Recently we sat down with Robert Lewis, aka the Happy Diabetic Chef, to talk about his experience using the FreeStyle Libre 2 CGM. Chef Robert is a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, and when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1998, it inspired him to create healthy, great-tasting dishes that are easy to prepare. Now he is a nationally known author and spokesperson who travels the country speaking on the benefits of healthy eating for people with diabetes. He’s authored three best-selling cookbooks, has a successful podcast, and is currently the culinary arts instructor (and COTW to his fans…Chef of the World!) at Scott Community College, the largest community college in Iowa.
Hi Robert! How long have you been using the FreeStyle Libre 2 CGM?
I started off first on the FreeStyle Libre 14 day system about six months after it came out. I learned about it at a TCOYD conference – imagine that! I came back from the conference, went to see my endocrinologist and asked her about it, and she slapped one on me. It’s been love at first swipe ever since! Now I’m on the FreeStyle Libre 2 that has the alarms, and I’ve been on that for about a year.
Can you share an overview of how the system works?
Yes, it’s really simple. You insert the sensor onto the back of your arm. It’s super easy to put on and it doesn’t hurt. After an hour you can start scanning to check your blood sugars. The sensors are also waterproof, they last 14 days, and I’ve never had one fall off. Here’s a little video I did to show how easy it is to insert the sensor:
How often do you scan your blood sugars?
Well, I’m slightly addicted! I especially scan before I eat, after I eat, before I exercise, and after I exercise. After I eat, I wait about an hour to see what my meal or snack has done. I know if I eat half a cup of oatmeal, my blood sugar will skyrocket like SpaceX. It just cranks it, big time! And that’s only half a cup of oatmeal! I do take mealtime insulin, so if I see my numbers escalating, I know I need a little insulin.
The app for the FreeStyle Libre 2 was recently released, so you can scan the sensor with an iPhone*. How has your experience with it been so far?
It’s been great. The app is very intuitive, and it’s actually much easier to use than the reader. One advantage of using the app on your phone is that all the information goes into the cloud, and it will download to your computer and to your doctor (and anyone else you want) using the LibreLinkUp app. My wife is linked up to my device, so when I scan, she can see it in real time. And if my doctor’s got nothing better to do, she can see it too! I’m going to see my endocrinologist next week, and she can see my 7-day, 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day day reports. There’s no logbook needed anymore. Now the log is right there in the app.
The Libre has really eliminated the fear of the doctor for me. It eliminates the BS factor because all your information is right there – and it is what it is. I have an endocrinologist who embraces all of my many flaws, and she isn’t one to say, “You’re a failure”. We collaborate, and I think because doctors know how to read the Libre data in a way I’ll never know, they look at a higher level of data from the device, and they can help guide and direct you to be successful.
Do you use the data to check trends?
Yes, and that really is another beautiful part of this whole program. For example, I was at 250 at 9:00 am (it was my oatmeal day) and then I overdid my insulin and crashed at noon at about 59. So I have a graph that’s like a rollercoaster. But it shows you your trends, up and down, and how you do with certain foods, so it’s very helpful.
How do the alerts and alarms work?
In the Libre 2 app, I can set the alarms so they’ll go off when my blood sugar reaches certain numbers. For example, I have my high alarm set at 230 and my low alarm set at 70. So at 70 or below, the alarm will go off (sometimes in the middle of the night) and when I see I’m going down, I know I need to do something. This is really one of the best parts about it.
Have you noticed a difference in your A1c since using the FreeStyle Libre CGM?
Yes, I have a much better A1c than before. One nice thing about the Libre is it gives me my “Time in Target”. I’ve heard Dr. Steve talk about Time in Range, which is essentially the same thing – how often you’re between 70-180 in a given time period. The A1c isn’t as important anymore because Time in Target pretty much dictates where you are and where you’ve been. My most recent 30-day Time in Target was 92%. Also, over the last 90 days I’ve had a total of 679 scans, which is an average of 8 per day. No one on the planet would want to stick themselves with a poking device 8 times a day, unless you love pain!
Do you have any advice for people thinking about getting a FreeStyle Libre CGM?
Just try it, and experience life without sticking your finger! One of the nicest things about the Libre is that your loved ones can use the LibreLinkUp app. If I have a high or low blood sugar, my wife will text or call me and say, “Get your stuff together!” She helps me monitor myself. And the device is easy to use. I just pull out my phone and swipe. Some days I might swipe 10 or 15 times. You can do it very discreetly, but I love to do it in front of people. I love for them to ask me, “What are you doing?” And I love to explain it to them and say, “Check this out!”
As a chef and a foodie, do you have any strategies for navigating the holiday season with all the temptations?
Here’s my one piece of advice when you’re going to a party and there’s food all over the place. Remember, it’s not your last meal on the planet! Sometimes we eat like it’s our last meal, and it’s not. I also drink a lot of water beforehand so I feel full, and I try to eat as many vegetables and low-calorie foods as possible. I’m not going to not eat things I love, but for me, it’s all about moderation. It’s difficult during the holiday season, but I don’t go to events hungry. I try to eat throughout the day so I’m not starving when I get there. I also try to watch my calorie intake and once I hit my allotment, I’m done. It’s all about enjoying the foods you love in moderation.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
The FreeStyle Libre 2 has definitely made a huge impact in the way I treat my diabetes because I have this miniature laboratory at my fingertips. The technology is easy to use – I’m 65 and if I can do it, anyone can do it! It doesn’t hurt, it’s not scary, and it helps me stay on track. It’s a great tool for people with type 2 diabetes. I will never go back to sticking my finger again!
Check out a few of Chef Robert’s favorite holiday recipes!
*The FreeStyle Libre 2 app is also available for Android phones.