Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Managing Diabetes on a Cruise

If you've been following my blog at all you know that I recently returned from an Alaskan cruise.

It was an amazing experience.  I loved every minute of it.  Of course, on a cruise there is plentiful food.  Every meal is all-you-can-eat and not everything is health food.  Those who are aware of my quest for weight loss have asked me how I handled weight loss and diabetes management on a cruise.

There are 2 parts to my diabetes management.  The first is the daily managing of my blood sugar.  This involves limiting my intake of carbohydrates.  It also involves keeping my physical activity up so that my muscles use the sugar that is in my blood.

The second part is losing weight.  Fat cells do not process sugar, and the leaner the muscle is, the better it processes sugar.  So the more weight I lose, the better I can process sugar.  My weight loss journey involves three things: I do weight training three times a week to build lean muscle, I do walking 6 days a week as a form of cardio and I limit my caloric intake.

Before I left on the cruise I decided that I was still going to manage my blood sugar, but I was not going to worry about weight loss at all.  That meant that I could eat all the calories I want, but not all the carbs I want.

There were a few times that those rules were difficult, but for the most part it was pretty easy.  For example, that means that on the last night I ordered both the prime rib and the lobster, but I ordered the sugar free dessert.  I didn't order sugar free with every meal, but I did lots of sugar free desserts and I think I tried every sugar free option the ship offered at one point or another.  The buffet area always had these delicious sugar free mousses that were amazing.  I really didn't feel like I was missing out at all.

I found that there were always healthy options.  You really didn't have to overindulge, but of course, the option to overindulge always existed.  The menu always pointed out which option was the low calorie option.  Sometimes I took that option, other times I didn't.

Of course, the second part of managing my blood sugar is making sure that I get plenty of physical activity.  On days in port, that was easy.  There was nothing I wanted to do in Alaska more than go hiking, so that got my physical activity taken care of.

It was a little bit harder on days at sea, but luckily the ship had a track on the top deck.  I put in a lot of miles on that track.

The first day at sea, traveling from Seattle to Alaska, we were in open ocean.  The ship was traveling 30 mph into a 20 mph wind.  That meant there was a relative wind of 50 mph blowing across the top deck.  That was the funnest exercise ever!  I walked 3 miles in that 50 mph wind.  As I walked on the starboard side, I was walking into the wind so it was like a hard core hike.  On the port side it was at my back, so I pretty much just lifted my legs and the wind did the rest of the work.  So I would run on the port side and walk on starboard.  Super fun!

Other sea days there was less wind and more scenery.  I'll be honest, I can't think of anything on the ship that I could do that would be as fun as walking and enjoying Alaska scenery.  I took this little video to give an idea of what it was like.

I walked 5.5 miles the morning I took that video.  That's 22 times around that ship.  That may sound like a lot but the guy who lapped me 6 times during those 5.5 miles probably didn't think I was too impressive.

So, that's how I managed my diabetes.  I don't have super good data on where my blood sugar was at.  I normally test my blood 2 hours after eating.  Every time I ate, I made a mental note to test in 2 hours, but I always got involved in some adventure and didn't think to test until 3 or 4 hours later.  Every time I tested my blood sugar, it was within the expected range, but since I was slow to test, it may have gone high once or twice without my knowledge.

How about my weight loss?  Since I wasn't trying to lose weight how did I do?  Well, the morning I got back I weighed myself and I had gone up 5 pounds.  But I fluctuate 2-3 pounds from day to day, so it was really only 2 pounds above the margin of error.

Here is a graph of my weight loss for the past 3 months.

As you can see, the weight melted off pretty fast after the cruise.  In fact, my total weight loss this year is now over 50 pounds!  I have a Dr. appointment later this week.  I had my family members try to guess what my A1C will be.  I'll let you know how that goes.

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