Count them Carbs…maybe?

When it comes to food, you get out what you put in. I truly believe that unless you’re out for food and the place doesn’t give you carb information (some do these days, either in store or online) then you can find out what carbs something has.  Carb counting has changed my life so much and I truly believe I wouldn’t be holding on to the scraps of control I still have over my illness without it. The problem for those that do so is that a lot of the time it can be a first class pain to do so. Some things are easier than others because it becomes ingrained into a diabetic’s normal routine that they weigh things like cereal, pasta or rice to make sure they know exactly how much they have and can work out their insulin levels from that.  If you’re used to buying the same bread and rolls all the time with the information on the packaging, it can get tempting to start guessing when suddenly you are presented with a packet of rolls in your kitchen with no information in sight. The truth is, it isn’t that difficult or time consuming to weigh everyday items at it seems.

Weighing your roll may seem ridiculous but it takes a minute max and then you look up the weight against how much insulin you need. Simple, and stops any chance of a mishap just because you didn’t get your usual warburtons buns. A hell of a lot more carb information is online than diabetics, in my experiences, have every realised. Personally, I got my hands on http://www.carbsandcals.com/en-us  through a rather wonderful nurse at my hospital who perhaps wasn’t entirely allowed to slip me said book at my DAFNE course.  I adore it and with my carb counting notebook that I did get at my DAFNE course, it works wonders. Unlike some carb counting books of the past, like when they were called exchanges and generally controlled your life, these books have all the things ‘diabetics can’t have right?’ in them. I’m talking cakes, biscuits and buns and not a frown in site about it. Real food for real people and no limits. It even has takeaways.  It isn’t the only one around though and I’m sure others are just as good. This just happens to be the one in my bookshelf.

I’m very much against guessing because I’ve been on the receiving end of plates of food being presented with me where I ‘m told someone has weighed my food but really has guessed and then it all goes wrong.  Our scales are flat and sit in the corner of the kitchen unnoticed without being a fuss to anyone but they make a big difference in my life and that of my mother who also has type 1. I think it helped me get started that at the time I was doing a weight loss plan to try and help my health too and it also required me to weigh certain foods. That helped alleviate some of the feelings that it was another way diabetes was controlling things and being a nuisance.  Now it is habit, and doing it for every bowl of cereal means there can be no ‘that looks about right’ and no backlashes when it turns out that no actually it isn’t. Getting into the habit of it can be a challenge but once you are into it I personally find you don’t on it that much. Weighing my potatoes before they go on my plate is as automatic as then going to the fridge to get some butter for them. Lack of labelling is a pain but it is easy enough to get around. Google can very quickly tell you the carbs for many foods, whether that is a 70g roll or Jacob’s cracker. The smartphone era means there are apps galore on the subject too.

I wanted this blog up before Easter because besides Christmas I find this time of year the other big Chocolate Challenge for diabetics as it were. Luckily we seem mostly past the era of being denied the eggs in the first place and of having to deal with diabetic chocolate Easter eggs which yes were as bad as they sound I assure you. Being able to take more insulin has opened up doors for us type 1s when it comes to the Easter bunny and its presents but people still face roadblocks. I do love when eggs tell you the carb numbers for a quarter of a shell. How are you going to accurately measure that? Or it only gives you half a shell and what if it is a big egg and someone doesn’t want/isn’t allowed that much for whatever reason? In my earlier years, I did a lot of guessing and hoping and either running high or low as I misjudged things and the answer was there the whole time in front of me. Weigh the chocolate. Carb count. Unwrap that sucker in the kitchen, choose what you’re having and weigh it. Have what you want, not what you can calculate best, and still be reassured that you’ve got the numbers right. I’m not going to turn this into a carb counting lesson and bang on about CPs, but I do think that carb counting gets a bad name from many and seems like so much hard work and such a fuss when….it doesn’t have to be. Working out what carbohydrate is in something is not that big a deal for me. What people then do with that information varies among diabetics but I do think it is information worth having, and it has cut out a hell of a lot of highs and lows for me over the past 18 months that came from pure lack of judgement. ‘I think I have that amount of pasta and so will need this’. Yet I managed to be out by 30g and sent my levels through the ceiling and then felt sick for hours. I don’t even use other bowls cause I’m lazy. I put the pot on the scales and put my pasta in that way. But shoving them scales in there saves me a lot of grief and I love it.

I heard at DAFNE a lot of ‘I don’t have time for that’. Thing is, it really doesn’t take a lot of time.

You know I’m not sure what the purpose of this is. I guess it has many. I want to assure some that Easter isn’t a time to panic or think it will all go to pot so why not take the days off anyway and just have fun because that is how I used to think. I want to assure people that carb counting does have its rewards and nurses are not banging on about it for no reason. I want to take the terror out of carbohydrates. I want to help I guess.

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