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Bright Spots Lab – What I’m Trying This Month

By Adam Brown

Low-carb English muffins, terrific new Mindset books, switching back to Fitbit, and a new favorite recipe

Welcome to “Bright Spots Lab” – a new, short-form column that will share the most helpful diabetes tips, tricks, and reading I’ve discovered of late. I’ll aim to do these regularly, assuming readers find them useful. Please let us know what you think!

April 2019

FOOD

1. Best New Find: Mikey’s Low-Carb English Muffins

I stumbled across these in the frozen section of a nearby grocery store – wow are they awesome! Each Mikey’s English muffin has 8 grams of carbs total (50% from fiber) and seven real-food ingredients: Eggs, Almond Flour, Water, Apple Cider Vinegar, Coconut Flour, Baking Soda, Salt. They have minimal impact on blood sugar in my ten experiments so far. These muffins make a killer breakfast egg sandwich – I put one fried egg on each half and eat it open face. My girlfriend, Priscilla, also enjoyed my grilled cheese attempt (see above). Since the muffins are sold in a frozen four-pack, I thaw one in the refrigerator overnight and then toast it in a hot pan before eating. (I don’t own a toaster oven, though that’s probably the best way to make them.) 

The one downside is price: a four-pack ran about $6, meaning each muffin comes to about $1.50 – more expensive per-serving than breakfast chia pudding, but a nice way to mix it up. Mikey’s has a store locator here, and it seems they are available at Whole Foods and Safeway. This past weekend, I found a way to make a similar version of these at home – higher hassle, but far less expensive – and I’ll share that in the next Bright Spots Lab. 

I don’t generally eat a lot of packaged foods, but these muffins are great to have in the freezer when time is crunched.

On a related note, La Tortilla Factory’s low-carb, high-fiber, whole wheat tortillas are excellent for breakfast egg burritos, tacos, etc. They have a yellow-branded package (“Low Carb”), are sold at many grocery stores – search your zip code here – and are much cheaper than Mikey’s. Since over 70% of the carbs are from fiber (8 grams of fiber, 11 grams of total carbs), they have a similarly small impact on blood sugar.

 

2. Favorite New Recipe: Ground Turkey + Broccoli “Rice” Bowl

Broccoli and cauliflower rice are sold pre-blended at stores like Trader Joe’s, offering a low-carb, rice-like, vegetable-only side dish or main course. This recipe is a serious winner – with broccoli rice, it tasted just like a stone-bowl rice dish. We skipped the maple syrup, used soy sauce instead of coconut aminos, and added an egg on top. The recipe says it works with cauliflower or broccoli rice, but it was far better with broccoli rice in my view. If you prefer, you can make cauliflower or broccoli rice at home in five minutes – see here.

MINDSET

3. Outstanding books:

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport: This book makes a compelling case for re-evaluating one’s relationship with smartphones and social media. The average person spends three hours per day looking at a smartphone screen, with only 12% spending less than an hour. Note: three hours per day = 46 full days per year! I’ve long used related tools like RescueTime, Freedom, and the iPhone Screen Time report. This book provides a good high-level strategy (and tips) for thinking about the place phones and social media should have in our lives. I see huge diabetes opportunity in cutting even 20 minutes per day in screen time, freeing that up for self-care – walking, more sleep, morning breathing, etc. Taking long walks without my phone has been a great addition to my toolbox after reading this book.

Atomic Habits by James Clear: This book has a crystal-clear structure and great stories for explaining how habits work. I loved the emphasis on tiny (“atomic”) changes – e.g., if you get 1% better each day, you will be 38-times better in a year! Atomic Habits builds nicely on the 2012 classic, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Combined with Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, these are the three best books I’d recommend for anyone trying to improve their habits. The Mindset chapter of Bright Spots & Landmines has many similar themes.

I’ve also been re-reading and recommending Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple by Dr. Seth Gillihan, especially the chapter on negative thoughts and thinking errors – it is stunningly good for combatting unhelpful diabetes thought loops.

EXERCISE and SLEEP

4. Switching back to Fitbit from Apple Watch.

I used Fitbit from 2011-2016 and loved the motivation to walk more, to encourage my friends, and to get sleep data. In 2016, in a Black Friday moment of inspiration, I splurged on a discounted Apple Watch Series 1; I was mostly excited to get Dexcom CGM data on my wrist. In January of this year, however, I was feeling extra device fatigue and decided to switch back to Fitbit. It’s been an awesome change! I find Fitbit’s wrist-worn tracker and app more motivating and less naggy than Apple Watch. Fitbit has valuable, built-in sleep data, whereas Apple Watch requires third-party apps. Fitbit excels on battery life too, needing only one charge per week. I haven’t missed getting CGM data on my wrist, as it’s one swipe from the iPhone lock screen. In fact, I do less micromanaging and less stressing about my blood sugars now. My time-in-range is identical since the device change.

 

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