Hi, My Name is Sarah, and I’m Carb-a-Phobic.
Decision-making is a cause of anxiety. This is something a dear friend said to me once, long before I had diabetes. We were talking about one of the countless times I was catatonic in the face of making a life-decision (take this job or that job? Break up with him or keep giving it one more shot? etc.).
I haven’t forgotten that. Decision-making is stressful. And in this culture, we get a lot of it. I get to choose my career, my marital status, my dinner. This digital age also affords us freedom to make thousands of decisions at the touch of an iphone. I wonder if part of why we are an anxiety-ridden culture has something to do with being offered so much damn choice all the time.
Diabetics make about a thousand choices a day. The endless series of teeny-weenie decisions we make every hour is part of the silent mental toll of the disease.
So it’s with this in mind that I make the following confession.
I’m afraid of carbs.
Eating carbs means making decisions. It means estimating portion sizes, calculating ratios. It means trying to predict what my upcoming few hours will look like. If it’s 3pm and I snack on an apple, I can bolus for it and end up crashing if I bike home in two hours. I can also mis-calculate and end up super high. Plus, there’s all that literature I’ve read about how higher daily totals of insulin lead to weight gain, and so I want to keep my daily totals as low as possible cuz dammit I don’t want to be fat.
It’s psychologically easier to just eat a spoonful of almond butter.
But here’s the thing. Eating carbs is part of life, and there’s no reason why eating an apple on a typical afternoon should be a big deal. Insulin dosing, while an imperfect art, is still most-of-the-time predictable, and I should not be depriving myself of healthy foods because they also happen to metabolize as sugar in my blood. I should just get more used to carb-counting and trusting the Bolus Wizard to do what I’ve programmed it to do. And that if it happens to be a freaky day and my numbers are not optimal after my carb intake, I should get used to not-blaming myself, not-overreacting, and just treating the high or low sensibly and objectively.
That’s what I should do.
Instead, I’ve developed a carb-phobia. I think it began in moderation very soon after my diagnosis but has gotten a bit more severe in the past year. One sign of this is I’ve developed strong physical and psychological cravings for highly fatty foods. Almond butter, tahini, cheese, straight coconut or olive oils… I eat a lot of this stuff. Probably more than I should.
I’ve become a pseudo-Atkins person. I fear carbs, taking over-compensating comfort in high-calorie fats. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – these foods all have health properties of their own in moderation, and it’s good to fill up on healthy fats that will keep you full for longer than refined carbs. But when I’m standing in my kitchen, still hungry after a carbless dinner, spooning 3, 4, 6 spoonfuls of sesame butter into my mouth without satiety, I wonder…maybe I should just have had a bowl of rice with my meal.
Last week I noticed that I went through 2 and a half jars of almond butter and tahini. In seven days. That’s a lot. Also, I’ve gained weight in the past year, which I don’t TOTALLY mind (I’m 30 now! And curvy! And womanly! And not afraid to take up space! And active and generally healthy!), but I wonder how much extra caloric intake my fat-addiction and carb-phobia is causing. Objectively speaking, losing 5-10 lbs would do me no harm. And I have to remember: insulin isn’t the enemy. Carbs are not the enemy. It’s okay to eat some quinoa and take a hit of slin.
(For the record, DIABETES is the enemy, but I like to keep my enemies close.)
So I’m trying to eat more carbs, and for a little while at least, am cutting out nut butters entirely (too tempting to keep around while I transition from this addiction). While I’ll see an increase in daily totals of insulin, I want to trust that this alone won’t plunge me into obesity. I can also get more into the habit of actually measuring my portion sizes – cups of rice, sizes of potatoes, slices of bread. My carb-counting isn’t what it could be, and a big reason is that I have simply not included a lot of carbs in my daily lifestyle.
Today for lunch, I made a big bowl of brown rice and ate it with chick peas and sauteed kale, nutritional yeast sprinkled on top. A good 50 grams of carbs, for which I gave a big fat bolus. Deep breath. It’s okay. The nice part? I didn’t hover around my fridge, contemplating what other carb-free, high-calorie food I could shovel into my mouth to keep me full for the afternoon. No compulsive re-slicing of cheese, no “just-one-more” dips into the almond butter jar.
Yes, I had to make decisions. I had to estimate and calculate, and in so-doing have made myself vulnerable to margins-of-error. My post-meal BG was higher than I’m comfortable with. Next time, I can measure the portions a bit more accurately and learn from the high.
All I know is: I was afraid of something that I didn’t need to be. So I did what I like to do with all my unhelpful fears: grabbed it by the balls. And then offered it a side of brown rice.