My low carb journey and why it didn’t work in the long run.

For a little over two years I managed to postpone injecting myself with insulin. As I mentioned before, I was terrified of it and my medical team had always told me insulin should be a last resort. This is the story of my low carb journey.

October 2018. I had already stopped eating the occasional piece of chocolate, would not

eat white pasta or rice, stopped drinking juice,.. I did everything a ‘good diabetic’ should do and avoided all high sugar and high GI (glycemic index) foods. It just wouldn’t do the trick. I kept getting ‘worse’. I couldn’t keep my HbA1c in check. I kept failing. A dietician in my previous diabetes team suggested trying low carb. And I jumped at it!

It was a miracle! My constant headache, from high blood sugars, disappeared and I felt so much better. I could lower the amount of glyclazide (an oral med that stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin) I was taking and thereby diminish the side-effects I was experiencing from those. I even managed to lower my HbA1c to a non-diabetic level. I was so proud of myself!

The first year I felt like this way of eating was the answer to all my diabetes prayers. I only had eliminated the high carb (processed) foods and certain fruits from my diet. I stopped eating bread, pasta, rice, all types of dough, grains and oats. But I added all kinds of other delicious foods I was first told I couldn’t eat on a ‘regular’ diabetes diet. I enjoyed eating like this! This was the way to go and I was convinced this would keep me healthy forever.

- For those unfamiliar with a regular diabetes diet, we are typically advised to eat quite high in carbs but very low in fat and just avoid all ‘sugar’ like sweets and baked goods. Further you just have to eat ‘healthy’, or whatever that means! -

Of course this wasn’t the ultimate fix. Even when eating just a little bit of carbs, your body needs insulin to get it in the cells where it can provide its energy. Over a time of two years I kept decreasing the amount of carbs I would eat. I had become very restrictive in my food choices and would try to avoid every carb if possible. I stopped eating carrots and other starchy veg, would count my strawberries, stopped using regular milk,.. And still I experienced high blood sugars (>250 mg/dl or >14 mmol/L) almost every day. The headaches reoccurred and I felt tired all day. Despite this I tried to work out every day in an attempt to lower my blood sugar.

You can see this way of life wasn’t sustainable in the long run. I had developed a bad relationship with food and exercise and was convinced my lack of control was my fault entirely. I was in a place of extremes with no freedom and a lot of self-loath.

I love cooking and I love to work out, but this wasn’t my choice any more. I had to cook healthy every day. I had to run. I had to go on a walk to lower my post meal spike. It was so exhausting! It would never stop. The days I decided to rest or have a treat would make me feel sick because of the high blood sugars. I was punishing myself either way.

I now see clearly this wasn’t healthy anymore - physically or mentally – and I believe this contributed to me developing a depression in the end.

I am grateful I got the help I needed and was able to take a break and reflect on my life at that time. I am happy with the changes I made and don’t regret my journey. I am stronger in the end because of it.

I guess my take away message is this: be kind for yourself and don’t blame yourself for things out of your control. I get this is difficult. I am a (recovering) perfectionist myself. But it’s so important!

If you are struggling with diabetes or another chronic illness, know that you sadly don’t have full control over your body. You can develop a healthy lifestyle – I strongly recommend you do! – but always look for balance. A healthy lifestyle includes both body and mind!

I do believe balance is key in all parts of life. Be it health or work, family, etc. You can’t pour from an empty cup.