‘Do you eat a lot of carbs?’
This was the question that had me stopping and thinking about my diet and how it has changed in recent times.
It is also a little bit of a taboo topic and I feel a little odd writing about it here. I really don’t care about being judged by others when it comes to my diabetes decisions, however for some reason, food attracts so much attention and judgement, I am somewhat reticent to write this post.
Firstly, and most importantly, please do not take this as medical advice. Or nutritional advice. In fact, there is no advice here at all– just some thoughts about what I do that seems to work for me. I am not a healthcare professional of any sort whatsoever. Please keep that in mind while reading.
I should also say that I had no intention to change my diet. It was just one of those things that happened slowly over time.
So what’s different? Well, mostly, it has to do with my carb intake. I eat considerably fewer carbs these days than I have in the past. Why? No idea. As I said, it wasn’t planned. It hasn’t been part of a no or low gluten diet; it certainly hasn’t been part of a weight loss strategy. And it utterly has not been part of an intentional low carb (high fat or otherwise) plan.
Honestly, I get a twitch in my right eye when I hear talk about low carb, because anyone who wants to suggest that I should stop eating doughnuts is, in my opinion, in need of a cup of tea and a lie down.
But even with this aversion to the LC idea, the thing I have found is that, by default, I have adopted a far lower carb diet than is recommended by dietitians and other healthcare professionals.
In my case, where this is has been most obvious is not in the ‘sometimes foods’ I eat. When I want a doughnut, I still eat a doughnut. Because as much as I write about them here, I actually only eat them occasionally. And that hasn’t changed. On the occasions I feel like a doughnut, I eat a doughnut.
The real change has come in the day-to-day foods I eat. Some of these changes include:
- I cook and eat less pasta than I used to and when I do, there is more protein and vegetable-rich sauce dousing the penne or orecchiette or farfalle or macaroni.
- If I make a risotto – again, a rare occurrence – the vegetable and meat component has been significantly increased so that I am getting a lower carb hit.
- I eat breakfast only on the weekends (this has always been the case and always will be and that is all there is to it!) and will only ever eat half or, at the most, one slice of toast that comes with my eggs, bacon and avocado (or whatever I have ordered).
- I don’t snack on carb-y foods – I’m now more likely to grab a handful of nuts than a piece of raisin toast.
- I’ve stopped thinking that a meal is not a meal unless there is a large serve of carbohydrate on my plate. This was tough, because old habits die hard and the very first dietitian I met, the day after I was diagnosed with diabetes, insisted I eat ridiculously huge quantities of carbs with every meal and I stuck to that for a while.
- I prefer sugar to artificial sweetener in my coffee, but instead of two sugars, I’ve cut down to one and sometimes, none.
Am I eating a low carb diet? Well, strictly, no. Is it lower carb? Yes, you bet! The Dietitians Association of Australia website suggests that an ‘average adult’ should eat 310 grams of carbs per day. I can’t think of the last time that I ate that many carbs in a day. (Looking back through my pump boluses for the last couple of days, my total carb intake is well under 100 grams.)
So, how does all this affect my diabetes management? Mostly, it has shown me just how much easier my diabetes is to manage when I eat fewer carbs. Low carb days result in far smoother CGM lines. Fewer carbs mean less insulin, which means less likelihood of lows, which means less likelihood of rebound highs, which means I ride the glucose rollercoaster less frequently. It’s an equation that makes so much sense and, for me, it works because, overall, I feel much better.
Is it right for everyone? Hell no! It’s right for me now, but who knows what I’ll be like in a few weeks time!
So why the hesitancy to write about this? Diet is a highly personal issue. But there is undoubtedly a real sense of reluctance to enter a debate about how a diet that is not necessarily endorsed by dietary guidelines may be beneficial to managing diabetes. I have too frequently heard HCPs shut down conversations about low carb diets – often low carb, high fat – however there are more and more people with diabetes saying this way of eating works for them.
Is this a case of the science needing time to catch up with what people are doing? I think yes. But I am not a scientist or a dietitian and I certainly don’t understand the science behind diet. But I know what works for me. And that is really all that matters in this case!