January 6, 2014

The Persistent Experiment

Filed under: Diet,Wellness — Tags: , — Lee Ann @ 1:42 am

Some of my favorite foods are chicken, cheese and turkey. Chicken has been a staple in my diet since forever, and I swore I couldn’t live without it. I said the same about cheese. My favorite cheese, Wensleydale with cranberries, is a heavenly, buttery snack cheese. I’m also keen on sharp cheddar, melted in the toaster oven, blissfully gooey with crisp edges. And roasted holiday turkey is the best part of Thanksgiving. Seriously, fuck mashed potatoes and pie. I get all drooly just thinking about a big juicy bird, sizzling from the oven with its crispy, golden skin, sliced and slathered with homemade cranberry relish.

I never in my life thought I would give them up, er, cold turkey, but except for an occasional bit of cheese, I have. I haven’t eaten any land meat since October 1st. At this point, my diet is about 95% plant-based. The other 5% of my diet is vegetarian – including butter, cheese, eggs, milk, and chocolate – because that gives me a little more flexibility when eating out, or as a guest in people’s homes, and sometimes a cookie or bit of chocolate becomes the object of my desire. If someone had told me I’d be eating like this a year ago, I would have rolled my eyes and told them to stop fucking with me.

In some ways, this has been a long time in the making. In other ways, it was a somewhat abrupt experiment that has persisted. The long-time-in-the-making version is a more complicated story that I will explore here in time, but part of it comes back to the ubiquitously complex relationship between food and diabetes. If it weren’t for that, I doubt I would have an interest in nutrition, the psychology of food, the food industry and food politics, all of which have affected my dietary shift. Those interests have compelled me to watch a lot of documentaries over the last several years, including Forks over Knives, Killer at Large, Food, Inc., King Corn, Supersize Me, Hungry for Change, and a cool online course from Open Yale Courses, The Psychology, Biology and Politics of Food. Each one made me reflect on my food choices. Sometimes I’d even make minor changes, like purposefully ordering a veggie burger instead of a beef or turkey burger to reduce my meat consumption. Not to patently dismiss those occasional instances of avoiding meat as meaningless, but overall, those behavior changes were inconsistent, temporaneous, and didn’t amount to much. In response to those documentaries, I did think about my choices – not always, but often – and as time passed, I felt increasingly guilty for buying and eating foods that came from animals I felt certain had suffered at the hands of an industry that I find ethically, morally, politically, economically, socially and environmentally corrupt.

I Need This Shirt

I Need This Shirt

Last spring, I started to further reduce my meat consumption, primarily because I felt like I should – the lingering guilt proved to be negative reinforcement. I also had positive reinforcement though. My friend was posting photos of plant-based meals, which I found inspiring because they sounded delicious. I know others who have experimented with a vegan diet, and chatting with them left me curious. Then there were friends posting on Facebook that they were practicing Meatless Mondays. Seeing other people reducing meat from their diets to various extents made me think I could do it too.

Then last summer, while at school in Boston, I took a break from the endless slog of research and writing and writing and research to watch the documentary, Vegucated. The basic premise is that a woman who has converted to veganism recruits three people through Craigslist to try a vegan diet. This was educational, inspiring, and very moving for me. It was a turning point that led to the abrupt experiment.

I decided I was going to stop eating land animals, not in an absolute I-will-never-eat-meat-again kind of way, but in a one-meal-at-a-time kind of way. I decided I would still eat fish – it’s heart-healthy, brain-healthy, and I figured I could use the protein – which I did a handful of times into the fall. However, when I posted on Facebook that I wasn’t eating meat except for fish, a friend pointed out that the fishing industry has some rather despicable practices. The nagging guilt struck every time I had a tuna sandwich, so I haven’t eaten fish since September or October.

Eating is a biological necessity, but it is also a social activity, and I have struggled with managing the social implications of my dietary shift. I have never been a picky eater, and have no food allergies, so despite diabetes, and the fucked up relationship I had with food during my teens and 20’s, for the most part, my dietary social life has been unremarkable. My great-grandmother used to brag about how I would eat almost anything that was put in front of me – zucchini, okra, collard greens, turnip greens, beets, snap peas, any vegetable. She bragged the way other people brag about kids being smart or athletic. As an adult, I could count the foods I really disliked on one hand, so regardless of where I was eating, I was easy to please. Jason, on the other hand, can be a little selective – he won’t eat seafood, he’s pretty lukewarm to Indian and Thai, which I quite like, and compared to me, there are a lot of foods he’s just not fond of – cranberries, sweet potatoes, winter squash, eggplant, beans, for example. Until recently, if we were invited to go to a restaurant, I felt obligated to scope out the menu beforehand to make sure there would be something he liked. The dining table has turned a bit since I eliminated meat, and now I’m scoping out menus to make sure there’s something I’m willing to eat. Going from easy-to-please eater to needing to politely tell people I won’t eat this or that is a whole new, very uncomfortable change for me that I’m still trying to navigate.

When I went to Texas to see my family in late September, I decided to not make it a thing, and I ate meat. Eating meat again for those few days turned out to be as much an experiment as not eating it had been during July, August and September. It tasted good, so in that respect, I enjoyed it, but my conscious bothered me, which was hard to swallow, so to speak. If I went down to visit them again tomorrow though, I’m not sure if I would ask them to accommodate me, or if I would just take the when-in-Rome approach again. I don’t want to be inflexible to the point that people would just rather not have me at their home. As long as I’m avoiding meat though, I need to work on negotiating a balance that isn’t an imposition on others, unless I want to be confined to only eating at home.

For now though, I do mostly only eat at home. We haven’t been eating at restaurants as much as we had been. That’s because we’re trying to save money, but it’s also made sticking to a plant-based diet a lot easier. Now that I’m cooking more, I enjoy eating at home more too. There’s a lot to be said for cooking not just to nourish your body, but also your spirit and beliefs. We don’t socialize that often, mostly because our circle of friends likes to go to restaurants, and that’s very costly. I used to go out for lunch on my office days, but now I bring lunch, partly to save money, partly because my former go-to eatery, Panera, leaves something to be desired as far as vegan menu options go – except for PBJ, black bean soup, and the classic cafe salad, everything has to be ordered without meat and/or cheese. That’s a short menu, and if I want to eat a PBJ, I’ll bring a bag lunch to the office, which is exactly what I’ve been doing.

I’m happier now though. I’m cooking way more than I used to, and I’m enjoying it. It gives me great joy to be creative, and I derive great satisfaction from doing something that is good for my body. My appetite has decreased, and I don’t have junky cravings like I once did, presumably because I’m eating less overly processed foods with all those chemicals and preservatives, which I suspect screw with people’s metabolism. I can’t prove that, but I don’t have a better explanation for the change in my appetite and decrease in cravings. The health implications of a plant-based diet are beyond the scope of this post, and are certainly debatable, but so far, I’ve had positive results. My conscious is eased. I used to feel like a hypocrite – concerned about farm animal welfare and the environment, but still eating conventionally raised farm animals. I am a dirty hippie after all, so the environment and animal welfare concern me. I’m not comfortable contributing to the problem, so that means owning up, stepping up, and trying to be part of the solution. I’m not living a total vegan lifestyle – I have a disease which scientists are trying to cure in mice, I’m sure some of the health and beauty products I use have been tested on animals, I’m still using leather handbags I bought ages ago, and I drive a car with leather seats for fuck’s sake – so I’m far from the vegan poster child, but I’m trying. I can’t recall which of my friends posted this, but there’s a quote I like that I am trying to live by: I will not do nothing simply because I cannot do everything.

February 25, 2013

An Ounce of Prevention

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, sponsored by National Eating Disorders Association. Diabetes Advocates, of which I am a member, has partnered with NEDA this year to raise awareness, educate people, and support those in the diabetes community struggling with eating disorders and disturbed eating behaviors. The theme for NEDAwareness Week is Everybody Knows Somebody, and if you’re in the diabetes community, the chances that you know someone who has an eating disorder or struggles with food and body issues are very high.

I have no shortage of things to say about this topic, and have shared extensively in the past (that last link is one of my favorite posts ever), so I gave a lot of thought to what I would write this year. As most people know, I had an eating disorder for almost 20 years. Now that I’m recovered, I’m motivated to help others by raising awareness, and through my professional work, researching and developing innovative ways to help people who are currently struggling, not just with eating disorders, but the whole range of food and body issues that people with diabetes can experience. My latest project, VIAL Project, a social network for people with type 1 and food and body issues, is only the beginning of what I want to do to help people with diabetes make peace with food and their bodies.

While there is a need to understand more about patients’ experience of living with diabetes and food and body issues, and how to effectively treat those issues, I think prevention is equally important. As such, after considering my options for participating in NEDAwareness Week, I decided to write about promoting healthy attitudes about food and body image in people with diabetes. For the most part, these suggestions are for parents of diabetic kids, but at their essence are ideas that can be adapted for people of all ages.

1. The number one thing parents can do is model healthy attitudes about food and body image. This is not just a matter of concealing your dissatisfaction with your body shape or weight. Learn to accept your body, and live that. No, seriously, embody it, LIVE it. Children are smart, and they pick up on things, so if you hate your body, I assure you, they will know it, learn it, and eventually, they will live that. Kids need to see their parents making healthful choices, and respecting and honoring their bodies, which includes not complaining about poochy tummies or asses that jiggle. If you don’t like what you have, make healthful lifestyle changes that will make you feel fantastic, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Don’t eat out of the packaging, when you’re bored, or standing over the kitchen sink, and please, skip the fast food, and make food at home. Behave in a way that reflects all the positive things about food and eating, and establish positive food values in your home. If you need to get some counseling to help you make peace with food and your body, do it. It is better that you spend some time in the therapist’s office, than have your child grow up thinking it’s perfectly normal to be on a diet and hate your body. Kids with diabetes have enough reason to be pissed at their bodies, so help them love themselves, in all its glorious, imperfect inner and outer beauty, by loving your own body.

2. Start having age-appropriate conversations with your children about eating disorders and body acceptance. You can have an age-appropriate conversation about loving and respecting your body with a young child, the same as you would offer an age-appropriate explanation to a young child about how babies are made. Similarly, just as it’s important to have age-appropriate discussions with elementary school children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, it’s a good idea to have comparable discussions about eating disorders. Don’t wait until they’re in middle school, because by then, you can bet they know kids who are dieting and concerned about weight, just like they’ll know kids who are experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Remember, even though you’re modeling body acceptance for your child (see #1), your child’s friend’s mom might have disturbed eating behaviors and poor body image enough for both her kid and yours, and it will influence your child. You need to get a running start to minimize the damage that other people can do to a child’s self-esteem, body image and nutrition habits. Starting a dialogue about difficult topics when children are young is the best way to ensure that as they get older, they will feel more at ease coming to you if they are having problems. So go have a heart to heart with your D kid.

3. Recruit your diabetes care team to support your goal of having a healthy relationship with food and a positive body image, and maintain ongoing dialogue with your CDE, RD, and endo about diabetes-related behaviors and attitudes. When you’re in the trenches every day, it’s easy to miss behavior and emotional changes that develop slowly over time. They offer objectivity and expertise that can help you identify issues early.

4. People’s feelings about having diabetes change over time. If you’ve had it for years, consider how you felt at diagnosis compared to 1 year in, 5 years in, 10 years in, 20 years in… and on and on. This evolution of feelings about diabetes combines with normal life transitions, and physical, cognitive, social and emotional development over time. And no matter how you long you’ve lived with it, diabetes is frustrating. That part never goes away. All of that, and most people wait until the shit really hits the fan before they’ll even consider getting therapy. Don’t think you have to wait until there’s a problem to meet with a behavioral health specialist. There’s something to be said for developing a relationship with a therapist as a way to support yourself or your child, and as a preventive measure to monitor overall emotional health and adjustment over time. Occasional “check-ups” are an opportunity to review how things have been going, get additional support for your emotional needs, vent frustrations, and problem-solve. Working with someone to solve minor problems could keep those problems from developing into something more significant. If issues such as depression, anxiety, disturbed eating behaviors, or dissatisfaction with body image develop, you will already have someone on your team who knows your history and can help.

5. Participate in activities that promote healthy eating behaviors and positive body image development. There are a range of activities that can fulfill this goal. Send kids to diabetes camp, attend CWD Friends for Life or their regional technology conferences, or attend TCOYD conferences. If there are support groups in your area, attend, or start a group if you can. Do something active. This seems to come naturally for some people, but if you’re like me, and struggle to get motivated to exercise, get creative, and find something that works. In my house, the activity of choice is anything that tires out the dog, so playing in the yard or walking her. Sometimes my husband and I do that together, so it doubles as good quality time. Doing physical activities as a family offers so many benefits. Cooking together is another way to promote a healthy relationship with food. Better yet, grow some food. You don’t need a plot of land. Grow a window herb garden, use what you grow in food you cook, and see how much differently you feel about what you eat. When you do things that are good for you, you feel good about yourself, and when you feel good about yourself, you’re less likely to equate your worth with the number on the scale, or take out your anger on yourself by making unhealthy choices.

Yes, these things take time, effort, consideration, and in some cases, money. That’s the risk you take with prevention though, it’s an investment in the future. I can speak from experience, and share that the cost of these actions is nothing, nothing, compared to the cost of hating your body, having disturbed eating behaviors, or having an eating disorder. I wish I could quantify the toll my illness took on me, my relationships and my family. It’s unfathomable, and the effects linger despite my recovery. All the healthy living I do now can’t completely undo the damage I did to my body, or the guilt and shame I feel for all the pain the people I loved experienced as they watched me self-destruct. Please, do everything you can to support your own positive relationship to food and your body and/or your child’s relationship. Let’s turn Everybody Knows Somebody into Nobody Knows Anybody.

January 7, 2013

Type 1 Diabetes + Food & Body Issues + Social Media + Creativity = VIAL Project

I’m 18 months into my doctoral program, and so far so good. It still feels like an eternity until I’ll be done… hoping for 2015, but more likely, I’m guessing 2016. Either way, I’m trying to not focus too much on when I’ll be done with the program, and looking more short-term at completing each assignment and project as they’re due. The big project I will tackle beginning in the fall is my dissertation, but before that, I have to complete a smaller research project, a pilot study, which will be the foundation for my dissertation.

When I decided to return to school, I knew I wanted to study diabetes and art therapy, but was unclear about what direction to go until last spring when I committed to researching diabetes and eating disorders. As someone who is recovered, I have years of experience attesting to lack of knowledge, awareness and sensitivity, insufficient treatment options, and what I have often perceived as an utter disregard among too many healthcare providers for just how easy it is to get all screwed up over food and body image when you have diabetes. I now feel a moral, ethical, personal, and professional obligation to address those problems I experienced as a patient, problems that too many other people with diabetes have also experienced, problems that are preventing many people from overcoming the food and body issues that plague them.

VIAL Project

That brings me to my pilot research project: VIAL Project.

VIAL is an acronym for Voice ~ Insulin ~ Art ~ Life, and VIAL Project combines some of the building blocks of my diabetes advocacy work – social media, creative self-expression, and food and body issues – into a social networking website for people with type 1 diabetes, and food and body issues to share original, arts-based work (art, photography, creative writing, video, etc.), and connect with each other online. Because this is a research project, I will be collecting and analyzing user-submitted content, including all creative expression, posts and comments, to identify themes that emerge. My objective is to increase understanding of website users’ experience: having type 1 diabetes and food and body issues; creating and sharing arts-based work on the website; and using a social media platform to connect with others who have type 1 diabetes and food and body issues.

For the sake of this project, food and body issues cover a range of behaviors and experiences, including: overeating; stress eating; eating to avoid hypoglycemia; insulin omission or manipulation; restricting food; feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety, anger or depression about one’s body; anxiety about food; binging; purging; use of medications such as diuretics, laxatives or weight loss supplements (not approved by a healthcare provider). Food and body issues can be mild to severe, including: behaviors and feelings connected to food and body image, causing mild to moderate psychological distress, with minimal interference with one’s daily functioning, possibly affecting diabetes management; disordered eating that is more significant, causing some disruption to daily functioning, affecting diabetes management, and posing some health risks; clinical eating disorders, diagnosed by a mental health professional.

If the results of this pilot research are promising, it is my goal to develop my dissertation research based on the results, and continue using the website as a platform for conducting research. The research on diabetes and eating disorders has grown over the years, but there is so much room for new understanding, and a great need for investigation into how to help people.

It is also imperative that more is learned about how to reach and engage people with type 1 and food and body issues because the shame and distress they experience can lead them to isolate themselves, avoid healthcare providers, and be secretive about unhealthy food and diabetes management practices. This is actually one of the primary reasons I wanted to create a website for my research, as opposed to doing more traditional clinical research with participants in person. I hope those people who might be reluctant to participate in research in person, might be more willing to participate online. I hope my research will offer new insight into these areas of need, in addition to shedding light on the qualitative experience of individuals with type 1 who struggle to make peace with their body and food.

Since my data will consist of user-submitted content, without content, I have no data. Without data, I have no research, and without research, I will have to shift the direction of my doctoral work. I am very passionate and invested in studying this topic, and I believe there is great potential for this research to not only help people in the long term through development of interventions, but more immediately, I think a dynamic community that encourages and promotes the use of creativity to cope with the difficulties of having type 1 diabetes and food and body issues could potentially benefit users of the VIAL Project website.

The success of this project depends on people registering and participating on the website, so I’m looking for the DOC’s support and help with their wildly effective viral power. First, if you have type 1, you are at least 13 years old, and you have any food and body issues, as described above, I hope you will register as a user, and participate on the website. If this doesn’t describe you, but you know someone who might be qualified, I hope you will share the project information with them. Lastly, regardless of whether or not you feel like the site might be helpful for you, I hope you will share the information because maybe one of your FB friends, twitter followers, blog readers, or other DOC connections are struggling to some degree, and this is a resource they can use. In addition to the actual project website, VIAL Project also has a presence on Facebook and twitter, which isn’t much to see yet, but in time, I hope they’ll be a reflection of the activity on the website.

I have until late spring to collect my data, which isn’t a generous time frame to build a social network, so I’m reaching out to anyone and everyone I know to put this on the fast track. The more people that register and use the site by late spring, the more data I will have to support my more in-depth dissertation research. The getting-started, getting-people-interacting, and getting-people-making-and-posting-creative-work parts of this project are going to take a big push, but I hope that if you join me in promoting this research, the website will come to life, my research will come to life, and in time, each person who is struggling with type 1 and food and body issues can create the healthful life they deserve.

VIAL Project

VIAL Project: Voice Insulin Art Life

Informed Consent

Like all research, the protection of participants is my priority. If you are interested in joining the site and participating in the project, you are strongly encouraged to carefully review the Terms of Service on the website, which include Informed Consent. By joining the site, you are agreeing to the Terms of Service and providing Informed Consent. By agreeing to the Terms of Service, participants understand that:

• I am volunteering to register and participate on a social media website with a focus on creative expression for people with type 1 diabetes who have disordered eating behavior.

• I will be submitting original, creative works that reflects my experience with diabetes and/or food and body-related issues.

• I am responsible for protecting my identity when submitting public content on the website, including, but not limited to profile photo and username, to the extent that I want to remain anonymous.

• User-submitted content, including posts, comments, profile information, visual artwork, creative writing, audiovisual materials will be used anonymously for purposes of supervision, presentation and/or publication.

• Participating on the website may bring up feelings, thoughts, memories, and physical sensations, either comforting or uncomfortable. I can participate on the website to whatever degree I am comfortable. If I experience significant emotional distress, I know that I can refrain from using the website. If my emotional distress is severe and I feel I am in danger, I have been advised to contact local emergency services in my community.

• This study may or may not benefit me. I may experience increased self-knowledge and personal insight that I may be able to use in my daily life. The results of the study may also help to increase public and professional awareness of the needs and experiences of people with type 1 diabetes who have disordered eating.

• All confidential information collected at registration that is not public will be kept on a password protected computer in the researcher’s possession for possible future use. However, this information will not be used in any future study without communication from the researcher and my electronically submitted consent.

• The researcher/therapist is ethically bound to report, to the appropriate party, any criminal intent or potential harm to self.

• I may choose to withdraw from the study at any time with no negative consequences.

February 4, 2012

The Value of Art

If you’re reading this, you likely know something to the effect that I’m a type 1 diabetic and an art therapist whose professional and advocacy work is directed towards helping people with diabetes through art. Towards that goal, I facilitate Diabetes Art Day and the World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange, I have a small art therapy practice, I spread my passion for art through Facebook, and to a much lesser extent, blogging and twitter, and I’m working on my doctorate with plans to do research on art therapy for people with diabetes. I do all of this because I believe in the healing power of creative expression for people with diabetes.

Sometimes I’m overcome with doubt though, not in the potential for healing through art, but in my ability to effectively demonstrate that potential such that others understand its true value. The reality is that no matter how much I believe that creative expression has the amazing capacity to heal people with diabetes, if no one else believes it, then my efforts, art projects, advocacy, and use of social media to promote art for healing don’t amount to much. The other reality is that I need to make a living, and let’s just say I’m not exactly raking in the piles of money. I thought that if I stuck with advocating, if I poured my heart into these projects and the work that I do, that eventually I could cover my own costs, plus pay a few of my gazillion copays, but so far that hasn’t happened.

So I’ve been discouraged and increasingly questioning how much time and effort I’m dedicating because it’s not fair to my family to continue chasing this dream at the expense of more practical things. I’m discouraged because I don’t know how to continue the work that you know me for at the level I’ve sustained. I need to reevaluate my vision, and alter my course, or at least change my pace. I’m not sure yet what that means for my various advocacy activities, but as I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Despite this need to reassess from a practical standpoint, I will never stop believing in the infinite healing value of art for people with diabetes. Until there is a cure, there is healing through art. If you haven’t discovered it for yourself yet, a real treasure awaits you.

July 22, 2010

Shoe Obsession

Filed under: Complications,Health Care,Research,Wellness — Tags: , , , — Lee Ann @ 7:55 pm
One in black, one in brown

One in black, one in brown

There’s this stereotype about women and shoes, and I’m pretty sure it exists because stereotypes exist for a reason. I’ve known women who would proudly offer to be the shoe whore, pardon the expression, poster child, given the chance. If TV and movies have taught me anything – and to be honest, I’ve gotten many life lessons via the big screen and the boobtube – it’s that these women who have a ‘thing’ for shoes, have closets lined with footwear, in every color of the rainbow, in every imaginable material from leather to fabric to plastic to reptile skin *gasp cry*. Ballerina flats, boots, clogs, espadrilles, huaraches, mules, pumps, stilettos, t-straps, wedges, you-name-it.

I am not one of these women. I have diabetes, and it was been drilled into my head from at least as far back as the time I was 6 years old that I should take meticulous care of my feet, and as part of that mission, stick to practical shoes. I have not always done the best job. I have purchased shoes because they were cute, not because they were comfortable. I got a pedicure before my wedding, although that was the first and the last one I ever got. I have gone barefoot, although I do it infrequently, even in my house. Taking care of my feet in the interest of not losing my most favorite dancing partners has certainly informed my foot care choices and my footwear purchases as long as I can remember, but more so as I’ve gotten older.

Now that I’m, well, older than I used to be, I have some kind of weird foot issue that I didn’t used to have, something about the connective tissue between the bones that keeps my feet from flexing all the way, more so in my right foot than my left. So in addition to diabetes, I have to take this flexing quirk into consideration too because I now have difficulty keeping some kinds of slip-on shoes securely on my feet, especially when I’m doing a lot of walking. Most of the sandals I own are slip-on, so as I prepared to go to Florida back in June, knowing I’d be doing quite a bit of walking, I decided I needed to find some sandals that would stay on my feet more securely than those that I already have.

I found some brown sandals in the spring that might as well have been custom-made for me, Doc Marten’s with that nice thick supportive flat sole that is characteristic of Docs, the ankle strap I sought, as well-constructed as a shoe can get, and very foot-friendly. Except for running shoes, which I should note, I don’t actually use to run, I’m very particular about having both a black version and a brown version of the shoes I buy. I won’t necessarily get the exact pair in both colors, but I try to find similar styles, one in each color because one or the other will match just about anything I might wear. I’m a little neurotic in this respect, but I’m OK with that.

Brown sandals that make me happy

Brown sandals that make me happy

Since I found the casual pair of ankle-strapped brown sandals I loved, I figured how hard could it be to find a black sandal with similar characteristics? I’m pretty sure black is the most popular sandal color, and surely, in a shoe store, a department store, or online, I would find the black sandal sister of my new brown sandals.

It was not to be though. One of the main problems I encountered was that the “in” style this summer has been gladiator sandals, and no offense to those who like and wear them, but I can’t stand them. It seems that a characteristic of gladiator style sandals is a very thin sole, and I don’t do thin soles. They’re not comfortable, even a little bit, they aren’t good for your feet, and by default your legs and back, because there’s no support. Also, thin soles mean your feet are less protected from the things on the ground that could be hazardous to your feet, such as rocks or sharp objects. Besides the issues I have with the soles, I dislike how the straps creep all the way up the foot. While I was in search of a sandal with an ankle strap, I am not a fan of these weird sandals with straps that go up the leg, or those ones with ankle cuffs which are atrociously hideous in my opinion. The ubiquitous flip-flop wasn’t an option for me either. I have a pair that I keep by the backdoor in case I need to step outside, but I know they’re crappy footwear, so I wouldn’t wear them more than that. I like what I like, and I don’t like those sandals, which unfortunately meant I had a rather limited selection from which to choose.

In June, I went for my regular podiatrist appointment. Because of the aforementioned problem with the range of motion when I flex my foot, I get an obnoxious callus on my right big toe. I try to doctor it up between visits, especially in the summer when my feet are visible, but having gotten myself into quite the pickle when I doctored up my feet in the past, I’m very conservative in my actions, leaving the real doctoring to the doctor.

One in brown, one in black

One in brown, one in black

I know quite a few diabetics get pedicures to remedy unsightly problems like calluses or other dead skin, and swear that their pedicurist’s instruments are sterilized and the salon is clean, etc., but except for that single visit I made before my wedding, for which I had considerable misgivings given that I knew better, I steer clear of pedicurists. I know a woman, not diabetic, who got one at a nice, new salon a few months ago, and ended up with such a nasty infection for which she ultimately needed surgery. Leading up to that she had to see several doctors, one of whom suggested she might have to kiss her toe goodbye due to a possible bone infection. I had become pretty adamant in my anti-pedicure position before, but after hearing about that pedicure-gone-wrong, now I’m that much more opposed to them, but that’s just me, and my personal, obviously conservative approach to diabetic foot care.

So my podiatrist and I were chatting, and knowing she would sympathize and understand my footwear dilemma, I told her how unhappy I was with this season’s selection. She exclaimed, “Oh, I know!” and I felt validated, having found someone who shared my shoe shopping pain. She told me how she ended up spending over $100 on a pair of sandals, far more than she would normally spend, because she too hadn’t been able to find a decent pair. I told her how I have a couple of pairs of Skechers slip-on sandals that I love, and I had hoped Skechers might offer something similar with an ankle strap, but this year their sandals aren’t to my liking at all, except for one pair that was from their Shape-Ups line that more or less met my admittedly unspecific criteria for the perfect sandal.

Now, if you aren’t familiar with Shape-Ups, they’re a line of mostly sneakers, but also some sandals, and they have a sole that’s rounded so when you wear them, you’re never quite planted firmly on the ground. Skechers asserts that you’ll get a better workout wearing these shoes because you’ll “burn more calories, firm muscles, and reduce joint stress”. When I first saw them in sneaker form, I didn’t think much of them aesthetically, and I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at the claims because, c’mon, they’re sneakers, not a personal trainer hovering over you while you workout!

OK not great black sandals

OK not great black sandals

My podiatrist, who I absolutely adore because she takes wonderful care of my precious feet, scoffed, and told me to stay away from Shape-Ups. She said that of the patients she had seen who were experiencing foot problems that seemed to be related to wearing Shape-Ups, all of them were diabetic. Most of her patients are older, as you might imagine, and I think it’s a fair assumption that most of her diabetic patients are type 2, so they’re more susceptible to foot problems than the typical younger people with type 1 for whom peripheral neuropathy isn’t a pressing issue, but regardless, I thought it was telling anecdotal evidence that Shape-Ups aren’t all Skechers would like consumers to think they are. As it turns out, the American Council on Exercise did a some research, and it doesn’t think much of Shape-Ups or comparable lines of footwear either.

While the Sketchers sandals I had eyed were the closest I had seen to meeting my structural and aesthetic requirements, minus the Shape-Up sole, my doctor’s recommendation knocked them off the list of contending sandals. That left me with no sandal candidates though, so it was back to searching.

Jason, who is an eternally good sport, accompanied me on several shopping trips to find a pair of sandals I liked, and as if channeling Goldilocks, not a single pair was quite right. He’d point or pick a shoe off a shelf, holding it for me to inspect, and he’d get, “Too dressy, too dainty, the sole’s too thin, the straps are too thin, the heel is too high, the toe is too narrow, too enclosed, too 1983, I don’t like that metallic decorative thing, too shiny.” I had a reason for dismissing every pair. Eventually, he gave up trying to help me, although we did find a new pair of sneakers for him.

The day before I left for Florida, I schlepped back to the mall, determined to get a pair, even if that meant getting sandals that didn’t quite meet my apparently impossible expectations. Having reached defeat by the stylistas who decided ugly sandals should be the rage this season, I settled on a pair that I like for the most part. They’re not as sporty or casual as I was hoping to find, and sole isn’t as thick as I would like, but I’ve been wearing them on occasion nonetheless, and will continue to do so until next season when I dearly hope cute sandals are in style again.

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