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Living With Diabetes: An Interview with Joe

by in Diabetes, Guest Posts, Kitchen Sink, Preventative Medicine November 17, 2008

I hope all my readers today have a chance to read this interview.

If you have diabetes you could use the empathy, and if you are currently free of chronic disease you may want to read and feel motivated to take better care of your body NOW to prevent disease.

Do you ever wonder what it is like to live with diabetes? Ever wonder how your friends or family members are secretly doing day to day with this difficult disease?

Today I will be interviewing Joe, otherwise known as “Crotchety” to all the readers of his widely read, popular and hilarious humor blog, “Crotchety Old Man Yells at Cars” about living with diabetes.

You can only imagine my terror when I first saw that some website “Crotchety Old Man Yells at Cars” was linking to Kitchen Table Medicine. I thought for sure we were under some sort of blog terrorism attack, until I realized that he just was reading my blog, and had added it to his list of favorite sites. Phew! Disaster everted. For professional reasons today I will of course refer to Crotchety as “Joe” throughout the rest of the interview. *wink*

I invited Joe to lead the discussion of what it is like to live with diabetes because he always tells it exactly how it is, and I don’t want diabetes to be sugar coated–no pun intended. I appreciate his incessant honesty and that is why he is so darn funny over there. If you need a daily dose of Rated G or–er? PGish humor to keep you laughing each morning you can subscribe to his blog.

He also has a site called “Diabetes Destroys” and has posted some very graphic pictures (don’t look at those if you are eating right now) of his latest skin infection from diabetes. You may just want to bookmark the page and take a look before you decide to have another ice cream sundae today, especially if diabetes runs in your family. These days Type II diabetes is epidemic though, and runs in nearly everyone’s family. Please welcome to the kitchen table my dear friend Joe!

Hi Joe, How did you feel when you were diagnosed with type II diabetes?

Joe: I’ve been diagnosed for over 20 years, probably closer to 30. Kind of silly that I don’t remember, but thinking about it, that probably points to what I felt about the disease.
I had failed badly in taking responsibility for my health. I was told that it was unlikely that I would ever make it to 30, and rather than scaring me, it made me not care at all.

So, diabetes was just one more thing I would be taking pills for. Big deal.

What was your diet and lifestyle like before diabetes?

Joe: More or less, I treated my body like an amusement park. I did what I wanted, partied pretty heavily at times (lots of beer and alcohol…ok, lots was an understatement.)

I drank more in less time than any one of my friends. Most days, more than any 2 of them. I often went out with 2 of my friends, and the first round was 2 beers, and 6 screwdrivers. They each had one beer, I had all 6 screwdrivers.

We never had less than 2 such rounds, usually 3 if we stayed a second hour. I ate lots of fast food, nearly every day. Never exercised, just drank heavily and ate a lot of junk. Weight became a major issue, but I didn’t care because I was going to die by 30. I was pretty pissed when I didn’t.

What is your diet and lifestyle like now?

Joe: I still don’t exercise enough because I’m pretty lazy. But I do eat a fairly healthy diet. I’m far from perfect. My metabolism is unbelievably slow, as I eat very little most days, yet can’t seem to lose weight. I don’t eat a lot of substitutes as I firmly believe they are junk.

Most are either empty calories or poison.

For instance, I don’t rely on diet sodas or drinks with sugar substitutes. I drink mostly water or green tea sweetened with either a few ounces of juice or plain. I may have one regular soda per week, maximum. And not a big Gulp or anything like that. Either one Snapple Peach Tea or one 12 oz. Jones Cream Soda. I’d love to be perfect, but that isn’t going to happen.

Most of my food choices are whole grain, and I do limit amounts. Back in the day, the Mrs. and I would get, at most, two meals from a pound of spaghetti. And, to be honest, the second meal was a bit skimpy. Today, one pound lasts us 3 or 4 meals, sometimes more.

Most meals are heavy on vegetables, and very light on carbs like potatoes and breads.
I also don’t have a lot of animal protein. Maybe 3 times a week, and nearly dairy free.
I should exercise more, but at least I feel guilty about that, so that’s a good sign, I guess.

What were/are your biggest challenges with a diabetic diet and lifestyle?

Joe: The biggest challenge is thinking about what I’m eating.

I’d love to start out my day with a breakfast of bagels and cream cheese and a quart of chocolate milk. And then gulp down a large Coke with a couple double cheeseburgers and fries, and maybe an apple pie. And then have a pizza for dinner with extra pepperoni.

But if I were to eat that way, it would make me feel sick for days. I always consider what I’m eating and what comes next. If I don’t make a good choice for breakfast, I have to be careful to not follow it up with a bad lunch and dinner or else my sugar will skyrocket and take days to get back to normal. And I’ll feel terrible the whole time. I try to make good choices all the time, but life happens. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s working for me. I don’t give myself free reign, but by the same token, I realize that I don’t live in a vacuum.

As far as lifestyle, well, it has pretty much put a serious crimp in mine. At least 4 times I have been hospitalized for a couple months at a time. It’s tough to have a job remain open when I take off for 4 months to sit in a hospital and rehab. That and I have some serious ambulation problems now. It stinks when they start to cut off parts.

What has living with diabetes taught you?

Joe: It’s taught me that there is no magic pill. I have to take responsibility for myself. While some medicines do help control sugar, and some people need insulin, the majority of help comes from within.

If you had a friend that just learned they were diagnosed with diabetes today what would you tell them?

Diabetes is an insidious disease. It moves slowly and destroys you in ways that aren’t visible. No pill, no food, no exercise will ever take over for learning to care properly for yourself. Every illness that I have had over the last 20+ years can be traced, in some degree, to diabetes. It can not be cured, but it can be managed.

I often ask someone which glass will break first, one with a crack or one that is perfect? They always say the perfect one. But I contend the cracked one will last longer because one takes better care of it.

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What are five simple things every person reading this article can do to prevent type II diabetes?

Joe: It is pretty simple.

1. Get proper rest
2. Get proper nutrition and maintain a healthy weight (diabetics are always hungry, it seems, and empty calories just make it worse)
3. Get sufficient exercise
4. Laugh (You do know I write a humor blog, right?)
5. Take responsibility for your life

Thanks for a great interview Joe, I am sure everyone has really appreciated your honesty around this tough disease. Stop by “Crotchety Old Man Yells at Cars” or subscribe for a daily dose of candid humor, and “Diabetes” Destroys” for more support and information around living with diabetes. If you have any questions for Joe or would like to share your own story with diabetes please do so in the comments section of this article.

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9 Comments
  1. Thanks, Doc!
    I am one of Joe’s groupies..is he not he sweetest? That old man is is crazy ’bout you, Girl. I had to come and see what kind of trouble he kicked up in here. I got no sugar problems but I like hangin with y’all.
    Eve

    eve’s last blog post..Living With Diabetes: An Interview with Joe

  2. Thanks, Doc!
    I am one of Joe’s groupies..is he not he sweetest? That old man is is crazy ’bout you, Girl. I had to come and see what kind of trouble he kicked up in here. I got no sugar problems but I like hangin with y’all.
    Eve

  3. Hi Doc! Hi Joe!

    Here’s an amazing dvd you might want to check out: Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days, an independent documentary film that chronicles six Americans with ‘incurable’ diabetes switching their diet and getting off insulin. You can watch the trailer here.

    earthmother’s last blog post..Living With Diabetes: An Interview with Joe

  4. […] on my friend Dr. Nicole Sundrene’s blog Kitchen Table Medicine, she interviews “Joe” Living With Diabetes. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live with diabetes? Ever wonder how your […]

  5. […] The Diabetes Tax: Diabetics cost the health care system $13 dollars per every $1 dollar that is spent on the average healthy […]

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  7. […] on my friend Dr. Nicole Sundrene’s blog Kitchen Table Medicine, she interviews “Joe” Living With Diabetes. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live with diabetes? Ever wonder how your friends or […]

  8. Vegetables have significant phytochemical (plant nutrient and antioxidant) profiles and are many are rich in fiber, which contribute to gastrointestinal health as well as the detoxification of toxins and heavy metals. While it is important to include these nutrient-rich staples in your diet, some vegetables may actually feed your body with another element that you might not be aware of – sugar.
    While most vegetables are generally low in sugar and carbohydrates, some vegetables contain more sugar than others. Vegetables that contain more water are usually lower in sugar than those without and include spinach, lettuce, asparagus, cucumber, radish, cabbage, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms. Most green leafy vegetables also contain high amounts of fiber, which helps distribute sugar slowly through the body’s systems.
    Other vegetables that are lower in water content and therefore higher in sugar include root vegetables such carrots, as well as peas, corn, squash, beets, and white potatoes. These types of vegetables are not only high in sugar, but also have a high glycemic index, making it more difficult for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. Sweet potatoes are much lower on the glycemic index than white potatoes since they are lower in starch, so they are often considered a healthier alternative to regular potatoes. Even for people who do not have diabetes, eating large amounts of high-glycemic foods can actually increase the risk of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes.
    While it is important to be aware of the sugar content in vegetables, it does not mean that you should avoid them altogether. Health experts vary in their recommendations for the number of servings of vegetables you should consume each day, but it typically falls between three and five. The more vegetables you eat, while cutting out other processed sugary snacks, the better off your health will be.
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