“How Do You Manage Sweets With Your Diabetes?”

My red, plastic plate was piled high. I’d grabbed a scoop of hot apple crumble topped with Connoisseur ice-cream, a Cherry Ripe chocolate cupcake and a slice of liquor sponge cake from the desert table at our family get together over the weekend.

Get togethers in our family are all about the food. I spent most of Thursday telling Mum that she’d prepared way too much for our get together that evening, and the remainder of the weekend saying I told you so. Nonetheless, you still want to try and have a little bit of all the deliciousness.

“How do you manage the sweets with your diabetes?” my Uncle asked me as I sat down at the table with my plate.

After all these years with type 1, you sort of begin to expect these kinds of questions. I mean, even I get a little conscious when I sit down with a piled plate, wondering what others must think.

I went on to explain that I would look at the plate and estimate that I had at least 100g of carbs there.

I went on to say that I would enter 100g into my insulin pump, and that the pump would deliver an insulin dose for me.

I went on to explain that I can technically eat anything, so long as I cover it with insulin.

I went on to explain that I should still be mindful of how many carbs I eat, but that it was Easter and I didn’t care so much today.

I went on to explain that if it wasn’t Easter and I did care a bit more, a back up bolus of at least 15 minutes would also be helpful.

I didn’t explain the months of hard work that went into perfecting my basal rate, so that my mealtime insulin does its job and doesn’t get stuck in quicksand.

I didn’t explain how I weigh all of the food I prepare at home, multiply that weight by carb factors, and then divide it by my own unique insulin to carb ratio.

I didn’t explain how some foods are digested very slowly, while others are digested very rapidly, and insulin needs to be backed up or delayed accordingly.

I didn’t explain that a larger, higher fat or restaurant meal, requires a temporary basal rate for several hours to combat the insulin resistance.

I didn’t explain the importance of checking my blood sugar levels post meal, to ensure that my insulin is doing its job.

I didn’t explain that sometimes I get it wrong, and I end up eating my way out of lows.

I didn’t explain that sometimes I also get it wrong, and I end up shovelling down insulin and bucket loads of water at 3am to bring down the highs.

I didn’t explain the huge investment I’ve had to put into learning, observing and applying, so that I don’t make these errors so often and see more numbers in range.

I know that my uncle wasn’t trying to be rude or judgemental. And it was nice of him to ask. I liked that it opened up the dialogue, and that I could deflate the stigma around sweets and diabetes.

It’s just a shame that despite how simply I’d put it, nobody in that room will remember a word of what I said.

It’s a shame that despite how many times I check my blood sugar or pull out my pump during the day, nobody seems to notice the diabetes.

It’s a shame that I’m only ever asked these questions when I’m seen with a plate piled high with desert.


  1. Frank, I sample but not partake to much. Yesterday I watched as my table partook in triple chocolate cake. Gosh it looked good. I took a bite of my wife’s cake. It was better than it looked and I had a nice blood sugar at the end of the day.

  2. Amen. Preaching to the choir… 🙂 You are so right. Relative, “How are you numbers?” I could explain until I’m blue in the face but the best answer is still, “I’m doing great. Thanks.” And when I get dessert the never ending, “you’re not supposed to be eating that.” Never mind the number of times I’ve patiently explained that as long as I take insulin I can eat whatever I want. It doesn’t help that there are still commercials and companies fear-mongering that sweets = diabetes. But that’s another post for another day. ;).
    Ok, down off soap box now. Thanks for the post.

  3. this is such a great post! Yesterday my mother asked me. Do you still need insulin? I was floored. I had to explain to her that I cannot live with out insulin… Sometimes it happens that the people closest to you forget

  4. Karen

    Totally agree! I think about that every time I answer a question asked by someone other than a diabetic. You can never explain everything. Which is such a shame, because it just reinforces the lack of understanding everyone else has 🙁

  5. You’ll get through to them eventually. My mum now understands that Type 2 on insulin is different to Type 1 diabetes – that was a feat to get her to remember that. She even had an argument the other day with her type 1 boss who thinks that his gastric banding surgery means he can go off insulin – she told him as a type 1 he will never not be able to have insulin. Proud daughter moment haha.

    In the meantime – Just eat the cake. Your tastebuds will thank you.

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