The day after I was diagnosed with diabetes, I was sent to see a dietitian. It was over 16 years ago and yet I can still remember so much in such clear detail. ‘You need to eat this amount of carbs,’ she told me, throwing down a rubber food model of what was meant to represent mashed potato, but really looked like a fake vomit toy that you might find in a novelty show bag. ‘In a year?’ I asked her incredulously, calculating that there would have been the equivalent of at least four huge potatoes in the model. ‘No. Each meal.’ She said.
This was pre-DAFNE, pre-Lantus and, for me, pre-pump. But despite understanding that I was going to need to make some changes to the way that I was eating, I was also sensible enough to know that there was no way that I could eat that quantity of anything in one sitting.
‘Well, you have to!’ She said. As you can imagine, I really wasn’t enjoying where this consultation was going. ‘You’re taking insulin and you need to eat that much carbohydrate.’
‘Okay. Perhaps I could take less insulin then so I wouldn’t have to eat as much?’ I asked. She looked at me as though I was stupid.
After three years of living with diabetes – trying to manage force-feeding myself enough carbs to not hypo – I started using a pump. There were many reasons behind this and one of them was that I craved the spontaneity and flexibility that I seemed to have lost since being diagnosed. I was sick of having to eat what seemed the equivalent of a loaf of bread every time I sat down to eat. I was sick of having to eat snacks of carbs in between each meal of carbs. And I was sick of drinking corn-flour milk before bed to avoid a crashing hypo, or waking ridiculously high, which was pretty much all that Protophane could manage.
A week or so into using my pump, I remember feeling slightly weird. ‘What’s that feeling? I must be low.’ Nope – BGL check was fine. I couldn’t work out what it was.
And then I realised. It was hunger. I’d not felt hungry for three years because I had been eating to the clock. My body never had time to actually feel like I wanted or needed to eat.
Today, I eat as many or as few carbs as I want. There are days where barely a carb would pass my lips. And then there are days that end with a late night piece of cheesecake and Italian hot chocolate. I simply bolus (or don’t) as required for whatever I feel like eating.
Many people within the diabetes community are huge advocates for low carb eating believing that such diets provide more stable BGLs. I concur with that – the days that I eat sashimi for lunch and a low carb meal for dinner generally result in a level graph on my CGM with few spikes – and fewer dips too. But I am not committed enough to dedicate myself to a purely low carb existence.
Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to simply replace the inflexibility of needing to eat carbs with the inflexibility of never eating carbs. I love food too much to subscribe to any plan that does not allow me to eat whatever I want. Such as doughnuts! Nutella doughnuts need to feature whenever I feel like it. Buon appetite!