Why Can’t I Eat Cake Too?


When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes I was told many things about controlling my diabetes, many dos and don’ts, most of which I ignored. The one thing the stuck in my mind was the basic guideline that as long as my A1c was under 7% and I didn’t have a lot of  lows, I would live a long healthy life-  at least as far as diabetes complications were concerned.


Since my diagnosis, I’ve done everything I can to keep my blood sugar under control even though it’s meant making drastic changes in the way I eat.


Magnolia Bakery Pink Ribbon CupcakeOne of the first nutritional decisions I made, the very day I was diagnosed, was that sugar was totally off limits. I understood that my body couldn’t process it, and moreover, my body didn’t need it for anything.  I don’t think anyone told me to cut out sugar entirely, but it seemed like a logical decision.  I began to treat sugar as if I were allergic to it.  It needed to be avoided entirely.


I also limited my carb intake, but still indulged in pizza, pasta, beer and other high carb foods from time to time. The problem was that every time I ate these foods, some of which were my favorites, my blood sugar got out of control.  It either went too high and made me feel sluggish, or else I’d over estimate the amount of insulin I needed and end up too low. Sometimes both happened, which would really wipe me out for hours.


A little over a year ago, after reading Eric Devine’s article on ASweetLife, I decided to go on the Paleo Diet.  That meant cutting out all grains, potatoes, rice and other high carb foods, as well as dairy. The diet was a little bit miraculous- my A1c dropped and my blood sugar control became much better.  A few months ago I took another step in getting better control and hooked up to an insulin pump.  Between my diet and my pump, I was doing incredibly well.  My A1c was down to 6.3%


Then I made a mistake.  On my birthday I decided to indulge and have pizza for dinner.  It was great, at least at first. After a very fun and enjoyable meal I spent a few hours fighting my blood sugar down, feeling tired and frustrated.  The way I felt was too big of a price to pay for a meal, no matter how good it tasted.


As long as I’ve had diabetes, I have struggled to keep my A1c under 7%.  It’s not easy.  It takes effort and tremendous discipline. The reason I bring this up is because I’ve been reading a lot of posts by different D-bloggers (and on the Accu-Chek Diabetes Heroes site) about how diabetics can eat whatever they want- cake, ice cream, cookies and what not. Really?  Not me.  Not this diabetic.


Wait. Don’t get angry.  Before you think I’m about to tell you what you can or can’t eat let me say that I don’t think your diet is anyone’s business. What you choose to eat and how you manage your diabetes is all up to you, and I’m not judging you. What I want to understand is how you do it. How does someone eat a carb based diet (like most people do), eat pizza, cake and ice cream and still keep blood sugar under control?  (Control here is defined as A1c under 7% with very few lows.)

 Is it me? Am I doing diabetes all wrong?


Running Update: I ran my last hills this morning, finishing phase 1 – “Hills Training” – of training towards my next marathon. I’ve been running 50+ miles a week for the last 4 weeks, and will probably hit 55 miles this week.

*Cupcake picture from Magnolia Bakery web site – For every Pink Ribbon Cupcake purchased throughout the month of October, Magnolia will donate 50 cents to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I wonder if they will be having a blue one next month.

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Gloria Mcmillian
Gloria Mcmillian
2 years ago

I am type 2 gor 3 months. I eat what I want just not as much. I have yet to learn how to let go of good food. My blood surgar is low every morning. My Endo said it was going too low at night. My a1c is 4.6. I have been eating food more lately that is not what my doctor wants me to eat. I still have yet to follow the diet plan given to me. I will in time but still trying to understand so much information. I do not exercise yet. I am retired and have… Read more »

9 years ago

Michael,  I want to know too!  This summer I attended a presentation by a dietician and was told that non-athletes should have 4-5g cb/kg (that’s 280-350 cb/day for me as a 155-lb woman).  As an athlete (at least 45 min of exercise most days of the week), I was told, I should have 350 cb/day minimum.  I fail miserably at consistency and usually eat about 150-200 carbs/day, but I know I do best on days when I limit myself, like you, to 40-80.  I couldn’t believe the recommendation to eat 280-350! I’m surprised when I learn that others do not have… Read more »

Catherine Price
9 years ago

Hi Melisa, Sorry to hear about your daughter’s diagnosis. I’m sure it’s tough. 

I’ve tried eating high carb foods before long runs. If I don’t take insulin I go too high and if I do I usually crash after an hour. So I try to not eat at all before I run And eat some extra carbs the day before. I only eat 40-80 grams of carb a day now. I know I would be better off eating more but I can’t seem to get it right. I may need to experiment  some more with my pump,


9 years ago

My daughter is almost 4 yrs old and diagnosed with T1 in Feb. 2010. One of our nurses once said that little people are sensitive to carbs and sensitive to insulin. Up, down, up, down. So when our girl has pizza, wow, it’s a pain. From what I’ve seen, and my own interest in running and other sports, if I had diabetes I would eat pizza or pasta before long distance running or biking. My guess is it would keep blood sugars from crashing! But, I cannot try this myself to check my theory. My daughter also has celiac and we… Read more »

9 years ago

As a newly diagnosed Type 1, this post really speaks to me.  I’m finding that it makes other people, including some medical personnel, much more comfortable to say I can eat what I’ve always eaten.  I was a huge sugar junky!  Would I really want to keep that up?  Not now that I’m riding the learning curve of insulin dosing.  I’m also fairly certain I won’t want to eat sugar-laden foods once I’m better educated about my body’s insulin needs.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for confirming that what I eat is nobody’s business but my own.

Dr. Margaret A. Morris

Forget diabetics– how can anyone eat cake? It has to be really good to make the calorie-per-unit-of-pleasure ratio worthwhile :) When it is that good, though, I manage it by eating maximally a few bites, pre-bolusing, and, if possible (though often it’s not if during a social gathering), walking/dancing/something afterwards. 

Deborah Kanter
9 years ago

I do keep good control and occassionally enjoy small portions of ice cream or pastry.  Last week at the cider mill, I had my first donut (actually a half donut) in 18 months. I had anticipated this; ate a healthy breakfast earlier and avoided the cider. I have to really want the treat–it has to be excellent quality & then I have a small amount. These ocassions may arise once or twice a month and do not turn into a binge day.
Then again I’m T2 and maybe its a different story.

Amy Stockwell Mercer
9 years ago

Michael, this is a fascinating post about a topic I’m writing about in my upcoming book (The Smart Woman’s Guide to Eating Right with Diabetes), I hope you will let me interview you for it! I also don’t eat pizza or cake because after 26 years of diabetes, I’ve realized the deliciousness that lasts for a few moments, isn’t really worth the highs and lows. But, I’m a 40 year old mom and it’s easier for me to follow a diet of moderation. When I was 16, there was no way in hell I was going to pass up that… Read more »

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