Let’s face it, diabetes can be a real drag sometimes! I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes (t1d) for over 25 years and I’ve experienced a lot of great days and some down-right awful days!
The most frustrating thing about diabetes is I can’t walk away from it and take a break – argh!
But every day has been a chance to grow even stronger and learn to pick myself up and carry on. Despite having to alter my diet and change the way I eat in order to maintain my diabetes, my love-affair with food is still alive and strong.
Eating well has helped me to keep my diabetes on track and my HbA1c around 5% (I don’t always reach this personal target). Here are some of my tips that I hope might help you get through your bad days and help you to keep enjoying life even with diabetes.
I can’t eat whatever I like, but that’s ok! Well, by that I mean I can’t eat whatever I like if I want to keep my blood glucose levels (BGL) stable. I try to keep my insulin-carb dose stable and avoid giving myself large amounts of insulin at any time as I find this reduces unnecessary highs and lows.
Sweet, high-carb foods require a lot more insulin and for me it’s just not worth that hassle of extra insulin dosing. I personally can’t stand the feeling of being high – I get very tired, moody, irritable and just feel down-right awful. Is a piece of cake really worth feeling horrible? In my opinion, no!
I can enjoy what I eat even though I have to watch what I eat. Diabetes hasn’t stopped me enjoying food, it has actually taught me to get creative with my cooking. This has ironically brought me closer to food because I’ve had to look at it in a different way. I love experimenting with new recipes and my husband and daughter are happy as they get to taste-test them all!
I’ve learnt to accept my diabetes diet and to embrace it. I don’t mind that I can’t eat everything that my family and friends eat. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes at 8 years of age, I would come home from school and see my sister eat a king sized Mars Bar for afternoon tea in front of me.
But it never phased me, instead I accepted that I couldn’t eat like that. I look back now and realise that experiences like that actually benefited me as they taught me willpower and discipline from a very early age, which has benefited me in other areas of my life not just my diabetes.
I love to pad out my meals with a lot of low-carb vegetables. This keeps the overall carb count of my food down and keeps me full. Cauliflower and zucchini are my all-time favourites as I can eat heaps of these. They are also great as they take on the flavour of whatever I’m cooking.
Home-made is better. I like to avoid ingredients that contain a lot of hidden sugars. I make a lot of my own marinades, spice rubs and pastes as many of the instant versions contain high amounts of added sugar which can turn a really healthy meal into a really unhealthy one. I also make my own mixed peel and avoid candied fruits or dried fruits that contain added sugar.
I don’t believe everything I read. I have found that ‘sugar free’ doesn’t mean it’s low-carb or that it doesn’t contain other forms of sugar alternatives that can raise BGL. I am really careful about reading not only the nutritional label but also the list of ingredients.
I don’t eat more than 2 portions of carbohydrate per meal. This is especially true for desserts or treats, as these are extra carbs on top of a main meal. This has prevented the need for insulin overloading, which is really handy in stabilising my BGL and preventing unwanted highs and lows.
I structure my carb loading to suit my natural BGL pattern. I have found my bloods are naturally lower from morning until about 2pm, so I eat more carbs around this time and reduce my carbs in the afternoon and evening when my BGL is naturally a bit higher.
I avoid eating ‘dessert’ in the evening after dinner. Instead I have one of my yummy t1d friendly treats for morning tea, lunch or for afternoon tea with a coffee when I’m craving something sweet. I have found this works better to maintain stable BGL throughout the day and into the evening.
I don’t eat any food after 7pm (unless I’m hypo). This helps to stabilise my insulin and blood sugar levels before bed and prevent unexpected highs and/or lows overnight.
I try to do some light exercise after a meal. I love to exercise and hate sitting around for long, so where possible, I’ll go for a short walk after I eat. I have found this really helpful in stabilising my BGL.
I hope some of these points may help you with your diabetes and help you enjoy your life even with the challenges it brings.