Winter and diabetes: what’s a girl to do?

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If you, like me, live on the east coast of the United States, you may have noticed something: winter’s here. After weeks of flirtation (oh, I’m 65 degrees and sunny! Oh, I’m a hurricane that devastates the eastern seaboard and yet leaves foliage on the trees!) it is now decidedly cold. Not to the point where stepping outside brings tears to my eyes cold, but cold enough that a hat is a necessity. And, more importantly, blueberries are no longer in season. 

This might not be a big deal to most people, but it is really fucking me up. Why? Because for the past six or seven months, blueberries have been an integral part of breakfast for me, which is my most difficult meal of the day for me to control, blood sugar-wise. Here is my breakfast: a 4-oz container of 2 percent low-fat Breakstone’s cottage cheese (don’t even think of pulling Friendship cottage cheese on me — that stuff is bullshit), and one cup of blueberries. That takes 3.8 units of Novolog for me to cover; I take it as a dual wave with 60 units of Symlin to slow things down. On days when I don’t go to the gym, that covers me (though it does make me very confused about what sort of morning hormones are requiring such a ridiculously high insulin-to-carb ratio). But whatever. It tends to work. On mornings when I go to the gym I skip the Symlin, save the blueberries for after the workout, and take 2 units of insulin with my cottage cheese. 

So want to know why I am cursing so much? BECAUSE THERE ARE NO LONGER ANY BLUEBERRIES AVAILABLE. (Or at least not ones that I can rationalize paying for.) As a result, I am typing this blog post with a blood sugar of 38 mg/dl, waiting desperately for it to come back up. IT IS NOT EASY TO TYPE A BLOG POST WITH A BLOOD SUGAR OF 38 MG/DL!!! And it is even more difficult not to down the entire tube of glucose tablets sitting next to me. But I’m not going to. Because if I do, I am going to spend the entire morning soaring in the high 200s and am not going to be able to bring my glucose back down. I have to be patient and wait for the food that I KNOW IS IN MY STOMACH to kick in and bring me back up. 

This is not what I intended to blog about this morning. I was going to blog about the connections between home renovation and diabetes management. That may sound equally low-blood-sugar-influenced but I’ve been thinking a lot about it and have things to say. But I am not going to write about that now, because instead I would like to lament the general ill effects of any kind of schedule or season changes on diabetes management. It has been 12 years now and yet this continues to amaze me — how traveling, or holidays, or even the freaking time of year can destroy whatever semblance of “control” I’ve managed to achieve. 

I know what the solution is. Omelettes. My winter go-to breakfast tends to revolve around eggs. But first of all, I’m not working at home these days, which makes it harder to fry up eggs. And second, I don’t want to eat eggs for breakfast every day. When I was diagnosed, I remember eating a breakfast of cottage cheese and Egg Beater omelettes with parmesan cheese every day for a year, and the mere thought of it makes me want to throw up. I am considering doing something with yogurt and frozen blueberries, but that involves getting the blender out and then cleaning little bits of blueberry skin out of the blades every day. And I am too lazy and tired at the moment to do that. So instead, this morning I had my cottage cheese and a Lara Bar (which affects my blood sugar much less than I would think). And I took only 2.9 units. And I biked to work, which I do every morning. And I went to 38. 

Now I’m back up to 75, but my irritation has not subsided. I need a new breakfast plan, ideally one that involves fruit, and I don’t know what it should be. My husband has gotten really into oatmeal recently and when I look at that, I am filled with nostalgia for the days before diabetes when I was able to eat Cream of Wheat — so creamy, so delicious, so carbohydrate-heavy and nutritionally vapid. Like the blueberries, those days are gone. And it’s not even December. I’ve got some figuring out to do. 

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Comments (6)

  1. hmbalison at

    I feel your pain about the unexpected blood sugar lows when you don’t want to eat anymore food and there’s no damn reason it happened.

    Can you experiment with apples sliced in your cottage cheese or maybe dried blueberries? I know they aren’t the same as fresh, but maybe if you soak them ahead and keep them in the fridge, it might work–same thing with frozen. Can you thaw them out ahead of time and put them in your cottage cheese? Just some ideas to see if you can approximate the same impact on your blood sugar.  

    And if you want to do eggs, I’ve seen recipes for egg mixed with veggies baked in muffin tins–a low carb muffin. Maybe you could make these ahead and reheat…I personally don’t like to eat eggs except hard boiled, so maybe this is something even I would like.

    My breakfast of choice is natural peanut butter on one slice of high fiber whole wheat bread and 2-3 slices of apple or 2-3 slices of pear . I take 4 units of Novolog to cover this. I’ve been eating this breakfast since I was about 5. I never liked pancakes, donuts, french toast, oatmeal or cereal even before diabetes–and peanut butter on bread for breakfast has stuck with me even post-diabetes. I’m a creature of habit. 

    Hoping things have improved since the 38.


  2. Jennifer Jacobs
    Jen at

    Catherine, I feel your frustration! Winter sucks! Sometimes when it’s bitter cold out, just setting my foot out the door makes my blood sugar spike. And I always need more insulin in the winter. It’s like my body is trying to hibernate. Who can figure these things out? Anyway, nothing beats fresh, BUT — Trader Joe’s sells organic frozen blueberries that are quite tasty. You can thaw them out in a bowl and leave them in the fridge. Then when you pour them on your cottage cheese, some of the juicy gooey stuff will trickle down. You can’t get that with fresh! 

  3. Sarah at

    So every summer we pick blueberries, put them in yogurt containers, and freeze them. Then you can eat them all winter! We spend about 35 dollars (?) to fill up the extra freezer– many many quarts of berries, enough to put some on your breakfast most mornings…. try it next year! It only takes a couple hours to pick them in peak season.

  4. Diane at

    Hi Catherine,
    I want to share what happens with oatmeal and my blood sugars; After I eat my bowl of oatmeal in the a.m., my sugars remain stable and often have gone down, so testing about 60 min. after eating will give you an idea where you’re heading. Oatmeal also helps with cholesterol levels.  I sometimes will slice up a bit of apple in it, and use about a tsp. of xylitol to sweeten it. Both oatmeal and xylitol are low on the Glycemic Index. My Dad, who was also a person with diabetes used to make us a breakfast of old fashioned oatmeal, a soft boiled egg and half a grapefruit.  Talk about stick to your ribs! I only use the old fashioned, non-instant oatmeal, and it really doesn’t take long to make. My husband and I both love blueberries, so whenever possible we grow, pick, or buy and then freeze in small quantities to last the winter.  Good luck!

  5. You guys are great. I have been experimenting with frozen blueberries (augmented by a couple frozen peach slices) and as long as I don’t pretend that they’re supposed to be the same as fresh blueberries, they’re actually pretty good — and my blood sugar hasn’t been crashing as much. Thanks so much for the suggestions!

  6. Fred at

    Hi, Catherine

    Just saw your post today after scanning for references to insulin doses in winter.  I have been actively tuning my pump all winter (with some success).  But just as winter is abating, I find myself with too much insulin and many 60-80 readings.  I definitly needed more insulin in winter (maybe for energy to keep warm?).

    Other results of my tuning experiments:  

    I reduced exercise lows by reducing the daily proportion of basal to bolus.   Right now I am at 38% basal, but am thinking that may be too low and making me extremely sensitive to carb counting errors.   I also suspend the pump for continuous exercise like yardwork or golf.  If I don’t stop the basal, I go to 70.

    Regarding blueberries (one of my favorites too), Costco has frozen bags of “wild” bluenerries that I think have good flavor, even though they are a little small.

    I often have old fashioned style oatmeal for breakfaast, and found that a sprinkling of chopped walnuts in it reduced the blood sugar peak a lot.  (maybe any protein would?)

    Best Wishes!

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