“So, what if you just eat only meats and green vegetables and no sugar and no carbs? Do you still have to take insulin?”
This is the totally fair, totally logical, but still totally exasperating question I was asked at brunch on Sunday. Not exasperating because of the person who asked it. No,he’s a good friend who is well versed in nutrition, a brilliant medical consultant in his own right, and an endurance athlete who understands physiology quite well.
And guess what? Diabetes is still confusing to someone like him. That’s because this is a confusing disease to explain in general. Think about it:
So, what is diabetes?
Having diabetes means I don’t make any insulin, which your body needs to break down food into usable energy.
So you take artificial insulin?
So can you eat whatever you want?
So why are you downing that Coca Cola right now like there’s no tomorrow?
I took too much insulin by accident, so now I have to bring my sugar levels back up.
So sometimes you have to eat sugar?
No, it’s not.
But wait, you said earlier you didn’t want any cookies, I thought you just said that having diabetes means you have to eat enough sugar?
If you were naive to diabetes, can you imagine how hard it would be to take away a main, overarching concept from a discussion like that? Too much sugar one moment, too little the next. One minute we’re totally ok with a slice of birthday cake, the next minute we’re throwing out the diabetes excuse to refute mashed potatoes. Who can keep up with all that? I’m the one who has diabetes and it barely makes sense to me some days.
Sure, we all like to think we have a science behind every diabetes management decision we make, but do we really? Or are we just really trying to keep the balance between lows, highs, and having a life in between? Having diabetes means you are trying to recreate something that the body does as automatically as breathing, and we all know the human decision-making process is no match for the work of art that is human physiology. Still we try, and we try to explain it to those around us in a way that makes it easy to understand. But the truth is, living with diabetes is complex and layered, and as confusing as all get out.
Sometimes, I just want to play in to every stereotype I’ve ever heard about diabetes and when someone asks me why I’m eating this or not eating that I can just say:
“I got the sugars.”