My husband has a serious sweet tooth. The dog is even worse.
It’s not unusual to open Hubby’s car door and find empty cookie cartons or crumpled up sacks from the donut shop, and he frequently brings home tidbits to share with his favorite buddy, our dog Sylvester.
So I wasn’t surprised when he came home one day with a cup of coffee in one hand and a bag of donuts in the other. It was a nice day so we decided to sit out under the carport and enjoy the weather while Sylvester and his “dad” had their snack.
Let me just interject right here and say that Sylvester could probably recognize a donut bag from blocks away and goes spastic whenever he sees one. In his world, there’s not a table scrap or doggie treat that can hold a candle to a donut. Plain cake donuts are his favorite, but I’ve never seen him turn up his nose at a coffee roll either.
I hooked Sylvester up to his leash and headed outside, where we waited (Syl, not so patiently) for Hubby to finish doing whatever it is people do inside when they first return home from work.
Unbeknownst to me, Hubby had set the donut sack on top of the wood pile before he went inside. Sylvester, however, was fully aware of its location and made a sudden dive toward it, half dragging me with him.
Next thing you know there was an overturned donut sack tottering precariously on top of a wooden log and two glazed French crullers scattered on the concrete.
Hubby opened the door to see me several feet away, struggling with Sylvester, who was jumping, twisting, and turning in a desperate attempt to escape my grasp, his eyes never leaving the crullers. The dog was moaning and whining so loudly you could hardly hear me yelling at him.
Sylvester is a hundred pound dog and incredibly strong, so the fact that I had pulled him back from the sack attack was pretty incredible and exhibited lightning fast reflexes on my part, I thought. Still, inch by inch, he was gaining ground toward the donuts and taking me with him.
“Oh… let him have them,” said Hubby.
Gratefully, I relaxed my grip and Sylvester rushed to the crullers and gobbled them up in seconds. Hubby took the opportunity to rescue the sack from the wood pile. “There’s still one left for me,” he said, but Sylvester wasn’t satisfied with that plan. He wanted that last cruller too, and lunged for the sack, practically knocking Hubby over in the process. I went back to struggling with the dog and holding him so Hubby could eat his donut.
“Hurry,” I said, panting from the effort.
“I’m eating it as fast as I can,” said Hubby, his mouth full.
Once the last donut was gone and we had shown Sylvester the empty sack, the dog relaxed and both Hubby and I collapsed onto our patio chairs. We watched Sylvester sniffing around the concrete for any donut crumbs he may have missed.
“You know,” said Hubby sadly. “He’s really unruly.”
“No kidding.” I turned accusing eyes toward Hubby. Sylvester is his dog, after all. “His donut habit has gotten out of hand.” I added.
We sat there, recovering, each lost in our own thoughts.
The thing is, sugar is a big problem in our home. BIG. And while I don’t believe we should let the dog jump us to get it, I can totally relate to his hysteria. The dog, you see, is only exhibiting behavior on the outside, that I feel on the inside.
He’s not subject to, nor does he understand, any of the social taboo’s against publicly losing control. Were I to shove my husband – or worse, a stranger in the donut shop – and steal their donuts, I would be subject to social disapproval at least and criminal punishment at most. Sylvester is not allowed in the donut shop, and the most he’s going to get from us is admonishment (and perhaps his donut privileges cut off).
Hubby eats things like donuts and cookies with no real, immediately negative impact on his health. Oh sure, he can get sugared up like anyone else, but his pancreas counteracts the rise of sugar in his blood by sending out a surge of the hormone insulin, which quickly acts to shuttle the excess sugar into his cells, thereby removing that excess from his blood and bringing his body back into balance.
Metabolic balance, because that’s what that whole process is. It’s how your metabolism works, how all the cells of your body get “fed”.
That blood sugar in your cells is the life-giving energy that runs all your bodily functions. Every brain cell, every skin cell, every nerve cell, every organ cell – it all runs on this metabolic process. Without it, you would die.
Working just as it should, Hubby’s body naturally balances this process and keeps the level of sugar in his blood at a consistent level, all the time. If his blood sugar goes up, insulin brings it back down. If his blood sugar goes low, sugar that his body has stored is released and a different hormone works to bring his blood sugar back up. He naturally stays within a narrow range without any control on his part. In fact, it’s practically impossible for him to move outside of that range and stay there. His body will counteract the imbalance and bring it back to the status quo.
This is why I don’t get on his case about his sweet tooth. If he can eat it, who am I to say he shouldn’t?
I, on the other hand, have insulin resistant diabetes. What insulin my pancreas still produces (or any insulin that I take in through prescription) just doesn’t do its job. My cells don’t co-operate. They don’t recognize the insulin and fight hard to prevent it access. As a result, if I eat a donut, my blood sugar rises – and stays there – wrecking havoc with my metabolism and causing all kinds of negative health issues.
By the way, you may hear blood sugar referred to as “blood glucose”. It’s means the same thing, the terms are interchangeable.
Since this is our metabolism we’re talking about, people with insulin resistant diabetes have cells that are not being fed. It may look like they are overfed, but in fact, their cells are not getting enough of the blood sugar to function properly. It’s being stored as fat instead. This is why they develop so many diabetic complications, because their organs, nerves, etc., are slowly starving to death, malfunctioning, and dying off.
This is the very basics of Type 2 diabetes. And that is what it looks like.
As would be expected, when your cells aren’t getting what they need, they start to complain. Loudly. Which is where the sugar and carbohydrate cravings come in. Since carbohydrates are broken down into sugar in your body, a piece of bread will cause your blood sugar to rise just as easily as a pure cube of sugar.
There are times when I feel like every cell in my body is screaming so loud for carbohydrates that I can hardly stand it. In fact, sometimes I just can’t. The cravings I experience are so intense they just about drive me out of my mind. It doesn’t matter if I’ve just eaten, or whether I’m hungry or not.
It’s a matter of need. My blood may be sweeter than a baby’s toothy grin, but my cells don’t know it. They’re not getting any of the benefit.
I realize my husband gets cravings for those doughy, carbohydrate and sugar loaded treats, as anyone does. After all, everyone loves sugar. And – intellectually at least – he accepts that my cravings are probably more intense than his, and he’s considerate about it. On those days when I struggle more than others, he makes it a point not to eat sweets in front of me.
Still, I wonder if he knows how much I sometimes want to act like Sylvester and shove him out of the way, grab his donut sack, scarf down the French crullers and hunt for crumbs afterwards.
But the dog? I feel a kind of ‘sugar kinship’ with the dog.
So after we sit there in our patio chairs for a while, and Hubby momentarily disappears inside the house for a coffee refill, I tell Sylvester what I’m thinking.
I tell him I get it, his instinctive need for sugar overcame his senses and he’s not to blame for entering a period of temporary insanity.
He gazes at me with his Mississippi mud colored eyes and listens intently and I realize the depth of our understanding. At that moment we both know that – if push came to shove – he’d sell me out for another donut.