Amy’s T1D Adventure: Chiapas – Siempre con Azúcar!


[Here’s a guest post series from Amy McKinnon, a One Drop user and 27-year-old ex-advertising executive who recently swapped her NYC apartment for an oversized backpack to explore the streets of Latin America for six months. Amy has lived with type 1 diabetes for 15 years and tries her best to balance blood glucose levels, marathon training and a high-carb raw vegan diet. Now she has thrown travel into the mix. EDITOR’S NOTE: Amy is a performance athlete and consumes a high-carb diet. At One Drop, we believe that a low-carb approach to food reduces the risk of high and low blood glucose incidents and can effectively reduce blood glucose levels overall. However, we want to share a variety of personal experiences so we can all learn how other people live their lives with diabetes. Always consult your doctor before making changes to a prescribed regimen.]

Veggies for Breakfast

largest statue in the world of Jesus ChristI wanted to continue 2016 on a good note, so it was vegetables for breakfast before heading to the local Mercardo to get some (a lot of) fruits and vegetables. At the market my friend got me to try a traditional Chiapaneca drink called Pozol (made of maize, cacao and sugar – always sugar!) — it was delicious and I would grow fond of the drink sin azucar!

I had changed my insulin pump infusion set overnight and didn’t put on an increased temporary basal rate (as I usually do), so my blood glucose levels were high from morning until mid-afternoon. The addition of the Pozol (random guess on the carb count) and the pump change probably contributed to my mid-morning blood glucose of 350.

My blood glucose eventually drops within range as we venture by foot to a small town close by to see the largest statue in the world of Jesus Christ — bigger than the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio De Janeiro.

Riding the Bolus Wave while the carbs flow …

Santo Domingo ChurchDinner continues my roll with the high carbs – rice and vegetables cooked in an abundance of oil and salt. I think in the one meal I consumed more salt than I have in the past year. Even with this dangerous combination I managed to keep my blood glucose below 250 with a bolus wave dose and a high temp basal. Some tricks of the trade come in handy when you eat unexpected foods.

The day was far from over as we catch a bus to San Cristobal De La Casas around 8pm for an overnight visit. We spend the evening absorbing the culture and atmosphere of this wonderful old town. Walking also had a positive impact on my blood glucose levels, keeping them in the 120s late into the evening. At midnight I thought it was time for bed, but I had to squeeze in a 10 minute battle with my friend and his mom because I didn’t want to eat french fries before bed or have a hot chocolate. They were used to eating at such late times and thought I was so strange for not wanting to eat.

Traditional wedding clothes (Chiapas)We get up the following morning as the sun is rising in San Cristobal, walk to breakfast where I have a “naturally” sweetened fruit drink (I could taste the sugar screaming inside!) and tamales were consumed (not by me). We caught a colectivo to a nearby town, Zinacantan, where we met some friends who had me dress in traditional wedding clothes for the local indigenous people. With a high blood glucose after that sweet fruit drink, I had some insulin on board and we gobbled down some tortillas before continuing on to explore the unique churches in the region.

TribesmenWith my blood glucose at a miraculous 95, our next stop is a neighboring town, San Juan Chamula, which has these huge outdoor street markets. As we walk around, we see the local tribesmen, who are the equivalent of the local government for the indigenous people, having a meeting in the town square. I take a photo not realizing it was forbidden and get a few shouts! Whoops! I was just so amazed by their traditional clothing.

We were back in San Cristobal in time for lunch and I could feel my blood glucose crashing from all the walking. I grab some fruit and have a lunch of bananas, berries and apples while my friend and his mom have tacos with cows balls (yes, this is a food!).

Pad Thai and a trip the Ancient Gym

One Drop blood glucose log after nonstop high carb mealsAs we spend the rest of the afternoon in San Cristobal my friend tells me of his love for Thailand and his desire to travel there. There was one restaurant in San Cristobal that served Asian food and I buy him his first Pad Thai/Asian meal ever. Surprisingly, he has only eaten Mexican food and North American fast food (a.k.a. Dominoes, Burger King and Pizza Hut), never tasting other cuisines.

At the end of each day I’ve started a habit of looking at my daily summary in One Drop — it helps me identify patterns and adjust my insulin doses and see what food impacted my blood glucose levels in a certain way.

As I rise the next morning back in Tuxtla, my goal is to find a gym where I can get some much needed exercise and hopefully a treadmill run. Google comes to the rescue! Kind of. It led me to a gym out of the 1900s — no treadmill, bikes with no resistance and some squeaky, rusted weight equipment. I take what I can get and fit in a 90-minute session. The adrenaline rushing through my body felt damn good.

Ancient Gym of Chiapas

I also desperately needed some time to myself so treated myself to breakfast at the only vegetarian restaurant in the city. I had fruit with granola and a couple of slices of toast, sending my blood glucose soaring, course. After a very salty and oily homemade vegetable soup, I had to think of a strategy to tell the mom, no oil and no salt without offending her or her cooking…

Chiapa De Corzo Waterfall

At the WaterfallOur afternoon adventure started with a bus ride to the Central Park in Chiapa De Corzo, with help from some locals we walk to the main road which leads to a waterfall and plan on catching a bus, until a family heading to the waterfall also coincidentally stops to ask us for directions and then offer us a ride. The friendliness and generosity of locals in Mexico is greater than anywhere else I’ve been in the world. Always willing to help out when they can with no expectations of anything in return.

The waterfall is relatively small with many locals showering in the freezing water. We climb up the side of the waterfall into a cave behind until it’s too dark to see where we are heading!

The walking keeps my blood glucose in range – ahhhh I love the magic of physical activity on my diabetes control. If I didn’t have to sit during the day I would always be on the move even with light exercise!

We catch a bus back to Tuxtla feeling all natured out and ready for some more outdoor adventures later in the week!

Some questions from people in Chiapas…

During my first week in Chiapas I’d been asked some, strange, funny and sometimes heartbreaking questions, which I thought I’d share:

  • Do people shower in the beach in Australia?
  • Do children work on the streets in Australia?
  • Do you want to eat the corn part of a chicken tamale?
  • What time in the day do people drink Coca-Cola in Australia?
  • Is running exercise?
  • What is Spinach? Oh, you mean green paper…
  • If I make soup with meat and vegetables would you eat the vegetables out of the soup?

Read my next blog to see what adventures we get up to and maybe some more funny questions!



Amy McKinnon
Amy McKinnon

Amy McKinnon is a One Drop user, marathoner, ex-advertising executive, and has lived with type 1 diabetes for 15 years. Amy is currently exploring the streets of Latin America for six months.