Fitbit Fun

Laddie_Head SquareIn the spring of 2015 I wrote a couple of blogposts (here and here) about how much I enjoy using a Fitbit and how I find it to be a motivating addition to my diabetes toolbox. A year and a half later I am still using my Fitbit and participating in a regular challenge with members of the diabetes community. (Thanks to Sue R who invites me every week!)

Although I am a self-motivated Fitbit user and would tackle my daily step goal without DOC competition, I still enjoy the motivation resulting my daily interactions with other D-people. Recent thoughts include:

I have a good chance of beating Kerri of Six Until Me in a challenge for the first time ever because she had a baby by C-section two weeks ago. I wouldn’t be so stupid as to place a bet on my results once that “little tomato” “biscuit” “fourth chair” is a month old….

My trick of attaching my Fitbit One to my pump tubing is gaining traction as I recently witnessed Scott Johnson borrow an old-style Fitbit (Zip and One, unlike the more recent bracelet models) so that he could clip it to his pump tubing to track his steps on the basketball court.

David E has moved from being an “also-ran” to an unbeatable champion almost every week. I’m not sure that he is more active these days. I think that he is just becoming better at syncing his Fitbit so that his steps count.

Just so your know!  On Monday Fitbit added a new do-it-yourself challenge called “Adventures.” If you click on “Challenges” from your phone/tablet Fitbit home screen, you’ll see a section called Adventures. This allows you to select a daily or multi-day hike to challenge yourself and receive the rewards of 180º photos at landmarks along the trail. Today I selected the Vernal Falls hike which requires 15,000 steps. (The options that show up in your adventures are based on your average steps.) Although my daily goal is 10,000 steps, my average is closer to 15,000 and that is why all of my adventure options require a lot of steps. As I type this blogpost, I am 331 steps short of my goal and I will walk around the house this evening to make sure I reach my destination.


Because I am a hiker, I enjoy the idea of “Adventures” and it is something different from my normal goals. If you need motivation to pull your Fitbit out of the junk drawer, check out Adventures on the Fitbit website and see if it interests you. If nothing else, you can download some new wallpapers from the Yosemite Adventure as seen below:


See you out on the Fitbit trail!

Diabetes Tips and Tricks in Photos

Laddie_Head SquareIt’s Day 5 of Diabetes Blog Week and we survived! There are no blue ribbons or trophies to be awarded today. Instead we can be satisfied with having touched base with old friends, creating new online friendships, and gaining new insights into diabetes. Not a bad payoff! Certainly there were a few laughs and tears along the way and I for one am exhausted. For the fifth time this week I thank Karen Graffeo of Bitter-Sweet™ for having created DBW 7 years ago and for continuing to inspire and organize the D-troops every year.

Today’s Topic:  Let’s round out the week by sharing our best diabetes tips and diabetes tricks. From how you organize supplies to how you manage gear on the go/vacation (beach, or skiing, or whatever). From how you keep track of prescription numbers to how you remember to get your orders refilled. How about any “unconventional” diabetes practices, or ways to make diabetes work for YOU (not necessarily how the doctors say to do it!). There’s always something we can learn from each other. (Remember though, please no medical advice or dangerous suggestions.) 

I am a little bummed that I’m not allowed to give dangerous medical advice today. Rather than get thrown off the DBW island, I will not share tips on calibrating your CGM while BASE jumping in the Grand Canyon. I will not divulge the rules of used-syringe Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey. I will not confess that I can test my BG and do a correction bolus before the traffic light turns green. I won’t describe how one of my D-friends has extended the life of an infusion set for 28 days. Just know that it is related to poor health insurance and that she says it quits itching after 5 days.

No, I will not tell you stuff like that. Instead I will share a couple of Fitbit tricks along with a travel tip.

My most original trick is that I attach my Fitbit One to the tubing of my insulin pump. Both devices live in my pocket with the tubing running through a hole in the pocket to the infusion set. Since I have begun linking my Fitbit with the pump, I have neither forgotten to wear it nor sent it to Fitbit death in the washing machine. Please note that I played golf yesterday so I had a lot of steps for the photo!


Another tip related to Fitbit is that if you use Diasend, you can link your Fitibit to that website. When you open the Compilation Report, you are able to see your step and calorie averages along with your pump, CGM, and meter data. I do not enter food data into Fitbit, so the calorie number in the photo below is meaningless.

Diasend Compilation with Fitbit_2

My final tip is that I use empty prescription medicine bottles for used test strips and sharps when I travel. I keep it in my combined cosmetic/D-supply bag. It helps ensure that grandchildren, hotel maid service personnel, etc. are protected from blood and gore contamination and don’t get stuck by anything. I used to use old test strip bottles, but they were too small and not see-through.


That’s it’s for today!


To read other blogposts on this topic, click here.

In My Diabetes World

Laddie_Head SquareI have some “meatier” blogposts that I need to finish, but I’ve been busy living life and not so busy writing about diabetes. From a “Life” point-of-view, that is good. From a “Blogger” point-of-view, that’s a definite faceplant.

Just so February doesn’t fly by with zero blog entries, here are some diabetes things going on in my life.

Number One!  I lit up Facebook and made many D-friends jealous with the news that I had lunch with Kate Cornell last Thursday in Prescott, Arizona. The skies were blue, the temps were warm, and the company was great.


As I summarized our visit: “It was a wonderful day, Kate! Your friendship is one of the good things that has come from diabetes in my life…”

Number Two!  I spent quite a while yesterday morning trying to figure out why I couldn’t fill my prescription for insulin. Obviously a #firstworldproblem because I knew that it was just a pharmacy and/or an insurance glitch.

That’s a reminder that if you haven’t yet contributed to the Spare a Rose campaign, please click here to donate. It is more than an insurance/pharmacy glitch when children with Type 1 diabetes in developing nations die because they have no access to insulin. Although Valentine’s Day has passed, it is not too late to Spare a Rose to Save a Child.

After several phone calls to my endocrinology office and pharmacies in both Minnesota and Arizona, I will be able to pick up my 90-day supply of Novolog tomorrow. Should I mention that the insurance-contracted price is $1103.89 or $275 per vial? In June 2014 I wrote a blogpost titled “Then and Now” and shared a 1977 bill of $3.91 for one vial (a 2-month supply) of Lente insulin. Not much else to say….Scan_Insulin2_1977_Blog

Number Three!  My sister is flying across the country this week to visit me in Arizona. SheDex G5 Phone  also has Type 1 diabetes and my interview of her is one of my most-viewed blogposts ever. We couldn’t be more different in our diabetes care. She uses Lantus now only because Lily quit making Ultralente in 2005 and her refrigerator stockpile ran out. She uses Regular insulin as her bolus insulin and has chosen not to use Humalog, Novolog, or Apidra. All of this is with vials and syringes. I of course have used a pump and CGM for years. Fortunately we are both doing well after almost 4 decades of diabetes.

Because of my free upgrade to the Dexcom G5, I have several unused Dexcom transmitters. (My current G4 transmitter has been in use for 11 months with no signs of failing.) I am going to ask my sister whether she would like to use one of my G5 transmitters along with her iPhone to try out a Dexcom CGM. I suspect that she will say no, but maybe not. Unfortunately she is older than I am and already on Medicare. Maybe it is cruel to let her experience life with a CGM when she would have to self-pay to continue on the system.

IMG_0731Number Four!  I have been hiking a ton this winter and playing golf at least once a week. Abby the Black Lab has been enjoying two walks a day. My Fitbit is exploding with steps and I have averaged 18,850 steps (8.5 miles) per day for the last 4 weeks. If only the other parts of diabetes care were as easy for me as exercise. I’d be willing to trade 5,000 steps (or even 8,000 steps!) a day to anyone who would cook me delicious, healthy, low-carb dinners.

That’s it for today. Be strong. Be well. Be happy. Keep fighting the good fight and see you around the DOC.

Pollyanna Faces Diabetes

Laddie_Head SquareI have been accused of being “Pollyanna” when it comes to diabetes. I rarely complain about my dysfunctional pancreas and I am a firm believer that I only get one chance at life and I am not going to waste my time complaining. But sometimes I have to admit that DIABETES IS HARD.

I golf once or twice a week during my summers in Minnesota. Most of the time I play right after breakfast in the relative coolness of the morning. My home course is hilly and I am always tired when I finish my 18-hole walk with my clubs on a pushcart. Because I am in a rut and usually play the same course at the same time of day, I have for the most part figured out how to manage diabetes. Does that mean I never have lows or highs? Absolutely not. If my blood sugar is within a reasonable range before beginning play, does this mean I can get through a round without eating a couple of glucose tabs and maybe having a small snack? Nope, can’t do that either. But by planning my breakfast food and bolus insulin, using temporary basals, relying on my Dexcom CGM and an occasional fingerstick, I can play 18 holes with only minor blood sugar annoyances.

My standards for “diabetes success” on the golf course are low. Success means finishing the round without keeling over, needing paramedics, or getting so low that I can’t read the scorecard. Success means that my errant shots are the result of bad swings not the inability to control arms and legs wobbly from a hypo. Success means racking up lots of steps for the current Fitbit challenge. Success means that I enjoy my round and my playing partners don’t have to ask me if I am okay. Success means occasionally forgetting about diabetes.

On Labor Day my son invited my husband and me to join him for 18 holes of golf at his home course. He plays at Hazeltine National Golf Club which is near his home in a western suburb of Minneapolis. Hazeltine is a championship venue which has hosted events such as the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship and will be the site of the Ryder Cup in 2016. The first question you should ask is  “Why in the world is a hacker like me playing a course like that?” The answer is “Because I can and because my son invited me!” I play from the ladies tees which are a mile ahead of the championship tees and amazingly I don’t score that much higher than on my home course. I also decided a long time ago that I should have fun playing golf whether I shoot a good round or not. For the most part I succeed at that.

What I have never mastered at this course is diabetes. Hazeltine is a long and hard course for me to walk. I’ve played there twice and both times have played after lunch which is not my “normal” golf time. I’ve never needed paramedics there, so why am I complaining? When I walked up the 9th hole on Monday feeling incredibly low and having already finished one 10-count roll of glucose tabs, I had a flashback to last year when at the same point on the course I was exhausted and desperately low. (I’ve only played Hazeltine twice. I am not like my husband who can remember every round of golf he has played in the last 50 years. But I am someone with diabetes who can remember every severe low BG since 1976.)

Neither this year nor last did I complain to anyone. Both times I was able to keep playing using the reserve glucose tabs and snacks that I keep in my golf bag. I know that I should tell my husband when I am low, but I’m too stupid tough for that.

But this year was very different from last year. As I walked up the 9th fairway, I was mentally devastated with how sad I was and how lonely my diabetes is. What would it be like to play golf or hike or do anything and not experience low blood sugar? Why is my life a constant math equation with seemingly no reliable solution? Why do I have to deal with this and no one else does? Why can’t I figure it out? Why does it have to be so hard?

Why? Because it is hard. TYPE 1 DIABETES IS HARD. I know that and so do you.

There I’ve said it and I’ll say it again. TYPE 1 DIABETES IS HARD. Now I will quit whining and return to the previously scheduled program of Pollyanna….


On Tuesday of this week Riva Greenberg of The Huffington Post shared her experiences with the hidden difficulties and loneliness of living with Type 1 diabetes. If you haven’t read this article, please check it out: The Invisibility of Type 1 Diabetes. Riva and I are close in age and she has had Type 1 for 43 years compared to my 39 years. Riva is usually upbeat about living with diabetes and her post is an insightful peek at what goes through Pollyanna’s mind when the “Glad Game” just isn’t enough to keep her smiling amidst the highs and lows of diabetes.

Stepping Out with Diabetes and a Fitbit

Laddie_Head SquareThis is one of those posts where I need to state that I am not a medical professional and nothing I write should be considered medical advice. My aim is to share some ideas about how a Fitbit activity tracker fits into my life with diabetes.


In the last couple of weeks there has been chatter around the DOC about Fitbit and other activity trackers. Some of the talk has been about Fitbit challenges which are well-described in Kerri’s post at Six Until Me. I also wrote a post about one specific challenge.

Although I have enjoyed recent challenges, I owned a Fitbit for almost 2-1/2 years without linking it to social media. Even without friends and challenges, I found a Fitbit to be very motivating in an un-nagging sort of way. Although no one was monitoring whether I reached my daily goals, seeing the numbers tended to encourage me to take the dog for another walk or start using the upstairs bathroom to get extra steps (doin’ the Karen Graffeo).

I am a big fan of activity trackers when it comes to diabetes. Most of the things we PWDPump and Fitbit-001 are told to manage fall into the following areas:  diet, medication, exercise, BG monitoring, and psychosocial support. It is impossible to be perfect in any of these areas, but in my opinion the better I can do “on average,” the better I feel and the better my diabetes numbers are. For me there is no doubt that my Fitbit helps with the exercise component of my diabetes care.

Some of the reasons are:

Consistency:  Diabetes like consistency. By trying to reach my Fitbit step goal every day, my activity level is steadier than it would be without the device. Over time I believe that consistent exercise has resulted in lower and more predictable insulin requirements and I have fewer severe lows when I work out. At age 63 I can arrange my schedule to walk a few miles every day after breakfast and that exercise is reflected in my basal rates. If I skip the walk, I often set an increased temporary basal rate for a couple of hours.

Many of you are not be at a stage in life where you can exercise at the same time every day because jobs, children, weather, etc. demand your attention. At the same time you can work to be more active every day as you try to reach your step goal. Park your car at the far edge of the parking lot, take a longer route to the water cooler, walk around the house when you are on the phone, take a lunchtime walk. The advantage of an activity tracker is that you have data to monitor changes in your daily activity.

Motivation:  By starting with reasonable goals, I was able to achieve success right away. I have always enjoyed the weekly email I receive titled “Fitbit Weekly Stats.” This report gives me information on how many steps I walked the week before as well as total distance, averages, weight change if I choose to enter it into the website, and so on. Not every week is an improvement over the previous one, but in general my average daily steps have increased during the time that I have owned a Fitbit.

I am a believer that starting slow is fine and knowing your limitations is important. Some people have no problem achieving 10,000 steps per day. Others will work hard to reach 2,000 steps and their success is as admirable as those running marathons. Over time as you become more active, you can increase your goal if that makes sense for you. Or maybe your goal will stay the same and you can take pride is meeting that step count most days.

Easy to use:  Fitbits are simple to use. The Zip uses a disc battery which lasts for about 3-6 months. I have the One which is rechargeable with a USB cord. You can check out other models at the Fitbit website.

What is most fabulous is that the data from each tracker downloads automatically to the Fitbit website. When I open the app on my smartphone, it syncs automatically. I also have a USB wireless dongle connected to my desktop PC and the Fitbit syncs whenever I am within 15-20 feet of the computer. I don’t have to do a thing. (This is of course what I wish would happen with all of my diabetes devices….)

Fun:  I enjoy seeing my Fitbit stats whether or not I compare them with others. Challenges can motivate me to take more steps than usual, but at the same time I rarely win the challenges or even expect to. One thing I like about the challenge called Goal Day is that it is based on how each competitor does compared to his/her daily step goal. If my goal is 10,000 steps and yours is 2,000 and we each walk an extra 500 steps, you will crush me because you are at 125% of goal and I am only at 105%.

I have found everything about Fitbit reports and challenges to be positive. When I hit personal milestones, Fitbit rewards me with silly badges like the Penguin March for having cumulatively walked 70 miles or the Happy Hill for climbing 10 flights of stairs in a day. My experience with challenges has been that everyone is positive and supportive. I am awed at my personal stats on the Fitbit dashboard. FYI I have taken over 9,300,000 steps (4,200 miles) since I purchased my first Fitbit. My “best” day was April 5, 2013 when I walked 32,095 steps (a very long Arizona hike).

Diasend:  Diasend is an online system for uploading most diabetes devices except Medtronic products. It is a free service and all you need to do is set up a personal account. I use an Animas Vibe pump, a Dexcom G4, and several Freestyle meters. All can be uploaded to Diasend and there is Compilation report that displays all of this data in one report.

A new development is that I can link my Fitbit account to Diasend. (Other compatible activity trackers are the Moves App, Runkeeper, Jawbone Up, and Nike+.) Because my BG levels and insulin doses are highly dependent on activity level, it’s nice to see them in one report. Below you will see part of a two week report. (I have blocked out some of the data for personal reasons.) But you can see the potential for starting to track the effect of exercise on your diabetes numbers.

Diasend Compilation with Fitbit_1

If you currently use Diasend and don’t know how to link your activity tracker, click on the Account Admin tab and then select the tab that says “Browse & connect activity tracker.”

One caveat. When you first link your Fitbit, it starts with current data and includes no historical data. If you normally look at 2 weeks of data for your diabetes devices, the Activity data will not be correct until the link with Fitbit has been active for two weeks. But from then on your data will show up automatically. No download cables required.

Summary:  I am very happy with my Fitbit. If you are in the market for an activity tracker, you should probably check out all the brands. Some cell phones, including the iPhone 5S and 6-series, have activity trackers built into them. For the budget conscious, a basic pedometer is adequate to monitor your activity level and allow you to keep track of stats that interest and motivate you. Use whatever works for you.

If you can’t stand the idea of more numbers in your life, just ignore everything I wrote today. Put on your sneakers and take a walk. Take time to smell the roses and enjoy your day while secretly thinking that people like me are crazy.…

Fitbit: A Challenging Week

Laddie_Head SquareI’ve been using a Fitbit for over two years. I originally purchased it to track hiking mileage but quickly started wearing it every day. Although I have enjoyed the weekly stat updates from Fitbit and definitely watched my steps on a daily basis, I have rarely used the social media aspects of the device. I had a couple of Fitbit Friends, but not too many interactions with them.

Last week I was invited to participate in my first Fitbit challenge called a Workweek Hustle. Total steps — Five days — Monday to Friday. Usually I say no to things like this because I don’t want to bother and am mostly self-motivated when it comes to reaching my fitness targets. But I figured I might as well give it a try even if I wasn’t sure what my goals were for participating. Cherise of DCAF/DSMA was the organizer and most of the participants were diabetes types. When the challenge started, I was still in Arizona where I am a step-monster walking the dog, hiking, biking, playing golf, and enjoying easy access to the outdoors. I flew back to Minnesota mid-week and although I keep the same goal of 10,000+ steps/day here, it sometimes take more planning to get to my target.

Because there is always social media trash-talk when you get into contests like this, I had fun from the beginning. On the first day I learned from Kerri that Ben (whom I didn’t know previously) was very “steppy” and she wasn’t kidding. From the beginning his step count was in the stratosphere and he ended up winning the challenge with a 5-day total of 176,727 steps (35,345/day). I don’t know whether he is a runner or walker fanatic, but using my steps/mileage ratio, he clocked in at least 16 miles a day (probably more because his stride might be longer than mine). Kerri was not too shabby with a 5-day total of 143,457 steps (28,691 steps /~13 miles) per day). She was focused on beating Ben up until the end.

Kerri and Ben were so far ahead of the pack that I didn’t compete with them; I just marveled at their statistics. The group itself had a big range of results, but we were all winners as the ten of us totaled 768,205 steps (~350 miles) for the week.

I had a firm lock on 3rd place moving into Friday afternoon. Thus began my favorite part of the challenge. The story is shared in the timeline below:

Fitbit Challenge Timeline

At the end of the day, I lost 3rd place in the Workweek Hustle. No, I won because I got to watch Cherise be a champion. She refused to rest until she clocked 23,000! steps on Friday and rocketed from 4th place to 3rd. One stubborn and competitive lady, that Cherise:-)

I won. I lost. But I won.

Here is a link to Cherise’s video. I don’t know whether you have to be a member of Twitter or a follower of @SweeterCherise to view it, but give it a try. On my laptop and desktop, the link works fine. On my iPad, I have to click the Tweet below the photo and then on the next screen, click on the arrow/TV icon on the upper right of the screen.

One of my next blogposts will be my views on how Fitbit and other step/fitness trackers can be a helpful, fun, and motivating part of your diabetes/general health regimen. That sentence sounds awfully preachy, but I promise (hope!) that the post will be better than that….

Abby the Black Lab Discusses DSMA Live

Laddie:  In tomorrow’s blog post, I will write about my 6-month journey through the archives of DSMA Live.  DSMA Live is a weekly interview show hosted by Cherise Shockley, George Simmons, and Scott Johnson. DSMA stands for Diabetes Social Media Advocacy and more information can be found at the DSMA website.  Today my dog Abby is giving you a preview of the important details.


Abby_Crown_No background

Most dogs don’t know about DSMA Live. I do because on January 1st of this year, my owner Laddie decided that she was going to listen to all of the archived DSMA Live shows. Since that decision involved neither dog biscuits nor tennis balls, I totally dismissed it and curled up by a sunny window to take a nap.

Hearing the rattle of my harness and leash, I jumped at the opportunity for a walk. Laddie grabbed her pink iPod Nano and thus began our winter and spring of listening to DSMA Live. Well, actually I didn’t listen. My head is not properly shaped for ear phones. I just walked, stalked rabbits, and sniffed dog “Tweets” on mailboxes and fire hydrants.

Now you may not know what DSMA Live is. Neither do I. All I know is that because of this series of podcasts, I was the beneficiary of multiple long walks that far surpassed our normal dog walk frequency and length.

From January 1 until May 16, 2013, Laddie listened to 149 DSMA shows. According to her Fitbit pedometer, our normal pace was a 20-minute mile. Or as I prefer to think of it, we walked 3 miles per DSMA show. We could have gone faster, but this pace included dog potty breaks and socialization with other canine/human combos.

My favorite stat is that in 5-1/2 months, we walked approximately 447 miles accompanied by DSMA Live. That’s an average of 3.3 miles per day. I am indeed a lucky dog and my ever svelte figure is a result of my daily exercise.

Now that we are only listening to current episodes, I realize that the number of my DSMA walks will be reduced. But the addition of spin-offs such as the ‘Rents show and the en Vivo! show is a reminder that there will be a growing number of podcasts to inspire dog walks.

So to other dogs, I say: “I am a DSMA Dog. Are you?”

(By the way, I do not like Wednesday night DSMA TweetChats.  All humans with diabetes totally ignore their dogs during that hour and focus on their iPads instead.)