When I was first diagnosed I got filled with nervous tension before every family gathering, picnic, BBQ, or sporting event. Anytime I had no control over the food being served I had to think of what I would eat and how would my blood sugar handle what might be available.
Well meaning friends and family used to make great efforts to contact me ahead of time to tell me what they were serving and ask if they could make me something special. This was graciously accepted and I was grateful for their concern as in the beginning I was so very clueless and overwhelmed.
Over time I have found great comfort in keeping control of my food choices by using one wonderful tool…my lunchbox. My lunchbox has traveled to numerous family parties and every business trip I have taken. I still ask family and friends for a heads up on what they plan to serve but I now insist that they do NOT make things special just for me. When someone is hosting 40+ people for Thanksgiving or Easter the last I thing I need them worrying about is me.
Obviously small family dinners are different and my close family avoids high carb foods when I’m around, and for this I am grateful to have family that has over time gathered a collection of meals we can all enjoy together.
I travel fairly regularly for work and I will not leave my food to chance. TSA will let you pack food and an ice pack as long as the pack is frozen solid. I like to use the freezer packs they send with my insulin because I am not heartbroken if for some reason I need to throw it out.
Flying over dinner or lunch? I look for a Jimmy Johns and grab an Unwhich (sandwich wrapped in lettuce) or a grocery store and grab deli meat and cheese and veggies and dip.
Mornings are a rough time for my blood sugars even without food so I can not eat 99% of the nutritionally deficient choices offered in an airport if I have an early flight. (Sorry, but a Coke and a breakfast pizza or even better a the bag of chips I’ve commonly seen eaten just aren’t going to work out too well. Seriously, the things that are defined as “breakfast” in an airport is more than alarming but I digress).
I have found that two hard boiled eggs are my best option. They stink and I never eat them on the actual plane. Sometime I get a little look while waiting for my flight but I have to poke my fingers 6-8 times a day and sleep with an insulin pump that likes to beep just as I’m falling asleep so I’m declaring entitlement to my stink food.
I also pack veggies and dip (put the small container of dip in with your other bottles and gels and TSA won’t bother you), trail mix, and popcorn. I once had a TSA agent look through the bag and he laughed and said “this is all healthy stuff! Not what I usually see.” I’ll take that compliment.
Ever been invited to pizza party at a friends house? Since having kids this seems to happen quite often. Being a pizza lover who no longer cares what others think of me, I have brought my own low-carb wrap that I toast for a pizza crust along with my sauce and toppings and make it at their house. No one cares that you are making your own food, as long as they don’t have to make it for you.
Love dessert? I do. I also admit that certain desserts are off limits and will have extreme power over me if I don’t prepare for the fight. I don’t do cake. Love it, but my sugars hate it. So I try to bring something sweet that I can safely enjoy with the hopes that the delicious tempting power of cake and brownies will be defeated.
Do all of these preparations take effort and do they at times draw attention to your diabetes? Yes.
You can’t make your diabetes disappear, and please, please don’t act like it isn’t there. You wouldn’t ask a person with a broken foot to walk without crutches or a person with impaired vision to leave their glasses at home. Food is our treatment and our menace and you need to control food like the medical necessity that it is. No one understands your body better than you and therefore you alone have to take care of it. That means making smart choices, being prepared, and speaking up.
I’m a firm believer that you are allowed to take a certain amount of pride in taking care of yourself and this disease. You are allowed to admit that you are not like everyone else and that at times you need to speak up for your own health. When a friend randomly suggests Chinese food for dinner, you are allowed and should speak up and say “I can’t eat there”.
However, you also live with this disease every day and you need to remember that to others this disease is like a foreign language. They don’t think diabetes 24/7 and likely didn’t even realize why that food would be a problem. It is also your responsibility to avoid being a stuck-up chronic disease monster and offer a solution like, “you guys get take out and I’ll run over to xyz restaurant and grab a salad and meet you at your house or the park.”, or be ready with a restaurant that you are comfortable with.
Taking care of your diabetes in the ways that are best for you and create the most predictable results is a huge part of taking the focus off your disease and allowing you to focus on all the other parts of your life. You free yourself from worrying about where you will find lunch while on a road trip for work, or starving at a friends birthday because all they are serving is pasta and dessert. Instead you focus on doing your job or enjoying being with the people you care about.
Is this a fool proof system? Absolutely not. I still have times when I’m caught with only the half-eaten, stale granola bar in my purse or at a party where I come home and promptly make an omelette because I’m so crazy with hunger after watching other people eat. But, as with anything in diabetes or life, you do your best and you make a conscience effort to try better next time.