The Calorie Impact of Low Blood Sugars

Kelsey Bonilla Health Guide
  • I recently started counting calories.


    As a type 1 diabetic, I have become quite proficient at counting the carbohydrates in my foods.  However, as much as I believe in eating a low-carb diabetes diet, carbohydrates aren't the complete picture of our diets.  As I attempt to lose a few pounds, I realized that to make the basic equation: "calories in minus calories out" work for me, I need to know how many calories I'm actually consuming. Thus, after setting up a simple spreadsheet, I started tracking every calorie that passed my lips. 


    What an enlightening process!  Since I have the advantage of burning an extra 500-600 calories per day just by producing breast milk, I have been able to eat more than I typically would, without any increase in poundage.  I decided to eat 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day, which shouldn't be all that difficult to maintain.

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    Yesterday evening, I had a wonderful, hour-long swim!  Then, with my dinner of whole wheat spaghetti, I enjoyed a small glass of red wine.  I'm not sure if it was the swimming, the wine, or a combination of the two, but I had a bunch of low blood sugars. 


    Before bed, my blood glucose rang in at 85 mg/dl with a good amount of insulin left on-board.  I had a few pieces of dried apricot (one serving has 22 grams of carbohydrate and 90 calories).  I didn't eat more because I've learned from trial and error that whole wheat pasta tends to have a delayed rising effect on my blood sugars. 


    However, I miscalculated because at 3:00 a.m. my blood sugar was 54 mg/dl.  I sleepily made my way to the kitchen and chose an eight ounce glass of orange juice instead of the yummy looking cookies on the counter.  At 26 grams of carbohydrate for 110 calories, it was a better choice that the cookies which had 17 grams of carb for 135 calories.


    When I woke up at 5:30 a.m. my blood sugar was back to 54 mg/dl!  Odd. I decided to forgo my regular high protein breakfast, for a granola bar and five ounces of skim milk.  For about the same number of calories, I could eat breakfast while also treating my low blood sugar.  


    Before Sienna, Dennis, and I headed out the door, I tested my blood sugar: 158 mg/dl.  Being in our typical morning rush, I didn't take the time to properly calculate a correction bolus.  I just saw a slightly high number and bolused away.  I had purposefully underbolused for my breakfast and figured I really did need additional insulin. 


    Nope, wrong again.  On my commute to work I felt low.  I grabbed another granola bar and tested at a stoplight: 56 mg/dl.  Still feeling low, once I arrived at work I had a small banana with a tablespoon of natural peanut butter with my morning coffee. 


    By 9:00 a.m. I had consumed nearly 800 calories for the day, most of which was eaten simply to treat my hypoglycemia!  One can clearly see how diabetes often leads to weight gain!  If we don't take these calories into account, we significantly sabotage our weight loss or maintenance goals. 


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    All throughout my adolescence and college years, my mental approach to this issue was somewhere along the lines of, "Well, it's not my fault I had to eat that extra stuff... I was low!"  Blame has nothing to do with it.  Calories don't care whether we eat for nourishment, out of boredom, for entertainment, or to treat a low.  Calories are calories and if we consume more than we burn, they'll be stored as excess. 


    So, today I had to look at my calorie log and note that nearly half of my daily allowance was gone.  In order to stick to my plan, I'd have to make those remaining calories last.  Isn't dieting fun?!


    The thing is, it feels very liberating to know how much I've eaten each day.  Blindly consuming food, whether for fun or because I medically have to, won't help me reach my goals.


Published On: June 03, 2008