#WorldDiabetesDay

Happy #WorldDiabetesDay to you! This year’s theme is Family and Diabetes. While the day (and the month) is more aimed at raising awareness of the undiagnosed condition and family members looking out for the signs of diabetes in partners, parents, siblings etc., my day will reflect on my family and how thankful they make me.

I was diagnosed with type 1 at the age of nine (there I am, just post-diagnosis on the right). Since then, diabetes care has come along in leaps and bounds. In those days, you used syringes made of glass, tested your urine and not your blood and relied heavily on your body and not a machine to tell you what was wrong. (Ah, the young yins! Don’t know they’re born…)

As a nine-year-old weeping copiously at the prospect of no sweeties or birthday cake again ever, I wasn’t 100 percent au fait with what was now going on with my body. I scared the living daylights out of my parents several times by fainting first thing in the morning. The most memorable time when I jumped up on the kitchen window ledge to let our pet cat in and fell off it. Onto a stone floor.

Bite me…

As biting my tongue often went along with fainting, my dad would try to stop me by inserting his own hand. I bit that instead.

Still, my parents were a game pair—happy to downplay the condition so I never felt disadvantaged. It took me until my 20s to realise I had a chronic illness. Duh, I know, but diabetes never felt that way to me growing up. My mum’s favourite cry was, “Have you got your Dextrosol?” whenever I left the house. (Again, the young yins. Not having to use Dextrosol for their hypos.) But other than that, they never mentioned it as a limiting factor or felt I could not do anything because of the diabetes. Fair enough, I announced no plans to be an athlete, truck driver or pilot, but they waved me off to a university in another country, a kibbutz, solo living and more without fuss.

Whenever I called home or visited, questions concentrated on my job, my personal life, what I was doing… diabetes never took centre stage.

Then, as I got older they generously funded a pump for me for a few years. When it gave up the ghost, I decided against further funding as I didn’t want to take any more of their money. They would have handed it over gladly. And still would, even though there are no longer two of them…

Ah, the mood swings…

Any family member of someone who has diabetes will raise a wry eyebrow if you talk about the mood swings. Figures, after all, that if you have a chronic illness tiredness is a frequent friend of the not very nice sort. It makes you sullen and snappy. Who better to take that out on than your nearest and dearest?

Then, there are the ‘hypo experts’; mums and partners who can tell you are hypo before it strikes you the excessive yawning is more to do with plunging blood sugar levels than a late night the day before. Grr. Double grr because they are almost always right.

I have my own little circle of mood bearers—once upon a time my mum, dad and sisters. (Still my poor old mum to some extent). Nowadays, my husband. He’s awfully good at spotting hypos. Awfully brilliant at lots of other things too. Running upstairs to bring me supplies when I run out of needles and other equipment. Keeping me in jelly baby supplies. Factoring in blood glucose checking stops whenever we are out and about. Finding me ice-cold water when high blood sugars kick in. Accepting that I am terrifically rubbish at late nights, which means we do not go out that much. (Tip—I organise a lot of things for a Sunday afternoon.) Checking restaurants to see if they offer low-carb options before booking them.

Diabetes does not come alone. Yes, it includes tiredness and a whole slew of other complications you do your best to avoid. But if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes warm, supportive, kind and patient folks to nurture a diabetic.

Here’s to them all—my family. Thank you thank you thank you.

The Five Best Low-Carb Hacks

Here at the Diabetes Diet, we’re fully on board with the making life easier message. Living with diabetes is like supporting a part-time job on top of everything else in your life.

And boy, if we were unionised, we’d revolt against the lack of time off and sick pay (ha!), and work conditions that are an uphill struggle all the time… One of the reasons low-carb diets make life easier for the sugar-challenged is that we don’t have to spend ages figuring out how many carbs are in particular dishes and how much insulin we need to cover them. Meat, sauce and salad is a lot easier to work out than meat, veg, roast potatoes and a Yorkshire pudding.

So, with that in mind, here are our favourite hacks:

Make your home carb-proof

bar of chocolate on the diabetes diet
Get thee behind me, Satan…

If it’s not there, you won’t miss it. Temptation comes in many forms, but it’s much easier to ignore the siren call of crisps or chocolate if you don’t keep them in the house*.

Have easy meals

If you can master the omelette, fried fish, steaks, burgers or open a tin of tuna, mix it with mayonnaise and tip it on a bed of crispy salad, you’re laughing. Diabetes makes you tired. Have some go-to super-fast meals you can make quicker in the time it takes to order and wait for a take-away.

Eat two starters when out

Starters tend to be lower in carbs than main courses, so go for two of them. Three, if you are very hungry.

Stock up on low-carb snacks

Cheese, olives, unsalted nuts, hard-boiled eggs… all help satisfy cravings and have plenty of protein for satiety.

Try some of the substitutes

To be honest, I’ve yet to meet the low-carb bread recipe that convinces me, but some of the baking ideas might work for you. Bread, cakes, biscuits and even fudge are out there so why not give some of them a try?

*Reader, all too often I slip on this one. Or do that thing where I buy crisps or chocolate for my other half, kidding myself that they are for him. No, no, not me oh luscious purple-foil wrapped packet…

The Quirky Things About Being a Type 1 Diabetic

Because I am hyper-organised (crap), I scheduled time to write a post for World Diabetes Day—spot the deliberate mistake. Said designated day took place on 14 November, unmarked by we at the Diabetes Diet. Hey ho!

Instead, here I am posting about it more than a week later. You could argue that living with diabetes also takes place on the other 363 days (and the extra one every four years) of the year, so why make the 14th special, although awareness-raising exercises are always useful.

Anyway, I thought I’d list some of the quirky things about living with diabetes. We all know the big stuff, but there are some teeny-tiny bits you put up with which aren’t obvious to those who don’t have the condition…

Gnawing anxiety when parted from your bag. I have an industrial-sized handbag so I can carry around everything—blood testing equipment, two pens, spare needles, jelly babies and a full make-up kit*. When I visit people and they try to take my bag from me to put it with coats, I cling to it. I’m never more than a few metres from that bag.

a picture of a blood testing machine on The Diabetes Diet

A trail of litter that follows you everywhere. I do my best to dispose of it at the time, but I wish someone would invent a small bin that magically appears at your side every time you do a blood test or injection so you can throw away your used needles and blood testing sticks there and then. Every few days or so, I have to do a clear out of my bag where old needles, their wrapping and used sticks gather at the bottom. Once, I was in Regent’s Park in London and I spotted a used blood testing stick on the group and it delighted me. I knew it wasn’t mine**, but the thought that there was another type 1 in the vicinity felt comforting.

An aversion to ordering drinks when you are out that are in a glass. How do you know it’s the diet version? I only feel secure when my drink comes in its bottle or can. Otherwise, you might end up drinking the full-sugar one which will hit you like a sledge hammer almost immediately.

Puncture-marked fingers. I’m still on the waiting list for the FreeStyle Libre so in the meantime, my fingers keep that little collection of black dots that marks frequent finger pricking. You are supposed to vary the fingers, but my right hand bears the brunt of tests because I’m left-handed.

Toilets are very important. High blood sugars make you pee a lot and the first thing I work out whenever I go anywhere is—where’s the loo? Also, I’m not fussy. I have friends who won’t use dirty toilets such as the ones you get on trains. I don’t care. It’s a loo and it’s going to take me from bursting discomfort to huge relief in minutes.

It’s a full-time job. Managing diabetes takes up a lot of time and energy. You don’t get holidays and you can’t quit, and you have to do it on top of everything else you do. The boss is often a moody cow too. The skill-sets needed include arithmetic (figuring out insulin doses to match food), organisation (making sure you have everything you need when going out and keeping on top of your prescriptions), an understanding of biology and how your body works, and the ability to forward plan for most aspects of your life.

 

*Strictly speaking, not needed for diabetes

**On second thoughts, it could have been. Those things get everywhere. I’m always finding them in weird places.

Office Etiquette with Diabetes

person holding jelly babies at The Diabetes Diet
Mine, all mine!!

I waved goodbye gaily to office life in 2013, glad to embark on new adventures in freelance world.

There’s a lot to be said for freelancing, not least the ‘free’ bit. I love being in charge of my own scheduling. But the pay… ah, the moolah just isn’t to be found, folks. You’re undercut all the time by global competitors who can afford to write for tiny sums or people in your own country who do it for free as a hobby. Argh.

Anyway, I started a new part-time job in April, working in a communications role on a project at Glasgow University—a worthwhile project and the chance to add a regular income. The equal opportunities form asked if I had a disability. I ticked the ‘no’ box. It also asked if I had a chronic health condition. Er…no?

Okay, I get that I do, but until my thirties, I thought all I had was diabetes. When someone pointed out it is a chronic health condition, I was stunned. No, really. I know that sounds like a “duh” moment, but diabetes hadn’t caused me much hassle. Calling it a chronic life condition felt a bit like I was straying into hypochondriac territory.

Back to my new office job. I decided to be a grown-up and tell my colleagues about my condition, instead of sneakily eating jelly babies at my desk and hoping they didn’t notice. It’s not that I don’t want to tell folks; I just I hate drawing attention to it.

I introduced the subject at a team meeting in a round-about way. Did my new colleagues know of anywhere on the campus where I could offload spare medical gear , I asked. (And benefit others at the same time by recycling my stuff. See what I did there?)

They suggested places. I’d told them I was a diabetic by default.

Job done.

Next up—the hypo talk, where I explain what a hypo looks like and why I’m a stingy jelly baby hogger, instead of offering them around.

ADA Reveals Diabetes Now the Costliest Health Condition

At the end of March, the American Diabetes Association released a report on diabetes’ fiscal impact. Guess what? It’s scarily high.

Diabetes is now the costliest chronic condition in the country. Diagnosed diabetes expenses in the US totalled $327 billion in 2017. The data indicates that one of every four healthcare dollars in spent by someone diagnosed with diabetes. And one of every seven is spent directly treating the condition and its complications.

The Economics of Diabetes in the US in 2017 kicked off the ADA’s annual call to congress event. More than 150 diabetes advocates meet with members of congress and staff, urging them to make diabetes a national priority.

The report showed that the economic costs of diabetes increased 26 percent from 2012 to 2017, thanks to its increased prevalence and the rise in cost per person living with the condition. The costs include $237 billion in direct medical bills and $90 billion in reduced productivity. The largest contributors to the costs of diabetes are higher use of prescribed medications, hospital in-patient services, medications and supplies.

These costs are passed on to all Americans thanks to higher medical costs, higher insurance premiums and taxes, reduced earnings, lost productivity, premature mortality, and intangible costs in the form of reduced quality of life.

ADA’s chief scientific, medical and mission officer, William Cefalu said: “From our new economics report, it is very clear that diabetes bears a significant impact on our nation, both in its toll on the lives of the millions affected by it, and the economic costs for all.

“The most important solution we have is continued and increased investment in critical diabetes research, care and prevention to improve diagnosis and treatment, and to help us turn the tide through diabetes prevention. These efforts can help us to improve health outcomes for people with diabetes – and hopefully decrease the cost of diabetes.”

 

Diabetes Diet Book – Updated & Given a Make-over

We’ve been doing a little work in the background here at the Diabetes Diet. We decided to go for a print version via CreateSpace, and we’ve updated our book and uploaded it onto Kindle.

This is the new cover. What do you think?

diabetes diet
The Diabetes Diet is now on Amazon.

The Diabetes Diet explores what people affected with type one diabetes and type two diabetes, pre-diabetes and obesity need to do to get mastery over their blood sugars, metabolism and weight.

The scientific reasoning behind the low carbohydrate dietary approach is fully referenced and made easy by menu plans and low-carb recipes. You will be introduced to information and case studies that help you decide what level of blood sugar control, carbohydrate restriction and monitoring is most appropriate for your individual needs.

This book can help those with type 1 diabetes AND type 2 diabetes. It won’t cure diabetes, but it will make living with the condition so much easier.

The print version is going though some final checks, but should be ready in a few weeks’ time and we’ll update you.

You can buy the Diabetes Diet on Amazon.com here, and Amazon.co.uk here.