Ever faced a situation where someone asks you, a person with diabetes, whether you’re allowed to eat that piece of delicious cake in your hand? Chances are that if you have type 1 diabetes, you would stare at them with your laser death rays while proceeding to eat your cake. But just because you can eat it, does that mean that you should?
Carbohydrate counting involves counting (or guessing!) the amount of carbohydrates in your meal or snack and calculating the insulin you need for it.
People with type 1 diabetes were once governed by strict diets to match their insulin regime. As technology improves, this is no longer the norm. Tools such as the Dose Adjustment for Normal Eating (DAFNE) program and insulin pump therapy, which involve carbohydrate counting, now exist to improve the flexibility of lives for those with type 1 diabetes. In essence, it means that people with type 1 diabetes can eat whatever they want, as long as they account for the carbohydrates eaten with sufficient insulin.
But does this justify eating that slice of cake, despite feeling full, just to spite one person who doesn’t understand diabetes?
Obesity is a by-product of today’s society and environment. We eat plenty but don’t move enough. Accompanying obesity is insulin resistance, a symptom that is commonly associated with type 2 diabetes. However, if a person has type 1 diabetes, it doesn’t mean they are immune from developing insulin resistance. More conversations within my healthcare professional network are emerging of people with type 1 diabetes who are insulin resistant and overweight or obese due to their poor lifestyle choices. Of course, overweight and obesity are often linked to other issues such as high blood pressure and heart problems.
Flexible insulin therapy is a luxury our ancestors didn’t have, so don’t abuse it. Everyone is encouraged to follow a healthy, balanced and varied diet according to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, regardless of whether or not you have diabetes. I’m not a believer of fad diets but if you decide to follow one, I urge you to apply some common sense. Cutting out processed foods is a great move, but please speak to your dietitian before you decide on cutting out an entire food group. Each food group contains important nutrients for your health, some of which may not have an immediate affect, but is crucial for later life. For example, not getting enough calcium in your diet puts you at higher risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.
A healthy lifestyle isn’t just all about eating well, so don’t forget regular exercise (walking around shopping centres count!). Start that exercise program you’ve been talking about rather than waiting for January next year. Don’t know where to start? Search for an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to advise on some simple exercises to get you going. bring a friend along for extra motivation and support.
I do also hear people who credit their type 1 diabetes to their good health, as it forces them to be more health conscious and choose healthier lifestyles. So start making those small changes towards a healthier and balanced lifestyle because living with one chronic illness is bad enough.