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.