Who: Laurel Touby, 59
Where: New York, NY
Time with Levels: Two years
Most Useful Takeaway: If she has a nutritious meal that includes some healthy carbohydrates, she has learned to embrace the slight glucose rise that goes along with it.
1. What was your health like before using CGM?
I’m generally in excellent health, but when I went through menopause, it was very hard to lose any weight. I was really depressed by that. I’ve been athletic all my life, and I’m so used to experiencing constant progress. But this was something I couldn’t fight. Nothing I did would work.
I wasn’t sleeping well, and that was making me hungrier. Because of that, I was making the wrong food choices. My attitude had been “exercise more,” but at a certain age, that becomes impossible. You can’t out-exercise your metabolism.
2. What made you want to put a CGM on your arm?
I’m a self-quant. I was wearing an Oura ring and monitoring my heart rate variability. I had gotten a CT scan of my heart and have been watching my cholesterol. (I have high cholesterol.) I want to live to be 120, so I’m doing whatever I can to monitor my whole health, including monitoring my blood sugar with a CGM.
3. What were some surprising things you learned about your eating habits from the CGM?
I’ve learned from the CGM how to make food choices that will keep me satisfied. In the past, I would make a smoothie without thinking about it. I’d add a ton of fruit, a squirt of agave, a date, and some protein powder. After seeing how that spiked my blood sugar and realizing that a smoothie makes me crave sweets later in the day, I shifted my breakfast habits. (I do intermittent fasting, so breakfast comes later in the day, around noon.) Now, my first meal of the day is savory. Often, that’s a salad with a variety of vegetables with protein, such as tempeh or chicken.
In addition, when I’m starving, I’ll grab a handful of nuts, which I learned through Levels. It’s fantastic because those nuts stave off my hunger for several hours. I’ll also eat nuts after dinner as a special treat if I’m craving something sweet. I have one ounce of pecans and one ounce of 70% dark chocolate. For me, that’s a 10 Levels score every time.
I’m far more aware of my body and its reactions to food, exercise, sleep, and stress. There were a couple of weeks when I was late getting my prescription for the CGM, and I noticed a difference in how I ate. I wasn’t doing the things I had set myself up to do to succeed. The fact that the CGM is constantly monitoring keeps me honest about what I eat every day.
4. How do non-food factors, such as exercise or sleep, impact your blood sugar?
Exercise is a huge factor. The more active I am, the more I can push the boundaries of what I’m eating. For instance, if I did a really hard run, I noticed I could eat a few extra carbs and not see damage to my score. If I haven’t exercised and I eat a carb-heavy meal, I notice my blood sugar swings.
5. What have been your biggest learnings after two years of using a CGM?
I realized that I have to be okay with my blood sugar rising after a meal, especially if it’s a good, honest meal. I do not have diabetes or prediabetes, and I’ve learned that these modest rises are okay. An honest meal is one where I’m not intentionally adding simple carbs and sugars. If I have half of a sweet potato alongside kale, veggies, and some protein and see a slight glucose rise, I don’t freak out anymore. I’m not demonizing carbs quite as much as I did two years ago. Plus, I feel better because I have more food choices than when I was limiting myself too much. I think that’s why some people give up because they may be frustrated that their score isn’t perfect, but I’m here to tell you that it’s okay not to be perfect.
Many people are depressed about their health like I was. I was depressed because I didn’t feel as if I could make a change to shift my metabolism. I would say to people like me to have hope. If you focus on your blood sugar and how it’s reacting to what you eat, you can make the significant lifestyle changes that won’t feel big but will have a big impact on your health.