When it comes to food, I am constantly learning and evolving. For example until yesterday, I had no idea that onions were high in carbs! Onions, really? I used onions all the time in my cooking and never accounted for them in my carb estimation. I used to think that I ate reasonably low carb until I interviewed Riva Greenberg for a story in Diabetes Health (High Carb, Low GI Diets). Riva explained that she too, used to think that she ate low-carb meals, but then realized her diet consisted of high carb, low GI foods. She talked about how she sometimes indulged in pretzels (not the giant, hot pretzels you get at baseball games, but the regular kind you find at the grocery store.), and I thought, really, pretzels are your indulgence? I always bought Snyders pretzels at the store and dipped them in hummus or cream cheese for a snack. But my conversation with Riva got me thinking that maybe I wasn’t as low carb as I thought.
I remember a conversation several years ago with my aunt, who was an avid runner and conscientious about her weight, suggested that if I ate fewer carbs, maybe I wouldn’t need as much insulin. This was at the beginning of the whole low carb craze and the Atkins diet and all she was eating was burgers with no buns. Who wanted a burger without a bun? I told her she was crazy.
“I have to eat carbs,” I said. “If I don’t, I’ll get low!” I remember feeling very defensive and thinking, of course I have to eat carbs, I’d always eaten carbs, I’d always been told to eat carbs by my doctors and nutritionists, right? Right? I shrugged off my aunt’s words, shedidn’t have diabetes and therefore didn’t know what she was talking about.
But her words lingered.
Turns out my aunt was right. The less carbs I eat, the less insulin I need, and if I am careful, I don’t have to worry (too much) about low blood sugars. Now, looking back at the advice I received from the medical community over the years, I get irritated. Why was I advised to include carbs as a necessary element to my diet? Why did I cling to the idea that I needed carbs to keep the lows at bay when what I really needed to keep the lows at bay was less insulin? I’m not a Dr. Bernstein follower because with a history of disordered eating, I need for food to not become too much of a focus in my life. I need it to be a matter of sustenance and pleasure, but not something I think about All The Time. I also like fruit, dairy and (high carb) veggies like onions. I like graham crackers, dark chocolate, and coffee, and I’m sure I’m forgetting other foods with carbs, but you get my point.
I’m finally realizing after 26 years of living with diabetes that carbs aren’t necessary, and that is different. It’s freeing actually, and kind of amazing that after all these years, I’m still learning.