My husband Craig has been really into cycling recently. This is something I’m totally encouraging him to do. He works so hard, it’s nice for him to have an outlet, something fun to do. Plus, it’s exercise! What a great example of fitness for our family. And he does it with a buddy. So I was super excited for him as he headed off on a recent Saturday morning ride. But later, he came home with something a bit surprising, and it came in a pink box.
The box contained donuts for the whole family. We like donuts -- don’t eat them often but enjoy them tremendously when we get the chance. This particular box also contained … a GIANT DONUT. It was seriously about the size of a dinner plate or a small cake. My reactions were so mixed on this. In fact, the giant donut rather perfectly summarizes my conflicted feelings about diabetes and consuming sugar. Here goes.
On the one hand, when I see a giant donut, I look at it as a challenge. Yes, donuts can be challenging to bolus for, to make sure that James gets the proper amount of insulin. But that’s not even the source of my feelings. Rather, I’ve had so many people – well-meaning people -- who express their condolences that James can’t eat sugar, or candy, or cookies, or cakes or donuts. Still other people will act indignant if they see us eating anything less than tofu and salad. We must be completely irresponsible!
Both sets of people are still more familiar with the much older style of diabetes management that dramatically limited all sugar. Most endocrinologists today take a much more measured approach to sweets and treats -- to the point that today, the mantra is more about matching insulin to the carbs consumed than trying to change the diet. To these friends and acquaintances, many of whom know about as little about diabetes as I did before James’ diagnosis, I am eager to express that “YES HE CAN EAT DONUTS,” and what better way to send that message than to be seen eating the world’s most humongous donut!
Then again, on the other hand, I’m a bit of a health nut. We eat hardly anything with artificial colors or preservatives. We try to eat “whole foods” as often as possible. My kids get dessert about once a week at home (though we eat sweets far more often than that -- what can I say, goodies are ubiquitous in circles with lots of little kids!), and even then the portions are small. We save our candy throughout the week to consume at movie night, when each kid selects three small pieces.
Why this apparent contradiction? I think because in my heart of hearts, I don’t feel that ANYONE needs to consume THAT much sugar. All of us, whether or not we have diabetes, need to make sure that we feed our body mostly healthy foods: lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. We pretty much drink only milk or water. James gets more juice than the rest of us, because he needs it sometimes to bring up a low blood sugar.
From this perspective, the giant donut is considerably LESS appealing. And in addition to my own regular-sized donut, I am looking at that thing and realizing that I’m probably going to be sick if I try to eat even a small portion.
The long and short of this “conflict” is that my reaction to the giant donut was not quite as enthusiastic as my sweet and well-meaning husband intended. The good news is that the kids were over the moon. While they consumed their sweets (yes, they ate the giant donut!), I was tidying up in my bedroom. My husband’s phone buzzed, and I thought he was getting a call. I reached up to bring it to him and realized instead that he was receiving a text. It was from his cycling buddy and read as follows, “Got home, my wife isn’t as excited about the giant donut as I thought she would be, I’m shocked.” And I just had to laugh. Sometimes it really ISN’T about diabetes, we just happen to look at it through that lens.
About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our three boys. Our oldest son James has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I’m thankful for this opportunity -- along with my sister-in-law Kim and her daughter Kaitlyn, who also has type 1 diabetes -- to share our struggles and triumphs with our friends in the diabetes community.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.
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