Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Something to digest

A true test of any fitness level is the paczki, a Polish doughnut usually eaten in America on Fat Tuesday. They're a big hit around Michigan, Toledo, and areas of high Polish-population density. And they're delicious.

My test came after I devoured my paczki on Tuesday. Because I'm diabetic, I have to be careful about eating carbohydrates. My body doesn't produce insulin on its own, so if I eat more than my insulin injection can handle, my bloodsugar spikes drastically. Tuesday, post-paczki, this didn't happen.

To top it off, I also had a sizable breakfast at Rotary: eggs, bacon, and a few pancakes with strawberry jam, plus the usual orange juice and coffee combo.

By all accounts, my insulin shot should have only covered my egg-and-pancake meal. After the paczki hit my stomach, my body would have searched for any leftover insulin to cover the pastry bomb. Finding none, it should have spiked my bloodsugar, turning my plasma into a system-wide poison.

Again, this didn't happen. When I check my bloodsugar levels before lunch, my machine read "108." Normal bloodsugar for diabetics is anywhere from 80-120. Mine was perfect.

I can explain this in two ways. First, on my own, I've started to adjust my insulin medication to fit the meals I eat. If I eat less carbs for breakfast, I take less insulin after breakfast. If I eat a lunch full of carbs, I take a bit of extra insulin. My bloodsugar level also gets factored in: high bloodsugar equals a bit of extra insulin to take care of it. There's some math involved, but it's not too complicated.

Except now, through trial and error, I've figured out how much insulin I need when I eat, say, a salad-and-fruit dinner. My bloodsugar has dipped a few times when I took too much insulin after such a meal, but I've learned from those experiences. Now my adjustments are much more accurate, and my bloodsugar remains stable.

Before, I would have to eat enough carbs to cover the insulin I took after my meal. I had a set level of insulin I would take after every meal, so if I didn't eat enough my bloodsugar would crash. Now, I don't have that problem. I can eat what I want, and adjust the insulin - not the other way around.

That's number one. Number two is, with my gym membership, I've had to adjust my insulin around my meals. Since my metabolism is running pretty steadily these days, any insulin I took would have a bigger affect. When your body is more efficient at burning calories, you need less insulin to make up the difference. This is why healthy people don't become Type 2 diabetics.

Which makes something really obvious: the body is a wonderful, remarkable machine. This plus this equals that. Excercise plus insulin equals flexibility.

And flexibility is something I haven't had with my diet in a long, long time.

So when that paczki was finished digesting, I had enough insulin and enough metabolism to cover the beast. Instead of taking more insulin at lunch to cover lunch and the paczki, I only had to worry about lunch. And since I had chili and an apple for lunch, I had even less carbs in my system.

This, friends, is progress. It's a system that has helped me prevent a lot of the high-and-low swings that are epidemic among Type 1 diabetics. Because my bloodsugar doesn't crash after I take my insulin, I don't eat as much - and because I don't eat as much, I can take less insulin. In fact, if I could subsist on plain vegetables, I might not need to take insulin at all.

But let's not get crazy, here. I love paczki and fruit and bread too much to let that go. So I'll work with the system.

And, these days, the system is working great.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Humility in this day and age

Humility is in plentiful supply these days. And why not, since people are losing their jobs, losing their homes, and losing their sense of purpose and dignity. Us Michiganders have felt it for years now, of course, and now we stand to lose names like "Pontiac" and "Chrysler" down the giant economic drain hole.

That's humility. Now it's being felt all over.

But no matter what we learn during these hard time, it will all be forgotten in a generation. Maybe sooner, judging from the snap back to The Way Things Were after September 11. For a while there, we felt like we learned a lesson. Things were going to change. Then Things went back to normal. And here we are.

Ronald Reagan taught us to think we were special, remember, no matter how many hits to the chin we suffer. All you need is a short memory, an intollerance for intelligence or debate, and lots and lots of TV. Stir, add a little pepper, and you have that wonderful dish: Exceptionalism.

Exceptionalism, Jon Carroll says, is the excuse of dying dinosaurs:
Empires think they have beaten the rule of change. They haven't. Empires think size will protect them. It won't. Empires think military might will protect them. It won't. Empires think charismatic leaders will protect them. They won't. Nothing will. The old makes way for the new.

What's the new? Is the new America made of debt and not much else? That's all we've known since Reagan, and despite a few years during the '90s when our financial house seemed to be in order, we're right back where the Gipper put us: leveraged.

Now, to kick start the economy, our new president is forced to put us even more in debt. And if that doesn't scare each and every one of you, you're taking better pills than I am.

Have you looked through the stimulus bill? The kind of money our goverment is throwing around is staggering. For eight years we starved our national programs, and now we're replacing what was lost - but how will we pay for it all?

Democrats should fear these deficit numbers because, after all, it was their own Bill Clinton who balanced the budget. Democrats attached "fiscally responsible" to their brand, even though the GOP liked to think different. When Bush ran up the national tab, Democrats raised a hew and cry. Now Dems are spending money like it's going out of style.

Republicans should be even more ashamed: the largest tax cut in history, and the party that favors tax cuts can't complain enough. At least they pretend to worry about deficits now, instead of during the past eight years when they had access to the national MasterCard and humped it like a whore. It's enough to make you puke.

Those of us using our heads and stashing away a bit of money are made to feel bad for being frugal. "You fools," they tell us, "you'll hurt the economy if you don't spend more."

Edward Glaeser, writing for the New York Times, says so outright:
Within the private sector, as well, some should save and some should spend. Those Americans who borrowed too much, or are near their financial limits, should certainly cut back. The nation needs no more bankruptcies. Yet there are many Americans who spent the last eight years living within their means, and have plenty of resources left. For those Americans, the ones with cash in their bank accounts, this is the time to spend.

Right. So those who were responsible with their money, now is the time to go hog-wild. That, friends, isn't humility - it's the same horseshit that got us into this mess in the first place.

Is this what our grandparents faced in the 1930s - a call to spend? Did we respond to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor by going shopping? Now that whole generation is dying off, and with them the common sense that helped weather some of the greatest storms in our country's history.

I hope for some Grand Realignment of our economy, one which values production and saving energy and building things, instead of just moving money around. I hope for an America that doesn't base its self worth on people buying crap they don't need on credit. I hope for a country where a bit of humility, foresight, and grit win the day.

If things turn around, I'm worried that we'll go back to our old ways and repeat this cycle, every 10 years or so, and learn nothing. Or we'll find new ways to screw shit up.

But what if things don't turn around? What will we do then? Can we get any more humble?

Will it do us any good?