Friday, December 12, 2008

R-I-C-E is How You Spell Hypoglycemia

As a child, I've struggled with ways to maintain my blood sugar levels during long school days. I'd routinely eat a sugary cereal or Pop Tart for breakfast and by snack time at 10:30 a.m., I'd have lost all ability to concentrate and would get cranky until I'd devoured half my lunch instead of just the apple slices or chips my mom had packed for me. Teachers suggested to my parents at various points during elementary school that I pack extra snacks to keep my blood sugar up until snack time. It was never severe enough that I stashed a juice box and some crackers in my desk, but its something I've been aware that may become a necessity at some point or another.

Of course, my sugary breakfast obviously had a lot to do with my mid-morning crash and I became more capable of handling this tendency through diet as I got older. Hypoglycemia hasn't been an issue for me since I was in high school (an only occasionally then), as I've had availability of snacks and drinks to keep me going. That is until I came to Asia.

David and I have been carrying a bevy of snacks with us whenever we travel between cities because we never know how long we'll be in transit and because buses are notorious for making infrequent stops and sometimes the local food is too scary to consider edible. Not to mention there's always a scam in place to part Westerners from their cash by overcharging for food. So up until I got food poisoning, I would have considered myself pretty set food-wise. But the problem with snacking in Asia is that almost everything "Western" is super salty or is chocolate. I wore myself out on chips while in China and have outdone myself on chocolate recently due to my sensitivity to caffeine. That severely limited my food choices so I attempted to stop snacking.

Sticking only to meals wouldn't necessarily be a problem in and of itself, except that everything we eat is essentially rice. Rice noodles, a little bit of pork, rice, a few vegetables, a banana or tangerine here and there, and oh yeah, more rice. Tastes great. Doesn't sustain me for more than a few hours.

I thought that skipping snacks was going rather well until I had a catastrophic melt-down in Hoi An several days ago. The weather was rainy and hot, I was disappointed at how a pair of jeans I'd had made turned out, David and I had a miscommunication over morning plans and I hadn't eaten anything in the 3.5 hours since I'd woken up. I had not set myself up for a good day. And it was VERY apparent.

I got UBER cranky. Everything annoyed me. I didn't want to talk to anyone, didn't want to be touched or looked at (which is next to impossible as a red-head in Asia). I felt like the sun would never shine again and even if it did, I'm not sure I would have cared. I had totally shut down. To the point that, if I were David, I would have walked off and left me alone. But he's a total trooper and even though I'd set a horrible tone for the day and soured both our moods, he took it in stride and stuck by my side.

We ate lunch and I felt remarkable! Not well enough that the daily annoyances like being harassed by street vendors and motorbike taxis didn't still frustrate me (apparently the "Fuck Off!" face doesn't translate), but well enough that I could leave Hoi An and trek back to Danang to attempt to catch a train. Before we left town, we had a brief chat about ways we'd both try to be better at recognizing and dealing with my impending hypoglycemic melt-downs. Like eating FIRST THING in the morning, rather that dawdling and running errands before seeking sustenance. We're quick to make sure that when we sit down to restaurants and I'm already starting to show signs of strain that I order a soda to get my blood sugar back up. This is not an issue I'm used to dealing with back home (or for that matter, in several years) and David is great at helping me recognize and thwart oncoming disaster. Things have been going much smoother during the last few days as a result and I feel so lucky to have him as a partner!

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