Diabetic, Vegetarian, AND fussy eater! Please help!

Hi there,
My name is Rachael and i'm 20 (nearly 21) years old.
And I'm DESPERATE for help.

I went to the doctors recently, and having struggled with my diabetes for as long as i've had it, I had a bit of a wake up call.
Basically, my hbA1c's have shot up, AND my cholesterol is up to...

I've been a bit of a fussy eater ever since I was little, although I eat much more fruit and veggies now than I ever did before...I have huge problems with textures and smells too. How am I still alive you ask? Well I'm not so bad-I've found out what works for me, and eating quorn (fake meat) products with veggies i do like, and soups, I enjoy (as long as they're blended!)

But not eating meat, and having a limited diet, I guess I've fallen into bad way.

My doc said, that its common in diabetics who have had it since they were young, that they often "forget about it" kinda just wishing it wasn't there anymore.

But I don't want to die earlier than my time. And I don't want to live out my life half heartedly either!

My question? Please please, ay advice, on favourite meals, exercise regimes, healthy eating, anything regarding diabetes, vegetarianism, healthy lifestyle...

I feel like i have so little support from the hospital, my partner although he tries, doesn't understand and I live away from my parents...

Any help of suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Peace and Love,
Rachael x

ps I'm maybe about 1-2 stone above "my" ideal weight just now, but am trying to go to the gym 2-3 times a week on top of uni and working 3 days a week...

I'm also a Type 1, a vegetarian and a fussy eater although probably in a different way than you. It sounds like you have some ideas about the foods you like, and maybe just need to fine tune a bit. Yes, your A1C is dangerously high but you already know that. You don't say much about how you manage your diabetes, so I'm guessing you have more things you need to change than how you eat. I would suggest starting and doing one thing at a time. With food, build on the strengths you already have: You like meat substitutes and vegies and soups. So find and add a couple more varieties of these things you like to add to your diet. I see in another post you struggle with sugar. We are all different that way. For me, sugar was addictive so I had to cut it out completely. I'm completely unable to eat "small amounts". I haven't eaten sugar for 17 years and don't miss it. If you are one who can eat it occasionally, then try and just reduce the frequency and probably the amounts you eat at a time to a level you are more comfortable with. The same thing with exercise, if you don't do it at all, start slow and add a small thing in you do once or twice a week. With food changes and other lifestyle changes we humans have a tendency to go way too extreme, then we get burnt out and feel deprived and we swing in the opposite direction. So take it slow. For me, being a vegetarian and a type 1 diabetic, I find I have to spend more time and attention on my meals than a non-vegetarian does. I also cannot go low carb, though I eat "moderate/low" - under 100 per day.

But again, there is more to successful blood sugar management than food choices. Do you know how to count carbs and match your insulin dosage to what you are eating with an Insulin to Carb ratio? Do you know your ISF - how many points one unit of insulin lowers your blood sugar to correct highs? Is your basal correct (keeping you in target between meals)? Do you test on a regular basis - before and after meals, fasting, bedtime and whenever you feel low or high, and then promptly correct lows with glucose tablets and highs with insulin?

If you don't know how to do some of these things, I recommend getting Using Insulin by John Walsh which will help you get started with the basics. If you want to improve your diet, your Diabetes management and your overall well-being, you can do it one step at a time!

1 Like

Hi zoe thank you so much for your helpful reply!
I have been exercising, but not as much as I would like, so I'll try and introduce maybe one more workout a week or so. That's so impressive you haven't eaten sugar for so long! I know I need to cut out an awful lot, but I think I'll cope maybe having a little maybe on special occasions. My hba1c was actually around 8 (still high but good for me) a few months ago, so I'm trying to think back about what I was doing differently then. And carbs yes. After hearing what you eat, I realise I can do with cutting back a fair bit.

I started carb counting, but that was at my last hospital visit 8 months ago. I guess i need another proper sit down to teach me how to do it properly!

Thank you again so much for your help!

Rachael x

I've made a lot of changes over the past couple of years and I've managed to keep those changes as part of my life on a consistent basis. No New Year's Resolution syndrome where I do it in January then stop. How do I do those things and how do I keep making changes - one small thing at a time. I let that one small thing become a habit and then I change something else. The first thing I changed was giving up mayonnaise, the second was I added a fruit to my breakfast every morning, the third was I walked around the block everyday. See what I mean? Changing lots of things at one time is very hard but one thing at a time works for me.

hah, I am type 1 and vegetarian, but admittedly not a fussy eater at all. Can't afford to be one. If it's a normal meal, I will eat it, whatever it is...I don't usually turn down food.

I have had some problems with "fake food." A lot of times the manufacturers replace the meat, fat,etc with sucrose, fructose, sugar. It enhances the flavor and increases the chemical additives of these foods. Fat free foods send my BG through the roof.

If you live vegetarian, do not use these foods. Eat beans, rice, other protein foods. It may take a while and some attention, but you may have less problems without manufactured foods.. I certainly have.

People make a choice to be a vegetarian based on a variety of criteria. Perhaps you don't like eating animals or that it is better for the environment, or you believe it is healthier. And in your case, maybe it is about your picky tastes. I would always urge everyone to explore the reasons for these sorts of choices in our lives. Read up on the different thinking on the issues and make a rational informed decision for yourself. If you continue to be a vegetarian, that is fine, but at least you will have clarity about your decision. I was a vegetarian earlier in my life before diabetes. These days, I am not. I do however make very specific choices about my food, looking for sustainable food sources, eating whole foods, avoiding prepared foods and making extensive effort to prepare my own food that meets my health needs.

My daughter is your age and a vegetarian and she has struggled with the diet. She wants to be able to say that she is a vegetarian and makes strict decisions about foods, avoiding any meat or seafood content. But she has struggled with the health thing, she is anemic and below a healthy weight. And while she has never been able to clearly articulate why she makes the choice, her favorite food choices are meat substitutes. She likes the quorn products as well, noting that they taste just like chicken. I try to give her the same advice.

In the end, you will have to make your own choices about your diet. But if you choose to remain a vegetarian, you face some real challenges and I would encourage you to address them. First, you should work aggressively to broaden your palate, trying to eat a variety of other foods. You might be surprised how you can come to like things that are new and different. Practice often cultivates an appreciation. And second, with a very narrow set of food choices, you must take primary responsibility for your food supplies. You cannot depend on good healthy food that meets your diet rules to "just be available." You should learn to shop for good (whole food) ingredients and become a good cook. If you are stuck on a university meal plan, you may need to aggressively seek out the school nutritionist and work with the food people to get better choices.

Type 1, (mostly) vegetarian, and fairly fussy eater as well. I was eating more typical fare up until about a year ago, but this led to an increase in my A1C (I was in 8 range) so I resumed as more low-carbish approach (under 140g.

I do eat fish; I had to add that to my diet because I needed the protein. At first, it was hard because, like you, I have texture issues. It eventually became a mind-over-matter game for me and I was slowly able to increase my food repertoire.

I stick to foods that are as minimally manufactured as possible. Lots of veggies and fruit (for me, fruit has never been a significant challenge to bolus for). I avoid bread, rice, and pasta as much as I possibly can. These are my "trouble foods."

I eat a lot of cheese and eggs. Strangely, my cholesterol is fine. You mention that your cholesterol is up but sometimes this goes up for reasons other than what you're eating. So you may be able to incorporate these into your diet without affecting your cholesterol.

I keep things like nuts, pistachios, and other whole, low carb snacks with me at all times. This is very important if you're busy and don't have time to always stop and have a full meal. I stock up at the beginning of each week.

I do eat quinoa and, for some reason, this does not have a huge impact on my BG (at least, not to the extent that I expected).

I have done a lot of experimenting with vegetable recipes that I find online. This year, brussel sprouts have been my favorite! Epicurious.com is a great site for finding new vegetarian recipes. I try to find at least one new recipe each month from there, either for a main or side dish.

A lot of the changes I've made in the last year have just been things that I have FORCED to become habits. I make sure to hit the grocery store each week and stock up on the foods that I know I can eat during the week without much fuss. I've found a number of frozen food items that are vegetarian, low carb, and easy to carry to work and heat up at lunch. This took some experimenting.

As for exercise - I do it as much as I can. I would say I'm very active, but even on days I can't be VERY active, I do whatever I can to aim for moderate activity. It may just be taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or going for a walk at lunch. Anything to get me moving will bring down my BGs and burn calories.

Hi there
Thanks for your response, it was very interesting, and i'm sorry to hear your daughter struggles a bit.

I'm lucky in a way, I was brought up vegetarian, and literally have never eaten a piece in my life. When I hit my teens I did extensive reading and research which confirmed that my mums choice to bring me and my sister up this way was okay. My dad eats meat though so I always had the option to!
Thank you for your advice though, I have realised that when it comes t diabetes, more preparation is probably key. Btter for diet in general too!

Hey Johanna, thanks for you reply! Its true taking small steps is the way to do it. I've started over the weekend, by just re discovering which foods are good for me and which shoot my levels up high! After having diabetes for so long, it actually easy to forget!

Hey! Thanks for your reply! I've definitely noticed that the "low-fat" yoghurts and foods contain way more sugar! Its kinda bad, but something to watch out for!
I'll go and do more research though too! thank you!x

hey there, thank you for your reply, it was so helpful!
I've started some of the things you've suggested. I've actually had flu this week which hasn't helped! But sent my partner out to get me nuts, low GI fruits and stuff for snacks. I've really begun to realise that carbs are causing me a lot of trouble, especially bread. I've switched to completely wholegrain though and found it's not as bad.
It's so nice getting replies from people in the same boat! It's really reassuring and great motivation to start taking much better care of myself!
Thanks again

I've been vegetarian for over seven years now, and vegan for part of it. I forget all the time that I'm vegetarian because it is just my 'normal' so it's only if I go out to eat that I realize I'm weird, hahah.

My body likes not eating meat, so I feel overall healthier and have more energy. What I found works best is to just develop my 'normal.' Growing up, my family ate meat usually twice a day, so it took some time to develop a new normal. I experimented and found out what works well with my body and lifestyle, and then how my blood sugar levels adapt to what I eat. I also found that I love cooking and trying new foods, so it has made my diet a lot more diverse. What I have found that works for me is to not eat processed food because it's harder to predict what my BS will do. I like to make a big batch of a recipe when I have time during the week, and then eat the leftovers for a while (this was last weeks: http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipes/11827... Sooo good!). Healthy food blogs are a great inspiration... This list will blow your mind: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2005/12/blogs-i-like-veg-blog-search.html During college when I didn't have a lot of money and time, I would make a giant batch of vegetable-bean-lentil soup, freeze half, and eat it for at least one meal a day. It took time to get in the habit, but it helped a lot.

For exercise, I've had to learn to adjust as my life has changed. During college, I would bike everywhere so I didn't worry about needing to find extra time to go to the gym. I'd get in at least 7 miles a day, and it also counted as transportation. After college, I moved somewhere with lots of hills and took a job further away so I learned to walk a bit throughout the day... 15 min in the morning, during my lunch break and then a little more after work. Then I took a really intense job with crazy hours and didn't have a regular enough schedule for anything, so I checkout out cheesey workout videos from the library and would do things like Cardio Tahitian Dance/TaeBo when I have an extra few minutes (my rooommates made a sport of watching me). Now, I do the P90X routine because it works well with my schedule, and there are no close gyms. I suggest just finding what works for you, and that you enjoy.

The best advise I've gotten in building a healthy lifestyle is that it is a process, full of experimenting and trial-and-error. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so the advise helped me let go, relax, and have fun with the process. For me when I am trying to implement any change, I've learned instead of doing everything drastically at a single start date, I set a few small, achievable goals for the week. The next week I re-evaluate, make any changes, and set another one. Over the course of a month, I'm able to make big changes but it's broken down into smaller steps. Behavior change is always hard because your brain is currently in a state to manage your current habits. You have to give yourself time to let your brain build new pathways to keep the new habits you are trying to develop. I've found it's the best for making long-term, sustainable habit change. Give yourself room to make mistakes, to try an exercise regimen and then find out you don't like it, so just let it go... or to try new foods with the permission to not actually like it or have to ever eat it again.

Hey I'm a vegan (and a pretty picky one at that) so I know what you are going through. My advice is to stick to whole foods, meaning unrefined grains, unrefined sugars, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and beans. That should probably help your cholesterol and will make you feel fantastic too! Here are my favorite sites to go to for recipes or info that you might want to check out.
Oh She glows
The Kind Life
Collegeveganista (my own)
When it comes to exercise I'm a big fan of yoga, pilates, and intense cardio (either running, biking, kickboxing, hiking, etc). My biggest advice is to find something you like and don't try to force yourself to do an activity you hate.

I am neither vegetarian nor vegan, but thank you for the links! Some of those dishes look amazing, and I can't wait to try them!

Go to a dietician - they are as important to a diabetic as an Endo. :) Good luck!

Hey! These are great! Thanks so much! x

No problem!

I actually hardly ever fry anything and I don't have more than one or two eggs a week.
I do eat cheese, but not much more than most people...
I eat low fat dairy products, but I do need to balance out less carbs I guess...I will try and find a dietician for some extra help! Thanks for your advice!