Do you ever feel like diabetes has brainwashed you? I think most of us have wondered if we would be so responsible, so over-analytical, or so cautious had we not been required because of this disease. Last week I received an email from Lisa, a twenty-something who has had type 1 for almost her entire life. She wrote me about how diabetes has influenced her eating patterns and how even though she is on an insulin pump, she still feels compelled to eat a strict time and not deviate from a meal plan, even though that’s never been very realistic for anyone.
Here’s her e-mail:
“I go on diets all the time. I “change my lifestyle” all the time. I remind myself that diabetes can cause havoc to my heart down the track, let alone with the added factor of being overweight. I do well, and then break the diet often when I’m hypo and feel the need to devour everything in sight. I feel like I am in a constant battle against trying to un-ingrain how my kid-brain was taught to view food 15-20 years ago. “Good food, bad food. Too much, too little.3 serves per meal, no more no less. Can’t eat now, you’re too high. You can’t have that cake, here’s a carrot instead. If you want some ice cream you can have a scoop every Wednesday night instead of your potato. It doesn’t matter that you’re not hungry, you have to eat”. Obviously before faster acting insulins and carb counting and pumps! And this progresses to later on stealing food, and hard out binge-eating lollies, chocolate, desert and other sweets. And then later the discovery of skipping insulin to produce ketones to lose weight. And now: no skipping injections, just not knowing how to have a healthy relationship with food instead of using it as a tool of manipulation, and not knowing how to listen to when my body is hungry and what it needs- although I am on a pump, I still feel as though I need to eat at certain times of the day.
My childhood with diabetes was really not THAT bad. Granted, I think kids now have it slightly easier in that regard! And also that diabetes can not be blamed for everything, it is no excuse. But I have this question: do you think personally that diabetes has affected your eating patterns? Or other people you know? Do you think it has a way of doing that?”
Sound familiar? When I read this email I flashed on all the countless times after I went on the pump that I dove for the refridgerator or snack drawer after school or right before bed because that’s when I was supposed to eat. My mother would ask me, “Are you even hungry?” Truth is, not usually, and it’s taken me years to get out of the mind set that I had to eat and could relearn what it meant to be hungry. Nowadays I’ve shifted just to mindless eating because I’ve allowed the pump to be my “excuse” for overindulging in things, probably making up for all those years where I was denied.
I think diabetes does manipulate your thinking so I’m glad people are bringing this up so we can become aware of it. It’s not an easy thing to overcome, but like anything, if you know there’s a problem then you can work to fix it.
I would love to hear from others. Do you have any thoughts or words of encouragement for Lisa? Please either leave it in the comments or send it to me privately at amblass [@] gmail.com. Thanks!