When chronic illness hits, we often think of the bad things that the illness brings. With diabetes, we lament over having to take insulin injections, taking other medications and following a diet. Diabetes does in fact require a lot of scheduling and monitoring but with that comes discipline that we can use in other areas of our life.

I can’t tell you how often I used my understanding of diabetes and how my body works to understand other concepts.  For instance, when learning how to develop a Bill of Material to manufacture automotive components, I was taught that each manufacturing process had a cost and the sum of those processes and materials made up the unit cost of the product. Said simply, the piece of steel, plus the labor to form it, plus the cost of painting it, plus the box cost, plus the cost to put it in the box, plus the overhead burden cost equals the “cost” of the product—not the price.  The price resulted in a profit margin markup of that cost.

Well, it was easy for me to conceptualize this BOM (bill of material) cost concept as a carbohydrate counting recipe. When a diabetic eats, it is more than a total caloric counting process. Especially in the 1970s, the diabetic diet was comprised of a total caloric diet broken down into meat, milk, bread (or starch), fat, fruit and vegetable exchanges. Such a diet would include a “bill of material” that may call for 2 bread exchanges, 1 fat exchange, 1 meat exchange, 1 vegetable exchange and 1 milk exchange for dinner. It was up to the diabetic to choose between 1 cup of spaghetti with meat sauce (1 bread and 1 meat), a dinner roll (1 bread), 1tsp. of butter (1 fat), ½ cup of broccoli (1 vegetable) and 1 cup of skim milk (milk exchange); or 1 medium sized lean pork chop (meat), ½ cup corn (bread exchange), ½ cup of green beans (vegetable exchange), 1 cup of skim milk (milk exchange) and ½ cup of vanilla ice cream (1 bread and 1 fat exchange).

In school, teachers call using one concept to teach another the use of pneumonics. This worked for me? What works for you? How has diabetes and it’s management helped you in another unrelated area of life?

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