Last night’s OzDOC chat on food was engrossing enough to draw my attention away from the first ten minutes of Australian Survivor, so I’m elaborating on it today.
The dietary advice I first received after my diabetes diagnosis was to eat low fat, high fibre foods that were digested slowly. I was taught to count carbohydrates by my diabetes educator, which eventually faded into regular guesstimates while I was on insulin injections.
I think the most bizarre thing is this idea that we have to eat to avoid going low, rather than adjust insulin! I also hear it from healthcare professionals, and it’s often referenced in diabetes books and magazines. I sometimes wonder if they’re just trying to cover their backs!
I relied on this advice heavily in the beginning. I religiously sought out foods that were low in fat and had a low glycemic index ranking, regardless of their nutritional value or carbohydrate load. I continued to eat a lot of processed foods that were seemingly healthy – cereals, juices, yoghurts, canned fruit, brown bread, muesli bars – and ridden with hidden sugar! I often remember testing my blood sugar at uni after breakfast, unable to make the connection between a level of 17 and the foods I was eating.
Since I began connecting with other people with diabetes, I’ve read a wide variety of stories and perspectives on food choices. I’ve certainly drawn inspiration here and there, but I don’t really feel that I’ve taken dietary advice from any one source in particular. Ultimately it’s about finding an approach that will make me happy, while achieving the BGLs that I aim for regularly.
In the beginning, I definitely used to shy away from foods that weren’t blood sugar friendly. And when I did eventually cave in and eat them, I would feel super guilty for the numbers that followed. One of my biggest shifts in the past year or so has been having more confidence in working my way around the foods that I want to eat. Carb counting and pre bolusing insulin have been my best assets in these past couple of months. I learn from experience. Over time, I’ve gained a pretty good idea of what effect certain foods will have on my blood sugar levels and how I can work my way around them.
Another big shift has been changing some of my old habits around food. Cutting the sugar out of my coffee and tea was one of the hardest, but most worthwhile ones. Ditto for sugary drinks. I don’t feel so guilty for my three coffees a day anymore! Afternoon snacking still remains my weakness, but I am trying to be a little more prepared these days rather than going back and forth from the cupboard and fridge. I still do eat carbohydrates, but in a lot more moderation and balance than I once did. I don’t shy away from higher fat foods either, especially for nutritional value such as iron or protein.
I still do eat chocolate. And cannoli. And donuts. When I go out for meals, I usually give it my best guess, regularly test and try to enjoy myself.
There’s no right or wrong approach when it comes to diabetes and food. But I know that this food approach is the right one for me at the moment, because it makes me happy and I can achieve the BGLs that I aim for regularly.