Mastering Diabetes at the Diabetes Research Institute, Day 1

Gina Capone Health Guide
  • I flew to Miami a couple of months ago from New York to take a 5 day intensive course in mastering my diabetes at the Diabetes Research Institute - a recognized world leader in cure-focused research. (Want to read more about the DRI visit Yes, I flew to Miami to do this.

    Why, you ask?

    1. My good pal Gary Kleiman, who I respect highly and also works at the DRI, said it would be a good idea for me to take the class, and could help me to get my blood sugars in better control.
    2. In my opinion, the DRI is the #1 place for anything regarding diabetes.
    3. I heard from people that participated in this program that it has changed their lives…and so I hoped it would change mine as well.

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    So, that was pretty much all the inspiration I needed to travel 2hrs and 20 min by plane (I hate flying, but my health was worth a plane ride to Florida!). Plus, I like learning new things about diabetes.

    I flew in a day early because the class started at 8 am on a Thursday morning. My mom and sister went with me to provide some moral support – they were my “roomies.”

    The next morning came really quickly. I had to take a Metrorail from the hotel, which left me right near where I had to be. I got to the DRI and was super excited to meet my classmates and also the Diabetes Center staff, which included a delightfully sweet Aussie named Kellie Rodriquez, M.S.N., C.P.T who I have been speaking to on the phone for a quite awhile but never met until the class. Also in the group, a funny Brit named Jane Sparrow-Bodenmiller, R.N., C.D.E., C.P.T., and the hilarious Cuban Nutritionist and all-around-stickler, Marta Alfonso.

    These three individuals made the whole group feel completely at ease right away, which was good because I was a bit nervous and didn't really know what to expect. The first day was full of introductions about what we would be learning – about diabetes and ourselves – over the next 4 days.

    There were nine people in our group, all who have lived with diabetes from 9 months to 30 years. One person came all the way from Panama for the class, which was awesome! We had a husband/wife team as well, along with a mom and son combo. The rest of the group, except for me and the girl from Panama were from the Florida area. All of us bonded pretty quickly which was amazing. I felt a direct connection with these people from the get-go. I have noticed whenever you get people with diabetes together, the D-bond is a strong glue! (Ok, maybe that was a bit corny, but, hey, I tried!)

    After intros and lab work, Day 1 consisted of a brief description on what diabetes is, a food lab teaching us all on the basics of carb counting, ratios, how to read food labels, measuring food with and without cups and using the WAG method.

    What the heck is the WAG method?

    Answer: The Wild Ass Guess Method

    I thought this was the funniest saying we learned in the 5 days. We, as people with diabetes, always use this method and I never knew it had a name. And it turns out it’s a perfect name! It can be used in so many ways, but my favorite is "I'm waggin' it" - Classic!

  • Then, we got into teams of two and went to another side of the room where there was a food lab setup. Here, we had to guess how many carbs were in each item by using the WAG method. We wrote our answers on a piece of paper and were given the answers to see if we “wagged” it correctly. (I seriously can't get enough of that word!)

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    It came as no surprise that most of us were terrible at guessing carbs, which is why most our numbers are all whacked out after eating out and not knowing exact carb counts. We were all given “calorie king” books to help us along the way, but learned that using our hands for measuring can help with portion control when we are out, as well. Also, once you have measured something out you can pretty much remember for the next time and make your life a bit easier.

    Most of us were high by lunch. Our breakfast options included bagels, fruit, yogurt, cereal and some other things to present us with real-life food choices. Apparently, we all chose bagels, with our high sugars as evidence!

    Anyway, one of the girls in our group got her lunch with meat and no bread, some salad, and  a bag of chips. Her number before she ate was in the 220's. The nutritionist then told her not to eat the chips. But, what I didn't understand was why?

    Her number wasn't so high that it was going to cause a huge spike, so what gives? Well, if you are already high before you eat and then have carbs that are maybe a bit higher in fat like chips, you will more than likely stay at a higher number for hours after. So, it’s better to wait until your number comes down first, then check again and eat the chips at a lower number. Makes sense, right? I never knew that.

    We learned a bunch of these little tips along the way, which were so helpful.

    After nutrition 101, we had a lesson in insulin therapy and glucose targets. This was a real eye opener for me because my target ranges were always 100-110, and low for me  was always anything below 80.


    Apparently, 70-120 is normal range. I was always correcting blood sugars of 70-80 for years. Jane, who in my opinion is the best CDE I have ever encountered, told me that for pregnancy 70 needs to be a normal blood sugar for me. (Trying to get my A1C down for pregnancy is my main goal right now.) Oh boy, I thought. There is no way in hell I am going to get there from my current track record. I tried to keep an open mind, though.

    We ended Day 1 talking about how to record our blood sugars over the course of the next 4 days. They had already asked us to record our blood sugars 3 days before we got there. Jane and Kellie took copies of them to put on transparencies, which we would review on Day 2 with an endocrinologist and the CDEs. Then, we would start writing Day 1 numbers and food logs on the new transparencies.

    I left Day 1 with an open mind and great expectations of what was to come.

    Day 2 coming up next...

Published On: October 28, 2009