How To Stop Over-Eating and Over-Treating Low Blood Sugars

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Ever have one of those low blood sugars where you stumble from your bed and consume the contents of your fridge?  You know the lows I’m talking about… the ones where the logical portion of your brain knows that a few grams of quick-acting carbs will fix the problem, but the rest of your brain is in panic mode and wants to dive straight into a vat of Golden Grahams. 

Having the wherewithal to only consume the carbs I need in order to treat a low blood sugar has always been a struggle for me.  Sometimes my low blood sugars come with a heavy-handed dose of adrenaline, making me feel like the only way to survive is to chomp on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chasing it with a handful of jellybeans.  It’s a horrible, panic-infused experience, often ending up in out-of-range blood sugars as a result of over treating, which also comes with its own side of guilt.

We talked with some A Sweet Life readers and they also feel the intense need to shovel food during episodes of hypoglycemia (and hyperglycemia).  “When I’m low I sometimes have these ridiculous cravings. I usually want to just eat everything in sight,” wrote one reader.  “I feel like I am starving to death and could eat everything in the house,” said another.  Seems like I’m not alone. 

How do we curb our body’s enthusiasm about overeating when we’re experiencing a low blood sugar?  We have a few ideas.  (And if you have your own tips and strategies for managing the urge to overeat and over-treat during a low, we’d love to hear them!)

Portion control.  Keep a stash of treatments for low blood sugar that are pre-measured and single-portioned.  For example, keeping 15 grams worth of raisins or glucose tabs in a Ziploc bag on your bedside table is a good way to have hypo treatments at the ready without the option of over-indulging.

Don’t pick your favorites.  When choosing your glucose sources, steer clear of your favorite treats. Swedish Fish are quick-acting glucose sources in a pinch, but they are my favorite candy indulgences, so I refuse to purchase them to treat lows.  Instead, I’ll pick glucose tabs or raisins, knowing I won’t ever want to eat those things unless I’m hypoglycemic. 

Keep it convenient.  Arming your bedside table, kitchen counter, office desk, or other areas you frequent with pre-portioned low blood sugar treatments can also help keep you from over-eating during a low.  Keeping your glucose stash close at hand can prevent you from venturing into the kitchen, where you’re more likely to start panic-grazing.

Graze responsibly.  If you know you’re the type of person who needs to crunch on something in order to work through hypoglycemic panic, have snacks on hand that you can eat while waiting for your fast-acting snack to work.  Keep carrot sticks or cucumber slices on hand so you can continue to munch without compromising your attempt to responsibly treat a low.

Set a timer.  Hearing a clinician say, “Eat 15 grams of carbs and wait 15 minutes” when your blood sugar is in the trenches can be so frustrating because it’s hard to wait those 15 minutes without climbing the walls.  Even when you’re doing your best to wait fifteen minutes, time feels like it slows to a crawl.  Use technology to your advantage and set a timer on your phone to help you wait out the dreaded 15 minutes.

Distract yourself.  Waiting out a gross-feeling low blood sugar?  Try and distract yourself.  Listen to a song on the radio.  Doodle on a scrap of paper.  Pick up some yarn and crochet up a scarf (yeah, I’ve been known to actually do that).   I know a guy who keeps crayons at work and he colors in a coloring book while low.  (He says he’s outside the lines most of the time, but whatever works, right?)

While some of these tips might work for you, I know it can be hard to be reasonable and rationale during a low blood sugar.  (We all have those lows where we’ve had to bolus mid-way through because of mass consumption, right?  No?  Just me?)  If you find that you’ve over-treated a low, don’t add guilt to that high blood sugar.  Do what you can to correct it quickly and move on. 

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