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It’s hot in Melbourne today and it’s going to get warmer over the next few days. I’m loving the bone-warming sun that just makes everything look so sparkly and bright. So, I’m spending as much time as possible soaking up the rays (and adding to the ridiculous tan mark around my Dex), because the cooler weather will be here before I know it. I’m trying to build up those vitamin D stores to last me for when winter hits here and I’m reliant on quick trips to the northern hemisphere for work to see the sunshine and warmer temperatures.

Anyway, diabetes doesn’t take a break over the summer. Or winter. Which means, there is always lots to read and see about it. Here are some of the things I’m catching up on now.

Hospital life in pictures

This piece from the guardian will break your heart. Explained pictorially, it’s easy to see that the medical system is broken, medical education is broken, hospitals can be incredibly cold and anxiety inducing places, doctors are at breaking point. And patients in the system are left to deal with the fallout from the disarray.

IDF comps

The International Diabetes Federation is working to reduce the stigma association with diabetes-related complications, with a focus on how the language used can make people feel judged and stigmatised. Last year, they launched the #DiabetesComplicationsTalk Facebook page, encouraging people with diabetes to share stories and support each other.

It’s really great to see the IDF in the #LanguageMatters space, encouraging people to openly speak about diabetes-related complications to help reduce the stigma associated with them. More here.

Diabetes Voice

Still on news from the IDF, the organisation’s quarterly magazine is now available electronically. The first edition is an absolute cracker. Start with this incredibly powerful piece from editor, Elizabeth Snouffer, about diabetes-related stigma. Read it. Share it.

Patient Revolution

If you’ve not checked out the Patient Revolution website, now is a great time to have a look.

Start with this page, which is a library of stories you can click through, finding any specific topics that you are interested in.

Also, there is a Patient Revolution chat which uses the hashtag #WhyWeRevolt. To keep up to date with their chats, and to take part, follow @PatientRev on Twitter.

1,200 mason jars

Do you ever find yourself in the midst of a Twitter thread, wishing, in equal measure, that you hadn’t started, but can’t get enough of it? Sometimes these threads are diabetes-related; sometimes they’re not. Go here for one that is definitely not.

I have spent far too much time in the last week invested in this bizarre tale. There is a lot to take away from the whole saga – maybe starting with: don’t pay USD$169 to hear someone ‘teach’ you how to ‘be you’. And there are a lot of unanswered questions, such as what the hell is going to happen to the mason jars.

Happy reading. (You may need a drink …)

Diabetes in the US

I will never understand the US health system. My head and heart hurt as I hear the struggles of friends with diabetes, and the difficulties they have accessing insulin, and diabetes tech and supplies.

This piece from the New York Times talks about non-medical switching, where insurance companies decide which drugs (and devices) they will cover and subsidise. In Australia, the government decides which drugs will be listed on the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme). If a drug is on there, it is the same price for everyone who has a prescription. There are some drugs that require a special prescription to be provided at the subsidised price. But there is no extra negotiating or pleading, or any involvement, with insurance companies.

In a system that is broken beyond measure, this seems like one more roadblock to make just surviving with a condition such as diabetes impossible.

Going beyond

Beyond Type 1 has grown to include a new platform for people with type 2 diabetes. Check it out!

Real life Loop stories

The team at diaTribe has a new series of personal stories of people who have been using DIYAPS solutions. Adam Brown’s story was first, and Kelly Close has now offered her experiences. Such a great idea to get a number of different insights into what has worked, what hasn’t and hopes for the future of DIYAPS.

Sharing and caring

Also from diaTribe, this great piece from Kerri Sparling which provides her own and others’ perspectives on sharing of CGM data. There is no one way to share data – it is personal, individual and can change over time, depending on circumstances. Some choose to; others don’t. I love this piece because it is balanced and offers some interesting thoughts.

Ascensia and CGM

More tech choices for people with diabetes is always great to hear, so Ascensia’s recent announcement of their move into the CGM market has been met with enthusiasm from the community. Read their release here and Diabetes Mine’s take on the announcement here.

SoMe at conferences

I believe social media engagement and use at all health conferences is a critical and necessary part of any communication strategy. There is no better, easier or more effective way to share details of the conference that by encouraging the people attending to broadcast using their own social media networks.

This article explores that, referencing the ridiculous photo ban at ADA in 2017 (which thankfully was changed in 2018).

Menopause and T1D blog

Sarah Gatward is a blogger from the UK and she is writing a series sharing her experiences of living type 1 diabetes and going through menopause. Yes! And thank you, Sarah. Start here.

NDSS reminder

Now is a good a time as any to make sure your NDSS details are up to date. Remember – the NDSS is not just about subsidised diabetes supplies. It also provides information and support for people affected by diabetes.

Go here to make sure your registration details are correct.

Bin the fax

All my dreams came true when I read this article in the Limbic today! Finally calls to get rid of the archaic fax machine in health care. Halle-bloody-lujah!

 

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So, who’s jumped on the Marie Kondo bandwagon and is in the midst of a massive clean-up and subsequent drop off at the local op shop?

I was all ready to roll up my sleeves and get dirty, until the bit about books. Thirty books? What kind of person only has thirty books? That was the point I decided there was nothing about Kondo that sparked joy and that she could fuck right off.

But, after opening my diabetes cupboard at the end of last year and half the contents falling to the floor, I decided that decluttering might be a good idea.

Here are some of the things that I found in there:

  • Eight different diabetes spares bags in different stages of disrepair.
  • Three brand new Casualty Girl bags, waiting to be used.
  • Seventeen (I am not exaggerating) meters that I have no strips for, have dead batteries and I wouldn’t even know if I could still order strips through the NDSS. One of them I am sure was so old that if I could get it working and had the necessary strips would take twenty seconds to do a reading. No one has time for that kind of messing around in 2019.
  • Some brightly coloured lancets (which actually looked so pretty, and almost – almost – made me change my lancet).
  • And enough boring white lancets to last me and all people with diabetes in Australia until the year 2456.
  • Some questionable looking glucose gel that was, apparently, grapefruit flavour. (That noise you hear is me retching.)
  • Far too many blood glucose log books which I picked up and laughed at. Such optimism to have kept them in there.
  • Pump supplies for my old Animas pump.
  • And my Animas Vibe pump – which is the back-up to my loopable backup pump. (Back-up to the back-up. Look at me growing as a person!)
  • My old Deltec Cozmo pump. (At this point, I may have teared up a little. And given it a hug. Because, damn, I loved that pump. So much joy was sparked just looking at the gorgeous little thing and remembering what a nifty little pump it was.)
  • Three boxes of syringes (clearly bought when I found myself desperately needing syringes for some reason and walked into a pharmacy only to be told I needed to buy them in bulk, because that’s how they come via the NDSS.)
  • Loose strips – dozens and dozens of them. Some of them may have been used. Some of them I can’t even remember ever having seen before. Some of them look as though they are from meters that we don’t even have in Australia. Is it possible that glucose strips can just apparate from someone else’s diabetes cupboard?)
  • Manuals for pumps (dating back to 2001) and meters and other long forgotten diabetes devices.
  • Crumpled up brochures about healthy eating with diabetes that had been annotated with comments including ‘As if!’, ‘YOU eat plain yoghurt’, and ‘This cereal tastes like gravel’.
  • And cables and cables. And cables.
  • Five empty Dex transmitter cases, with the date they were started scribbled in black Sharpie across their tops.
  • Programs from diabetes events past, including the first Six in the City series run back in 2006!
  • An iBGStar meter. Wasn’t that a fun little diabetes trend for about 25 seconds?
  • Cartridges for pumps I’ve never used.
  • Lanyards from a couple of conferences.
  • A few empty insulin bottles that I was going to use for a craft project until I remembered that I don’t do craft projects.

I threw out a heap of things, straightened up the rest and closed the cupboard door. I sat down on the bed and looked at my diabetes cupboard. I realised that trying to apply the Marie Kondo approach to cleaning up diabetes supplies has one major flaw. Going through all the things in there sparked a lot of emotions, but joy was not one of them. In fact, joy is not really ever an emotion that I would associate with diabetes. Frustration, anger, sadness, ambivalence, tedium, fear? They’re sparking all over the place. But joy? Not so much.

Thought about changing lancets. But the idea didn’t spark joy.

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

I always thought that the whole concept of maternal instinct was a load of bollocks. People kept telling me that once I was a mother I would understand it, but I didn’t believe it, especially after our twenty week scan. I was absolutely positive our little kidlet was a boy, so much so that I had refused to even consider girls’ names. ‘Oscar Harry,’ I would say when anyone asked. ‘We’re sorted. That’s what he’ll be named.’ When the sonographer told me that she was 99.9 percent sure that the baby half way through gestating was a girl my first response was ‘She’s going to get teased at school with a name like Oscar.’

As it turns out, maternal instinct is a thing, something I worked out pretty damn quickly when I learnt how to decipher between a ‘this-is-just-me-being-a-baby-and-not-having-words-yet-but-can-I-please-have-some-cuddles’ cry and a ‘this-is-something-serious-mum-please-take-action’ cry.

The way I see it, maternal instinct is just another name for intuition. And that is something we all have. What we do with it though – and just how tuned in we are to our own instinct – is completely individual.

Some of us have a finely-tuned ear, able to pick up whatever our intuition is telling us, never second guessing it and simply accepting and acting accordingly.

Others hear it, ignore it, try to convince ourselves of something more convenient. Because sometimes it’s just easier to believe what we want about a situation or a person than to try to work out what doesn’t feel quite right.

That intuition can be a life saver. But it doesn’t work in isolation.

I wrote a few weeks ago about how my resilience level contributes to how well I respond to situations around me. And it seems that there is a very distinct connection between how resilient I feel and just how much I pay attention to what my instinct is gently whispering. Or yelling.

When my resilience levels are high, I listen to any and all messages of intuition and trust what I am hearing unreservedly. If it is telling me something, I believe it and act accordingly. When not feeling resilient, there is other noise in there. And that results in me either not recognising what my instinct is telling me, or I just outright ignore it.

My diabetes intuition has been put through its paces over the years. It’s what tells me that a pump line needs changing, even though it feels fine. It knows when to calibrate according to Dexcom instructions, rather than the more lackadaisical approach I take most days. It alerts me to an off CGM reading, suggesting I double check with a glucose reading.

When I pay attention, it pays dividends. Clean and new pump line in and glucose levels continue along their merry way, as compared with a site that is producing numbers that can only be because insulin absorption is not happening properly – even if I don’t want to believe it. A well-calibrated Dex equals numbers I know I can implicitly trust rather than double guessing every number I see. Double checked CGM number – even if it is smack bang in line with what my glucose meter tells me – gives me the confidence that Loop can and should continue to hum along quietly and do its thing.

It’s not rocket science. It’s just paying attention to what my intuition is telling me, instead of trying to explain (or rather, excuse) things away with pretty much anything else I can think of. Because, you know, if it walks, swims and quacks…well, you know the rest.

I know there have been times when I’ve certainly almost deliberately ignored my intuition, instead convincing myself that something, or someone isn’t necessarily what appears before me. Sometimes, it takes a while – often far too long – to realise that I should have listened to my intuition in the first place just believed and accepted what it was saying.  It can be easy to get swept up – especially when I am not feeling resilient enough to see what is right there in front of me.

And then I wonder how the fuck duck I missed it in the first place.

 

Is there a more contentious issue when it comes to diabetes than food? Possibly, but when it comes to what we eat as part of our diabetes management plan, there is a lot to wade through.

For those who have had diabetes for more than a few years, it is highly likely that guidelines will have shifted, if not outright changed directions. The food plan that was ‘in’ for me at diagnosis is different to what is recommended now. In the last twenty years I have heard and read so many different ideas about the best ways to eat to ensure optimal diabetes health. My head has spun – and so has my stomach at times – with the chopping and changing ideas. To be honest, I can’t keep up.

Plus, we live in a world where everyone from celebrity chefs to movie starts are health gurus, tricking us into believing they have the answer to nutritional nirvana… if we just take this super elixir or this mushroom and cacao supplement. (Yes – I’m looking at you Ms Paltrow. Shush now, please. )

The DEEPtalk event last week was under the ‘mealtime challenges’ banner, but it covered more than just what happens when we sit down to eat. Because, we all know there is much more to food than sustenance and the sum of a nutrition panel. If that was the case, we’d be happy eating things that looked and tasted like, and had the texture of cardboard.

Considerations around the food we eat are social, political and environmental. We need to think about what we will be doing with that energy we have going in. It has to look, smell and taste appealing. Food triggers memories and deep emotions. But it can also be a source of difficulties. The eight different topics at DEEPtalk took in a lot of those different issues.

Phylissa Deroze welcomed us to her holiday table, enticing us with a seemingly endless buffet of delicious foods. But that festive spread became an obstacle course as she explained how difficult it could be to ensure she felt she was being true to eating the foods that she felt she wanted – and needed to eat – while dealing with the challenges of food pushers. ‘The two main ingredients in holiday food is carbs and love,’ Phylissa told us. As it turns out, both challenge her diabetes management.

Speaking of carbs, Antje Thiel reminded that just thinking about carbs when trying to assess how food impacts glucose levels was naïve and short-sighted. She listed a veritable shopping list of other factors that need to be measured. From hormones, to the timing of eating to the weather…these factors (plus a hell of a lot more) all impact in some way.

Quinn Fisher and Leighann Calentine shared the stage together and did a great tag-team presentation about how being a kid, and now teen, trumps diabetes any day, announcing early in the talk ‘Cake is totally bolus worthy!’ which seems as good a motto as any by which to live one’s life. Quinn is 14 and has had diabetes since she was three, and her family’s practical approach to how she manages things like sleepovers and birthday parties makes good sense.

Sara Moback spoke about a topic that simply does not get enough airtime: diabetes and eating disorders. She shared the story of her anorexia nervosa diagnosis and the treatment she received following that diagnosis. And she also reminded us that the focus on food, and the constant striving for a perfectly straight, unmoving CGM  trace are surely contributing factors to why girls and women with type 1 diabetes are twice as likely to develop an eating disorder.

Paul Louis Fouesnant’s presentation had my heart racing as he explained how he managed his diabetes and the fears of low glucose levels after a broken down car left him stranded for a couple of days in remote Madagascar. Clearly he is the type of person you want around in emergency situations: he can make fruit puree from foraged berries. Paul Louis’ presentation was about the challenges of travelling to countries where food may be a little different to what we are used to. But he is firmly of the belief that you try everything in front of you – and enjoy your travels.

Bruno Helman introduced us to his vegan life with type 1 diabetes, explaining the road he took to becoming vegan and how he manages his training to run marathons. (Oh, and when I say ‘marathons’, I mean 27 in a year. As you do…) For me, Bruno’s talk probably challenged many of the ideas about diabetes eating than any of the others, simply because it was the most different to the eating plans that I have subscribed to over the years. As someone who absolutely loves vegetables, and incorporates them into every single meal, I still think there is a lot more I can do to increase the plant-based component of what I’m eating. (And I don’t just mean more carrot cake..)

Melanie Stephenson eloquently shared how she moved from adding marathon running to sprinting, and how she carb loads to ensure that she performs at her peak on race days. Can I say how refreshing it was to hear someone talking about carbs as nothing more than a form of nutrition, rather than something to be demonised and feared. Mel and some friends decided that not only would they run a half marathon, but they’d also break the world record for the number of people with diabetes running in it. They did that in June this year.

And finally, Bastian Hauck rounded out the event, using one of the best analogies for diabetes management that I have ever heard. The audience was mesmerised as he challenged everyone – except those of us with diabetes – to commit to a week, and then a month of daily dental flossing. With caveats: it had to happen twice daily at 8am and 8pm. Oh, and any other time food or drink was consumed. Plus, the correct amount of floss needed to be used each time: 5cm for each 10grams of carbs…no more, no less. And, of course, people were required to keep a record of all they ate. How many people in the room were prepared to even try this challenge? One. That’s right…one person. Thanks, Doug!

Eight topics; nine speakers. And this just barely scratched the surface of the different ways food can be used as part of a diabetes management approach.

My job was to introduce the event, the speakers and tie together the theme for the event. In other words, I had the easiest job for the day.

I listened to each DEEPtalk twice – once during the rehearsal and then for the official event. And they brought home the message that there is no one size fits all to eating when it comes to diabetes, in exactly the same way that there is no one way to do any aspect of diabetes management. The speakers also showed that food is never, ever only going to be about diabetes. Sometimes, an apple is just an apple, not 15g or 20g of carbs, requiring <X> units of insulin.

Guidelines are all very well. I understand that they are based on best practise and evidence. I also understand that HCPs like guidelines because they make things so much easier. But for those of us living with diabetes…our days are not lived according to guidelines or checklists or evidence. Our lives are lived by morning coffees, and neighbours dropping in for cake, and someone bringing cookies into work, and mango season. And, damn it, I just want that piece of chocolate/pizza/watermelon…

DEEPtalk showed us how just a handful of people with diabetes manage the challenges, success and joys of everyday eating. We all have our stories about what works for us. I love that this event allowed people to share them in a safe and non-judgemental way. We need a lot more of that.

If you’ve not watched the DEEPtalks yet and would like to catch up, the link is can be found in this post

L-R: Antje, Leighann, Quinn, Bastian, me, Sara, Paul Louis, Melanie, Bruno, Phylissa

DISCLOSURE

The DEEPtalk event was hosted by Novo Nordisk and was held at one of their facilities in Copenhagen. I was invited by the Global Patient Relations Team to moderate the event. Novo covered costs for my (premium economy) flights (I used my own frequent flyer miles to upgrade flights) and two nights’ accommodation as well as transfers and meals while I was in Copenhagen. There is no expectation from the Global Patient Relations Team (or Novo Nordisk more broadly) that I will write about the event or other activities held while I was in Copenhagen and what I do write is mine. All mine. 

I am en route back home from a flying visit to Copenhagen. I was invited by Novo Nordisk to moderate the first ever DEEPtalk event. (Please read my disclosures at the end of this post.)

I will write all about the event in detail, but in the meantime, here’s a video of the livestream, where you can see and hear nine fantastic speakers share how they manage diabetes specific challenges are found food and mealtimes. And see and hear me bumbling my way through.

DISCLOSURE

The DEEPtalk event was hosted by Novo Nordisk and was held at one of their facilities in Copenhagen. I was invited by the Global Patient Relations Team to moderate the event. Novo covered costs for my (premium economy) flights (I used my own frequent flyer miles to upgrade flights) and two nights’ accommodation as well as transfers and meals while I was in Copenhagen. There is no expectation from the Global Patient Relations Team (or Novo Nordisk more broadly) that I will write about the event or other activities held while I was in Copenhagen and what I do write is mine. All mine. 

Yes, we know that diabetes is a so-called invisible condition. I’ve written about it a lot both here (and here, and here, and here) and other places as well. And I’ve also grappled with how I feel when I realise that my carefully and deliberately shrouded condition actually becomes visible without me knowing it.

Our diabetes does not wear a cast or make us immediately look different in any way. We are not identified as someone with diabetes until we tell someone that is the case. Even when diabetes is impacting on us in the moment physically – for example if we are actively dealing with a low or a high – and there are around others, most people would not automatically think ‘diabetes’.

As a condition that can be hidden, diabetes is referred to as invisible. But lately, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with this idea, because I think it is a little murky when thinking about just whothe condition is invisible (or visible) to.

So I decided to ask a few people what they thought: people I know well, family members, work colleagues, friends and acquaintances. Just about everyone I spoke to said that they thought diabetes was invisible. They said that rarely would they think diabetes when around me, unless we were specifically talking about it, or they noticed me ‘doing diabetes’. Someone I asked actually said ‘Oh, I forgot you have diabetes,’ which I guess points to just how invisible some people see (or rather don’t see) my diabetes.

The only people who said they didn’t think diabetes was invisible were friends with diabetes. ‘How could I think that?’ someone said. ‘No one living with diabetes thinks it’s invisible. It’s always in our face.’

That’s exactly how I feel. When we say diabetes is invisible, what we are saying is that it is invisible to others. The invisibility cloak only applies to people looking at us, not those of us whose diabetes is under that cloak. For us, it reminds blindingly visible and present. It’s the devices on our bodies (even if we hide them under our clothes); it’s the scars from puncture wounds; it’s the always-present glucose meter; it’s the blood stains from pricking our fingers or removed CGM sensors or pump lines; it’s the glucose strips that get into every crevice of our homes, our cars, our pockets, our bags, or workplaces; it’s the alerts and alarms that sound from our phones and devices; it’s the pop up reminders of medical appointments or to fill repeat prescriptions or pick up NDSS supplies. And they’re just the things we can see and hear, not taking into consideration the constant presence of diabetes in our minds, our hearts, our souls…our very being.

To a degree, we can control just how visible we want diabetes to be to others. Personally, I like that I can chop and change how noticeable the physical signs of my diabetes are. Today, I am walking around in a tank dress and the Dexcom on my arm is obvious for all to see. But throw a denim jacket over it and it disappears, sending my diabetes incognito.

For some people, making diabetes invisible is important. Others like it to be front and centre. There are myriad reasons for making decisions around this, and those decisions and choices will be different for everyone.

I do wonder how much of that decision is made exclusively by the person living with diabetes, and how often we change the level of visibility based on what we believe others may expect. Are we wearing our diabetes loudly because we feel we have to or because we feel we should? I know I have been the loud, out there advocate because I’ve felt I should be.

Or is there something about the shame and stigma of diabetes that makes people want to hide it away? Or are we trying to minimise the visual, or audible signs of diabetes to protect others? Or to stop others from feeling burdened, bored or worried about our diabetes? I also know I do that a lot.

But try as we might, for those of us living with diabetes, we cannot conceal it from ourselves. It lives with us, in us, around us. And it is always visible.

I have just returned from two days of meetings for the HypoRESOLVE project for which I am a member of the Patient Advisory Committee (PAC). Read more about this project here (and watch the short video at the end of today’s post).

This is a huge project. Sometimes its scope hurts my little brain, but at the same time I love some of the almost audacious objectives and goals that have been set.

I left the two days of meetings with a similar feeling that I’ve felt after the previous meetings. And that is just how little we know and understand about hypoglycaemia.

This is one of the challenges when trying to define exactly what hypo is. Putting rings around something that is so personal, so diverse, so complex and so difficult to define for different people with diabetes is almost impossible. Our current classifications seem clunky at best; dismissive at worst.

I am one person with diabetes, but my own experiences of lows is inconsistent. I used to have lows that lasted for hours and hours and hours. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they were the times I clocked the lowest reading on my CGM or BG meter. Those numbers could have just been sitting at or around the low threes for those couple of hours, not trending up – no matter how much glucose I inhaled – but, thankfully, not trending downwards either.

And then there are the lows that would send me into full overdrive of shaking and sweating and a pounding heartrate, but there may not have been consistency with the number. I could have felt like that at 3.3mmol/l or when my meter was not registering a number other than LOW.

I understand that classifications use numbers because when glucose hits certain levels, we can measure things such as cognitive impact or physiological responses. But numbers when it comes to hypoglycaemia – and all aspects of diabetes – are only a small part of the picture.

Sometimes I feel that the more I learn about diabetes, the less I know. And I have also come to learn that the allocation of numbers is sometimes almost arbitrary. They may make sense to researchers or regulators. But the reality is very, very different.

The problem with this is that there is no way ever that diabetes is going to be able to be classified by fixed numbers. There needs to be wriggle room and agility in interpretation.

I love that HypoResolve is trying to come up with innovative ways to satisfy all groups. Regulators need clear definitions to use as guides when considering new and different therapies. Clinicians and researchers need thresholds to point to. And people with diabetes? Well, we need to understand those definitions and the apply them to our own particular brand of diabetes…and how it may shift and change over time.

And that’s where the PAC comes in. Our role is to make sure the real life perspective is front of mind all the time, and to remind everyone else on the project that there is nothing static or simple about living with hypoglycaemia.

 

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