Just before I turned 14, in the middle of my eighth grade school year, my father, brother, and I left Houston and moved to NYC. We moved into a sublet on 108th Street and Riverside Drive. In contrast to sunny Houston, NYC was gray. Our building was dreary, and the wind off the river was so bitter it stung my face. But that was all tolerable because it was above ground. The most shocking hardship I faced in NYC was the subway ride to my school, Friends Seminary, on East 16th Street. The underground world was different – especially when we changed trains in Times Square. The stench of urine was so overpowering I had to hold my breath. And there was no escape from the devotees of L. Ron Hubbard, and their aggressive attempts to sell me copies of Dianetics.
Every ride to and from school felt like the journey in The Way Back. The one respite after a crowded subway ride home from school with my face stuck in the armpits of the passengers around me was a little shop called Happy Donuts down the street from my building. After we exited the subway station, my brother and I made a daily stop at Happy Donuts, and carried our treats home in a little white paper bag so we could eat them while we played Nintendo. (Looking back with the eyes of a mother, I can’t imagine allowing my sons to eat donuts every day nor can I imagine letting them eat them on the couch while playing a video game: crumbs and sticky fingers! My father, though, never told us not to buy donuts. I suppose he was just relieved we made it home. And, hey, the donuts were Happy and I wasn’t. Maybe he thought some of the donuts’ joy would rub off on me.)
The point of this story, I suppose, is to tell you that I am a big fan of donuts. But I have diabetes, so I don’t eat them. Now, I’d like to ask you to refrain from telling me that people with diabetes can eat anything they want. Sure, we can. But the consequences of donut-eating in a diabetic are harsh. It’s an almost guaranteed blood sugar disaster. Everyone with diabetes knows how difficult it is to bolus for a combination of sugar, wheat flour, and fat. But apparently the organizations and companies that represent people with diabetes and produce products for us, haven’t yet wrapped their brains around a very simple concept: junk food screws us over. Every. Single. Time.
I’m really not the type to throw out conspiracy theories. Really not. But when I attended a Dexcom party in Chicago a few days ago (which I was told by unofficial sources was a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association (ADA)) and saw the biggest donut spread in the history of the world, my first thought was: Are they fucking kidding me? My second thought was: these guys are making sure they profit off our diabetes. How many blood glucose test strips will I use while I try to cover my donut? How badly will I wish I had a continuous glucose monitor while I’m pricking my finger every ten minutes to see the donut damage?
I wish I’d taken a picture of the make-your-own-donut spread. There was a long, long table with naked glazed donuts and beside them all sorts of add-ons, like chocolate syrup, sprinkles, etc. It was tortuous to be so close to those drool-worthy donuts. But never mind that it was insensitive to put a donut spread in front of diabetics. Where are your PR people, Dexcom? All you smart people taking care of diabetics – don’t you realize that serving donuts at a party to raise money for the American Diabetes Association – or any other diabetes-related organization – is like having a smoking party to raise money for lung cancer patients? It’s begging for ridicule. You’re giving the Onion free headlines.
So, at the party I had a little chat with an ADA person. “What’s with the donuts?” I asked. He shrugged, looked a bit embarrassed and told me it was an “after party” and “ a dessert party.”
Quick facts for the party planners: Diabetes doesn’t go away after dinner. And while the ADA suggests 45-60 grams of carb per meal is about right for most people (I disagree), a donut with toppings would likely run somewhere between 50-80 grams of carb.
But what’s really at stake here is not one party, one carb count, or one day of highs and lows, but rather, it’s the message you’re sending. In a country with soaring levels of diabetes and obesity, when you serve donuts, you’re saying, “We don’t care.” When you set piles of donuts out to tempt those of us who can’t secrete insulin, you’re not cool, you’re cruel.
You can’t work in diabetes and ignore the food issue. It’s true that having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t have dessert. But dessert can be dark chocolate covered almonds, small truffles, cherries, berries with cream, bite-sized sweets. There are many options that aren’t over-the-top. And it’s also okay to tell people – loudly and clearly – that one of the best ways to keep blood glucose levels in range is to avoid eating things like donuts. In fact, I’d argue that it’s part of your job.