Everyone can suffer through blood sugar crashes, and there are some doctors who believe that our modern society's abuse of our pancreas is the number one reason for diabetes that shows up later in life. Whatever your opinion on this topic is somewhat immaterial for the purposes of this conversation. However, if you are dealing with a diagnosed medical issue and not simply bad habits, do ensure you speak to your doctor before taking the advice of random people on the internet.
My blood sugar crashes are due to so many issues you could write a book. Eating disorder, chronic nausea, lack of appetite, chronic dehydration, medication side effects, and sheer bad habits, just to name a few. What this looks like in my daily life seems simple: I wait too long to eat. Now, as you may have already gathered, I don't always get normal hunger signs, and sometimes even get signals from my body that the last thing it will accept is food. I've learned the hard way that forcing myself to eat even when I know I need to is a recipe for disaster. At the very least, I have to be careful about smells, tastes and textures when I'm forcing the issue. And if I get in a bad state, literally anything with nutritive properties I can get in my mouth and keep down is A DAMN Good Thing.
We have so much guilt wrapped up with food in our society, and my own history doesn't make that easier. As a nutritionist, chef, foodie, nurse's daughter, and poor, fat, disabled woman, there are a LOT of Emotions wrapped up in eating & food choices. Separating those from what my body NEEDS will likely be a war I'll be fighting my whole life.
So when I "let" myself forget to eat, when my lack of appetite or bad hunger signals or migraines or chronic fatigue kick in, it's easy to reach for what a lot of people would consider junk food. One thing I've been working at reminding myself this year is that
Any Food Is Better Than No Food.Seriously, just put it in my mouth. We can work on Better choices after I'm eating somewhat regularly.
But here are some ways I have been able to make sure I get food when I need it:
- For some reason, V8 doesn't repulse me most of the time even when I'm feeling really sick to my stomach. I had a lot of Feelings wrapped up in this for a while, because I bought some of these tiny cans for in case of blood sugar crashes, and therefore if I was drinking them then it meant I'd Lost Control of my blood sugar again. Then I realized something: THEY'RE FREAKING VEGETABLES. Yeah okay so the low sodium ones taste like... we're just going to stick with GROSS, and the regular ones are probably a salt bomb. But they're VEGETABLES! We all need more vegetables! Make your own if it helps, maybe the fruity ones are less sodium-tastic but they're high sugar so that isn't a great solution. Point is, if I'm feeling hungry and like I can't wait to eat long enough to get somewhere or cook something, then I drink a V8. If I'm feeling queasy, I drink a V8. It's not a solution, it's not a meal, but it's a stop-gap. Settles my stomach, gives that bile something to gnaw on, and steadies the blood sugar a bit so you have some time to get some real food in you.
- Dips. I can usually stomach anything that qualifies as Stuff With Dip. Veggies and hummus, chips & salsa, that sort of stuff. It has a lot to do with not having a lot of food in my face at once. It's just one bite at a time, and I can pretty much stop whenever I'm feeling satisfied instead of trying to finish a whole plate of something.
- Convenience foods: Yes, a lot of pre-packaged foods are loaded with crappy fillers, sodium, sugars, wood pulp even. I'm talking about a combination of those and home-made conveniences. We grate our own cheese, but we buy wonton dumplings. Pre-canned V8, but I make my own smoothies otherwise. We used to do a lot more in the way of prepping and freezing soups in individual serving sizes, but apartment living without anyplace to put even a small chest freezer means tiny apartment freezer space; so we buy some canned soups to have on hand. The biggest one is that we buy frozen burritos. In reading ingredients, unless I was willing to make my own tortillas, most of the less-pronouncable ingredients are in the wrapper. It helps to have some foods on hand that are quick to make when I'm hungry, on my own, low on Spoons, low on time, what have you. I'd love to get around to making my own frozen burritos, but at 25-50 cents per burrito it's hard to justify doing so when I can't beat that price making them at home. Anyway, we have made our own yogurt before and will get back to doing that, we make a lot of our own quick breads from scratch so we have fast breakfasts or snacks, and quick coffee/tea/cocoa at a moment's notice helps keep us (ahem, me) away from the coffee shops. I'd stock bagels more often if there were any good ones around.
- Fat & Protein: Carbs are the first thing to be digested, even complex ones. Protein is next, and fats are last along with the insoluble fiber (you know, the broom of your digestive tract). If your blood sugar crashes, eating sugary & carby foods sometimes sound good but they help you crash again later and it's an awful roller coaster of nausea. Sometimes, I give into the craving because it comes back to GET FOOD IN ME AT ALL COSTS and because carbs aren't evil. But I try to balance that with some good protein and fat so that I don't crash again later, and slowly come back down. I make sure that when I choose my fats at the store I choose them carefully so they have nutritive properties, and then don't worry about skimping on them. All discussions of my weight aside, this is the surest way I've found to get back to what I understand are more "normal" progressions of hunger signals and less of that roller coaster feeling.
I know it seems like a short list, but it's mostly conceptual. Oddly I've found that a lot of tips about getting kids to eat also apply to me. Which makes sense, because their tiny tummies and speedy metabolisms mean they have to eat a lot more often than adults do, and since the whole world is still new and interesting but food seems like sustenance rather than enjoyment it can seem like they're both constantly vying for food having waited until they're starving to eat, but not willing to spend the time waiting for or eating it. So, if you're having trouble finding ways to get your grown-adult self to eat before your tummy is mad at you for forgetting, try suggestions for kid foods. It works for me! And just becomes something is targeted toward one group doesn't mean you can't still use it if it works for you.