Saint Patrick’s Day was a challenging diabetes day this year. I went to South Boston with my boyfriend to visit his family and enjoy a fun-filled day at the parade. Of course, I knew there would to be an array of tempting treats to munch on, and I was correct in my assumption. There was a plethora of carb-heavy foods: cookies, cakes, breads, pastas, and festive, sugary snacks as far as the eye could see.
My brain went into overdrive as I tried to calculate the number of carbohydrates before me. Was there anything that I could eat without spiking my blood sugar? Should I deprive myself, and just choose one thing to eat? How much insulin would be the accurate dose for that one item? What if my sugar plummeted, only to peak again once I ate one of those delicious desserts to corrected it? With these thoughts running rampant through my mind, I felt the sting of defeat as I started to draw up my insulin. As the needle pricked my skin, I was wishing I could partake in carefree eating with the rest of the group.
I’d like to be able to say that every meal I consume isn’t this emotionally draining, but diabetes combined with any kind of food intake is always a challenging affair. Throw in a high or low blood sugar reading, and chaos is unleashed on the body. I’ve always known this, but it was only as I started reading Ginger Vieira’s Emotional Eating with Diabetes, that I acknowledged just how much eating impacts the mind. It’s not only about the body.
I’ll admit, I was slightly skeptical when I began to read Vieira’s book. After all, the subtitle says that the book is “your guide to creating a positive relationship with food.” I thought to myself, I haven’t had a positive relationship with food in fifteen years. How will this book change my perspective? Quickly, my mindset changed as Vieira introduced the book’s focus. She explains the thoughts that stream through a diabetic’s mind as they sit down to eat, thoughts I know all too well.
I cannot stress how many times I’ve thought “this is definitely, absolutely totally going to screw up my blood sugar later today. I don’t care. I’m used to it,” or “I’m such a bad diabetic for eating this,” or “I can’t be perfect. What’s wrong with me?” With these series of thoughts, Vieira perfectly describes the emotional impact of eating on a diabetic. She goes on to say how it is her goal to “build a relationship with food that leaves you feeling proud of your choices” and to provide “the knowledge that you are giving your body and your life with diabetes the compassion you need and deserve.” With this thesis statement in mind, I eagerly read the rest of the book.
The third chapter of Emotional Eating with Diabetes, where Vieira talks about the consequences of over-treating low blood sugar, resonated most strongly with me. When my blood sugar falls to the 50-60 range, my instinct is to grab any and every snack in sight to fix the low as quickly as possible. Vieira explains that this is common, because the “brain keeps telling you, “More. More. More.” Unfortunately, giving into the brain’s demand for more food delivers punishing guilt, high blood sugars, and extra pounds. I was shocked when Vieira broke it down even further to how the average blood sugar binge generates 500 calories per low, leading to an intake of 24,000 extra calories per year. I couldn’t believe these numbers, especially when I saw that the recommended treatment for lows is a meager 60 calorie snack. This chapter of the book functioned as a wake-up call for me, and I couldn’t wait to read about Vieira’s solution for negative relationships with food.
As I continued reading the book, I understood Vieira’s main point, that it’s essential for me to remind myself that I’m in control of what I eat. She summarizes her chapters with mantras that are meant to emphasize that I have the power over the food, not the other way around. She concludes the book with a plan for success that includes some guidelines to create a healthy relationship with food. Vieira emphasizes that the key to improvement is self-encouragement and self-acknowledgement in terms of progressing bit by bit, day by day.
I applaud Vieira for writing a book that functions as a voice for the diabetic struggling to have a harmonious relationship with their mind, body, and food. She utilizes a conversational tone that makes the book an easy and engaging read. I found myself completely drawn in by her points, and I was left completely satisfied when I finished reading the book. Finally, someone put into words exactly how I feel each time I sit down to eat! When Vieira explained why I was feeling the way I do when I am faced by tempting food or experiencing a low blood sugar, it instantly clicked in my mind. She resuscitated my determination to gain control over my food intake. Thanks to Vieira, the next time I sit down to have a meal or attend a holiday party, I’ll be feeling confident in my food choices and empowered by my plan for success.
Ginger Vieira is the author of Your Diabetes Science Experiment: Live your live with diabetes, instead of letting diabetes live your life.