You Are What You Eat – The Corn Flake Traveller
My attitude to food is similar to my attitude to life in the way that I refuse to let my diabetes completely control what I do, it has to work around what I do not the other way round. For this reason I have made room for ‘naughty food’ in my diet.
For example I would be a rich man if I was given a £1 for every occasion I have had cake or chocolate bars to bring me out of a hypo and I ate a lot of chocolate and tasty pastry treats during my 13,000 miles cycling around Europe (although don’t forget I spent £36,800 on 10 years travelling so my perception of ‘rich’ might be different to yours).
During my early adult years I allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted and during my university years this would have consisted of fatty and sweet things. I found it harder to control my blood sugars but it didn’t take me long to just increase my dose to a sufficient level to cope with these types of foods.
I would not recommend this to young diabetics, particularly during the teenage years because your sugar levels are hard enough to control when all those hormones are messing with your body. But for those diabetics who don’t want to play by the rules or can’t resist all the temptation from adverts then it is totally do-able.
I also think being a diabetic has actually been a blessing in disguise because when I was growing up I needed to ignore in the incessant bombardment of adverts trying to persuade me to eat chocolate and generally unhealthy food. For this reason I genuinely prefer fruit and veg and my last supper would probably be a vegetable stew rather than a cheesecake (my favourite dessert). Of course I love chocolate, who in their right mind wouldn’t, but when I am travelling in third world countries one of the things I miss about the UK is its vegetables; it would be fruit as well but they tend to be tastier and fresher in the developing world.
My relationship to food while I am on the road is slightly different as I am less able to control the food I eat either due to limited choice or because I am someone’s guest. There have been occasions when I have been invited into family homes and given food not being able to fully communicate with them so therefore not really knowing exactly what I am eating.
There have been a few meals where the family had used a sweet ingredient but soon after eating I would feel my blood sugar increasing so inject a little more and problem solved. I have also tried some fruits (one strange fruit in Vietnam that looked like a dragon springs to mind) where I knew nothing about it and I didn’t inject extra insulin because it didn’t taste sweet. Thirty minutes later I would find out it obviously was but I would just inject more, do some exercise and make sure I injected more if I ate that fruit again.
I do not wish to inspire diabetics to be blasé about their attitude towards food and their blood sugar levels, quite the opposite because if you are really informed about what goes in and how to deal with it you can be more liberal with what goes in. And there are ways to incorporate any food into your diet using exercise or treating hypos so that you don’t have to miss out. A telling moment in my young life was meeting a diabetic doctor who would eat doughnuts everyday but maintain good control and after years of living with diabetes with this approach I think the less sugary foods you eat the better, but it is not something I avoid like the plague.
From what you have read you might think I am badly controlled and eat lots of sugar but this is not true at all. I don’t eat much sugary rubbish, I eat healthy, locally produced organic food when possible because I am a human being nothing to do with my diabetes. I eat sugary things when I have to because I am diabetic and when I want to irrelevant of whether I have diabetes and I inject to sway the balance.
The timing of this blog post is quite spooky as only last week I was approached to write a review of a cookbook and although my cooking skills are limited to cereal preparation, my wife helped me write something. This isn’t a cheap attempt to advertise, I received no money for the review but just to remind you there are some great cookbooks out there and you can make some really delicious things with foods not full of sugar and carbs.