A Complex Relationship With Food

Growing up in an Italian family, food was a big focal point in our house. Food was something that brought us together as a family – whether that be birthdays, Christmases, Easters or Sunday dinners. Both of my Nonnas would always put food in front of us when we went to visit. When family gatherings were being planned, the focal point tended to be around whether there would be enough food to feed everyone, followed by days of eating leftovers. It’s not uncommon to be force fed food and drinks at family get togethers. If you don’t want to eat, you must be feeling unwell. Obviously.

Then, along came diabetes. All of a sudden, every single item of food that I once enjoyed had an impact on my blood sugar. I linked every undesirable number that popped up on my meter back to what I’d eaten earlier. I began to think of food as ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ ‘Good’ eating meant having the willpower to eat less and enjoy better blood glucose levels but feel far too hungry. ‘Bad’ eating meant overindulging in those treat foods that I once enjoyed, and feeling the guilt afterwards.

Throw in all of the diabetes websites and magazines and food police who made me think that I was doing something wrong because I was not eating a low carb, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, ketogenic, wholegrain or cardboard diet, and it’s easy to see why I developed such a complex relationship with food.

I was rather surprised to hear my daily carbohydrate totals from my diabetes educator as she looked through my Diasend report last week. I guess I was surprised because I don’t realise just how much confidence I have gained around food in the past 12-18 months. I no longer obsess over those kinds of things anymore.

Managing blood sugars around food isn’t necessarily the easiest thing, and getting to where I am today has taken a lot of time, patience and practice. I personally don’t think that kind of learning can be avoided, whichever eating plan you decide works best for you.

I prepare a great chunk of my meals at home, try to eat as much ‘real’ food as possible and minimise the processed stuff. But at the same time, life’s too short not to eat the cannoli. For me personally, I eat carbs. A lot of them, actually. As someone with a very active job and high energy requirements each day, I don’t realistically think I’d be able to meet those energy needs without some carbs in my diet.

I guess the biggest shift in my mindset over the past 12-18 months is that food is not something that I should abstain from. Food is something that I need in order to fuel my body, sustain my daily activity level, and to feel physically good about myself. Food allows me to function at my best each day. Food is ingrained in my culture, and something that I truly do enjoy.

Above all, food is something that I eat to please myself, and not others.


  1. Tony Sangster

    Hi Frank,
    We have been led to believe that carbs are the only way to obtain energy. But how did Laplanders and Inuit survived so well for centuries on zero carbs? Of the big three, protein, fat and carbs, only carbs is dispensable. I know this goes against your cultural grain. But all diabetics have troubles with carbs and the more crabs one has the worse things can become. Think hypers and hypos. The only proven ways to obtain non-diabetic bsls and HBA1Cs, avoid or reverse diabetes complications if caught early enough is with low carb/keto with TIDs. Dr Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution and dietdoctor.com are helpful in detailing what is required.
    If your doctor and DNE are flexible and prepared to work with you this could be your best bet for the future. The way courses like DAFNE are taught and the so called Normal For Eating mantra is nonsensical. How does one eat what one likes and using insulin which can never match what endogenous insulin does to catch up with the BSL rise? It is crazy to expect it to do so.
    And pushing insulin doses in an attempt to suppress BSL will lead to unacceptable hypos UNLESS the carb intake is so low and the use of more fat and protein leads to only small bsl rises and more prolonged so better able to be controlled by the short-acting insulin? That is what the low carb/keto diet can do- made easier by use of an insulin pump with ability to do split bolusing, basal loadings as well as programming to deal with any Dawn Phenomenon.
    Normal eating for humans does not apply to processed foods but real foods but low carb. People are not missing out if they shift their focus away from advertising and promotion by Big Food. Not always easy to do, but otherwise the risk with so called Normal Food and DAFNE is that one is ordering and planning one’s complications onset in the years ahead. Looping with insulin pumps might help prevent this but low carb is important also because we do not know what years of higher than needed insulin doses caused in part by the attitude: I can eat what I want and I have insulin to deal with it. We know that in T2Ds with their hyperinsulinaemia that hyperinsulinaemia does cause major problems. Best Wishes.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tony. I’ve no doubt that many T1Ds have found low carb beneficial for their diabetes. Some of whom I call friends. But I’d also argue that it’s most definitely not the only way. If you knew me in person I think you might be surprised to see what I’m achieving with what I’m doing. As always, I’m only speaking from my own personal experience here. Everyone has to figure out what works best for them and learn to manage their diabetes around it. No judgement.

  2. Ivan

    I follow the well balanced ADA diet for the last 41 years. I have perfect health and zero complications after living 41 years as a type1 using MDI.

  3. Cindy

    42 years of diabetes and love my carbs we are all different and manage our own way. Love the story Frank.
    Cheers Cindy

  4. […] Today, my mentality has evolved to eat as much as I need to meet my own needs and not some unrealist… However, I can’t think of too many times where I will enter more than 30 grams into the bolus calculator of my insulin pump. It’s more of a wait-until-my-blood-sugar-starts-going-up until I’ll top up with more insulin. […]

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