Thoughts on diet, gestational diabetes, & why I’m feeling so much better

gestational diabetes

{The follow-up to this post: eating to control blood sugar + the gestational diabetes vegan diet}

Yesterday I asked a question on facebook: are you vegan? vegetarian? gluten-free? omni? etc.

Though I wasn’t looking for a right or wrong answer (I certainly don’t aim to make my blog a “only vegans allowed” club), I get the feel that most of my readers are interested in feeling good, being healthy, & making informed food choices, vegan or not. I think that desire comes from a certain level of self-awareness, & to know that I have readers who are open & seeking for the best ways of eating & living, well, it’s an honor. It excites me to know such people are taking the time to read my blog & join in on conversations about food choices & living in a compassionate, purposeful way.

I mentioned in yesterday’s {MM} post that I had some pregnancy news to share. I do. I’m not quite sure to go about it. It’s one of those awkward things, though I don’t think it needs to be. And when I contemplate what I ought to share in this space, & what I ought to keep private, it’s a constant curation process. One that includes a lot of pondering, & often discussion with Joseph.

So when I learned I had gestational diabetes, my immediate reaction (other than crying), was to turn inward. To keep it a secret. Though, the more it sank in, the more I learned about it, I realized–there is no shame in this. I didn’t cause my gestational diabetes. For reasons that go beyond explanation here, I have it & it is what it is.

Feeling sorry for myself, feeling shame, these things do nothing to change the situation. Further, as someone in the vegan blogging community, I feel I owe it you to live with a certain amount of transparency. I have chosen to put myself out there, & with that choice comes a trust between you & I. A level of greater responsibility on my part to be honest & at times, vulnerable.

You see, there’s a pervasive belief within the natural food movement that nearly everything can be cured & prevented by diet. That if we have health issues, it’s a result of our food choices, or the fact that we’re not using the right essential oil, herb, supplement, air purifier, or we simply need to just balance our chi. Though that may be true in some cases, maybe even many cases, it’s not true in all cases. And, to perpetuate this idea of righteousness, purity, or even our own morality/goodness based on the cleanliness of our diet, or our health regimen, is one that I don’t think is right. This is not to discount the value of our dietary choices, or the use of essential oils or other natural ways of maintaining health, but only to say that these things are not an absolute cure-all, nor does following an uber strict regimen make us more righteous or holy.

I’ve been vegan for over 7 years now & in that time I’ve gone through a lot of changes in my own thought processes. You may have even noticed these changes as you’ve read the blog over the years. I no longer feel comfortable associating myself with any one group or movement within the vegan community (ie. nutritarian, whole foodists, low fat crowd, ect.). I find that what is preached from the leaders within these movements can be at times dogmatic, rigid & (gasp!) simply not correct.

This is not to say that much of what is sold by them (via nutrition advice) is not worthwhile, but only that I myself do not find their level of particularity especially helpful. I think there are a good number of healthful ways to eat, depending on a person’s health history & background. A one-size-fits all approach to diet is unnecessarily constricting & often furthers this idea that there is only ONE way to eat for good health (which is not true). Does this mean I don’t think a low fat diet is not good for anyone? No, just not for everyone. To make cut & dried recommendations for everyone regardless of age, gender, healthy history, &/or activity level is not taking the whole nuanced picture of diet & health into account.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love eating vegan. I have no desire to go back to eating meat or cheese, or highly processed fast foods. But it makes me sad when people are turned off, or away from a plant-based diet because it seems so all or nothing. It’s not. For some, like myself, the choice is an obvious, natural one. For others, it may be difficult to ever become completely vegan or vegetarian, and that’s okay, because again, it does not have to be all or nothing. If everyone would just eat more plant foods, less animals, the world would be a much better, healthier place.

It makes me happy to hear when friends tell me: “I eat 3 vegetarian meals a week” or “I’m trying really hard to incorporate more plant proteins (like beans) into my family’s diet.” Awesome! I love that. Progress is progress, & for me, getting people to shift their attitudes, though it be in small ways, is something to celebrate.

People have asked me what I think of PETA. Truth be told, I don’t have much experience with their organization (a deliberate choice), but what I know of their work, it’s not something that fits with my philosophy or bedrock belief of choice. I believe we’re all here to make choices, & the best way to spread truth is to live it & not be ashamed, though at the same time, to respect others decisions, though they may be contrary to my belief system. I think this stems in large part from my LDS background, as we believe deeply in tolerance & choice, without compromising our own personal values.

I don’t believe in shaming people into making good or better choices, whatever they may be. Show people goodness, & they will make the choice whether or not to follow it. The way PETA & other organizations have gone about spreading veganism focuses on extreme, shocking measures. That’s just not my style, & I feel there are better ways of going about implementing positive change. As it relates to diet, I think focusing on principles, showing the joy that comes from following those principles, is the way to go.

My feelings about PETA are similar to, though not the same as, my feelings toward the low fat plant-based movement. I began there, and through time & experience (I explain more in this post), I have realized that I no longer belong there. Nuts, seeds, avocados, higher fat foods, higher protein foods, some soy, even refined foods & some oils, desserts, all of these things have a place in most people’s diet. To recommend that everyone should avoid these things, is unnecessary. Some people may need to avoid some of these things for a time, or for longer, but this does not mean that everyone should always avoid these foods.

I know this is a round-about, somewhat rambling way to get to my thoughts on having gestational diabetes.

I’ve only recently found out, a little later in my pregnancy than most women, but since I’ve made some significant changes I feel so much better–lots more energy (which as you know, makes me happy), more balanced.  The biggest change is eating 6 times a day (rather than only 2 or 3), controlling the amount of carbohydrates at each meal, & eating a bit more protein & fat.

When I attended the gestational diabetes class, I felt a little like fish out of water. Not that it wasn’t helpful, but I got a taste for how diabetes (though, I should note, gestational diabetes is a bit different than diabetes, though they are very similar) is traditionally managed–through a high animal protein diet. The dietitian was not aware that I was vegan so did not offer any advice or instruction in that regard, though I was able to figure out what foods I should be eating that would fit within the prescribed parameters.

I have to check my blood sugar 4 times a day & eat in a very specific, controlled way. This new pattern of eating is absolutely helping me control my blood sugar, & because of it, I feel sooooo much better (remember this post?).

I’d love to share with you a few sample days of how/what I eat & more thoughts on this whole experience, which I will in Thursday’s post.

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Further reading:
American Dietetic Assocation’s paper on vegan/vegetarian diets

 

P.S. Flirty Aprons is having a majorly awesome sale on ALL of their aprons–70, yes 70% off ALL their aprons (that means only $9-$15 for any of their gorgeous, high quality aprons) through tomorrow, 12/18. Use the coupon code holiday70 to get your savings.

Also, the bring joy tote is on sale for only $7.50 + free shipping through 12/20–enter hohoho at checkout. If you order today or tomorrow, you should get your tote(s) by Christmas!

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Comments


  1. on December 18, 2013 at 3:04 pm said:

    Thank you Janae, I completely agree with so much of what you’re saying about approaching veganism with an open, welcoming attitude rather than a cut and dried extreme that advocates a certain way as the only way. If low fat, raw or any other variation works for you, that’s fantastic, but if it doesn’t, you are just as welcome and valid in your choices to eat more plant based food than anyone else.

    It’s also so important to stress, like you have done so well, that while a healthy diet will prevent and help cure many illnesses, there are some things that are depend on other factors. I always find it concerning when people put the entire responsibility of health on food, because if it doesn’t work out I imagine there is a lot of guilt and a sense of failure. Not only is there no reason to feel guilty, but it almost certainly doesn’t help you get better!

    I am so glad you’re beginning to find ways that work for you with the gestational diabetes, and I wish you all the best xx

    • on December 19, 2013 at 8:53 am said:

      “I always find it concerning when people put the entire responsibility of health on food, because if it doesn’t work out I imagine there is a lot of guilt and a sense of failure. Not only is there no reason to feel guilty, but it almost certainly doesn’t help you get better!”
      Absolutely! Couldn’t have said it better.

  2. Etta
    on December 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm said:

    Thanks for sharing and always being so open:) I am reallllly looking forward to Thursdays post!!

  3. on December 18, 2013 at 11:50 am said:

    What a great post Janae. I’m so sorry to hear your news but am pleased that it led to this discussion.
    As a food blogger I’ve felt a little pressure from time to time to only share the healthiest recipes with my readers but equally worry that they’ll in turn feel the pressure to eat a certain way. I’ve recently found out I have candida and though it’s probably not a result of anything I’ve done I’m embarrassed to make it known as I don’t want anyone to think a vegan diet is unhealthy. Dilemmas! I’m so glad you’re feeling better. Wishing you a smooth pregnancy from here on.

  4. Emily
    on December 18, 2013 at 11:11 am said:

    Janae,
    I really love that you say that there is “no shame” in having a dx of GDM. As a person/advocate with type 1 diabetes I understand the feelings of “what did I do?” and “why me?” I have lived (though I like to say “flourished”) with type 1 for 18+ years and I have no intention of letting it worsen my life. With all types of diabetes, exercise and healthy/balanced eating is important, in whatever way that person can manage! (Vegan, gluten-free, paleo, low-fat, etc).

    I really appreciate your honestly in that you struggled with keeping it a secret. There are so many people out there struggling to keep their diagnosis hidden. It’s not safe! I know that emotionally and experientially, I come from a type 1 background so I tend to be a little more knowledgeable there, but I do work in the endocrinology field.I know that all types of Diabetes are hard to manage, hard to live with and can be frustrating. So thank you for showing that it is a struggle, but there is no shame in accepting it so you can treat it well.
    I know that a high protein diet can put pressure on the kidneys, causing extra protein spillage and eventually damaging the kidneys. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the cause of kidney failure in many people with type 2 (and type 1) diabetes. More often it is that that person did not do an effective job in controlling their blood sugar levels. With chronically elevated blood sugar levels, the excess sugar in the blood starts to damage the small blood vessels in the body. During these times, the kidneys are constantly flushing out the sugar through the urine and in time this is what leads to dialysis (as well as high blood pressure). (http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/complications_kidneys/ http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/kidney-disease-nephropathy.html)

    That being said, I really do love you blog and appreciate each of your posts! I think Frugal Tuesdays are my favorite! I really have a hard time keeping to my budget (especially this time of year) and I always seem to learn a few things from these posts.
    Thanks again, I’m really glad you’re feeling better! :)

    • on December 18, 2013 at 11:59 am said:

      Wow! Thank you for letting me know about the kidney info. I had thought previously that it was due to many years of a higher animal protein diet. I will definitely be reading those links you referenced.

      “With all types of diabetes, exercise and healthy/balanced eating is important, in whatever way that person can manage! (Vegan, gluten-free, paleo, low-fat, etc).”
      Yes! I think I never really appreciated the role exercise had played in helping to control my blood sugar in prior pregnancies. I mentioned this in another response, but I really think I was able to manage to pass the glucose test with other pregnancies because I was exercising in the morning, often in the mid-day, & in the evening (I was a professional fitness instructor). I really think this helped make up for the fact that I was eating regularly/often as well as controlling amount of carbohydrates in one sitting. With this pregnancy I get some daily walking in, but nothing compared with prior pregnancies.

      You’ve been living with type-1 for so many years, what an inspiration you are–such a positive attitude. Love it.

      Thank you for sharing, & thank you for pointing out the bit about kidney failure. Always something more to learn, isn’t there?

    • on December 18, 2013 at 12:06 pm said:

      I’ve also edited the post & removed the bit about dialysis–don’t want to be propagating incorrect information!

      • Emily
        on December 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm said:

        Thank you!
        I love your recipes and your advice. I admire your dedication to your family and your honesty with your struggles. Type 1 is a P-I-T-A and I find that what makes me able to get through these hard times is to surround myself with people who care, who understand Diabetes or who have it themselves. It’s so much easier with a support group. :) I will gladly suport you in any way I can :) (even if it is just cheering you on from the side lines).
        I’m so happy you’re feeling better and things are going well. I also appreciate you amending the post and accepting new knowledge with open arms. You are also an inspiration

  5. dani
    on December 18, 2013 at 10:36 am said:

    Oh! Tell us what you’ve been eating to feel better. I really think I need to eat often throughout the day, too. It’s hard to figure out how to balance it all. Are you taking vit. D?

  6. on December 17, 2013 at 11:18 pm said:

    But with all that said, I am happy that you opened the discussion. After all, we can’t make really conscious decisions without some reflection and awareness, so thanks for bringing it out. And it’s actually good timing, as I was just thinking about adding more discussion on my own blog. It’s typically a “recipe and review” type of blog, and I was just thinking that I’d like to add more discussions in between recipes and reviews :) So this is all very timely…

  7. on December 17, 2013 at 9:59 pm said:

    I’m sorry to hear about your health challenges. It’s great that you have the knowledge to make the right choices and immediately feel a difference. At least you’re close to the end!

    I also wanted to comment on what you wrote about individuality of diet and PETA. There are many sectors within the vegan community, and while I think that can make things confusing at times (after all, there is research that will back any opinion these days!), I do think it’s helpful because we ARE all different. We each find different things that resonate with us, and find what works for us. And it’s the same with the impetus that pushes us each to become vegan. I personally can’t watch anything depicting cruelty to animals – I can’t watch Earthlings, or any undercover abuse videos or anything like that. But I’m glad they are there, and I’m glad that PETA is there, because I know people who have become vegan because of the shock of learning what really goes on. For them, the intellectual approach didn’t do it – they needed the graphic details. And for that, for and the animals that are saved by their dietary change, I’m grateful. Because we are all different, there need to be different methods of sharing information.

    • on December 19, 2013 at 6:21 am said:

      “And it’s the same with the impetus that pushes us each to become vegan.”
      Good point! Though I still stick to my belief that it’s more powerful to change people’s behavior via light & love, rather than focusing on the darkness (ie. the cruelty & evil that occurs in factory farming, for example). I shared a quote on Monday from Martin Luther King Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. Hate cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” I do think it’s important for people to be aware of the realities of factory farming & other cruel/unnecessary practices, but I think it’s all in the approach & focus. Like you, I find it unbearable to watch any of that stuff, I’d prefer to read, which is why John Robbin’s work has been influential to me. But you’re right, since we all learn in different ways, there does need to be different methods of sharing information.

  8. on December 17, 2013 at 4:49 pm said:

    I love your blog. It’s so awesome.

    When I first starting looking into whole and real foods, I was one of those who believed it was all or nothing and it made me miserable. It killed our budget cause my husband wouldn’t eat vegan food and we argued quite a bit. And then, as I studied more, I was surprised how forceful some nutrition and diet “gurus” are and sometimes how MEAN they can get if you don’t see things your way.
    Over the last year or so, I have studied the Word of Wisdom more and have come to understand that God had blessed us with many wonderful things to eat and enjoy. He made us all different so our bodies will need different things at different times. There is not a one size fits all diet because God didn’t intend it that way.

    I am not against eating meat anymore (my hubby loves it) but we are trying to eat meat from animals that were well loved, lived a good life and were treated with respect. We’ve added more veggies and more fruits to our diet (organic/local or grown ourselves if possible) and we are being careful about the processed/pre-made things we bring into our home. Most aisles at the grocery store I have never seen before! I am a big fan of homemade desserts always using real ingredients (nothing from a box) but we don’t eat that 3 meals a day. All things in moderation right? These decisions have helped with our overall health and happiness. I am in a healthy weight range though it’s bigger than it was before I had kids…but shoot, I’m not done having babies yet! I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

    All in all, you are right. Each person needs to find the “diet lifestyle” that is best for them. Some people may swear by the virtues of smoothies while others (like myself) prefer juices as it works better with our digestion, tastes better, whatever. And diet may not be a fix all. I think it definitely helps but some things are just a cross we must bear, yes?

    Thanks for another amazing post!

    • on December 19, 2013 at 8:57 am said:

      “And then, as I studied more, I was surprised how forceful some nutrition and diet “gurus” are and sometimes how MEAN they can get if you don’t see things your way.”
      I know. It’s a little crazy how adamant they become that they are right & anyone who believes otherwise is just dumb.

      I think your approach is fantastic. You’re living in such a way that there can be harmony in your marriage, while doing the best you can to make healthy, balanced food choices. Way to go!

  9. Michelle
    on December 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm said:

    Great, transparent post! Keeping it real Janae!

  10. Melissa
    on December 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm said:

    Sorry that you have to deal with GDM, but glad you are feeling better! Also, I don’t often post comments on here but I always enjoy reading your thoughts and the way you phrase things. I’m glad you are willing to put yourself out there as sometimes we have things in life that happen that we didn’t cause but for some reason we feel like we did something wrong. Thanks for sharing your experiences and that sometimes life happens and we have genetic tendencies that can’t be controlled. Not that we don’t have an impact on them but we shouldn’t feel ashamed because of it. Anyways, Merry Christmas and here’s to the next few weeks going by quickly!

    • on December 17, 2013 at 7:56 pm said:

      “I’m glad you are willing to put yourself out there as sometimes we have things in life that happen that we didn’t cause but for some reason we feel like we did something wrong.”
      Absolutely! We live in an imperfect world, with imperfect bodies, & though we have a lot of control over certain things, there are many things beyond our scope of control. There’s no shame in having issues with health, & I guess I’m learning that it’s important to realize this. And thanks for commenting, so nice to hear from you! ox

  11. Laurie
    on December 17, 2013 at 3:04 pm said:

    I’m so glad to hear that you’re feeling better!

    And, I thought you put this very well: “I believe we’re all here to make choices, & the best way to spread truth is to live it & not be ashamed, though at the same time, to respect others decisions, though they may be contrary to my belief system.”

    I’ve read some of the best vegan activism is making and sharing wonderful food which will show how easy and delicious eating a healthier, cruelty-free diet can be.

    • on December 19, 2013 at 8:59 am said:

      “I’ve read some of the best vegan activism is making and sharing wonderful food which will show how easy and delicious eating a healthier, cruelty-free diet can be.”
      I definitely agree with that approach! :)

  12. Joya
    on December 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm said:

    I’m glad you’re keeping your blood sugar under control and are feeling better!! All our experiences make us more knowledgeable and you’ll be able to educate others through this. Sending up prayers all is smooth for you!

  13. lfwfv
    on December 17, 2013 at 1:07 pm said:

    Thanks for your candor Janae, and I am glad you felt comfortable sharing on the blog. I am sure this post, and the one to follow, will be nothing but helpful for everybody who enjoys reading your site. So glad you are feeling a bit better and are managing the diagnosis well!

  14. Melissa
    on December 17, 2013 at 12:18 pm said:

    I’m going to give you the “cup-half-full” response on this: at least now you know, and you can do something about it, and you can feel better!
    Seriously, isn’t the “not knowing” the hardest part? Spending days and weeks etc. feeling like crap, gaining weight, and not knowing that there was another reason why? Rejoice sweet cousin!! For now you know and you can manage it!
    When I was initially dx with PCOS I attended a diabetes nutrition class and learned all that stuff that you learned. (I have NEVER looked at milk the same way since!) Not only does PCOS carry with it a prevalence for hypoglycemia, but it most-often leads to diabetes later in life (namely because it messes with the body’s ability to process insulin correctly, which causes weight gain, which messes with insulin — vicious cycle). Ironically, the nurse who taught that nutrition class stated that I was the FIRST woman with PCOS she had seen in that class before. Which, again, goes back to the non-medical notion that food can heal and doctors want to give pills for it… sigh…
    In conclusion: I’m sorry that you got the dx, but I’m glad that you are nearing the end of your pregnancy and will soon be released from the shackles of all that comes with that. And when you no longer are growing a person, I know you will feel like yourself again, want to live like you did before (each pregnancy), and all those issues will fade away.
    Keep hope on the horizon!!

    • on December 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm said:

      You’re so right. I actually see this as a great blessing in that I’m forced to learn how to eat regular, small meals which for my body’s constitution, is best (though I’ve always resisted it because so many frequent eating times seemed impossible for me). Already, the funky rash that had developed on my face a few months ago has gone away & I really just feel sooo much better. I was chalking up feeling crappy to the fact that I’m at the end of my pregnancy, but nope, it was pretty much the fact that I my blood sugar was out of control & I wasn’t helping it by eating 2 big meals a day & not eating the proper ratio of carbs/protein/fat.

      I honestly think I had it with the other pregnancies or was at least borderline, but managed to pass the test because I exercised so much. With this pregnancy, I’m doing far less exercise (& none of it structured), which is why I didn’t pass the glucose tolerance test & put me over the edge. I’ve also realized, it’s like a light bulb has gone off, that I’ve always had blood sugar issues & eating more frequently, though not for everyone necessarily, has to be a must for me, even after I have the baby.

  15. Stephanie Draper
    on December 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm said:

    Sorry to hear Janae! I know all too well the personal strength you have to gain during pregnancy illnesses like this. People love to inspect your diet bit by bit for things that could have prevented or can cure your ailments. We all have different bodies and we all have different personalities and paths that make it more grey of a situation than black or white though. I am so glad that you found out though sk that you could make little changes that improve how you feel. :-) Thanks for sharing with us. We always like to hear about how human you are. ;-)

  16. Julie
    on December 17, 2013 at 11:17 am said:

    I’m sorry to hear that Janae. I had GDM also with both of my pregnancies (and since have been diagnosed with LADA/Type 1.5 diabetes). It’s manageable and given the consequences if not managed, it makes it easier. I’m a flexitarian, so it was a ‘little’ bit easier, but still, I didn’t handle the diagnosis well. Good luck with everything the last few weeks, you’ll be just fine.

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