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Brainwashed.

May 13, 2008

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!

5 Comments
  1. May 13, 2008 4:56 PM

    I can SO related and have been thinking about this a lot lately as my endo appt is just over a week away and my numbers are miserable! ugh. I rarely blog anymore because I’m in a huge funk lately. Thanks for posting this email as it reminds me of why the OC and all the blogs are important!!

  2. May 13, 2008 5:18 PM

    I hope that saying I can relate helps in some way. I think we all deal with our own diabetes related food issues. I really relate more the pump always being there so I can so totally eat this mindset. The whole snacking because I used to eat snacks doesn’t really apply because I decided to cut out snacks on my own when I was 11 without asking anyone, so that’s probably another diabetes related food issue that I have. It’s all just terribly difficult. I hope that Lisa and the rest of us are able to find some sort of manageable solution to deal with the daily mind game that eating can be.

  3. May 14, 2008 6:12 PM

    I hate the fact that I still eat 3 meals every day and the occasional snack. It’s like my body just expects it. Even after 2 years on the pump, I will still eat. Because I have for so long.
    Sigh. It is so hard to get out of the habit of eating all the time. Growing up in the old exchange system, on 2 shots per day of Regular and NPH, has ruined me.

  4. tmana permalink
    May 20, 2008 7:24 PM

    By its very nature, diabetes management requires a certain degree of obsessive-compulsive behavior. It’s a difficult enough behavior to learn, if you’re not normally OCD, and it’s a difficult behavior to unlearn. And if you already have obsessive-compulsive or bipolar tendencies, unlearning the habits can be more dangerous than learning them in the first place. I seriously need to re-learn the obsessiveness before the lassitude kills me…

  5. Autumn permalink
    May 22, 2008 12:52 AM

    Yes it has affected how I view food.
    I have never counted calories but I’ve counted carbs since I was 15.
    I find it hard to eat a bowl of cereal without chasing it with a hunk of cheese. (It slowed down the absorbtion of the carbs and made the bumpy blood sugar ride easier)
    I assume all unknown, unlabeled food has a minimum of 30 carbs and bolus accordingly.
    When I was doing Weight Watchers I got mad because I had to calculate a points value in addition to the carbs/insulin ratio.

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