Counting Calories as a Diabetic

Kelsey Bonilla Health Guide
  • It's so basic; we can easily forget to think about calories.  Diabetics are taught to "count those carbs" and many of us have gotten carb counting down very proficiently.  What about calories?  How do they figure into the life of people with diabetes?


    As the number of obese and overweight people in America continues to climb and we are bombarded with daily advertisements for weight loss programs, drugs, and even surgeries, one has to wonder: is this really such a complicated issue?  Actually it's quite simple. Generally, Americans eat too much and exercise too little, thus the calories going in are outweighing (pun intended) the calories going out.  Too much energy is being absorbed by our bodies and then stored as fat.

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    I've hit a plateau with my weight.  I'm happily 5-7 pounds lighter than I was year ago.  However, I really would like to achieve my goal weight before getting pregnant with our second child.  I'm only about 15 pounds away, but they always say it's those last few pounds that hang on longest! 


    In addition to the realization that low blood sugars really wrack up my calorie intake, I've learned some other important things by counting calories. (Read Kelsey's last post, "The Calorie Impact of Low Blood Sugar" to read how calorie counting impacts her diabets management.)


    First of all, the exercise of tracking my daily calories is a great motivator for me to avoid snacking.  I'm talking about that piece of candy from the receptionist's desk, a bite of cheese as I make our lunches or those French fries off my husband's plate when we're out.  Those extra bites should be accounted for in my daily tracking.  Thus, it's easier to skip them than to figure out the calories and enter those line items into my spreadsheet. 


    The funny thing is, having diabetes used to be enough to motivate me to avoid these little temptations.  However, my insulin pump has allowed me newfound freedom to snack away.  Whereas previously, I could not rationalize giving myself an injection just for one little piece of candy, thus I wouldn't eat it; now I can just deliver a quick bolus to cover my indulgence.  Although it's great to have that freedom, I can't take advantage of it all the time without negatively affecting my weight goals.


    The actual calorie content of different foods is certainly enlightening.  Realizing that my coffee creamer has 30 calories a tub has helped to curb my coffee intake!  Also, while I am a big fan of nuts and cheese for their low carbohydrate quality, they're high in calories, so I've learned to watch my portion sizes more carefully. 


    I've also realized how great vegetables are when you're counting calories.  They are filling and so much lower in calories than most other types of food.  Yesterday evening, while working around the house, hanging out with Sienna, and pumping breast milk, I snacked on cucumber slices.  Since I was hungry, but waiting for Dennis to return from running before starting dinner, those cucumbers satiated my hunger, for very few calories.  I'm planning to stock up on celery, bell pepper, and other low carbohydrate veggies for those times when I just want a little something to tide me over.


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    It's become quite clear why my weight loss has leveled off lately.  Although I eat quite healthfully, especially during the work week, I've been indulging in special "treats" such as ice cream, waffles, and specialty coffee drinks, with some frequency on the weekends.  Those indulgences add up to a lot of calories very quickly.  While I've been able to eat pretty much eat whatever I'd like since I'm breastfeeding, these habits will catch up to me once I'm not burning an extra 500-600 calories per day! 

Published On: June 10, 2008