Hi! My name is Tanya, and like Jayne, I was born and raised in Minnesota. We met in college and our adventurous lives have taken us to many places away from Minnesota. Currently, I’m a wife, mother, and teacher living in Appleton, Wisconsin. I’d like to share part of my diabetes journey with you.
I was 13 years old when my father was diagnosed with diabetes. He was just 40 years old. I had no idea what diabetes was back then. In fact, my mom, who was a nurse, didn’t really explain it to me or my brother. When I first heard the term diabetes, I thought it was something terminal. How long does he have to live?
My parents did explain that it wasn’t something that required intensive treatment like cancer. My dad kept vials of insulin in the fridge and gave himself a shot of insulin daily. Maybe it was more than once, but I don’t really remember. My parents divorced within a year or so of his diagnosis so I didn’t see his daily routine with insulin unless I was at his home on the weekends.
Even though I was somewhat familiar with the term diabetes, I didn’t pay much attention to it while I was in my teens and early twenties. I was busy with homework, marching band, piano lessons, talking on the phone, church and youth group, riding my bike, hanging out with my friends… all the normal stuff we did back in the 1980s/1990s when we weren’t in the “digital age” that we live in now.
As life pressures started happening, getting harder and the workload increases, I worked out less and ate worse foods. It wasn’t even so much that I ate more as it was that I ate quick, “convenient” junk food. What do college students rely on? A hotpot to heat water so we could make noodles. Why eat something healthy when I could walk next door to the snack bar at the student union and order chicken strips and deep-fried mozzarella sticks? The problem was it wasn’t once in a while, it was getting to be on a regular basis.
I graduated from college in 1996 wearing a size 20. In high school I’d almost always been between a 14-16, so it wasn’t as if I was a skinny girl, but this was shocking to me. Something had to change — and boy did it! I had a degree in secondary education and had dreams of teaching in a Lutheran high school. The problem was that there wasn’t a lot of demand for teachers in Lutheran high schools; or public schools for that matter. I ended up hearing about the opportunity to teach at an American style Christian school in Guatemala. I took a leap of faith and moved there for a year.
Food was different in Guatemala. There were no American restaurants in my city. No fast food areas or readily available junk foods. A bag of M & Ms that would cost maybe $.50 here was $3.00 there. Everything was different! I lived in the mountains and I walked almost everywhere. Even if I wanted to take a bus to a different part of the city or country, I had to walk to get to the bus area. Over that year, I lost a lot of weight and came home wearing a size 10.
When I returned to the U.S. I tried very hard to keep up with my running routine and healthier eating that I had created in Guatemala, but it wasn’t that easy. I came back and started in graduate school away from all my family and friends. I was lonely and I slipped back into old habits. The more I studied, the less I worked out and the worse I felt. Since I was in my 20s, my doctors never really voiced many concerns since my blood glucose numbers always came back in the normal range.
It wasn’t until I was 39 and pregnant with my second child that diabetes finally became a reality for me.
Since I was considered a geriatric pregnancy because I was over 35 years old this time, my risk for gestational diabetes was higher. I was tested for it before my third trimester. If you’ve never had to do a diabetes test, you should be very thankful! Drinking a super sugary flavored syrup was not my idea of fun! Getting blood tests every hour for 3 hours was not fun either!
I had to meet with a diabetes educator to be put on a strict, low carb eating plan for the last 12 weeks of my pregnancy. The good news? Baby kept growing normally. The better news? I didn’t gain a single pound in that trimester!
When you’ve had gestational diabetes, you are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later. It’s not so much if as it is when. So, I knew this day was coming. It happened in summer 2018. We’d just sold our house — in less than 24 hours on the market! The housing market was so hot that we barely got to look at some of the houses that were on the market because they were sold before we knew it. In addition to the stress of packing, we had to find an apartment to live in, storage unit, and organize everything else. Oh, yeah, I was finishing my first-year teaching at a new school and this was all supposed to happen during the end of our school year. Going for my annual physical in June, I found out that I failed the blood glucose test for diabetes. I was put on Metformin medication. It tore up my guts for several days.
I found out about the ultra-low carb Ketogenic way of eating and did very well with it during Summer 2018. However, when we finally bought a house that Fall, I tried to stay with “low carb” eating while cheating occasionally. I mean, I have two daughters who love pasta, sandwiches, dessert, etc. How could I say “no”? Slowly my “mostly low carb” lifestyle morphed into “sometimes low carb” and when COVID-19 caused us to transition immediately to online school, forget it. I ate all the carbs.
I didn’t even care. I put away my blood glucose meter and didn’t even check it weekly.
My reality check came in June 2020. I knew I couldn’t keep eating so many carbs so I went back to my Ketogentic diet.
I was so impressed and inspired by Jayne’s No Sugar Baker blog and recipes that I ordered almond flour and Swerve sweeteners.
It always helped me lose a little weight and get my blood sugars down pretty quickly in the past. Not this time, sister! A simple blood glucose test showed what I already knew: my A1C, which had been 5.9 a year ago, was 10 now. My cholesterol and triglyceride numbers were through the roof because of my high blood sugar. This was despite my Keto diet. What was going to happen now?
Three miraculous things happened for me. One, I was prescribed an injectable medication that lowered my blood sugars and kept them stable. Wow! What a feeling! Two, I met with diabetes nurse who was uplifting and encouraging. I asked about wearing a Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) device and she enthusiastically supported that request. Three, I began wearing a CGM. It is about the size of a quarter and sticks on to the back of my arm. I can test my blood sugar levels as many times as I want to without finger pokes. I can view trends. I can “eat to my meter” and figure out how my body reacts to certain foods.
Most of all, I found food and recipes that are helping me stay committed to low carb living!
I want to share a couple of my personal favorites. The first recipe is so simple that I can’t really call it a “recipe” per se. I’m sharing it because even if you have no special ingredients in your how for starting a low carb lifestyle, you can start with this recipe!
I hope you enjoy and if you ever need a listening ear or pen pal—you can reach out to me at TanyaJohnsonWrites@gmail.com
Stay the course!
½ C Shredded Cheese
Mix the egg and cheese together in a bowl so that the cheese is well coated in egg.
Spray the waffle iron. If using an individual iron, this recipe will make two waffles.
Pour mixture on the waffle iron. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Let “chaffle” sit for a couple of minutes to crisp up a little.
The beauty of this recipe is that you probably have everything you need in your kitchen right now! Also, you can add so many things to make it taste different. Add a little vanilla and/or cinnamon to create an alternative for French Toast. Add some Italian spices and top it with some extra cheese, put it under the broiler for a few minutes, and create your own cheesy garlic bread”. You can use it as a substitute for bread when making a sandwich. It is so versatile!
Lemon Cheesecake Upside Down Bars:
My new favorite recipe is one that you don’t get to share with others! What?! Yep. I said it and I’m not even sorry about it. Did you ever see those tv commercials where the overweight woman is sitting on her couch, watching tv, and eating a stick of butter? I used to think ewww. Now I know that the key to keeping my blood sugars low is to eat butter… and cream cheese! Since I’m not going to unwrap a stick of butter and start eating, this is a way to make a delicious treat out of these blood sugar stabilizing fats!
6 oz Cream Cheese
6 oz Butter (divided into 4 oz and 2 oz)
¼ C Swerve Confections
2 T Swerve Granular
1 Lemon (juiced for 2T plus finely grated rind)
⅓ C Almond Flour
You are making “fat bombs” which are combinations of full fat foods that you can eat just a small amount daily to help regulate your blood sugars. They are a great source of energy and can help satisfy a “sweet tooth craving” without causing problems to your blood sugar!
This recipe makes about a 5 x 7 inch small pan. You can adjust the ingredients as needed for a larger pan.
Soften the cream cheese and butter to room temperature for about 1 hour.
Microwave the cream cheese in increments until it is starting to melt but not runny.
Combine 2T lemon juice with ¼ cup powdered Swerve sweetener. Mix well. I’ve made it with the granulated sweetener but it has a grainy texture to it. Use the powdered if you have it!
With a mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter with the lemon juice/sweetener.
Add some of the grated lemon rind to the mixture and stir well (if desired).
Spread the mixture into a small pan or silicone molds.
In a bowl, combine 1-2 T granulated Swerve sweetener with 2 oz butter and ⅓ cup almond flour. Mix until well combined.
Sprinkle the “crust” on top of the lemon mixture and gently pat down.
Cover and put in the freezer for 2 hours.
Remove from the freezer and store in the refrigerator. Cut into 1-inch x 1-inch size cubes.