Monday, November 29, 2010

Why, Yes, I Can Eat That

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I was already fairly knowledgeable, for a member of the public, about diabetes. I had googled my symptoms and read a bit about diabetes, feeling sorry for those who had to take shots. And as a disability conscious person, I had met a few people with complications of diabetes. I had even read a few of books about children with diabetes, including in the month before my diagnosis, the book Sugar Was My Best Food by Gregory Adair and relatives, a nonfiction book about a boy who with type 1 diabetes who was not allowed much of any sugar.

Despite all of this, I believed at the time of my diagnosis that sugar was toxic to diabetics. Nobody disabused me of this notion until perhaps three days after my diagnosis when the pediatric endocrinologists finally asked me if I had any questions. I had one. One big, burning question. It wasn't about complications. It wasn't about research or a cure. It was, "What am I allowed to eat with diabetes?" She said I could eat anything. "You mean, anything? I can eat candy? As much of it as I want?" and she said, "Well, it will still make you fat of course!"
As a matter of fact, I now eat more candy than I want and I haven't gotten fat yet, but that's not diabetes' fault.

Many members of the public assume that sugar is toxic to people with diabetes, especially those of us whose diabetes they think of as severe, which is to say, type 1 diabetics. I will not say as a fact that sugar is not toxic to anybody. Maybe sugar is toxic to everybody.

I have taken advantage of this prejudice occasionally to stop somebody from giving me a food I didn't want by telling them I was diabetic. No thanks, I don't want your candy/cake/cookie, I have diabetes (and I don't want to take a shot right now).

What is a fact, however, is that there is no such thing as The Diabetic Diet that all medical professionals agree is good for everybody with diabetes. We are not all trying to lose weight, gain weight, maintain weight. Some of us avoid certain foods that affect our blood sugars in ways that we do not know how or perhaps can't prevent. These are NOT the same foods for every person with diabetes. Some people with diabetes eat a low carbohydrate diet; others eat a high carbohydrate diet; others eat whatever they happen to eat. None of these things are necessarily bad for their blood sugar control, although depending on the person, it might be.

One fact that is universally true however, is that sugar does not cause any greater requirement for insulin overall than other carbohydrates (excluding fiber) do. Sugar causes a more immediate and quick need for insulin; but not a greater need.

Currently, because of what they do to my blood sugars, I avoid the Sprite Zero soda absolutely, as well as flavored waters with artificial sweeteners. They supposedly have no carbohydrates but all of the times that I have had them, my blood sugar has gone very high. I don't know how to deal with that.
There are many times when I turn down a food because it would take too much effort to eat it without a bad effect on my blood sugar. Maybe I'm high at the time, or maybe it's a food that needs measuring exactly, or maybe it's a food that I tend to need to take two shots for. Sometimes it's just not worth it.
But my overall diet includes just about everything.

When you are offering food to people with diabetes, you should assume that they have the same dietary range as everybody else, but you should also keep in mind that there are lots of reasons why a person might not want to eat a food. Maybe they are picky eaters, trying to lose weight, have allergies, vegetarian, or just don't like to eat in public. You should also be aware of the nutritional content of the foods you offer or have nutritional information on hand, as this will make deciding on your food much easier not only for people with diabetes but for those with other food restrictions as well.

I got home today just as my parents were telling my 14 year old brother to go to bed. He has agreed to be interviewed tomorrow after school.


Reyna said...

So true true.

Vivian said...

Hey Jonah,

Congratulations! If you email me an address I will get your gift card in the mail to you. Thanks for commenting on Danieldoo.

My email is


Wendy said...

Great post, Jonah!

I really liked the affirmation that there's nothing "special" about simple sugar. Sometimes my daughter wants juice and I let her have it....but, for some reason, I feel like other D Parents raise an eyebrow as though I'm doing something BAD. I just don't see it that way...I don't see juice as being any different than candy, really.

Anyway, thanks ;)