The unspoken problem with Diabetes – By Helen May


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There has been lots written about the challenges and risks of diabetes such as hypos and future complications and never ever being able to forget about diabetes. However, there is one problem which I have never seen any blogs about and never heard anyone talk about. Perhaps I am alone in finding this a problem. Perhaps there is some social etiquette that I have never heard of which stops this being mentioned. What I am talking about is … best illustrated with an example.

I’ll start by describing a common evening with friends before I was diagnosed:

It’s an evening which starts with a pre-dinner drink and then continues in one of our favourite restaurants. This could be one of many but, let’s say, it’s the Moroccan. From the outside, this looks like a tourist trap but, once you go through the door, you feel you have travelled to a bazaar in a back street souk in Marakkesh. The place is full of wonderful sights and smells.

The meal starts with a plate of mezze. Although the waiter tries to explain what everything is, we are too busy catching up with the local gossip to pay much attention. Next we have a tagine each. The couscous soaks of the spicy sauce of my fish whilst others enthuse about the succulent lamb.

The conversation flows easily. We talk about friends and family. Depending on which group of friends it is we may move on to sport or current affairs or the latest book/play/movie with have read/attended/seen.

Then, although we have already eaten far too much, the wonderfully sticky, gooey, honey coated nutty flaky pastry cakes are too good to miss. So, we loosen our belts and carry on eating and chatting.

Eventually, we cannot ignore the hints from the waiter: we are only people left in the restaurant and it is pretty late. So we pay and stumble out of the restaurant to walk up the hill to bed after a great evening out.

Since diagnosis, an evening out will continue in a similar way. With one or two differences:

Despite not listening to the waiter’s explanation of the mezze, I have to guestimate how many carbs I’ve eaten and take my insulin. Then repeat this for the tagine and the cakes.

When I get home, feeling overly-replete, I take a blood sugar reading and realise I have a problem. It’s not a major problem. In fact, I have managed very well guestimating my carb counts so it’s not that I have a hypo but my blood sugar is lower than I like to go to bed to avoid a night time hypo.

So there I am: I’ve had a great night out with friends and i am absolutely full. Just like in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, I couldn’t eat a “waffer thin mint”. Unfortunately, as I have diabetes, I need to find room somewhere before I allow myself to clean my teeth and then turn out the light but not repeat the “Mr Creosote scene.”

So my diabetes challenge is when I have to eat when I don’t want to. Perhaps this is not discussed because no one else eats too much in the first place and I must learn to moderate my intake even when the food is sooooo good. Or perhaps I am unique in the way I manage my night time insulin. Or perhaps, in a world when everyone is dieting, it’s not polite to mention the need to eat more. If it is the latter, I hope you will excuse my social faux pas

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I find 2 glucose tablets (5g each) before bed usually suffice, or a glass of milk… this IS a real pain. I do know of pp who reduce their basal ( pump) by .5 /hr… when guestimating big meals. Glad to here you are guessing your carbs well… I struggle with that!

It’s the lesser of two evils. I’d rather have a pending low, which is quick and easy to correct with carbs, than being too high, and having to injecting insulin that will take 2-3 hours to return my blood sugar to normal levels, damaging my body cumulatively in the process.

We use ManageBGL to predict BGLs and determine the correct carbs to have to avoid a low at night due to insulin on board.

I would like it if there was a campaign somewhere to start to get restaurants to identify how many carbs are in each meal. The do it for all other counts except carbs. An example of which is Subway which has a table of all nutritional information except how many carbs are in their sandwiches!

I find, as I cannot stand fizzy drinks, Lucozade Sport works quite well. It is less sugar than regular Lucozade so I have to have that bit more but it helps in those moments when I don’t want to eat due to a hypo. I haven’t ever blogged about this topic but it is something I have been through on numerous occasions too – especially after a Sunday roast and a little too much over estimating on the carb/insulin ratio!!

Talk about hitting the nail on the head, I have been type 1 for 25 years and I hate this part of it, having dinner at a friends and hours later needing something (even though full) cos I’m hypo ‘wow are you still hungry? I couldn’t eat another thing’ hmm it’s not a choice really! :@

I always go for something with a small amount of carbs in. There’s less room for error when you eat, for example, fish with a few small new potatoes, compared to eating a huge bowl of pasta, burger and chips or curry with rice and a naan bread.

Your not the only one. This is me too. I control my diabetes well but eating to correct my levels isn’t my favourite thing. Thank you for sharing your story

Well said!!!

Midnight snacking used to seem like such a fun concept, until you need to shovel enough sugar then long acting carbs in your gob to feed your food baby even more! Don’t even get me started on eating more in order to exercise…!!

ifu dont want to eat a carton of orange juice works well i find.
or a tablespoon of sweet ice cream – i.e. not diabetic.

Hi, JP here – type 1 diabetic since 1995. In this case, and I do experience it I would advise about 100-150ml of Lucozade or alternatively reduce your lantus or whatever equivalent you are on by 1-2 units( in the same way as the lucozade this may take a bit of trial and error and be different depending on occasion )
Regards