When you live with diabetes and particularly when you take insulin, a meal is never just a meal. Food is work. Every meal or snack or sip is a balancing act, and your body’s blood sugar is a tireless taskmaster. Even the smallest “mistakes” will eventually glare back at you from the screen on your meter.

According to what you learned in diabetes school, you need to count carbs and factor in stress, exercise, and high amounts of fat or protein to figure out our insulin dose. The math, although imprecise, is relatively easy; the act itself, repeated hundreds or thousands of times, wears on you like the proverbial “Chinese water torture.” While you’re calculating your insulin dose, little voices in your head may keep saying that you should or shouldn’t be eating the food on the plate to come, perhaps reminding you of the last time you let your guard down and ate a piece of chocolate cake. Why does something as basic and simple as eating have to be so hard?

To preserve your sanity, and get on with your life, you make choices. But that doesn’t stop the voices. Do thoughts like these hound you at mealtime?

I Should I be eating this?
I Is this too many carbohydrates?
I Too many calories?
I I’m not “supposed” to eat this — damn you diabetes, I’ll eat it anyway.
I I can’t possibly guess the carbohydrates in this — I might as well wing it.
I This is going to make my blood sugar high later — I know it. I’m the worst diabetic.

      It could be that you don’t hear those voices before you eat, or you’ve become really good at ignoring them. Perhaps those voices are even what drives you to overeat foods you “shouldn’t” eat, leaving you filled with guilt. Either way, you aren’t alone. Lots and lots of people, with or without diabetes, have an unhealthy or imbalanced relationship with food. Do any of the scenarios below remind you of yourself?

I I eat too little all day, and too much all at once when I get home.
I I turn to food when I’m unhappy, stressed, angry, afraid, or lonely.
I I regularly try to eliminate a type of food or entire food group in an attempt to gain control over my behavior around that food.
I My behavior around food leaves me feeling guilty and ashamed of myself.
I I use food as a way to punish my body and spite my diabetes.


EmotCartoon2These relationships with food are abusive, and you are the victim. Of course, you don’t ignore the abuse. You try to fix your imbalanced relationship with food with a quick bandage. Cover it up, and pretend it isn’t there by declaring war on carbohydrates, or vowing to never touch a piece of chocolate ever again. You decide you will eat completely healthfully. You design diet regimens for yourself that demand inhuman perfection. And then, after a few hours or days or maybe a week into your new plan, you fall back into your old patterns. And you fall hard.

Why? It’s simple: you haven’t actually addressed why, when, and what causes you to abuse food in the first place. And that is actually the first and most important step. You can create a relationship with food that leaves you feeling proud of your choices, never deprived, and filled with the knowledge that you are giving your body and your life with diabetes the compassion that you need and deserve.

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Ginger Vieira has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1999, along with Celiac, fibromyalgia, and hypothyroidism. She is the author of several books: When I Go Low (for kids!), Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes, Dealing with Diabetes Burnout, Emotional Eating with Diabetes, Your Diabetes Science Experiment. Ginger has created content for a variety of websites, including Diabetes Strong, Diathrive, MySugr, DiabetesMine, Healthline, and her YouTube Channel. Today, she is the Digital Content Manager for Beyond Type 1 & Beyond Type 2. Her background includes a B.S. in Professional Writing, certifications in cognitive coaching, Ashtanga yoga, and personal training with several records in drug-free powerlifting. She lives in Vermont with two kiddos, her handsome fella, and their amazing dog, Pedro.

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