Janelle Brown: Sugar Swinging
I have long feared “the crash”. The brain circuits not firing, the overwhelming need to curl up and take a nap and legs feeling like they have heavy cement weights tied to them. I am talking about a blood sugar crash and at an early age I remember starting to be aware of them. I didn’t understand exactly what was wrong; I just knew that whatever it was it had to be avoided at any cost. Soon after my awareness, I discovered that by continually eating a little something all day long I could avoid the feeling – at least until evening when my fatigue was considered normal.
Back when I was a kid no one was talking about blood sugar crashes or the glycemic index, and there wasn’t much public discussion about small meals spaced through the day. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s and pregnant with my first child, Logan, that my midwife explained things to me. It was such a relief. I had suffered so many years thinking something was wrong with me. That I must be lazy to be that tired. She said not to worry, that I was just a “sugar swinger.” Periods of normal blood sugar followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar that caused the shutdown. It wasn’t even that I was eating tons of junk food, it was that I just needed to eat small meals spaced evenly apart and keep some almonds or something on hand in case I got in a bind.
I have wondered how my eating habits and my corresponding battle with weight would have potentially altered if I had understood what was going on in my body. The constant reaching for something to get my hit created a very unhealthy eating pattern for me from so early in my life, with the crashing also leading to overeating as I rushed to get food into my mouth after the fact.
I am grateful for that simple education I received almost 20 years ago and the subsequent research now available. I am also grateful for the public awareness as experts now talk about the reality of maintaining even blood sugar levels, even if you are not a diabetic. It has allowed me to educate my children, of which 50 percent have turned out to be sugar swingers like me, how to properly care for themselves. I'm also teaching them the benefit of avoiding really refined foods.
Do I perfectly do what I should each day to keep myself functioning at optimal levels? No, not every day. I still live in the real world of crazy schedules and easily accessible sugary and processed foods. It is still day-to-day management. But I am aware now of what is going on when I start to get that yucky feeling, how I can start managing it quicker and in a healthier way, and even better yet, how to avoid it all together.