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Shortbread with Smarties. (Time lapse at end of post.)

Every Sunday, I spend an hour or so doing one of my favourite things. I bake cookies, cakes, brownies or anything else that takes my fancy. I make a time lapse video of it and then share it to my Instagram and Facebook, along with some photos of the delicious finished product and the hashtag #AndOnSundaysWeBake. My friends and family frequently comment on my creations. Some ask for recipes; some ask if they can have some delivered to them; some are perplexed as to why I feel the need to add veggies to my cakes. (The answer is THIS ZUCCHINI BREAD RECIPE!!!!)

The other day, someone who had just started following me on Instagram asked me if these baked goods are my guilty pleasure.

‘Of course not,’ I said to them shaking my head. ‘Why should I feel guilty?’

‘Because they have sugar in them. And butter. Lots of carbs and fat. And you have diabetes. I thought you would steer clear of those kinds of foods.’

I sighed and thought that I could explain how as long as I cover the carbs with insulin, I am dealing with the diabetes side of things. And how I try to eat a balanced diet which mostly is made up of freshly cooked meals containing protein, in season vegetables and some carbs. I thought I could point to how I generally follow a low-ish carb diet because that works for me, and that my weekend (and week day too at times!) baking is a fabulous way for me to de-stress, and feel creative. I was going to point to how there is no such thing as a ‘diabetic diet’ and that people with diabetes can eat whatever we want and that it’s kinda not okay to ask us about what we are eating because it’s none of anyone else’s business. I started to tally up what I’d eaten for the day to highlight just how healthful my day’s food had been (so far) and was going to explain how I would be eating sashimi for lunch, and that has no carbs.

But instead, I just said ‘I don’t do guilty when it comes to food. And I try really hard not to do guilty when it comes to diabetes. Suggesting that we should feel guilty or shame when we eat something delicious that we enjoy – whether or not we’ve made it ourselves – just feeds into bullshit diet culture. My moral value has nothing to do with what I put in my mouth, or restricting food groups, or my weight.

‘So, to answer your question: No. What I bake on Sundays is not my guilty pleasure. But I do take great pleasure in baking and sharing the spoils with friends and family. And eating them. Because I am an amazing baker, and they taste absolutely delicious. Pleasure? You bet. Guilty? No fucking way!’

More?

My go to ‘smash diet culture’ SoMe sites are BodyPosiBetes and Feel Good Eating. Follow them for no-nonsense, no bullshit, no-diet-culture brilliance.

The #DOC has brought some brilliant people into my life, and Melissa Lee is one of the most brilliant. I adore her. I adore her humour, her political sass, her intelligence, and she gets me thinking with a lot of the things she shares online. She is SMART, and if there is one thing the world needs right now, it’s more smart people. I first met Melissa when she was leading the Diabetes Hands Foundation, and her compassion and advocacy skills won me over.

She is also extraordinarily talented. She sings like an angel and used to be a singing teacher. Perhaps our shared past-music teacher lives have also drawn us to each other.

Melissa has been doing her #DParodies for a number of years now, taking well-known songs and giving them a diabetes work over. They can be hilarious or sometimes a little heartbreaking. But they are always clever and thought-provoking.

Today, she unleashed a new song. I knew this one was coming; I knew what it was about. And I knew she was going to nail it.

With this parody, Melissa has addressed an issue that is close to my heart: food shaming in the diabetes community. I have written a lot about this, (here, here, here…), most recently here after I was fat shamed following a TV interview I did for work during National Diabetes Week.

I know that not everyone who follows a certain eating plan becomes militant, but I can say with all honesty that the only place where I have seen a coordinated approach to shaming people for choosing to eat a certain food group is from particularly aggressive corners within the LCHF community. Don’t believe me? Start with this tweet. Still don’t believe me? Read the comments on YouTube below Melissa’s video. By the way – the comments are all unoriginal and boring: Suggesting that someone is eating their way to a litany of self-inflicted diabetes complications, or is in the pocket of Big Food for daring to eat a cupcake, or calling someone fat? Tick, tick, tick.

I don’t care what you eat. Really. Your diabetes; your rules. But I do care if you are cruel, stigmatising or just nasty. Melissa is suggesting that people who do those sorts of things calm down. And I couldn’t agree more.

I love working out of the same office as Jane Speight. It means that I have a friend just down the corridor, plus I have this idea that being around her and the ACBRD team makes me smarter. (Admittedly, I am the only one who thinks that.)

Jane may not be quite as excited by the working arrangements, especially on the not rare occasions where I appear at her door and go on some rant that she didn’t ask for. (‘Jane! Have you seen <insert latest thing that is pissing me off>? Let me tell you all my thoughts about it right now.’)

So, the other day, when Jane appeared at my door wanting to talk (rant) about hemp kombucha, I was more than ready to sit back and listen. For a change.

Yes…

Hemp kombucha.

There is a television show on SBS in Australia called Medicine or Myth. I’d never seen it, however I did know that Dr Charlie Teo is one of the hosts. Charlie is a well-known and controversial neurosurgeon. He is joined by GP, Dr Ginni Mansberg and associate professor in immunology, Dr Ashraful Haque. They are the trio directing the show, which sees Aussie pitching home-grown treatments for treating all that ails them.

I had not ever come across the other two hosts before, but a Twitter search showed that Ashraful is interested in host-parasite interactions (and guitars). The first bit made no sense, but I like guitars. Ginni also hosts (the horribly named) Embarrassing Bodies Down Under, and is a ‘passionate anti-aging skincare geek’. I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t go to my GP for advice on how to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, but maybe I’m being narrow-minded.

The episode that screened this week featured John Leith who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a couple of years ago. And that brings us to hemp kombucha.

Within about thirty seconds of watching the segment I had already dismissed it as complete and utter rubbish. In fact, the second that John referred to hemp as a ‘superfood’ I rolled my eyes so far back into my head that I almost blacked out.

I then grabbed a piece of paper and started making notes of all the misconceptions about diabetes that were being thrown around. I’m not going to list them all here, because I have more important coffee to drink, but if Ginni Mansberg is your GP, find another one now. Her statement that ‘Poorly controlled diabetes will [….] destroy your feet’ followed by saying that an A1c of under 10% is what ‘diabetics should aim for’ was enough to set me off yelling at the computer screen.

But back to John and his magical mystery kombucha. Apparently, it cured his diabetes. That’s right, after five or six weeks of drinking this glucose busting elixir, his glucose levels were back in range. The three experts – and I am now using this term loosely – were astounded, and to make sure we knew that, made acceptable TV astounded noises. In fact, they were so caught up also making acceptable TV astounded faces that not one of them asked if the corresponding reduction of food portions, increased fresh food or boosted exercise plan could have contributed (i.e. caused) the improved glucose numbers John was seeing.

In fact, John’s claims were enough for this merry band of HCPs to send the hemp kombucha off to trial – another term I am now using very loosely. According to the voice-over person narrating the program in a serious voice, trials are run by an independent scientific team experienced in clinical research who recruit carefully selected participants.

According to the next segment, those carefully selected participants included three people: two with type 2 diabetes and one with ‘pre-diabetes’. They all drank 100ml of hemp kombucha a day and then recorded their BGL on day 1, 3 and 7 of the week-long trial.

I know. Robust.

The results were astonishing. Apparently, blood glucose results came down on average 0.8mmol/l, with 75% of participants (out of a total of 3?) reporting improvement in glucose results.

I have so.many.questions.

We were not told if the participants were doing any else to manage their diabetes. Were they taking medication? Were they on a specific eating plan? Were they exercising? Had any of them lost any weight during that week? Why did the trial (really? trial??) only run a week? Is it reasonable to suggest that three data points is really enough to confirm that a treatment is successful?

I can’t answer any of these because none of this was revealed in the program.

However, it was enough for the hosts to claim that they were excited about this as a treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Let’s just think about that for a moment. This ridiculously shambolic and hopeless experiment was enough for three healthcare professionals to suggest that hemp kombucha is something people with diabetes should consider…and that the scientific community should sit up and pay attention. All this without a glance to the fact that John and his n=1 claims are also associated with a hemp kombucha business, and the least vigorous trial I have ever heard.

You know, this really could work for some people. Complementary therapies do have a place in modern medicine. Many have been studied extensively to see how they can augment science-based treatments. However, before any HCP even thinks about mentioning them, they need to be able to point to some evidence. Three people and three blood glucose checks is not evidence. It’s a twenty-minute segment in a sensationalist crappy television program.

Look, I don’t really want to link to this train wreck of a story, but I think that you need to watch it yourself to appreciate just how ridiculous it is. So here you go. (I’m sorry.) 

Ten years ago, we stumbled across a little out of the way restaurant in a small backstreet of Florence. It was run by a couple and the food was sublime – beautiful Italian dishes served without fanfare, just simple flavours that let the freshness of the food shine through.

So, last month, returning to Florence for meetings, I made sure that one night was spent there and was pleased to find that the food was once again perfect. Mains done and plates cleared away, the waiter came to take our dessert orders and followed up asking if anyone wanted coffee.

All had been going so well. Until this…

‘I’ll have a latte please,’ said someone at the table. It was an innocent enough request, but I knew where this was going.

The waiter looked horrified. ‘No!’ he said indignantly. I’d ordered an espresso, knowing there would be no response other than a nod. But the idea of a caffè latte at this time of night, after a meal, was not getting past him.

Clearly, our waiter felt that it was part of his job to enforce the Italian gastronomic rule of no milky coffees after 10.30am. This was an abomination, as far as he was concerned, and he was having none of this flouting the rules business in his restaurant. I suspect that if someone had asked for a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano over their spaghetti con vongole his response would have been the same.

Perhaps his response would usually have had the customer slinking back in their chair and ordering an accepted coffee-based post-dinner drink. But this was a table of people with diabetes and telling us that we can’t break the rules never goes down well. Because breaking rules is how we survive. And jeez, we get defiant when people tell us that we can’t. Rule books states that injections should never been given through clothes? Watch how easily this needle goes right through my jeans. Rule books claims the only place that CGM sensors must be worn is on the stomach? I’ll just roll up my sleeve and put it there, thanks. Rule book instructs single use of all diabetes consumables? Let’s see just how many times this insulin pump cartridge can be refilled before getting stuck.

We learn the rules and then turn them upside down and inside out to work for us to help our endless search to make diabetes that tiny bit more manageable and forget expecting us to say sorry for doing it our own way. We make no apologies for taking what some may consider short cuts, instead sharing them with our diabetes peers because everyone deserves a break with this condition if there is a way! And sometimes we just do things in a different way because we like it better.

The waiter in our restaurant looked to me to back him up. I think he assumed that my decent Italian accent that he’d heard when I ordered meant that I was across Italian food rules and that he had an ally. I wasn’t surprised at his response – I do know the food rules – but I treat them in equal measure with respect and contempt, just as I do diabetes rules. I understand why they are there, and sometimes I’ll abide by them. But if I want a milky coffee after my meal because that’s what I feel like, you bet I’m going to order it.

I shrugged my shoulders at the waiter, I’m sure disappointing him that I wasn’t going to back him up. ‘Un latte?’ he asked disbelievingly. ‘Si,’ I confirmed, and then clarified. ‘Con caffè.’ The last thing I wanted was the delivery of nothing more than a glass of warm milk to the table and all that was going to ensue following that.

All our lives we are told there are rules and some of them are just stupid: blue and green should never be seen, unless there’s a colour in between. Never wear pink and red together. Others don’t allow for personal choice: don’t order a steak well done… (or a milky coffee after dinner). And some forget that those rules are connected with something that is boring, tedious, unpleasant, frightening and sometimes downright horrible: every single diabetes rule.

Sure, sometimes rules are there for safety, and we all want to be safe. Living with diabetes doesn’t suddenly make us reckless and not interested in being healthy and safe.

There are some rules that we know are just non-negotiable and we will begrudgingly follow those. But the ones that we think are ridiculous, or we have found a work around to? Those are the ones we’ll do whatever we can to shake up or lose.

Our tiramisu desserts were delivered to us, and so were our coffees, including the caffè latte, which the waiter placed down while shaking his head and making ‘tsk tsk’ sounds. Thirty seconds later, he reappeared and placed down a shot of grappa, making some comment about this being needed to cancel out the coffee.

I smiled up at him, because that’s how Italians do it. (I know – I’ve spent 45 years doing things the opposite to how my Italian father thinks I should do them!) They’ll let you know they’re not happy with you, and absolutely don’t approve of your obviously wrong decision making. And they’ll remind you at every chance that they have.

And then? Then they’ll somehow offer a final fuck-you-and-fuck-your-bad-choices. And, really, there is nothing better than some oesophagus-destroying hard liquor to get that point across!

Viva Italia!

Perfect tiramisu.

DISLCOSURE

I was in Florence for DOCLab Advisory meetings. My flight to Florence from Amsterdam and two nights’ accommodation were covered by Lilly. The attitude during this meal was all courtesy of the rather cheeky waiter.

If I see another article about ‘guilt free’ Easter meal ideas, or read about how people will ‘be naughty’ and eat chocolate eggs, I am going to throw myself into a vat of Lindt Bunnies and not emerge until next Tuesday. It’s everywhere – and even more prevalent on diabetes-related sites.

Is it any wonder that so many of us with diabetes have a fraught relationship with food? With so many judgement-laden words associated with the foods we eat, our diets, and eating during festive periods, it can seem impossible to not feel that everything we put in our mouths comes with some sort of grading.

I don’t know how many times or in how many different ways I can say that food doesn’t have a moral compass. There are no good or bad foods. There is no one eating plan that works for all people.

And more than everything – it is not okay to tell a person with diabetes that they should feel guilty for eating a chocolate Easter egg (or anything else for that matter).

Being diagnosed with diabetes does not mean that you are now open for business for comments, criticism, advice or condemnation about the foods you choose or choose not to eat. Your eating choices are not for public scrutiny. No one has buy-in on your food choices unless you ask their opinion.

We are programmed from when we are young to think of foods as a way to measure our virtue. Unlearning all that messaging is really, really tough.

And diabetes makes it so much harder because we see the impact of what we eat and how our food choices affect our glucose levels. CGM may provide countless benefits, but it also lays bare what we have eaten. But, just as our food choices are no one else’s business, neither is what that food is doing to our CGM trace (or reading on our glucose meter).

My hope for all my diabetes tribe this weekend is this: may you find some chocolate of choice (or not, if your choice is no chocolate). And may no one pass judgement on what you are eating, pass comment on your glucose level, ask you what you ate, tell you to eat only half a hot cross bun, or belligerently ask you if you have bolused for it.

So yes, let’s have a guilt-free Easter. But I don’t mean that in terms of cutting out what we want to eat, or being made to feel bad about it. I certainly don’t mean it in reference to being made to feel guilty because we have a higher glucose number than we would like to see. I mean let’s just free ourselves completely from any guilt associated with food, or the numbers following eating that food. That’s actually one thing I am in favour of completely restricting.

Easter baking plans…

This post marks one thousand posts here on Diabetogenic*. That’s a lot of senseless rambling, ragey-moments, times celebrating and despairing about diabetes, and links to brilliant ideas and post… or to things that have either amused, frustrated, delighted or annoyed me.

A thousand posts in and diabetes is still a constant in my life (damn it). And I remain not good at diabetes…and I have many of those thousand posts to prove it.

There are clearly some recurring themes that I write about. I say that I am a one trick pony, but perhaps that’s not completely true. I seem to have a few tricks up my sleeve, really. And now I’m confused, because ponies don’t usually have sleeves and my metaphors are very, very mixed.

Here are the things that seem to have taken up a lot of writing time and words over these thousand posts…


Peer support

Most of the time, I am pretty positive about living with diabetes. Let me be clear: that doesn’t mean I love it, or even like it. But I feel that generally, I know where it belongs in my life and it seems to fit in that place as well and happily (begrudgingly) as it can.

I know that one of the reasons that I feel this way is people in the diabetes world I am lucky enough to call friends and peers. Online friends, in real life friends and those who cross both boundaries are a critical part of my living-well-with-diabetes strategy. Knowing that there are only a very few places around the world where I couldn’t find someone from this community to have a coffee/tea/prosecco/mojito with gives me an incredible sense of comfort. (And reassurance in case of diabetes emergency…)

I say that my peers with diabetes help me make sense of my own diabetes and that’s true. Knowing people who understand innately what it is like to share a body with diabetes means that I never feel alone. Diabetes is so isolating at times – even for those of us surrounded by great people who support and encourage us. As much as I need those people and am grateful for them, it is others living with diabetes that help me realise that I am never, ever alone in dealing with the ‘diabetes things’.

The diabetes online community is made up of lots of people and not all have diabetes. We each bring our own experience and perspective to it. I’ve learnt so much from those living arounddiabetes and how they incorporate it into life, because it comes with its own set of challenges and victories. That is why the community is so valuable – its diversity and range of experiences and perspectives.

I regularly talk about the value of community and diabetes peers and finding our tribe. It can take time to settle into just who and what that looks like, and it changes because there are always new people around. But it is so worth it. My tribe? I love them so hard.

Nothing about us without us

I am not the tattooing type but if I was, I think that I would have this phrase inked on my body somewhere (or maybe I’d be really pretentious, and have it written in Latin: Nihil de nobis sine nobis, according to Google translate.) It remains a frustration of mine that this isn’t the starting point for pretty much anything and everything to do with diabetes care. The fact that we still need to fight for a seat at the table – or a ticket to a diabetes conference – is, quite simply, not good enough. Having others speak for us, on our behalf thinking they know what we need, is offensive.  It should never be the case that non-PWD voices speak for us or over us. Ever. Our stories are powerful, but they are ours and we should have the platform to tell them in our own way; in our own voice.  Tokenism is rife and sometimes, that frustrates me even more than when we are completely excluded. The delusion of inclusion is, I think, worse.  Whilst there may have been some strides made to true co-design and inclusion, we have not come far enough and until we get this write, I’ll have a lot of content fodder for this blog.

Food

I like food. I write about it a lot. And I want to be Nigella. That’s really all I have to say about it right now…

Waffles in Brussels. Both were excellent.

More than numbers

Apparently, stating the obvious is still necessary in diabetes. We are more than numbers; our A1c does not define us; our worth is not wrapped up in our glucose levels. We have been saying these things for years…decades…and yet there are still times that this is what we are reduced to.

New treatments, devices, drugs, education programs are measured in reduction of A1c. Perhaps this is because it can be measured, but talk about only getting part of the story. I can’t help but think that if PWD were part of establishing research protocols, there may be far more than numbers to assess the success of a treatment or therapy. (See also: nothing about us without us…)

Women’s health

In recent years I’ve written about the issues specific to women, health, sex and diabetes a number of times because there is so little out there about it. And it seems it resonated with a number of women who wrote to tell me (and the HCP who saw me in the fresh produce section at my local Woolies and yelled how she loved my idea of giving lube in diabetes event bags).

Anyway…talking about the stuff that may not be the easiest is important. It’s the only way we get remove stigma and encourage people to share their stories. Which helps others. That’s why I have openly written and spoken about miscarriages and infertility. And eating disorders. (I know – not an exclusively women’s health issue.) There is nothing shameful or embarrassing about these topics. Other than we don’t speak about them enough.

Learning from and supporting others

The Interweb Jumbles I write are my favourite (and cheat’s) way of pulling together all the things I’ve seen that have interested me and leaving them in future place for (my) future reference. Plus, I love sharing what others in the diabetes community and world are doing.

I have always benefited from the generosity of others in this community who have shared my work and I pay that back whenever and wherever I can. Supporting each other is critical.

There’s so much going on in the diabetes world all the time and I highlight the things that resonate because I think that if they mean something to me, they may mean something to someone else, too.

Science. Science. Science

From pseudo-science rubbish, to ridiculous made-up diabetes cures to anti-vax delusions. How much writing material have they provided!

I live in hope that one day – and may that day be soon – we won’t still have to read about these charlatans trying to convince us that all that ails us can be cured with fairy dust and positive thought, or that vaccines are evil and cause diabetes, or that ‘wellness warriors’ are the true experts and professionals when it comes to diabetes.

While a lot of what I write is spent mocking these fools, there is an underlying seriousness to it all. Who can forget little Aiden Fenton who died after his parents stopped giving him insulin, instead leaving him to be treated by a ‘slap therapist’?

Anyone who is sprouting any treatment that is not based in science when it comes to diabetes or perpetuating anti-vax rubbish is as barbaric as the man who was charged with Aiden’s death.

The whole person

Diabetes happens because of something not working properly with our pancreas. But it affects every single part of us – something that astoundingly still seems to surprise some people.

Considering our mental health and emotional wellbeing is critical when assessing just how diabetes impacts on our every day. For some, diabetes seeps into every single part of us and for others, we keep it at bay and manage around us. For most of us, there is an ebb and flow of just how that works.

And while we’re talking about the whole person, diabetes-related complications may be specific to a particular body part, but those body parts remain connected to the rest of us.

For so long, we get metaphorically chopped up with as only bits of us get attention and focus. But nothing in diabetes is ever in isolation. That’s just not how it works.

And finally, language

The trick this (however-many-trick) pony is most known for is #LangaugeMatters and you know what, I’m happy to wear that. I really am. If I was to stop this blog today (thought about it…1,000 has a nice rounding off feel to it), and never spoke about diabetes ever again (oh, if only), I would not be disappointed if this was what people thought of when they thought of me and this blog.

Language matters. It does and I refuse to, for a moment, believe that it doesn’t. I am certainly not the only person playing in this space and I am so grateful to have a tribe of language matters peers and colleagues can rise above the small details to understand just why this issue does really matter.

___________

Thanks to everyone who has read one or more of these thousand posts. Thanks especially to the people who keep coming back. I can’t promise that there are going to be a thousand more posts. And I can’t promise that I will learn any new tricks other than the ones that I seem to have on repeat at times. These issues remain important to me and perhaps to you too.

* At EASD, my mate Bastian Hauck gave me a head’s up that I was getting close to publishing the 1,000 post on this blog. I’d not have had a clue otherwise. Thanks, Bastian!

Queen

Over the weekend, my mum and I took ourselves to see Nigella Lawson in conversation with Gary Mehigan. We were sitting in the first few rows which meant that we would have been within spitting distance of the Domestic Goddess if she were the spitting type. She is not.

Anyone who knows me would be aware that I have a massive crush on Nigella. I love everything about her and, truth be told, I want to be her, or be best friends with her. It’s tragic, but I’m owning it. I fell in love with her because of the way she talks about food with such abandon and passion. I completely understand getting excited at a farmers’ market when it’s suddenly cherry season, or when beautiful fresh asparagus spears are readily available in the supermarket at the start of spring. I get the idea of swooning at the smell and delightful crunch of the crust of a freshly-baked loaf of sourdough, and the desire to immediately slather it in slabs of salted butter.

Her recipe books on the shelf in our kitchen are well used, dog-eared and splattered with whatever ingredients a recipe calls for – the sign of a book that is frequently used and much loved. Her recipes are simple, always turn out as she promises and inevitably taste delicious. Plus, the little blurb she writes to introduce each recipe is always so eloquent and evocative that I can almost taste what I am about to create.

In recent years, I have really come to appreciate that Nigella has stuck to her guns as a food writer and cook, and not swayed into the world of wellness or pseudo-science dietetics. It would be very easy for her to have done that – she would make a killing! After all, who wouldn’t follow – and buy – everything she said if there was a promise of becoming just like Nigella?! She has remained honest to simply cooking food that is unpretentious, delicious and laden with all the things that make food taste good.

On Saturday night, Nigella’s commitment to enjoying food and seeing it as something to be celebrated was clear. She spoke about how food can trigger memories and be the thing that brings family and friends together. She told stories of family recipes and reminisced about where they came from. She spoke of her love of wooden spoons and the stories they can tell.

When asked about introducing a wide-variety of foods to kids she didn’t shame people into insisting they do anything other than do what works for them and their family. She didn’t suggest giving babies bone broth, or telling us that if our children were not eating foie gras and oysters au natural by their first birthday, we were failing them.

Someone asked an innocent enough question about what foods she likes to sneak as a midnight snack (referencing the little clip that ended as number of her TV episodes), and her response was that she doesn’t sneak anything. Food isn’t something that she believes we should feel guilty about and sneaking implies guiltily hiding away what we are doing.

Nigella knows her place is in the kitchen (because that is where she wants to be) and not in the health food aisles of the supermarket, and this is a pleasant and welcome change from the direction that so many others working in food have taken. I am so sick of celebrity cooks and chefs thinking that they are quasi-dietitians and have the right or expertise to tell us what to eat – or what not to eat.

And even more so, I am beyond over Instagram ‘influencers’ and wellness charlatans using words that make food something that sends us to hour-long confessions with the food gods.

Nigella specifically mentioned the term ‘clean food’ and why she doesn’t like it and I may have cheered along. It doesn’t surprise me that someone with as much of an affection for words as Nigella would take issue with language being used to shame the very thing she loves. I was reminded of this post I wrote back in 2014 the other day as I walked by a café near work claiming to serve ‘honest food’. I’ve been perplexed since I saw it and wondering what the hell dishonest food is.

So many people with diabetes have a fraught relationship with food. For some, it is a battle and involves hiding what they are eating, or lying about it. Having to consider and count carbs or fat can give us a distorted view of what we are eating. Our weight is scrutinised, our diets analysed. We are told to restrict certain things. Eating disorders and disordered eating are common and yet so under-researched and not understood.

So, hearing someone speak about food for what it is – a delight, something to be enjoyed, a pleasure, an excuse to spend time with loved ones, a way to nourish our bodies and souls – can put back some perspective. That’s what we got when Nigella spoke.

Before seeing her on Saturday night, I thought it wasn’t possible to love her any more that I already did. Turns out I was wrong. Because as long as she continues to celebrate food and rejoice in it, I will continue to be a groupie.

Welcome to January when suddenly the only thing that I seem to see on social media feeds, giant billboards around the city, and TV advertisements is details of weight loss programs. Because, of course, that’s what we should all be aspiring to, right? If we were happy to see the back of 2018 after a hard year, losing a few kilos will obviously set us on the track to eternal happiness in 2019.

Right?

Of course not.

Nevertheless, wellness gurus, celebrity chefs, local gyms, celebrity trainers, everyone who drinks green juice and has an Instagram account come into their own when January ticks over, heralding the birth of a new year and, while the fireworks are still bright in the sky, urging us to start a new (and completely unsustainable) diet, detox, and/or exercise plan to lose weight.

Under the guise of pressing us to be the best person we possibly can, they remind us that we have been slobs for all of December and need to shed weight because that will make us happy. Oh, and buy this teatox/12 week program/juice cleanse/lemon fast for a small monthly fee of $39. That’s not much, right? And what value can you put on your happiness, right? Lose weight; be happy. The equation is simple.

Except, it’s not. And when the emotional burden of diabetes is added to this – when there is something else that we are made to feel we need to fix – the start of the year suddenly doesn’t feel full of shiny and bright and new promise. It feels like we are about to fail. Yet again

I like the idea of stopping and hitting the reset button (oh – did you read yesterday’s post?) and if weight loss is your goal, then that’s fine. But we need to stop equating happiness and perfect health with a number on the scales. We need to stop being made to feel guilty because we may have eaten a little more than usual over the holiday period. And we need to stop being made to feel that we should be seeking redemption for our sins of enjoying the holiday period. We need to stop being sold the idea that the road to happiness and health is signposted by losing kilos

Because the reality is that all these messages actually add mental weight. And no one needs that shit in January. Or any time of the year.

But, I have found some ways to shed that weight.

You could start by getting of social media completely. But that’s as laughable to me as suggesting I should be running 5Ks a day and consuming only kale and kombucha. It is, however, worth acknowledging social media – actually, any media – is a fucking nightmare at this time of year, maybe even more so than at other times. But, there are some bright lights out there that, instead of suggesting that we are full of faults and problem areas that need fixing, encourage us to just damn well like (or even love!) who we are. Here are just some things you may want to check out:

Nina Mills is a Melbourne-based dietitian who just gets it. Her blog, Twitter and Insta feeds are well worth following for their no-nonsense approach to eating and anti-diet messaging. She nourishes the SoMe soul with delicious recipes and sensible ideas, and a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour too (her food fails posts are hilariously honest!). It is no secret that I have had very few positive experiences with dietitians – both personally and professionally – in my 20 years with diabetes, but had I met someone like Nina years ago, I would have a very different story to tell.

You can follow Nina at Feel Good Eating on Insta.

Body Posi Betes is run by my mate Georgie, who thankfully has returned from Paris and made Melbourne feel right again. The diabetes thread that weaves its way through her posts is life-affirming, as is the complete and utter refusal to subscribe to any sort of diet culture. She is sassy, sweary and fucking fabulous.

Start with Body Posi Betes on Insta.

Claire Christian is one of my kid’s favourite writers and her Insta stories are full of great ideas and strong feminist messages. She is a high school teacher as well, and if you have teenagers, (especially teenage daughters), check her out. (I have no issue with swearing…obviously…but if you do, you may find some of her posts a little confronting. But if you can push through that, she is just such a great role model for young girls, and 45 year old women too!)

Follow Claire on Insta here.

Watch Dumplin’ on Netflix. And then watch it again! It is so, so gorgeous. It’s completely PG, and totally appropriate for kids. Plus, Dolly!

It’s not hard to love Jameela Jamil, and her amazing #IWeigh campaign continues to remind women that we are so, so much more than a number on the scales. She tore strips through celebrity weight loss products at the end of last year with a hilarious video of her spruiking a (fake) detox program. Her posts are brilliant, she is brazenly feminist, and calls out any bullshit she sees.

Her Insta is here. And here’s what I wrote about the #IWeigh campaign last year.

Obviously, there are so many other great thing to check out, and if you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments. This is a great time to curate what and who we follow by removing anything that makes us feel that we have faults or need fixing. Because we don’t. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be better or to find ways to make ourselves feel happier and healthier. But shaming or guilting us into it, or focusing purely on how we look is not the way to happiness. That just weighs us down.

Ice cream is not a reason for guilt. Tastes good, though…

Well, it’s been a year. It’s always the same. Come December, and as Mariah is blaring in every store I walk into, I start to feel exhaustion. But it’s not all bad news. Holidays loom ahead. Sunny weather means more time outdoors. And long, warm nights out with friends and family seem like the perfect way to spend my time away from work. Oh, and perhaps most excitedly, my mother is going to make her famous zippoli – my favourite Italian Xmas food.

The happiest time of the year is when mum serves up zippoli. What a time to celebrate being from an Italian family!

The diabetes world remains comfortingly – and frustratingly – static at times. There are constants that shape each year, but there are also changes. Some are positive, some lead me to wonder just who is making decisions that impact on PWD and why do they seem so far removed from the realities of living with this condition?

I’m ready to draw a line under 2018 – a bold, thick, solid line – farewelling the year with the knowledge that there will always be some things about diabetes I know to be true.

Diabetes is hard. The relentlessness of it doesn’t really subside. As much as we have tools to try to make things easier, it permeates, something I realised back in July when the wind was knocked out of me as diabetes unleashed itself into every part of me, taking hold and trying to pull me under.

There is no silver bullet. Loop does seem magical to me, but my diabetes is still there. It is just here in a different way – a new normal.

The inequalities of diabetes continue to be an important theme throughout our community and we can’t turn our backs to the fact that access to the most basic of diabetes medications and treatments remains out of reach to many. There is no one way to advocate for change, and I commend everyone working at the front line to improve the situation.

Which brings me to the point where I remind everyone that it is absolutely not too late to make a donation – however small or large – to Life for a Child. Saving the life of a young person at Xmas time seems like an absolute no-brainer to me.

Peer support remains a cornerstone of my diabetes management toolkit. Of course the shape of that support changes – I’ve met some incredible new people this year and been involved in some remarkable projects. At the same time, there have been some important collaborations with diabetes friends I’ve known for some time. It’s those diabetes friends that continue to help me make sense of my own diabetes, make me realise that my village is global, and know that wherever I turn, someone will have my back. I can’t explain just how reassuring that is.

Despite feeling that there have been times that the community has been splintered and a little disjointed, I still believe that the diabetes community is something positive. I also know that it can take time to find your tribe in there, and accept that not everyone has to be best buddies. But when you do find those people who you just click with (and that doesn’t mean agreeing on everything, by the way) you do everything you can to hold on to them, because that’s where the magic of working with peers happens.

While co-design seems to have become a bit of a buzz phrase, there are some examples of it that just make diabetes activities and projects so much better! This year, I’ve had some incredible opportunities to work on projects with a vast array of stakeholders and what can be achieved is incredible.

Sometimes, (a lot of the time?) we need humour in diabetes. And sweary birds. Finding Effin’ Birds earlier this year was a source of such joy and happiness, especially as I realised that (unintentionally) the clever folk behind it have made it all about living with diabetes. I cannot tell you how many moments I have come across one of their pics on my social media feeds and it has perfectly nailed my diabetes mood.

We can’t be afraid to have conversations that can be considered difficult. This was the foundation of the Australian Diabetes Social Media Summit this year, but it went far beyond that. Women, diabetes  and sexual health remains an issue that needs a lot more attention. And we need to keep talking about mental health and diabetes.

Language matters. Whatever people believe, the way we speak – and think – about diabetes has far reaching effects. It affects everything from the treatment we receive, the public’s perception of diabetes, where fundraising dollars are allocated and how governments fund diabetes.

And so, I think it is fitting that I round out the year and this post with one of the things I am so proud and honoured to have been involved in. It is one of the best examples of co-design; it involves diabetes peers, it acknowledges that diabetes can be a difficult monster to live with, and it holds people with diabetes up. Oh – and it reminds us that absolutely, completely, utterly, #LanguageMatters.

I’m taking a little break from Diabetogenic to do … well… to do nothing. That’s what I have ahead of me for the next three or so weeks. No plane travel, no speaking engagements, no media, no dealing with the diabetes things that get me down. Except, of course, my own diabetes thing. But I asked Santa for a pleasant few weeks of diabetes being kind to me. I’m sure that’s what I’ll be getting under the tree. As long has he can work out how to wrap it. 

I hope that everyone has a lovely festive season. I do know for many it is a really difficult time of the year. Thank you to everyone for reading and sharing and commenting. I’ll be back some time in January. Ready to go again, and to rant and rave, celebrate, and shamelessly talk about what’s going on in my diabetes world. I hope to see you then. 

I wrote this piece a couple of years ago about how to get through festive season feasting, but it absolutely still rings true. So I thought I’d share it again with a few tweaks. And remind everyone (including myself) that food doesn’t have a moral compass point, and that we can and should enjoy whatever we choose eat during the holiday period without guilt or regret. 

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You may not have noticed, but the festive season is upon us. (Actually, according to Woolies, the festive season has been upon us since the first week of September which was when I first saw mince pies on their shelves. As Louden Wainwright III says ‘It’s a season, it’s a marathon….’)

Anyway, it’s the festive season and with it comes lots of messaging about eating with diabetes during this time of the year. Now, I’d like to leave my diabetes behind whilst eating during the holidays, but I’ve come to learn that diabetes is a shit and doesn’t work that way. Because, diabetes IS for Christmas….and every other bloody day of the year as well. Happy holidays!

I saw an article this morning about how to keep your eating and drinking in check during Xmas and other parties, and by the time I finished reading, I was weeping uncontrollably and wanted to curl up in the foetal position in the corner and not emerge until February. I also wanted a drink, but it was 6.45am and I was feeling the judge-y eyes of the writer staring at me and the Moscow Mule I was about to make for breakfast.

All articles about diabetes and festive-season-eating demand limiting everything – alcohol, food, happiness. Quite frankly, limiting alcohol at family gatherings is not an option for many people, which seems to be lost in this particular article’s horrific and laughable suggestion of taking your own water to water down drinks. (I lost the will to live at that suggestion.)

Obviously, a blow-out is best avoided, but that is wise even if you don’t have diabetes. There is nothing worse than feeling as though you literally cannot move from the sofa – mostly because it means you could be stuck sitting next to a distant relative who wants to tell you, in detail, about their recent adventure in passing kidney stones, or (worse) about their neighbour who died from diabetes-related complications. Diabetes: it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

So, here are some of the things I’ll be doing to survive the next few weeks.

  • Acknowledge that this time of year is about food and that is okay. This is definitely the case for my family, and I am already counting down the days until I gorge myself on my mother’s freshly made zippoli.
  • Throw any thoughts of guilt out the window (along with suggestions of BYO H2O).
  • Make a game out of my CGM by seeing if I can spell out any swear words in the ‘ain’t no mountain high enough/valley low enough’ trace.
  • Remember that even though I have diabetes, I have every right to enjoy whatever I feel like eating. Or don’t feel like eating. The low(er) carb thing may or may not stick over the festive period. Obviously, my mother’s zippoli are carb- and fat-laden parcels of perfection, so the low(er) carb thing can fuck right off once they are set down in front of me, but I probably will still avoid other carb-y things because dealing with high glucose levels or inadvertently overdosing on insulin does not a festive occasion make.
  • Seriously, give me a huge bowl of cherries for dessert and I am a happy chicken. (The non-watered-down alcohol has probably helped get me to that state, but cherries also make me undeniably happy.)
  • Brush up on my responses to ’Should you be eating that?’, which (thankfully) I probably won’t need to use anyway. Funny how I only ever needed to hit someone once over the head with a spoon after they asked me that…
  • Find red and green Sharpies and write ‘My Diabetes; My Rules’ in festive script on the inside of my hand to remind me to do whatever works for me. And to shove in the face of anyone who does actually ask ‘Should you be eating that?’
  • Thank the Xmas angels that Brunetti in Carlton is open on Xmas morning, meaning that we can make the ten-minute dash there, drink coffee and eat pastries before the onslaught of family, food and festivities.
  • Make a donation to Life for a Child because not everyone gets to decide if they will use extra insulin to cover the second slice of passionfruit pav.

This blog is not about giving advice, but I am going to give some now as I believe this is possibly one of the best ways to survive until the end of the year:

Don’t read any articles telling you to eat nothing but cardboard or watered-down grog. Or suggesting you take your own plate of crudités to parties. I don’t care that it’s a French word, it just means carrot sticks. And having spent the festive season in France, I can tell you no one was serving carrot sticks for the family Xmas dinner. Plus, if I’d taken my own, I probably would have been mocked in French, and not been allowed to drink any of the delicious non-watered-down red wine or bûche de Noël for dessert.

Aussie festive season = mango season

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