Lessons from Levi

My foster dog Levi and I spend a lot of time together. Since I work from home, he’s constantly curled up next to me, usually sleeping while I’m working. They say that owners and their pets sometimes start to resemble one another over time. I’d definitely say that’s been true of Levi and I.

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There’s a lot we can learn from our pets. In fact, I found a great list on Huffington Post of what dogs can teach us about what matters most. They remind us to live in the moment, to not hold grudges, to be loyal and dependable, and to love unconditionally.

Yesterday though, I found myself imitating Levi in a completely different way.

It was after my bootcamp class. My blood sugar was on the rise, but this was to be expected since this particular fitness class always seems to raise my blood sugar an hour later. Anticipating this rise, I had given a few units of insulin once class ended. I ate dinner, giving another bolus. But it was as if I was delivering water instead of insulin, it wasn’t doing anything to stop my rapidly rising blood sugar! By 9:30 pm I found myself staring at a staggeringly high number, the highest I’ve seen in a very very long time. I changed my infusion set and gave a correction through an injection.

At this point in the night, I was feeling truly miserable. I was thirsty, nauseous, my body and head ached, my brain felt foggy. But it was the end of the night and I had to take Levi out before bed.

LeviDance.gifThat’s when I realized that Levi was doing exactly what I needed to be doing! Tonight, I would channel my inner dog and follow Levi’s example.

Excited to be outside, Levi started pulling me to walk faster. Alright I got it, we’ll pick up the pace! Exercise, including walking, can be beneficial in lowering blood sugar. Great thinking, Levi.

While on our walk, Levi kept stopping to sniff and pee every 10 feet. While stopping so often on a walk is annoying, frequent urination to flush out your system is important when dealing with high blood sugars or even small amounts of ketones. Smart thinking again, Levi.LeviDrink.gif

When Levi finally finished emptying his bladder and marking every pole we passed, we went back inside. Levi made a dash straight for his water dish, lapping up the entire bowl. Drinking lots of water! This can help the kidneys flush out the extra glucose in the blood. Great and important advice, Levi!

I checked my blood sugar again, finally it was coming down! The rapidly dropping arrows confirmed that I was trending in the right direction and I was starting to feel a little bit better.

With the worst behind me, I followed Levi’s lead one last time that night.

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By 12:30 am, my blood sugar was back to normal. Thanks for all the lessons, Levi!

 

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To fast or not to fast?

Yesterday was Yom Kippur or “Day of Atonement”, one of the holiest days in Judaism. On this days, Jews around the world atone for their sins and ask forgiveness from those they have wronged over the year and from God.

One of the traditions of Yom Kippur is fasting. The idea is that you are afflicting the body and soul with an act of self-denial as you repent for your past sins. One is meant to put aside physical desires and instead focus on spiritual needs through prayer, repentance, and self-improvement.

While the Yom Kippur fast is an important ritual, it is never at the sake of jeopardizing one’s health and so Jewish law says that people who cannot fast for health or other reasons, should not fast.

Now this post isn’t meant to pass judgement on anyone’s traditions, beliefs, or decisions. I completely respect and understand anyone’s decision to fast or not fast, regardless of health reasons. I respect the manner in which anyone observes this holiday or their choice not to. This post isn’t about anyone else besides me. It’s about my own personal experiences and struggle.

That being said, I’ve always had a hard time not fasting on Yom Kippur. Over the years I’ve tried many different techniques. Some years I fasted as long as I could until I dropped low and then broke the fast. Other years I intentionally let my blood sugar run high for the day so I wouldn’t drop low. Some years I didn’t fast at all. And while I knew that having type 1 diabetes “excused” me from fasting, I approached this Yom Kippur with an uneasy feeling and internal struggle.

Why was I so conflicted? After all, Jewish law is very clear that not fasting for health reasons is not only completely acceptable, but encouraged. After giving it some thought, I came to the conclusion that it came down to two main points.

  1. To me, I didn’t want it to appear like I was using my diabetes as an excuse, or a way out of something undesirable. I’ve been very careful my whole life to not use my diabetes as an excuse for special privileges when they weren’t necessary or to let my diabetes stop me from doing something that I wanted to do.
  2.  While I know this is not really the case, I could never shake this feeling that somehow I was missing an essential component of this holy day by not fasting, that I wasn’t fully experiencing it in the way that I should.

With this knowledge of where my struggle was coming from, I went on a search for something that could help me come to a sense of inner peace and acceptance over this issue. The internet is a great place, and with a little searching, I came across two websites that had just what I needed to hear.

The first came from Everyday Health and was an article on Fasting Safely With Diabetes. In it, there’s a quote that says, “In the Jewish religion, it is considered a mitzvah (a good deed) if one must eat for health reasons.” What was most striking is the idea that eating for health reasons is not just “acceptable” but is actually a good deed!

The second confirming text came from an article from aish.com in the Ask the Rabbi section about Eating on Yom Kippur. The article stated, “Just as on Yom Kippur it is a mitzvah to fast, in certain circumstances the mitzvah is to eat on Yom Kippur. Even if the person wants to fast like everyone else, God sometimes gives a unique test- in this case to eat on Yom Kippur, to remain healthy and serve God.”

What I took from this article was this idea that for people who are healthy, fasting is their challenge. But for me, someone who would really like to participate by fasting but shouldn’t, my challenge is actually eating on Yom Kippur. My test is different, but not inferior, it is still a mitzvah!

Finally after many years, I began to understand my situation differently. To see that my participation in this holy day may be different, but is not any less meaningful. Not fasting on Yom Kippur is truly one of the few things that I’ve had accept that I can’t really do with my diabetes. But this year and from here forward, I embrace this fact.  When I was able to come to a place of inner acceptance, I knew that I would be able to defend my decision to not fast not by feeling inferior, but by feeling proud!

But fasting or not, I still love the break fast food!IMG_8413