How My Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis Changed My Relationship With Food

Make food your friend, not your enemy.

Woman cutting food on a plate

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I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 37, which means I got to live a nice portion of my life diabetes-free. I was carefree with so many things that I now have to think about constantly. Food, drinking, exercise, spontaneous vacations are all impacted directly by my disease. This doesn’t mean I can’t figure it out and enjoy myself. It just means extra thought goes into things I never had to think about before.

On the day of my diagnosis, my endocrinologist handed me an insulin pen, a meter, and sent me on my way. She gave me a CalorieKing book and explained the sliding scale for figuring out how much insulin to take for each meal. The rest was up to me. I went home to eat my first meal and figured out what I was eating, measured everything out, checked my blood sugar, and figured out the insulin dose based on my ratio. By the time I was ready to sit down and enjoy my meal, I was mentally exhausted. I quickly realized food now played a very different role in my life. What was once something I did to fuel and nourish my body, now could negatively impact my health. I would have to pay close attention indefinitely. 

My Relationship with Food and Diabetes

As time went on, I found myself secretly excited for low blood sugar. To me, this meant I had free rein over everything in the pantry, and I didn’t even have to feel guilty about it. Eventually, I would be full of food and regret with my continuous glucose monitor, Dexcom, angrily notifying me of a high number. To this day, I find mastering self-control while my blood sugar plummets isn't an easy feat.

Then, there are those stubborn high blood sugars. When I’m experiencing hyperglycemia, I know the right thing to do is take insulin and be patient until it comes back into range. But what happens when I'm finally ready to take a quick lunch break and look down to see I'm holding steady with a high blood sugar of 200 mg/dL? All of a sudden, I'm trying to restrain myself from nourishing my body. I wound up with a constant internal battle and food suddenly became "forbidden."

I wound up with a constant internal battle and food suddenly became 'forbidden.'

Let’s not forget about those wonderful, peaceful moments when my blood sugar is coasting in the "normal" range. I find myself constantly glancing at my Dexcom to see when it will go awry. If I enter food into this equation, I have a good chance of throwing off this beautiful line. Sometimes I get lucky, and I get my insulin dose correct, and my numbers stay stable. Nonetheless, it’s placing so much power on food in regards to my health and mental wellbeing.

There are also times when I am at CrossFit and am about to do the workout of the day, and my blood sugar plummets. The next thing I know, I am sitting in the corner eating skittles. It's tough to manage and even more difficult to do so with a healthy mindset.

Maintaining a healthy relationship with my blood sugar helps me to offer myself grace when it comes to the food I eat and the guilt I feel.

Final Thoughts

I never imagined a time when I would have to focus so much on food and its effects on my physical and mental heath both short- and long-term. Maintaining a healthy relationship with my blood sugar helps me to offer myself grace when it comes to the food I eat and the guilt I feel. Thinking of the numbers as data helps me remove my emotions from it all, and ultimately get into a healthier mindset. Focusing on what I can control has been a significant component in getting there. Make food your friend, not your enemy. Let’s respect food for the nourishment it offers, and let’s be mindful of the times where food can negatively affect our perspective.

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