CW/TW: Mental/emotional health issues.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes almost three years ago, I went into complete panic mode. My doctor just said it matter-of-factly, “you have diabetes” – and offered no further information other than I could start on medication to control it. No thank you! I didn’t receive any nutritional counseling (or for that matter, emotional counseling) from him regarding how to handle this diagnosis and my future health potentials. I was left to figure it out on my own.
Like I said before, a friend suggested Dr. Hyman’s book, The Blood Sugar Solution, and I read that carefully and went on his program very strictly. (TW/CW: he uses the word “diabesity”, which I find offensive and annoying as hell, he also has a strong focus on weight – but I took the information I needed and left the bias and BS, although I can certainly see how it could be triggering. Unfortunately, that is the general reality in the medical field and trying to get useful information is nearly impossible without wading through the ignorant bias against fatness). It produced quick and fairly dramatic results with my blood sugar, which I was happy with – but then I was also afraid to stray from that very strict program much at all. I added a little dark chocolate to my daily regimen, but I religiously avoided wheat, corn, dairy, alcoholic beverages, etc. My fear of possible complications from diabetes (blindness, neuropathy, losing a foot, etc.) was enough to keep me in line.
I attended a seminar on diabetes put on through the school system I was working for at the time. I was not impressed at all. As far as I was concerned, they were advocating a diet that would almost guarantee one would have to be on medication. I was sure they weren’t getting the same kind of results I was already getting. I read and studied a variety of books and articles. I didn’t see anything that seemed as effective as what I was already doing – and I was unwilling to take chances with my health/life.
The story of how I slipped from being so strict on my program is here. When I started seeing that I didn’t have to be quite so strict as I’d been being in order to control my blood sugar, I started relaxing and adding back most of the foods that I’d cut out. I even had ice cream once in a while (just a little). I was excited and happy to be able to eat some of my favorite foods that I hadn’t had in over a year and a half. I mostly stayed on my program, but I became less afraid of food again. I stopped thinking of food as an enemy I had to guard against. I measured my blood sugar one and two hours after I ate different foods – and recorded their effect on my glucose levels. I learned which foods I pretty much have to stay away from (cereals and bananas, for example) and which foods I can have in moderation. After a while, I didn’t bother measuring all of the time.
Which brings me to now. I’ve had almost a year of not being super careful about what I’ve been eating. In fact, as the pandemic went on, I got less and less careful. I still ate with some consideration for my blood sugar – however, that doesn’t even approach how careful I’d been before. What I can tell you is that in this past year of eating more “normally” again, I felt so much happier and more relaxed and content with life in general. Even in the midst of a pandemic, being able to eat foods that give me pleasure and comfort was so life-affirming for me – and I was happier than I’d been since my diagnosis. Being able to share meals with the people I was living with, without having to negotiate all of my food restrictions … it’s hard to put into words how that made me feel. More connected, more alive – happier and more grateful to be alive, honestly.
Food matters to me. Like, I take deep pleasure in food. Sometimes, looking forward to something good to eat is the only thing that gets me through the day. I really hate having to be careful about what I eat. It makes me angry and depressed. I was scared and upset to see my blood sugar so high a week ago, so sad to have to be more careful again. I now need to find ways to negotiate my mental/emotional health in relation to this management of my diabetes. I’m no longer afraid enough of the diabetes to stick so strictly to the program that I know works. I also am acknowledging that controlling my blood sugar is a moot point if I’m feeling miserable about my life. And honestly, when I’m super careful about what I eat, I do feel miserable about my life. That’s not good for my health either.
So, this time is a little more challenging. The urgency of fear has de-escalated and my motivational level has dropped, which is not to say that I’m not motivated. I am. I want to control my blood sugar to a reasonable level. As long as I keep it below 110, I’m okay with that. I’d rather have it under 100, but I have to make this livable for me too. I’m going to try to keep my post-prandial (after eating) sugar levels below 180. I definitely don’t want to land myself above 200 like I did the other day! That doesn’t feel good! Again, it’s a process of figuring out where the lines are for me. And there’s this: if a piece of pizza or two is what’s going to get me through this day, then I’m going to eat it. My body can handle it. I’m not planning to do that every day – because I do know that I feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally when my blood sugar is not going up too high.
It’s a delicate balance, I’m finding. I need to eat enough pleasurable foods to keep me happy emotionally … and be careful enough about what I eat to keep my blood sugar at a reasonable level. It’s not that the meals that I eat on program aren’t tasty, satisfying, even delicious sometimes – and a lot of the time, they are what I am craving and I am totally satisfied with them. The problem is that when I’m craving crusty bread and cheese or chicken pot pie or some other favorite, chicken breast and veggies just aren’t going to satisfy. I don’t have to give into my cravings all of the time – I can and do manage to say no to myself often and stick with the foods that won’t raise my blood sugar. But right now, I’m figuring out how often I can indulge myself in culinary pleasures that aren’t on the program. This may not seem like a big deal to most people, I’m not sure – but to a foodie like me, it’s a big deal. I’ll keep you posted how it’s going.
Disclaimer: Please be advised that I am not a medical professional nor a dietician. This site is not in any way, shape, or form providing any sort of diagnosis, advice, cures, or recommendations for medical or dietary treatments. I am simply sharing my own journey and experiences. Nothing I say is intended to replace proper medical care.