Mondays pretty much start the same way for me every week… The alarm goes off around 5:45am, and, silently cursing, I take stock of how I’m feeling… light-headed (hypo), a bit stiff (hyper) or just tired (‘in range’)? I drag myself to the bathroom and stand on the bathroom scales. And I sigh.
Diabetes is an enormous daily battle that I won’t rehash for the millionth time here and now. I’ve lived with diabetes for long enough now to be able make most days ‘better’ days, though I’m not impervious to the bad days by any means.
I’ve started writing this blog post a few times and I’ve held back – I’m scared of straying into unchartered waters and accidentally throwing opinions around on things I (and many other people) don’t really understand. But here we go.
I can tolerate Type 1 diabetes most of the time, but where I struggle every day is with my weight.
About 18 months ago I devoted a huge amount of energy and effort to tackling my weight and lost 3 (and a bit) stone to get to a position I was vaguely happy with. I cut my diet back to about 1200 (net) calories a day, ran 20-30 miles a week as well as doing four or five mornings a week on my exercise bike. It was exhausting and took over my life, but I did it. But that’s when it started to get difficult…
I’ve always found it (kind of) manageable to lose weight, but I’ve equally found it far too easy to put it back on again within a few months. This time I feel like something is a little different. I’ve had fluctuations obviously, but I’ve pretty much avoided piling the pounds back on. But it’s much harder work than it was to get to this position in the first place.
What I’ve discovered is that actually, my body only really needs around 120-1300 (net) calories a day anyway and regularly eating above that means I’ll put weight on. My diabetes consultant refers to it as being a ‘thrifty phenotype’ – basically if there’s an apocalypse, you’ll probably starve before me (sorry), but basically I don’t need a lot of food to keep ticking over.
This creates a number of problems for me. The first, and most obvious one is that I LOVE food so I feel like I’m constantly faced with the choice of skipping one meal in favour of another. Or I have the chance to go out and run 6 miles to be able have something. Whilst I both love and loathe running (it feels like life support to some degree), my life doesn’t allow the same number of opportunities a week to pound the pavement, so more and more I feel like I’m choosing breakfast plus one other meal.
The second problem is food guilt. I’m sadly not immune to the temptations of an occasional takeaway. Having skimped on calories for the rest of the day (and/or been for a run), I’ve been known to dabble in a chicken chow mein from time to time. The thing is that pretty much as soon as I’ve eaten it, I have an overwhelming feeling of guilt about what it’ll do for my weight and I’ll compensate for days afterwards too. I have genuine regret about something I’ve treated myself to, and I’m pretty sure it’s not healthy (the guilt that is, the takeaway definitely isn’t…). If I’m eating out at restaurants, I’ll pick a salad more often than not because it’s not a guilt-inducing. Having a hypo is a nightmare when I feel like this – I’m eating calories that I don’t want to correct it and I resent them for it.
The last problem is how it makes me feel. I’m writing this after stepping on the scales to find out I’ve put an improbable 4lbs on this week, and it’s pretty much all I’ve thought about all day. I knew last week I would have put a few on (about 3lbs) as I’d been away for Easter and it’s a lot harder to stick to a calorie goal while you’re away. But being back home hasn’t improved things. I know I used to be a lot heavier, but I look in the mirror and I’m fundamentally unhappy with how I feel. I hate the nagging from my inner voice before I eat anything…
I’m used to seeing food as numbers – it’s impossible not to when you’re doing mental arithmetic before you eat anything. But I see calories everywhere too, and calories scare me a lot. Having diabetes puts me at a greater risk of stroke, heart disease and cardio vascular disease, than people who aren’t ‘in the club’. I’m about twice as likely to suffer from one or more of those as a result of my diabetes, and being overweight doesn’t help my chances much either.
I’ve noticed that gradually, I’ve stopped cooking new things almost entirely because I know I can rely on the knowledge that what I eat most days, falls into safe zone and I don’t want to stray from that safety. I know when I do stray, I’ll have put weight on. And when I put weight on I’ll be miserable until I’ve lost it all. I feel like I’m resigned to logging everything I eat for the rest of my life to be able to stay at a healthy(ish) weight, and the though of that exhausts me.
I wrote recently about how a day off from having diabetes would be nice. Having a day off from this food guilt and unassailable obsession with my weight would be nice too.