Deny-abetes. Do you have it too?
One of my friends was just diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes. It’s common in us Asian ladies – something to do with a genetic tendency to carry more fat around our waists, which increases insulin resistance, even if we’re not overweight and have a low-BMI.
Anyway, who cares about scientific theories? As far as she’s concerned it’s payback for surviving her twenties on a “vegetarian” diet of Pine-Lime Splices and cake (I say “vegetarian” because – vegetarian diets were once thought to include actual vegetables.)
She’s in denial about her diabetes, just as I was when I got it during pregnancy. They call it deny-abetes. It’s when perfectly able-minded people go into shutdown about their diagnosis.
Well, because it sucks.
Getting type-2 diabetes, if you’re lucky enough to not know, is sort of like being shamed and bullied into changing your eating habits to be really, really boring. A typical diabetic’s meal shares similarities with Atkins meals – there’s emphasis on lean proteins and severely restricted carbohydrates.
So, see that burger and chips? Looks delicious, right? Now let’s make it diabetes-friendly. Throw out the bun, the chips, eat the patty, eat the beetroot, lettuce and tomato, but throw out any tomato sauce, mayo, butter, pick at the cheese, ask for egg, and try not to burst into tears.
And all this is not so you can lose weight to look good before you perform your wedding dance to Christina Aguilera’s ‘Dirrrty’ in a bikini and chaps. It’s so you don’t invisibly hurt yourself in a way that you don’t really understand and kind of half don’t believe. And please don’t lecture me about what a serious health issue this is and how many Australians it affects. I KNOW. Potential complications from diabetes include: heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, limb amputation, depression, anxiety and blindness. And it’s running rampant through our population.
The way managing diabetes was sold to my friend and I involved a fair bit of blame. We were made to feel foolish and irresponsible, as though we’re rapacious drug users who can’t help ourselves, and our drug of choice is candy. (Or in my case, rice and potato chips.) And the fact is, we’re not idiots. It’s painful and sad to give up things you love, and also slightly embarrassing. Treating patients like naughty children is likely to push them further into denial.
Both of us needed a little amnesty, a little private time alone with our beloved Golden Gaytimes, our French fries and baked potatoes, before we said goodbye once and for all.
Top five food hacks to help you survive diabetes*
1. Replace everything white with something green. For example, instead of eating spaghetti bolognaise, eat spinach bolognaise – the same sauce on a bed of baby spinach (it’s actually not that bad.)
2. Portion size is also a key way to control sugar spikes. So replace three big meals with five small and think of it as getting two extra feeds per day!
3. Low-fat dairy is a great staple, so work out how to make your own yoghurt. (Supermarkets sell yoghurt makers for about 15 bucks and they’re easy to use.) You’ll have the added bonus of feeling kind of virtuous and Amish.
4. Omelettes are the Crocs of the food world: practical, if wildly unsexy. They’re cheap, healthy and you can make them in the office microwave.
5. Work out which artificial sweeteners you can use (Stevia is the one I found least offensive) and then don’t be shy about inflicting it on your friends and family in “colourful” cooking experiments.
*I am not a nutritionist or a health professional, this is just what helped me.
If I could get a chef to make all my diabetic meals, this is what they would look like. (A spring salad from Bistro Molines, NSW)
Unfortunately when I cook, meals look more like this: Chicken meatballs with spinach-quinoa salad and two very, very thin slices of garlic bread.
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