So, here I am, still working 8 weeks later to adjust to fitting back into my routine life after a whirlwind 3+ weeks traveling in Japan and then a crazy but fun-filled four days of photographing red rock formations in Moab, Utah!
The small amount of Japanese language I had begun to understand and use has mostly faded from my brain cells, and I find I’m missing the excitement of trying to function between two languages, two geographic places, two cultures! But I still find myself processing what went well for me as a traveler with diabetes; someone who had the luxury (guided by my Tokyoite friend Chikako who traveled with me) of being so immersed in the Japanese culture, and what didn’t go so well in terms of living with my diabetes.
The basic staples of the Japanese diet: rice and noodles (udon; ramen; soba), served in huge amounts, were definitely an obstacle to good control. I am embarrassed to admit my recent HA1C was 8.5; gulp! one of my highest ever. Yet I found I needed to eat these carbs in Japan, since I had to be sure my blood sugar level didn’t fall too low while I walked miles every single day! That’s a common dilemma for many of my friends who have diabetes and travel anywhere. What I learned to do was add good protein, when available, to my meals, in the forms of fish (all types cooked and yes, even raw), egg, and chicken. The amount of protein served in meals was very small compared to what we eat in the U.S., so I supplemented my diet with protein bars and spoonfuls of peanut butter (which I brought in a plastic jar with me) when needed. This helped me survive pretty well!
The “new” carb that seems to be helping to skyrocket the number of Japanese being diagnosed with diabetes is, of all things, bread. White bread. Lots of it, everywhere, in patisserie specialty shops. And lots of sweets in the form of cakes, cookies, pastries. The Japanese definitely have a sweet tooth, and I was saddened to hear (and see) that many are paying for it . . . becoming overweight and diabetic. This was almost unheard of a generation ago, so it’s something to think about.
With the exception of battling high blood sugar levels after carb-laden lunches of noodles, ramen or udon soups, or rice dishes, I’m confident I managed my blood sugars and tweaking my insulin in such a distant land quite well! I’m working on bringing that high average HA1C level down. But traveling definitely makes me quite grateful for home glucose testing (which most of us probably take for granted these days) and my insulin pump (for which I often give thanks for its ability to enable me to sleep later, switch time zones, cover extra carbs with boluses of insulin, and even suspend insulin, as needed)!
Thanksgiving may be over on this year’s calendar. But in living my own life, there’s reason to celebrate and give thanks every day in terms of my gratefulness and sheer pleasure at the possibility of being immersed in the zest and best of life.
B well, b happy. Until next time (my procrastinating days are over; I’ll be writing again soon!), Kath