Food, glorious food? – by Jen Grieves


Jen GrievesLast week, upon sitting down to a generous and gorgeous-looking plate of dinner, I would have eyed it up quickly, guestimated a dose based on the blood glucose test I did half an hour ago and the approximate size and type of the carbohydrates on my plate, whipped out my injection and dosed up before any fellow diner has had time to reach for the salt and pepper.

This week, things are a little different.

I get back up from the table and fetch the two gadgets that are constantly and necessarily within a two metre radius of my person at all times. I test my blood glucose again despite the very recent previous test to get the most accurate reading I can, and spend a good few minutes inputting numbers into gadget #2, having weighed out my portion of sweet potato down to the last gram, and adding it to the grams of flour hidden in the sauce we’ve lovingly created. My partner’s plate has a good dent in it by this point, and as the delighted ‘ohhhs’ and ‘yums’ of approval emit involuntarily from his mouth, I am still there trying to figure out if I should split my dose, and if so, by how much and for how long.

I am not newly diagnosed; I have had type 1 for 18 years. But for the first time in a very long time, my diabetes is constantly on my mind, instead of quietly and momentarily peppering the background of my day. The thought of eating makes this greedy, food-loving human’s shoulders sink with the chore of what it entails, the near inevitability of getting it slightly wrong, and the frustration with myself for not yet knowing better. For me this is all entirely unheard of; I love my food – I love cooking, I love eating out. It is a delight that I share entirely with my boyfriend, to the point that our relationship can be bookmarked, chapter by chapter, by restaurants, dinners and food-filled adventures. But currently we face the same plate of food with two completely different mindsets. Mine is angst, while his is eager anticipation – soon to be delightful satiation. I too will be satiated. But the angst will remain, for now.

The cause? I have switched from insulin injections to pump therapy and my body – my wonderful, happy, nourished body that I am completely in tune with and understand, is currently defying me. It’s defying me and all the logic I have spent 18 years building, since I was thrown into the relentless world of counting, measuring, dosing, correcting and waiting when I was diagnosed as type 1 aged 8.

I know that this isn’t a permanent thing – it’s thanks to the positive experiences of people who have already made this transition that I decided to switch to the pump, after many years of dismissing it out of hand because me and my trusty NovoPen were doing just fine. But the permanent and serious link between my diabetes and the food I eat has never been shoved in my face quite as much, leaving me hilariously unable to simply shove anything into my face without serious calculation. The current only alternative to this period of adjustment is to not eat at all, or live on a diet of eggs to avoid any carbohydrate counting. I mean, I like eggs, but no thanks.

But this is something I know will get better, and quickly. Just like the minefield that presented itself to me when I was first diagnosed, I will navigate it and eventually outsmart it on more occasions than not. But for now, I will be clearing my plate just a little bit more tentatively.

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