How to Stop Overtreating Lows
Updated: Aug 31, 2021
We probably all know that when we get a low, we should eat 15 carbs and then wait 15 minutes before treating again. But there are a LOT of things that prevent that from happening by the book.
I lived alone for most of my early 20's, and I have such vivid memories of waking up with a low blood sugar and frantically dumping as much candy as I could down my throat and then waking up with a 400+. Or going back further to my teen years, raiding the refrigerator and putting together the strangest combinations of food, only to go high an hour later then low again. It was such a vicious cycle that always left me drained and moody.
First thing first, I just want to say that its so normal to overtreat lows. Our body is literally screaming to us that it needs food! Also, low blood sugars ARE super serious and shouldn't be treated casually. But that being said, I believe that letting fear and habit take over when a low hits is the cause of overtreating (which then leads to that crazy roller coaster of up down up down up down).
So where can you begin to stop it? Here's a few things that helped me over the years:
1. Increase the low alarm on your cgm If you have a cgm, a huge help can be to increase the low alert so that you can catch a low before it feels frantic. That way, you'll be in a better frame of mind to treat the low and make a decision that supports you! I have mine currently set at 80.
2. Have a plan
Knowing exactly what you'll be reaching for when you open up your cabinet/ refrigerator is so helpful. It prevents me from feeling overwhelmed and grabbing for all the things. Proactive versus reactive. This also goes for having snacks in your car, purse, or wherever you may need it! Restock regularly!
3. Use a meter (not a cgm)
All cgms have a slight lag, which means that your sugar may be coming up even though it's still showing a down arrow. Double-checking with a meter can help give you peace of mind that your sugar is in fact rising.
4. Take three deep breaths with your hand on your heart
You're safe. You're safe. You're safe. When we take mindfulness out of the moment, things will feel frantic, rushed, and fearful. When fear hits, the mind has lost the battle. Treat the low on your terms, not your fears'. This doesn't mean don't act with urgency. Move quick, but move smart.
5. Count your carbs, even if it's more than 15g
I had a lot of shame around my low binges for many years. I would hide wrappers in couch cushions or deep in the trash so my mom wouldn't be able to see how many packs of gushers that I ate to treat my low. My first step in stopping the cycle of overtreating lows was simply to actually count how many carbs I was eating. Once I got back in range, I would correct for the carbs that I overate by. Because I don't prebolus, there is usually still a small spike, but definitely less than when I didn't give any bolus.
6. This is not a time for dessert
I use to have a lot of guilt around eating dessert and sweet things in general. I had such strict rules and mindsets around food that being low became a free-for-all where I could finally eat the carbful foods that I was craving. By giving myself some grace and redefining my relationship with food, I was able to recondition my frame of mind that I can eat these foods whenever I wanted. This helps me not feel the need to eat everything in sight when I am low, because I'm hungry or craving anything. I'm just low.
7. Use dietary fat to your advantage
Eating dietary fat can increase the amount of time that it takes for a carb to hit your system. Therefore, it's not always the best tool to use when treating a low. (I really wish someone would have told me this when I used to treat a low with a spoonful of peanut butter dipped in chocolate chips haha).
Dietary fat may not be ideal for that first 15g carbs of food, but if you're having a low that kinda comes up then sinks back down, eating a bit of fat may actually help you out. If I'm having a low that can't stay up, I treat first with pretty much pure carbs, then after I see it rising I add in a spoonful of peanut butter or some nuts.
Past me would eat, eat, eat, eat a huge mixture of carbs and fat. This delayed the rise, and made it hit full-force a few hours later after wayyyy overtreating.
8. Find treatments you like, not love
This relates to #6. If I open a bag of sour gummy worms when I'm low, I'm going to eat the entire thing. I love those. But if I open a coconut water, I will drink just as much as I need. I like coconut water, but I don't love it. Find foods or drinks that you will willingly have, but that you are less likely to overtreat. This is also easier to stick to when you give yourself the grace to go ahead and eat those gummy worms at other times.
9. Use your support team
My husband is such a by-the-book guy. If I have a big low and feel like I'm going to way overcorrect, I just tell him to help me. He will count my carbs or be my timekeeper. And he keeps me to it. Find your people. Let them help you. You don't have to do this alone.
That's all for today! If you have things that have helped you, drop them in the comments!! Sending love!xx
*This blog is not medical advice.