Diabetics have a love/hate relationship with food.Â For many of us it’s a life/death relationship as well.Â Once you get that diagnosis you will never look at food the same way–or you shouldn’t, if you want to live long and prosper.
Those of us who have Type 2 can often, if the diagnosis comes early enough, keep our blood glucose levels under control by carefully choosing what we eat, and by making sure we get some kind of exercise every day, without taking any of the various medications available.Â That does, however, mean that one’s dietary restrictions will almost certainly impinge upon one’s social life and other interpersonal connections.
I managed with diet-and-exercise for about four years after the diagnosis.Â Unfortunately, for most of that time span I worked for someone whose culture places a very high regard on food and eating, and who could not or would not understand what I needed to do to stay healthy.Â I could not “just try” the greasy, sugary stuff that appeared on the office tables during parties.Â I could not have regular soft drinks.Â And I could not go to the staff Christmas party that was to be held at a restaurant whose set menu for large groups involved large servings of grease and sugar.Â (Well, let me amend that–I could certainly have gone to the restaurant, but I couldn’t have eaten anything there, and I didn’t particularly want to contribute $30 to sit and drink coffee while everyone else got to eat.)
It was an unresolvable impediment to my relationship with my boss, and neither of us ever found common ground.Â I did my best to explain, but I was left with the impression that she thought I was being stubbornly unreasonable.Â Ah well.Â Water under the bridge.
It’s been eleven years now since I got the bad news and I’ve progressed through various oral medications and am now on insulin.Â That does not bother me.Â In fact, it’s so much easier to deal with that I’ve found my dietary choices actually expanding just a bit.Â I don’t have to drink vile tasting diet soda any more.Â Granted, I can only have one small cup full of regular soda (the kind that’s sweetened with sugar, for reasons I’ll discuss in a moment) but I grew up in an era where a 6-ounce bottle of soda was considered one serving so I’m fine with that.Â By the way, should any of you be in the same situation, I can wholeheartedly recommend the book Using Insulin.Â It explains everything.
Being on insulin often means weight gain.Â Your body isn’t flushing out calories through the kidneys any more and is actually able to use more of what you consume, and guess what happens next.Â I have gained a bit of weight and am now making a very concerted effort to reverse that.Â As part of the effort I am turning much more of an eagle eye on the content of the foods I consume.
The first thing I did was eliminate to the fullest extent possible anything that contains high fructose corn syrup.Â I know there’s no absolute proof that it’s harmful to health, but (despite what a Del Monte representative told me when I complained about the change in the ingredients in their ketchup) it is an unnatural product, and if there’s anything we denizens of the USA in the 21st century ought to get through our heads, it’s that the more we try to fool mother nature the worse off we are.
The second thing I did was to do my best to increase the amount of dietary fiber I consumed each day.Â That wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as was getting rid of HFCS.Â Besides consuming more fruit, vegetables and whole grains I added fiber supplements, and have seen quite a few benefits already.Â My blood sugar is under much better control and I am using noticeably less insulin than I did even a month ago.Â And yes, I’m losing weight.Â Who knew it could be this simple?
What got me to thinking about this?Â I went grocery shopping today.Â Since I was a kid I’ve preferred the taste of Miracle Whip over mayonnaise, but of course eliminating HFCS from my diet meant no more genuine Miracle Whip on my sandwiches.Â I found that the Ralphs and Vons store-brand analogues did not contain HFCS so I was happy.Â Today I picked up a jar at Ralphs and found they’d changed the ingredients.Â Growl.Â I had also been buying Del Monte ketchup because it did not have HFCS (did have regular corn syrup) but they changed ingredients too.Â Now I buy Ralphs store brand “organic” ketchup.Â I have had to find different brands of pickle relish, salad dressings (hooray for Newman’s Own!) and other condiments.Â Many’s the processed food item I’ve had to talk my husband into putting back on the shelf.Â I stopped buying coffee creamer (just as well, it was mostly chemicals anyway–now I use considerably less half-and-half in my coffee).Â I now carry my reading glasses in my purse so I can give those ingredients a focused fish eye.
Is all this food-picking quixotic?Â I don’t think so.Â If more of us refuse to buy chemical glop and choose instead to buy the less-processed, less-chemical foods, the food companies will eventually take notice of what sells and what does not.Â So far, it seems that the companies that make store-brand products have not found it unprofitable to use the more natural ingredients that the big agribiz companies have replaced with chemical glop.Â I do see that Pepsi and Coke are dallying in the sugar-sweetened-beverage market a bit beyond Passover season, so there’s hope.
As a diabetic I will need to be careful about what I put in my mouth for the rest of my life.Â As a consumer, I’d like to think I’d be doing the same no matter what.
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- The decline and fall of high-fructose corn syrup. (slate.com)
- Diabetes: More than just sugar overload? (cnn.com)