to conclude this series with some pointers on things to avoid if you should find yourself curious about implementing a dietary shift, away from carbs and towards fat as an energy source. There is, of course, plenty of information available courtesy of my good friend Mr. Google, but I want to highlight the pitfalls I experienced in hopes that you can learn or be entertained by my failures--or possibly even both. I'd like to remind you that I am not a doctor or dietician. The following statements have not been approved by anyone other than myself, and likely reflect significant gaps in objective factuality!
I wrote an eBook compiling my experiments with the ketogenic diet and type 1 diabetes which you can check out here:
One of the reasons I've gotten so into podcasts in the last 9 months (which have largely inspired this post) has a lot to do with my diet. I'm serious. I consistently find myself with a surplus of energy in a suburban environment where the only socially accepted activities are watching TV and quiet conversation in small groups. Also smashing liquor bottles--that is apparently a thing here in Eastern Massachusetts, as the sidewalks are constantly glittering with fresh shards of glass--but I have energy and I need to invest it. So I walk around my neighborhood. Occasionally I run. When I am bored, I'll walk some more. I feel like a caged animal, pacing in the cage, anxiously awaiting the escape to steep, wild places.
A lot of things changed in my life when I became a parent. My own diabetes started to look a bit different now because it wasn't just my well being at risk--and speaking of risk...the looming specter of an unexpected diagnosis for my daughter was another unwelcome visitor that would repeatedly drop in just to eat some food out of my fridge and mooch the "free" wi-fi. I wrestled with the decision of "whether or not to screen" a lot, as you may remember from this previous blog.
I recently began writing about the ketogenic diet and type 1 diabetes in an attempt to optimize my blood sugar in relationship to athletic performance. This podcast episode can provide some additional perspective about how I arrived at the ketogenic diet for type 1 diabetes. It started with a low-fat plant-based diet and I have recently changed my approach (dramatically) to a Ketogenic diet (low-carb, high-fat). The results have been remarkable and I feel like this dietary approach is a worthwhile consideration for anyone who is in a position to optimize their diabetes management--or who just wants better energy with no "crashes" throughout the day.
If you remember how this dietary experimentation began a few months back, I was searching for better athletic performance without sacrificing blood sugar control. I had been following a low carb diet and it wasn't really getting the job done for me. I decided to try a low-fat, plant-based approach to see if I had been missing something. It definitely had some benefits and it also had some limitations, further reinforcing the idea that there is no "quick fix" in terms of diet--nevertheless I'd like to re-approach the Ketogenic vs Vegan debate through 7 specific points of comparison and close with a comparison of CGM data.