Participants Point of View
Week 29 by Karen (@KarenBittrSweet)
Ah, food. It seems like such a loaded topic – especially for those of us living with diabetes. But I was thrilled to find that it was the topic of the last DSMA chat, because it is fascinating to see what works for others, and I often pick up tips I can try out myself.
The last question of the evening asked us “What advice or insight would you give to a newly diagnosed diabetic about food and diabetes?”
I would probably start by telling a newly diagnosed diabetic that nothing is off limits. I eat everything – good foods, not so good foods, carbs, sugar, I’m an equal opportunity eater. I think this goes back to the years after my diagnosis. You see, those misconceptions we fight today about not being able to have sugar? They come from the time I was diagnosed. In 1979, it was not a misconception that a diabetic couldn’t have anything with sugar in it. It was a fact. I had to eat sugar-free Jell-o while others had cake. The only ice cream I was allowed was vanilla. There was so much that was off-limits to me, and as a child I resented it. (And snuck it as often as I could, but that’s a topic for a whole other conversation.) Thankfully, we have better insulins now, and a better understanding of sugar and carbohydrates and how our body processes them. Things with sugar are no longer off limits, and for that I am thankful. But the “damage” is done; the years of being told “you can’t have that” will always be with me. And although I am an adult, the child inside of me refuses to think of anything as off-limits. And I would encourage a newly diagnosed diabetic to never think that way either.
But the next thing I would tell them is that it’s all trial and error. You will figure out what foods are easy on your blood sugar. You will figure out what foods are not. And I can guarantee you that your list and mine will be very different. I can successfully bolus for pizza and pasta – two foods that are notoriously tough on many people with diabetes. Yet I have d-friends who eat oatmeal for breakfast every day and have no problem with it. Me? Totally oatmeal failure. I have tried slow-cook oats. I have tried steel-cut oats. I have tried using an extended bolus. I have tried exercising right after I finish eating. I have yet to find anything that can keep me for spiking sky-high after my bowl of oatmeal. And although I said nothing is off-limits, I rarely eat oatmeal. To me, it’s just not worth the work and the spike. Instead, I happily enjoy a bowl of cheese grits and get on with my day.
And that is what is important for a newly diagnosed diabetic to understand. You can eat whatever you want. Some foods will be easy. Some will be hard, but through trial and error you can eventually work out the correct bolus and activity combination to cover it. You will find some foods that you feel are just not worth the effort, and you’re happy to eat something else instead. And then there will be treat foods – foods that may cause havoc on your blood sugar but that are worth indulging in once in a while. For me, that’s the delicious Mexican restaurant down the street. The chips and salsa may send my levels sailing, but every once in a while it’s a price I’m willing to pay. So find your own treat foods and enjoy them in moderation once in a while – because nothing should be off limits.