My Secret

I have a deep, dark secret that I feel compelled to share.

I’m terrified of exercising.

There, I said it.

If it weren’t for the diabetes, I would probably have no problem tackling vigorous workouts. In fact, I wish I could tackle vigorous workouts. Unfortunately, those kinds of workouts end up with my blood sugar getting much too high.

My father spent years telling me I need to be careful when it comes to exercise because I need watch out that my blood sugars don’t drop too low. My instinctual reaction, of course, was to ignore that fear and proceed without caution. I was an incredibly active kid, I used to swim, bike, run around and eat a typical SAD diet. Eventually I started to go through puberty, stopped exercising as much, and put on a bunch of weight. In fact, I put on so much weight one year that I went to see my doctor about it. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and I pretty much gave up hope of ever losing weight again.

Anyway, now that I’ve learned all about paleo, and how food and exercise affects the body, I know it’s time to tackle my exercising fear.

“When you exercise muscles need energy and the quickest form of energy is glucose. Muscles will increase their sensitivity temporarily during exercise so that the same amount of insulin can bring more glucose into muscle cells so that they can work. However, if there is insufficient insulin the muscles will not be able to receive enough glucose from the blood, even if there is more than enough glucose in the blood. As a result, the muscles send a signal that they need more energy, which the body responds to by releasing more glucose. However, since there is still not enough insulin, blood glucose rises and the muscles continue to send the signal for more energy. This is why if your blood glucose is high before exercising, exercise can drive your blood glucose up rather than down, the reason is that there is not enough insulin.” Read more here.

In her book Practical Paleo,  Diane Sanfilippo recommends that  type 1 diabetics restrict hard workouts (I’m paraphrasing) and focus on slow gentle movements, like yoga and walking, and she’s completely right.

Here’s the thing, when I take an hour-long walk, my blood glucose levels get low, and I end up needing to eat something, and I have a hard time figuring out what it is that I should eat. I need something that will bring my blood sugars up, but not something that will push and keep them up (any form of refined, sugar-laden carbohydrate messes me up for the rest of the day and into the next morning).

Half a banana with some protein usually works, but not always. Also, it makes me feel really strange dosing myself with insulin (for the food I’m eating) when my blood sugars are already low.

The exercise makes me more responsive to my insulin, which affects the amount I give myself for all my other meals. But I have a hard time figuring it out! I can never be sure how much insulin I need to balance out my meals on days when I exercise. I already keep a tight watch on my blood sugars as it is, it gets even more difficult when I throw exercise into the mix.

A couple of years ago I went winter camping, and we snow shoed for over an hour to get into the camp. It was slow and steady exercise, and then the people I was with spent another couple of hours building a quinze. It was the perfect type of exercise for me, but then I spent the rest of the night with blood sugars in the 2’s. I ate so many packets of sugar (this was obviously pre-paleo!) that I thought I would gag on them. I thought for sure by morning my blood sugars would be sky high. Not even close. I woke up in the 2’s again! I gorged on food at breakfast and was finally able to get them up to a 4 and eventually 5. (The normal I strive for is around 4 or 5.)

All that to say, most exercise for me is coupled with intense blood glucose monitoring and a really hard balance between my food and insulin intake.

But I need exercise. I really want to lose weight.

As for The 21-Day Sugar Detox, I was really hoping to have lost some weight on it, even though they specifically say this is not a weight loss plan. I haven’t been able to lose much weight lately (as in, over a couple of months) and I’m starting to feel really discouraged. I know I need to start exercising to make this happen. I’m just not sure where to start from here…

That’s not even true. I know I need to start walking regularly. I would love to take yoga, but classes are expensive. Also an excuse, but a true excuse.

It’s all a balancing act that I still haven’t entirely figured out. I’ve been doing a LOT of self-experimentation though, and now I know I need to get my body moving, fear or not.





2 comments on “My Secret

  1. nat says:

    wow. that sounds really hard. I hadn’t realized the bit about diabetics and exercise raising blood sugar levels. one thought is that those on the extremes who go into ketosis train the body to operate without that glucose rush. That’s a thought for you. Also, yoga that stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system rather than the sympathetic nervous system would be ideal. It seems you need to exercise without feeling like you’re exercising. I’d also say, it would be best to very, very slowly ramp up your overall level of activity. no bursts, but for long periods of time so your body’s baseline activity level spikes and you get used to it. likely, you’ll have serious monitoring to do, but ideally, sticking to healthy diet and training your body, you’ll get used to it and things will even out. Just what I was thinking while reading this.

  2. I do yoga from Youtube, I follow Esther Eckhart and her Yogatic channel- its free, she has slow easy 10 min workouts 🙂 I struggle with $$, and it is so great to just roll around on the carpet for free and get my workouts in. sometimes I’ll do a couple hours of her videos, different ones back to back! nothing required but my time and motivation. (often lacking!) Love your blog, btw.

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