Dear Dr. Gary

I have been an emotional wreck since I was diagnosed 3 months ago. I am still learning what foods I can eat. It is so very hard because a lot of my usual foods are ethnic (I'm Hispanic). A lot of the food I used to eat is just something me and my family grew up on. So now every time I even eat a small serving of carbs I feel like I'm doing damage to my precious body and I get really depressed.

I'm so sad all the time, especially when family is visiting and having their famous BBQ. I don't even want to be around or socialize with them. I feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Are these emotions normal? I'm 36 years old, type 2 trying to control with diet. I am always thinking of the bad complications that can happen and can't stop thinking about it.

Thanks,
sugarbaby07

Hey sugarbaby,

Glad you checked in! When I read your question I was reminded of the role that food plays in or lives. It isn’t just how we get energy, and it’s more than what tastes good. It’s also how we connect with each other. We celebrate our family and our cultural traditions with food. And so when you can’t participate fully in the eating, then it’s only human to feel like you aren’t a part of things like you used to be.

A few alarms went off when I read your question.

First, it seems to me that you might be giving in to some all-or-nothing thinking. For example, it sounds like you are feeling like you can’t eat any carbs at all. And that you can’t eat your usual foods. Is it possible that there might be a middle road with your diet, maybe eating a reasonable amount of your favorite dishes, or at least some of them, while also staying within your diet guidelines? Just an idea. Also, is it possible to make some of your favorite recipes using diabetic-friendly ingredients? Diabetic Connect has some great recipes. You might be surprised at what you come up with. Who knows, your family might appreciate some healthy, tasty alternatives as well. So, is it all or nothing or is there a middle road that might allow you to participate in the food celebration in a healthy way? I am not a physician or a dietician or a CDE, but I am wondering if you have talked to an expert about your diet. Education is power!

And another alarm. You said that you are sad all the time, and you used the D word: depressed. I got the sense that you are feeling pretty discouraged in general. As you might be aware, diabetes and depression can sometimes go hand in hand. There are various reasons, but one reason is that the daily challenges of diabetes can take a toll on your emotions, and leave you feeling kind of helpless and hopeless. Those feelings can, over time, lead to depression. So I encourage you to consider talking to a counselor about how you’re feeling. It could help to have an objective person help you to take a closer look at your perspective on your diabetes, and your life, and learn some new ways to cope with the challenges of diabetic self-care.

And finally, back to your family. It seems you may be kind of isolating yourself from them. Have you reached out to your family for support? Have you told them that you are feeling apart from them because of the foods you can’t fully enjoy? Do they know about your fears about eating the wrong things? This might be a time to connect with them in a new way by asking for help. And who knows, they might be up for the challenge of adding some healthy choices to the menu. Support is power!

You are not alone. Diabetic self-care doesn’t have to be all about fear and limitations. Stay connected with us!

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To learn more on this topic:
The Mental Game of Diabetes
"I Eat When I'm Stressed, and Stress When I Gain Weight. How Do I Break the Cycle?"
The Emotional Roller Coaster of Diabetes