Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It Looks Easy, Until You Look Closer

I recently had a moment when the gulf between me as a type 1 diabetic and someone else as a non-diabetic widened significantly.

A coworker started trying to figure out a food alternative for me.  She'd planned on pizza for a staff lunch, and I told her I couldn't eat delivery pizza and would just go pick something up for myself.  (Pizza isn't on some diabetic no-no list, but it's a tough food that doesn't work out for me.)  She immediately said, "Well, what can you eat?"

Enter another complication: my own fear of being an imposition.  I'm pretty much never going to say, "Let's get such-and-such food instead of pizza," in a situation like this, so I ventured, "Where are you ordering from?  I can look at their online menu and see if they have something like a good salad."

But she had no clue where she'd order the pizza from yet, and really just sought after a more general answer that would basically let her order like, "Hi, random pizza joint I picked about 5 seconds ago?  I'd like three pizzas, and do you have any salads?  OK, yeah, send a salad."

So I explained, "Well... it's just that I have to know what I'm getting, because I have to know how many carbs are in it."

So she asked again, "Well, what can you eat?"  And I think, fine, I'll give you a shot.  And I attempted to explain what, to me, has become a subtle and mostly quick process...

"There are a lot of factors, but it helps if it's not both high carb and high fat.  It's even better if it's not either."  Already her eyes started to glaze, probably from trying to think of convenient foods that are neither high carb or high fat.  "But the most important thing is that I know how many carbs are in what I'm eating, so I have to be able to either look up the nutrition or order something simple enough that I can make a really good guess based on the portion size."

Her eyes glazed further, and I knew it was time to stop.  She was staring at me across this great gulf of diabetes management that suddenly made me feel rather... separate and different.  I don't really expect others to know what my food and insulin involve, but I also didn't expect someone to look utterly at a loss when told the basics.  (And, honestly, I also wonder if she thought I was intentionally being difficult.)  So I let her off the hook (the hook she'd asked for!) with, "I can eat almost anywhere.  If you just tell me where the pizza's coming from, I can pick something else off the menu."

But she backed off of that hook even further with, "Why don't you just go pick something up?"  To which I gladly agreed.

The fact that this woman knew I'm diabetic and had eaten meals (which includes testing and bolusing) with me before yet seemed baffled by the simplest explanation of how I choose my food reminded me that, when I was first learning this stuff, I was so impressed by the people with T1 diabetes that I've known; they made all that stuff look so easy!  But the truth is that they'd simply incorporated it into their lives.  The decisions and calculations that were so new and awkward to me were just a part of their routine, so I had no idea how much went into them.  Had they started explaining everything to me (before it applied to me), maybe I'd have glazed over.

As I've said many times, diabetes management is doable.  I can do it, and you can do it if you have to (and I know some of you do!).  But it's still complicated and difficult, and even those people who make it look easy have a hard time of it once in a while.

(I wonder how my coworker would have reacted if I'd mentioned fast-acting carbs vs. slow-acting.  Her head might have exploded right then and there!)


  1. Ugh. I loathe the group food-ordering process. Pizza is impossible for me, too, so I almost always opt for anything else in the world....and yet it's certainly a favorite for gatherings! (And now I don't eat meat, either....)

    I think at this point, I just automatically resign myself to requesting generic salad and a self-promise for an especially awesome dinner.

  2. Karen: I totally stress about group meals with people who don't already know and understand I may be quirky about it.

    And it was a sad, SAD day when I decided I had to give up delivery pizza. I cheat and have a slice on occasion, always with terrible results. Thank goodness I discovered Amy's frozen pizzas don't jack with my BG any more than any other bready food!

  3. Haha! OMG, this is such a common situation with me. What's worse, is my sis-in-law just had a series of gallbladder attacks and of course, with those, you can't eat fatty foods. They all listened and went along with her "food demands" of 'let's eat lower-fat foods so I can eat with you' pleas, while I've been in the family for over 5 years and have been screaming the same thing the whole time and they still deep-fat-fry everything and eat at the fattiest of places to eat. It's amazing how the table turns and people understand when it's something straight forward like a gallbladder-related issue. When it comes to diabetes, it's a whole different ball game and they just don't want to understand or don't want to take the time to or do what your coworker told you - just pick something else up for yourself - further making you feel like an outsider.
    Sorry for the ramble. In short - I know what you mean! :-))

  4. Elizabeth,

    I came across your blog while looking into metal allergies and the Dexcom sensor. You state that you have a nickle allergy and so I am wondering how you have done with the glucose sensor sites? Do you need to change them more often or have you had any problems at all.
    I am type 1, nearly 30 years now. I have twins boys (4 years old) too. I have tried the Minimed CGM and have had issues with it; sites getting irritated after 24 hours and the beginnings of cellulitis, not to mention readings that make me check my sugars about every 30 minutes (for lows). So now I am doing what research I can to determine if I should ultimately give in and buy a Dexcom to help manage the diabetes.
    Could you let me know what your experience has been and if you have had any problems with the sites. I know at this point you are probably very busy with a new bundle of joy but thought I would see what you have to offer.

    Thanks in advance,