After a few months as a newbie diabetic, I discovered my carb-to-insulin ratio. It was all thanks to a man named Clive and a Cumberland pie:
A lot of things are taken for granted in life; things like walking, talking, breathing, and whiskey. It’s only when those things are compromised that you realise you couldn’t function without them. Cruelly, for a diabetic, one natural and satisfying act in life is also one that demands the most care: the simple act of eating.
As a Type 1 I have to be more conscious and careful with my meal portions – ‘All things in moderation’, as my late Gran would say. For diabetics diet is all about carbohydrates and sugars – just like time and space is relative, so are carbohydrates and sugars. I’ve never had a sweet tooth and have always maintained a balanced diet; in that respect I am quite fortunate.
Five out of four people have problems with adding-up, and I am one of those six people. In the early months of diabetes I struggled with counting carbohydrates, especially pasta and rice. I was practically living off ‘healthy living’ microwave meals and Kellogg’s variety packs because the nutritional contents were printed on the back.
My overall feeling was that if I couldn’t eat, drink and be merry, then just measure me up, lay me in a wooden box and feed a thousand worms me for Christmas. I was on a fixed insulin dose of insulin per meal and was advised by my dietician to consume around 50 grams of carbohydrate per meal. So I did just that. Two hours after food my target blood glucose levels were always between 5-7 mmol – where a ‘normal’ person’s levels live.
But, it was getting to the point where I was eating to stay alive and not getting any pleasure out of it. During night shifts I don’t get very hungry, so instead of one large meal I take bread rolls. Rolls are around 25 grams of carb each – half of a main meal. I found that by halving my dose to 4 units per roll I was achieving the same target blood results (5-7 mmol).
On one afternoon shift I was talking to my work colleague, Clive, about my food dilemma. ‘What you’ve got there is the six times table’, he said. I stared at him, confused; as if a Berman cat had just materialized on his head. He continued, ‘4×6 is 24, and 8×6 is 48.’ The Berman coughed up a fur ball. ‘For 24 grams you take 4 units, and for 48 grams you take 8 units…that’s close to the six times table!’
The Berman cat caught, and toyed with a small vole. ‘If you were to eat something containing around, say, 36g of carb, then wouldn’t you require 6 units?’ The Berman put on a top hat and leapt into the air in triumph; performing a rather slickCharlestonroutine.Eureka! (Meow!)
Later in the shift I headed with purpose to ASDA and purchased a Cumberland Pie containing around 36g of carb and dosed as per six-times-table. A few hours after eating it I was within my target blood glucose range.
Over the next few days I experimented like a hippy in Amsterdam with different meals of varying consistency containing different carb contents, and achieved some far-out results. My insulin-to-carb ratio – or ‘food mojo’ – is around 1 unit for every 6 grams of carbohydrate I consume. My diet – within reason – is whatever the hell I want it to be.