Body Image, Food & Drink, Wellbeing

What I Eat… And Why

June 9, 2015
Brunch

A little while back I did a day in the life vlog of me pootling about living my life and having a little natter about type 1 diabetes. You lovely people seemed to enjoy it, so thanks for that. In it I did a fair amount of eating. Obviously. I briefly touched on the sorts of things I eat and the relationship I personally have with food. So I thought it might be useful and/or interesting for me (hopefully not just me…) to chat a little about the principles of the kinds of foods I eat, and how my perspective on food these days is a rather healthy, balanced one.

That perspective may sound pretty straightforward, but there was a point in my life where I felt completely controlled and entirely trapped by my relationship with food. If you’ve never had issues with food that probably sounds utterly ridiculous, but honestly and rather tragically, it was all consuming and really stopped me from living my life for a while. It wasn’t really about food (it never is), it was about me coming from a general place of feeling quite inadequate, which was all linked to my weight, which suffered because I couldn’t control my eating, which was linked to self-loathing… it’s your textbook downward spiral. And it makes me feel really, really sad these days. I’m putting this out there because I know a not insignificant amount of people with type 1 really struggle with food, due to the constant and inevitable link between the condition and the stuff we put in our mouths. There’s also the pressure we place on ourselves to get the numbers right, which doesn’t help when it comes to the whole being kind to yourself part.

Without a working pancreas you can never just eat for pleasure. I mean, I eat for ALL the pleasure, but first comes the testing and the counting and the dosing. The number of times I’ve sat down at the table dribbling with anticipation for the long-awaited Sunday roast, only to get up a few minutes later having realised I need my injection, to then see that the cartridge is empty, run to the fridge to get a new one, run upstairs to grab a new needle… by which time everyone’s having a jolly old time tucking in and enjoying general family larks. You get the idea. It can be reaaalllllyyyy damn irritating.

Then there’s the “should you be eating that?” question from an ‘innocent’ bystander as this diabetic chows down on a slice of cake. Slow. Clap. Yes I damn well should, thank you. As we well know and repeatedly explain, theoretically a type 1 diabetic can eat whatever they like. But like anyone else, if you eat a shitload of shit at every meal, you’re going to end up feeling like shit. For years and years I never made the connection between the food I was putting into my body and how my mind felt – how much spring was in my step, how much I felt like going out there and living my life. For every fad diet I tried, for every calorie I meticulously counted, for every food group I completely restricted, not ONCE did I pay attention to the ingredients on the packet- whether the food was real or fake, natural or processed, contained four ingredients or 40. And that’s why, I firmly believe, I lost my way a little bit. That, and the whole binging/starving cycle. Rough.

So where am I now? Well, I BLOODY LOVE FOOD. I get SO much unbelievable pleasure from it. I read about ingredients and nutrients and optimising my health in my free time. I love cooking, eating, eating out and food programmes. I’m interested in the state of the nation and how we’ve been sold through clever advertising a diet that’s made us sick, and how we eat for convenience and speed. I eat an abundance of flavours, textures and a shitload of veg because it tastes really, really good. That is not code for a piece of limp lettuce of a lunchtime, by the way. And I eat a LOT. Food enjoyment is a huge part of my relationship, and my friendships. And yet, there was a time when all food made me feel was despair.

So, Miss High and Mighty I’ve Seen the Light and Isn’t Life Just a Breeze Now, what changed? Don’t get me wrong, old habits die hard. Left to my own devices those naughty thoughts can creep in. But I’m ok to face how I feel about something now, rather than hide away and bury it in the guilt of stuffing my face. I used to completely fill my face without thinking, without even tasting the food. It was literally mind-numbing – to block out other feelings that I apparently couldn’t handle. Now I take time and care and attention over the foods I make or choose to eat, and I’m going to damn well savour them too. It’s also about filling your life with other things that you love and care about – healthy hobbies and passions and positive friendships, so that you have less time to spend on negative (incorrect) thoughts about what you’re not worth.

One of the main traps as far as I can see, is the cultivation of a guilt and reward mentality when it comes to food. If certain foods are good in your eyes, that makes others bad. If you’re on a wagon, you’re inevitably going to fall off it, and that is going to make you feel like shit because apparently you’ve failed. Let that wagon roll off into the sunset. There is no wagon. Instead, stop for a minute and think about which foods are going to make you feel amazing and enable you to go out and enjoy life, versus those that will hold you back, slow you down, make your brain play tricks on you or leave you asleep under the desk. From there it becomes easier to make choices that are going to benefit you. I’ve of course always got time for a Sunday roast or a bar of chocolate, but that’s because I know that it doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong, and that’s not the sort of food I want every meal of every day. You’re more likely to find me faceplanting a bowl of homemade guacamole. I eat well yes, but I’m entirely greedy.

Greens and Grains

Grains + Greens. Win.

I have only one guideline now. I don’t count, I don’t measure, I don’t weigh. I simply try, as much as possible, to only eat naturally occurring foods. That’s not to say I don’t eat chocolate or sweets sometimes because I do, but for the most part, for my main meals at least, I try and make sure that nothing dodgy has been added to my food. When faced with choices, say in a shop for lunch, I think about how well eating one is going to make me feel over the other. How it’s going to taste in my mouth – bland and boring or fresh and real and exciting. It usually makes the decision for me. Then once I’ve made that choice, unless it tastes shit (in which case I’ll be entirely outraged by the injustice. Food is life, people), I don’t think about that decision for another second more. I’ve made an informed decision and therefore it’s the right one, no matter what the actual food is. And if, on occasion, that informed decision is ‘I really fancy an amazing big sandwich today’, so be it.

Sausage Sandwich

Hey, sometimes it just happens.

So what do I generally eat? Ohhhh, so so much.

First up: serious amounts of veg in really exciting ways. Truckloads. Tonnes. Lettuce, cucumber and tasteless tomatoes do not a salad make, by the way. Of course you’re going to resent life if that’s what you restrict yourself to because you’re making an effort to be healthier. My salads are actual mountains, full of every possible flavour and colour and texture going. Roasted veggies play a big part. And FATS. I eat ALL the fats. Nutrient dense fats mind – fish and avocadoes and nuts and seeds and so much olive oil. These kinds of fats make me feel like my body is turning and ticking and roaring in the way it should. And cheese. Ohhhhhh gooey, creamy, delicious cheese. Not every day. But a fair amount.

All The Cheese

The answer, dear friends, is always cheese.

Then there are kickass proteins – I eat a whole lot of fish, and meat on occasion. I sometimes crave red meat but in the same way I crave dense greens – for the iron. Eggs are my religion – I eat them pretty much every day. They are the Ryan Gosling of food in my eyes. And no my cholesterol’s not high – foods that contains cholesterol (like eggs) do not raise your cholesterol. It’s a different thing.

Brunch

Brunch. For life.

Then we have the carbs. My fickle friend. Carbs are how we got here in the first place. The whole reason I started this blog was because I put my face in a load of books to try and get a grip on my blood sugars. And you know what? Cutting carbs for diabetics really, really works. When I did that, my blood sugars were more stable than ever before. But, you see, you’ve also got to live. Sushi = LIVING. So now, after many years of dedicated practice, I know which carbs I can handle without the major issue of blood sugar mayhem completly robbing me of my day, and which I can’t. For the most part, I will stick to things like oats, sweet potato, squash and amazing grains like quinoa (hello middle class life). These guys serve me well, and the others are left for the occasional brunch (sourdough bread I HEART YOU) and that oh-so-indulgent and entirely worth it roast dinner of dreams. But on the flip there’s nothing worse than eating shit carbs because they’re the only thing available. Conference sandwiches – I really don’t like you. As with all of this stuff, it’s just about giving it a go and seeing what happens. But be nice to yourself in the meantime, yeh? I *think* I average around 100g carbs a day, but I know the numbers I enter on the meter are often a guestimation. A guestimation built on nearly 20 years’ experience, mind. That seems to work pour moi.

9 Comments

  • Reply Cat Latuszek June 9, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    I hear you. I so hear you. I can do 30g of carbs a day…until someone puts a donut in my face and says “mmmmm doesn’t this look tasty?” Damn you, Krispy Kreme. Damn you to Hell.

    • Reply missjengrieves June 16, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      But the donut is ok! The guilt is not. That’s the shift that stopped me eating the second donut… and the third. Thank you for reading x

  • Reply Jo June 10, 2015 at 3:53 am

    Yes, yes and more YES. I completely relate to your experiences Jen – type 1 diabetes unfortunately exacerbates the guilt-ridden relationship we can have with food. I can totally relate to those crappy downward spirals, but I can also relate to the feeling of clawing control back through a positive outlook on food (and like you, I love ALL OF THE WHOLESOME YUMMY FOODS). Thank you for expressing these experiences with such clarity and humour x Jo

    • Reply missjengrieves June 16, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      Love this comment! This is EXACTLY where I’m coming from, and it took me a long time to get there! I’m so pleased you’ve shaken off the guilt, I think there are so many pressures that contribute to these feelings, it was a downward spiral that took me years to sort, and wasn’t really anything to do with food, in the end. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting x

  • Reply Catherine June 10, 2015 at 6:15 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever read anything before where it has described me in a nutshell…this just did: “It wasn’t really about food (it never is), it was about me coming from a general place of feeling quite inadequate, which was all linked to my weight, which suffered because I couldn’t control my eating, which was linked to self-loathing… it’s your textbook downward spiral. ”

    Thanks for the post – really enjoyed it!

    • Reply missjengrieves June 16, 2015 at 5:20 pm

      I think neither you nor I are alone in that – I really do think it’s something so many people struggle with, and the relentless nature of diabetes added to the mix really doesn’t help. I hope you are able to learn to be kind to yourself – no matter how many diets I tried I never really sussed it until I stopped being so mean to my poor self and my poor body that only wanted to keep me living and breathing! The title of this book is awful but if you look up ‘Women, Food and God’ by Geneen Roth, this was quite revelatory. Take care and thank you for reading x

  • Reply James July 9, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Thanks for this article I really enjoyed it. I have type 1 diabetes and I believe that stress affects my blood sugar a lot more than food does. I have found it difficult to take my blood sugar reading seriously when I’m under stress and that not many people understand how much high blood sugar makes you feel really shit. I totally agree that being kind to yourself is the key as diabetes can turn into one big prison. What a great article- i can never really take advice regarding food and how it affects diabetes as I know that stress or negative thoughts have such a direct relationship with diabetes.

  • Reply Lrod08 May 26, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Thanks for posting this. This gives me hope that I can change my relationship with food. I was diagnosed a few months ago with type 1.5 diabetes and am still extremely terrified of carbs. Terrified is an understatement. I carb and calorie count everything (to make sure I am getting enough calories as I am trying to gain my weight back). I eat the same bland diet every day just to know what will happen with my blood sugars, but it has been making me unhappy. I get no pleasure from food anymore and it depresses me. Just got started on insulin as I think my pancreas’s honeymoon is ending (even though some 1.5’s produce enough insulin for a while, I think mine is quickly tanking). Still scared of eating carbs though, even though the carbs I mainly eat and crave are veggies. I really want to be able to eat more different kinds of veggies as I did when I was normal. I hope that once I figure out my insulin doses I can eat more foods without stressing about it. Love your videos and blogs. Keep up the good work.

    • Reply missjengrieves June 9, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      Hi, thanks so much for reading and for your very honest comment. I can’t imagine how daunting it is to start all over again as an adult and having to figure this all out. What I can say it that it will get better. I switched to an insulin pump a year and a half ago and that made me feel like I had been diagnosed all over again – the anxiety I felt around eating was unreal – to the point that I just couldn’t be bothered with carbs as I knew it would upset my blood sugars. But as you learn and your body adapts, I promise it will get easier. I still get my calculations wrong but for the most part I know I can eat the things I choose to. Rely on the amazing diabetics online who know what you’re going through, and your specialist team. Good luck to you and thanks so much for stopping by – it means a lot xx

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