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Jen Grieves


Food for thought from a foodie living with type 1 diabetes


or 20 years, I have paid strict attention to almost every morsel of food I have put in my mouth. Nothing unusual there, everyone takes a keen interest in what they're eating. Well, most people do anyway. But whether I like it or not, I make sure I have a thorough understanding of what I'm about to scoff because I have type 1 diabetes. I’m always judging the correct dose of insulin I’m about to devour. At the very least, I will avoid a pesky post-meal spike in blood sugar.

A spike can stubbornly linger well after the dinner is done. A hyper will remain, wholly unwelcome for hours, threatening to take over my day. And Post-meal low blood sugar isn’t much fun either but it can be dealt with promptly. As long as there is some sugar to hand.

Managing my blood sugar around mealtimes has always been a matter of trial and error.  When I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes I was placed on an insulin that required me to inject it 20 minutes before my meal. I would have to wait while everyone around me got tucked in. Torture!

A few years later I switched to what's known as fast-acting insulin.  Great! I can start eating immediately, just like everyone else. Or so I thought. I gradually learned, depending on my blood sugar level that waiting 10 to 15 minutes is a huge help in avoiding post-meal highs.

I didn't understand carb counting for years but now I couldn't live without it. I didn't know that splitting doses was a thing for a long time (if you haven't heard about this, you must chat to your GP or healthcare team). These days it's crucial for me if I ever want to indulge in the occasional pizza. And let’s be honest, who doesn't?

And then I had to start all over again when I switched from injections to pump therapy. Another steep learning curve. I cross-referenced various glucose metres, gadgets and carb-counting apps, wondering if I should split my insulin dose. By how much and for how long? The thought of eating at all, made my shoulders sink with all the added work I had to do. And I was scared of, inevitability not getting it right.

However, working out my doses became easier with time and practice. Practice does make perfect, when you’re practicing mealtime management multiple times a day!

I'm not sure it's possible to completely avoid post-meal spikes in blood sugar, but the more I tune into my body and it's needs, and the more I practice with the trickier meal dishes, the better I get.

I love cooking. I love eating out. I love restaurants. I love trying new things. I. Love. Food.

My friends and I never face the same plate of food with exactly the same mind-set. They get to tuck in immediately while I have to stop and think and count and dose. And I’ve came to accept that is absolutely fine. I have, through practice got to a point where I can approach mealtimes with just as much joy as anyone else at the table.

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