Tuesday, March 30

Food: One Year with the Big D

A year ago last week, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and holy cow was that a SHOCKER. I wrote about it here and, in more detail, here. In that year, my relationship with food has grown more complicated than ever in some ways, and in other ways pretty darn simple. The simple part is: don't eat foods that raise my blood sugar into unacceptable levels. The complicated part is: almost everything that is yummy raises my blood sugar into unacceptable levels. As a lifelong food lover---okay, beyond loving food I have struggled with compulsive eating disorder (like the main character in Sweethearts)---this has been REALLY EFFING HARD IN SO MANY WAYS!

The spontaneous summer ice cream cone, the rainy spring weekends spent baking, stress-free celebratory meals...these are all things of the past for me. Not that I don't ever indulge, but when I do the moment is accompanied by anxiety and guilt and fear and a host of other such lovely emotions. And when I smell my husband's bowl of pasta next to me, or see someone tearing into a fresh baguette, or read another blog post about cupcakes...well, sometimes? I want to scream. And possibly hit people. In fact, just writing about it right now is kind of priming the old tear ducts. I start thinking about how I'll live the rest of my life without the kind of freedom other people seem to have about food.

But the honest, honest truth? The spontaneous summer ice cream cone, the rainy spring weekends spent baking, stress-free celebratory meals were NEVER part of my life. I've had a disordered relationship with food since childhood, and a spontaneous summer ice cream cone almost always led to the secret pint. The rainy spring weekend baking wound up with me wondering why my cookie recipe didn't yield the promised three dozen...or did it, and I ate more than I thought? The celebratory meal always involved an ongoing silent narrative: will people notice if I get up for another serving of this or that, how can I get that last scoop of macaroni and cheese before my cousin does, I wonder if one of those brownies will fit into the pocket of my cardigan. Et. Cet. Era.

So, on my better days, I see diabetes as this incredible gift. It puts a clear and serious boundary around food that can't be rationalized away. Eat food A, test blood sugar, see level X, and I've got indisputable evidence that it's negatively affecting my body. When faced with food choices, now I don't have to think about it that hard or weigh all the pros and cons. I can usually just say to myself, I don't eat that. I don't want my feet to fall of or to drop dead of a stroke at 45, thanks. Other days another voice talks back and says SCREW IT, ZARR, but the slippery slope isn't very steep anymore. I can't go too far down without feeling what it's doing to me and that motivates me to go back to doing what's going to make me feel best.

I don't want to put a damper on food week! I'm all for people with healthy pancreases having a joyful and free relationship with food, eating intuitively, and having treats. Yay, treats! And I still have treats that I get to enjoy regularly without guilt or consequences: 77% cocoa chocolate in reasonable quantities (my favorite is this Chocolove bar), expensive fancy cheeses, roasted nuts, a glass of yummy red wine every night. And, I've been experimenting more with weirdo low carb recipes like biscuits made with coconut flour and rice made out of cauliflower. (Better than it sounds. But, let's face it, not as good as rice.)

That's where I'm at with food right now. What are your food issues? Issues, anyone? Issues?

22 comments:

Amy Jo said...

My greatest food addictions: ice cream and chocolate. Even better? Ice cream with hot fudge sauce! Ever had an Amy's Hot Fudge Sundae from Leatherby's in Taylorsville, UT? Yes, it's truly named after me. I've had the fortune/misfortune to grow up in a family that owns an ice cream business. Imagine all free ice cream you could ever want. That's me. And boy, have I taken advantage of it! Ah, just thinking about it makes me hungry. I should counterbalance my addiction with your tasty cauliflower rice -- maybe you'll share the recipe at WIFYR this summer? :)

Sara Z. said...

You are related to the Leatherby's people?? Such good ice cream! We go to the one on North Temple. Welll, my husband goes, and I watch. :)

Amy Jo said...

My dad actually doesn't own the North Temple one (just the Midvale and Taylorsville stores). In recent years, my dad has helped other people set up their own Leatherby's stores in Utah (kind of like mini-franchises, I suppose). But I'm glad you like the ice cream ... even if you have to eat it vicariously through your husband. :) My dad is also diabetic, so he sells sugar-free ice cream at the Taylorsville store (just an FYI if you ever find yourself out that way).

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Sara:
I have Crohn's disease . . . pretty much, I think my whole life, though I didn't get my diagnosis until I nearly died from it (was septic). Consequently, there have been MONTHS where the only "food" I got was TPN (through IV/port). Or Ensure (Yum? Not!). No dairy for me. Nothing greasy. No this. No that. My only option was to basically disengage myself from food. If people say, "What's your favorite meal?" I don't have one. I just don't really have a relationship with food at all. I don't pig out on it, don't really think about it except "Gee . . . I guess I better eat something before I pass out"--LOL!

I only know my life this way, so in a way, I don't think much about it. But I have people in my life who have a lot of food issues and who emotionally eat and so on. And I feel for them, but it is super hard for me to relate to.

E

Sara Z. said...

Erica, it sounds like that kind of detachment is pretty healthy and a good survival skill for you. I sometimes wish I could see food in a utilitarian way, but on the other hand it's so central to culture...
The hard part is going out and making sure you don't accidentally get something that's going to cause a negative effect, probably moreso for you, even.

Colleen said...

My son is a Type I - he was diagnosed at 3 1/2. At the time there was a teenager who came into Children's Hosp at the same time and was also a newly diagnosed Type I. The educators all told us how lucky we were that Pierce didn't really have deep affection for any foods yet (other than Cheerios!) and thus would adjust far better than the teen. This was abundantly clear when she was told she needed to counter any apple juice with insulin in class one day. She came unglued. I'm sure the poor kid has been back in the emergency room many many times since then, still struggling to deal with it all.

As for Pierce - he does okay. We are coming up on his 5 year anniversary with the disease. On our good days we say it's manageable. Other days we hate it like the son of a bitch that it is. He's in the middle of losing 4 (!) teeth, growing an inch every three months and just generally has a body that doesn't know what it wants/needs from one minute to the next.

But we do all think about food very differently now. Nothing is eaten without a thought by any of us. Which in some ways, I think, is how everybody ought to live. I just wish we didn't need this disease in order to know that.

Not in Charge said...

Oh, Sara, I have been a type one diabetic for almost 30 years now, and I still will shoot up insulin to dig into a pint of mint chocolate chip ice-cream. Denial of self is not in the American gene pool. You don't have food issues, you just have the same old issues all women have - now with type two thrown in. I'm allowed anything in moderation, but have never hit the moderation point. so good luck to you and all of your readers.

lkmadigan said...

Issues? Me?

I'm glad to hear that you at least have fancy cheeses to comfort you. That would be the only thing that could comfort me.

I'm watching my metabolism slow year by year ... it's eye-opening. Other than that, I'm very lucky with my health.

P.S. You will never believe this: my captcha is "pudgi."

Sara Z. said...

Lisa - HAHA!

Colleen - It's amazing how adaptable we are as humans, and at the same time how powerful the connections and cultural forces can be when it comes to how we eat. I think you're right - everyone should eat mindfully and take the time to learn what different foods do in our bodies. In some ways, I know I am and will be healthier than lots of my non-diabetic friends because I've made taking care of myself a priority. I feel better than I ever have. Just...sometimes you want the damn cookie!

G. Neri said...

Gosh, where was I that I missed those past blogs? I didn't know about the Big D. But I do know about altering lifestyle to well...live. Its been almost 2o years since I overcame my own disease, but I am living proof it can be done and you can have a normal life (well, as normal as a writer can be). There was a time I couldn't eat wheat, diary, sugar, caffeine,and pretty much anything worth eating. But yes, when confronted with mortality, those decisions can be surprisingly easy...until you get healthy again.Then it gets tricky again. So I will be cheering you on from afar and if you ever feel weak, you can call me (Sara...put... down... that... chocolate!) My worst addiction now? Those candy German Raspberries. Some people will get them for me and I can't...stop...

jessjordan said...

Sadly, I've never heard of compulsive eating disorder. I just finished reading Sweethearts, though, and I kept thinking, "Wow, this is so ME." I've always had an unhealthy relationship with food--if I eat one carb, I have to eat 12 more. While I'm eating dinner, I'm already thinking about dessert. And sometimes, something salty for after dessert. And then, after all that, I'm so pissed I want a brownie.

When I was in high school, my biology teacher said, "I don't live to eat; I eat to live." I've never been so jealous of someone in my life.

Freaking food ...

jessjordan said...

p.s. I'm glad to hear you've turned your diabetes into something good (or as good as diabetes can be) for you. Rock on.

Amanda Ashby said...

Wow Sara, it sounds like you've been on quite a journey with your relationship with food, but it sounds like the diabetes has actually helped you come out the other side.

Strangely enough my biggest fear of having diabetes wouldn't be the food restrictions, it would be the needles. A friend tried to take my sugar levels with a finger prick test once and I promptly fainted. Having to do that everyday would completely freak me out.

Gerb said...

I still struggle with compulsive eating and my weight reflects it. Food and I have kind of a love/hate relationship going on right now.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

My main issue with food for the past 10 years has been to raise a daughter in food-disorder America to grow up without any kind of eating disorder whatsoever. So far, so good.

Jennifer Bianco said...

I am a compulsive eater as well as a binge eater. I'm currently reading Sweethearts too, but not because of the character's issues. Just because I cried my eyes out with Story of A Girl and bought a brand new box of tissues. :) I figure they need to be used. lol

I've been working toward recovery of my eating disorders for several years now, and the greatest thing I've learned so far is that food is NOT the issue. I use food like an alcoholic uses a drink, but carbs and sweets are not the problem (this of course is for non-diabetics).

We've grown up in a culture where people are told, "oh, you're overweight, that means you must diet." Not only does dieting cause eating disorders, but that concept is completely backwards. Once we learn how to respond to the physical signs of hunger and turn to other ways of soothing ourselves when upset (music, candles, baths, walking, reading, etc.) then the hold food has on us is no longer magical.

Sorry if this sounds soapboxy, but this topic means the world to me. :)

I'm glad you're learning to deal with your diabetes, Sara, and I'm sorry it's taken away some foods that are simply delicious. :)

Sara Z. said...

Everyone - I love you. Thanks for your responses.

Amanda Ashby said...

Lauren - I heart you! That's exactly how I feel about my kids.

Betsy said...

Hey--I just found this blog and I wanted to let you know how much I like it :-)
My biggest food addiction is *cheese* and that's kinda tough because I'm about to have my gallbladder removed and I'll have to be on a low-fat diet for a long time. Merr.
Anyway, keep up the good work!

juli said...

Hey Sara,

I understand where you are coming from, I have been recently told to stop consuming gluten, dairy, eggs and beef. I am a filet mignon with blue cheese on top loving girl - or I was. I guess my love for certain foods and the lack of variety in my diet for so many years caught up with me. The gluten free is actually the easiest part. I love ice cream and also miss the spontaneous ice cream, summer or not. Why can't ice cream shops sell Soy ice cream or coconut milk ice cream? I use coconut milk now and coconut milk creamer in my coffee. I too should lay off the sugar - my doc said white rice was just as bad or worse than sugar; I need to look into the cauliflower rice you spoke of. I have yet to try baking anything on my own, but do want to try the coconut flower.

Like you this has totally changed my relationship with food. I am working on thinking of food as fuel and not something I need to like - I do not know if I can do that. I guess I can learn to cook creatively too so I can partake in yummy food I am allowed to eat.

I do feel better, eat a lot better, lost weight and am healthier over all, but sometimes I just want a bagel or a donut.

Anyway, I just wanted to say I totally understand. Oh and I loved Sweethearts and Once Was Lost - I am a teen librarian, an audio book junkie and love listening to you read. I am waiting for Story of a Girl to come in (on audio), for some reason we didn't have it so I ordered it last month.

Sara Z. said...

Betsy - there are worse addiction. :)

Juli - oh man...yeah. It's rough. If you google "cauliflower rice" you'll find lots of info. Basically you just run cauli through a food processor shredding disk, and then saute or microwave it a couple of minutes. If you're careful not to overcook it, it will have a rice-ish texture. Of course, it's best with tons of butter and cheese, but I think if you try olive oil, garlic, capers, a squeeze of lemon juice, you'll be happy.

Sara Z. said...

and p.s., yes, I've had some of my highest blood sugar readings after eating white rice. Way higher than on dark chocolate, fruit smoothies, etc.