It’s about time

It’s about time I told you my diagnosis story.

This isn’t coming out of the blue – National Diabetes Week is this week, and for the first time there is a part of the campaign exclusively focused on type 1 diabetes, and knowing the early signs of type 1. Their hashtags (well played Diabetes Australia, keep it up #hashtagsarelife) are #ItsAboutTime / #NDW2017 / #4Ts , and the first one jumped out at me.

It’s about time that we knew what the signs are – with all the resources available to us at the tips of our fingers, with HCPs having more qualifications and knowledge than ever before, why is this still being missed? Why am I still hearing stories on diabetes camp about kids and adults being dismissed as ‘dramatic’, ‘sensitive’, or ‘just a bit stressed?’

Alright, buckle in, make a cup of tea, and read up. This is long. You’re in for a tale and a rant on why #ItsAboutTime the symptoms of type 1 diabetes need to be known. #ItsAboutTime that we understand that diagnosis does not stop at the words “You have Type 1 Diabetes”, and that a diagnosis is multi-faceted. Treat the diabetes, but treat the tidal wave of emotion that comes along with it. 

January, 2010

I’m 17. I’ve just returned from an exchange trip to France, and I am buzzing with my newfound acquisition of the language, an obnoxious penchant for relating everything back to my trip (“That reminds me of this one time, in France, where…”), and a taste for French wine. I have a week before I start Year 12, and being the nerd that I am, I land in Melbourne and pick up my books the next day. We’re studying A Streetcar Named Desire and dear God, I will do all the pre-reading and extra reading if it kills me.

09paris

17 year old me halfway up the Eiffel Tower. May have had a glass of pinot for déjeuner.

February 2010

Ok, so it’s starting to kill me. It’s been a few weeks since Term 1 has started, and I’m already feeling tired and burnt out. Each day seems like more of an obstacle, and I go from being full of beans at the start of term to sitting at the back of the classroom and willing my brain to concentrate on the words and data in front of me – and why is my vision kinda fuzzy? My school has three levels, and dragging myself up those stairs become like scaling a small mountain – as the weeks go on, I start to pause and lean against the wall to get myself to each floor. I’m also drinking, and therefore peeing, a LOT. I carry a 1.25 litre drink bottle around with me, and fill it up every chance I get. I’m constantly asking to go to the toilet, and my teachers are starting to get annoyed. I stop hanging around after class and run to the toilets every break that we get.

I’m losing weight, and I’m LOVING it. All of my friends are complaining about their “Year 12 padding”, yet whatever I eat, I seem to drop even more weight. I sit there smugly eating a Mars Bar while my friends complain – hey, I may be exhausted, and married to the toilet, but at least I’m losing the muffin top!

A week pre diagnosis. I’d lost more than 10kgs in two weeks, but unfortunately still thought a side fringe was a good idea and that Passion Pop was the height of house party elegance.

Mum notices that something is up, and even though I protest and say “I’m just stressed”, she basically frogmarches me to the car and takes me to the GP. She’s heard me peeing like a horse at least five times a night, and I’ve taken to sculling water ON the toilet – this thirst just won’t go away, however much I drink. Over the next couple of weeks we see three doctors in a row, all of which tell me that I’m stressed (“told you Mum”), working myself too hard, and may ‘have a small virus’. They do no tests, not even a simple blood prick, and raise their eyebrows if we push any further. So we don’t.

This is done way too often – people are brushed off, time and time again, as too dramatic, anxious, or sensitive. Often, it is mothers taking their kids to the doctor, and often it is mothers being told to ‘calm down’. Whether it is the mother or the patient, women are consistently discriminated against within the healthcare system – consciously or unconsciously, but the fact remains that it happens. I’m not saying that doctors misdiagnosing is exclusive to women, but I am saying that it is more common, and that it is embedded in the Western healthcare system. You can see this here and here (done as part WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health). If you’re still thinking “Classic Georgie, harping on with that feminist rubbish” do a quick peer-reviewed study search and you will be buried with research that shows, time and time again, women’s concerns are dismissed and/or delayed. Whether that woman is seeking treatment for herself, or a dependent, we are pushed away, told we are being dramatic, or that we’re too sensitive. One of my closest friends was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was 22 – TWENTY TWO – and only got the ultrasound that ultimately diagnosed her cancer when her nurse mother pushed and persisted for it. We should not be advocating to get to the bottom of a problem, that’s our GPs job. 

MOVING ON

Labour Day Weekend, March 6th – 8th

I am beyond exhausted. My family is packing for a camping weekend away with my cousins, and because I like camping as much as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, I’ve decided not to go (Why would you pay to sleep on the ground and shit in a hole?!). However, watching them prepare to leave makes me scared, and I make a last-minute decision to go with them. I’m scared because I can feel my heart beating through my chest, it takes energy to lift my head off the pillow, and my vision is a little fuzzy. To put it bluntly, I feel like death.

We’re camping with my cousins and some friends – and one of these friends has type 1 diabetes. He is my parents’ age, and when I mention my incredible ability to pee and drink at the same time, he furrows his brow and pointedly tells my aunt to “take her to the hospital, that’s not good”. The weather is terrible, so we shrug and I secretly revel in the fact that I only had to sleep in a tent for one night. We debate back at my aunt’s whether to take me to the local hospital then, or wait until tomorrow, but I’m so tired and comfy that I’m already sleeping and the point is moot. Unbeknownst to me, my aunt checks my breath that night – her friend told her that if I had type 1, my breath should smell sweet. It did. Lucky me.

Before heading to the hospital, I google my symptoms and everything points to type 1 diabetes. “Hey guys – Google says I have type 1 diabetes! Haha oh god can you imagine, I’m so bad with needles.” Idiot.

March 7th

We get to the hospital, and my mother lists all the symptoms that I have, and we’re rushed right through. I’m leaning against my aunt, nestling my head on her shoulder and trying to regulate my breathing. My chest is hurting, and I feel like my whole body is full of lead. The nurse pulls out a finger pricker, takes my blood, looks at the meter, and my aunt looks over and says “Oh SHIT”.

From there, I’m hooked up to a million drips, and I start to cry. I hate needles, I don’t know what’s happening, and my mum and aunt are on either side of me trying to calm me down. At some point, a doctor walks in, tells me my blood sugar levels were ‘dangerously high’, that I have type 1 diabetes, and she walks right out again. At this, I feel like I’ve been punched in the face. Type 1 diabetes? What the hell is that? Is this my fault? Is it all the Mars Bars that I ate?

Aftermath

I spent around a week in hospital, but I can’t really remember a lot of it. I do remember crying my heart out that first night, and I’ve never felt grief like it. The sobs seemed to come from within my very bones, and reverberated through my body as I cried under the blanket, fist curled around my hair and my arm hugging the pillow. I didn’t know anyone with this, and all I had heard from people around me was how diabetics died early, how they went blind, and how they had to inject themselves all the time. The insulin being put back into my system swelled me up, and I panicked – I was getting fatter AND I had a lifelong illness?! There was no consideration for my earlier medical history – my mental health, my history with eating disorders – behind the scenes there may have been, but from where I stood I was told to ‘deal with it’ whenever I brought up my feelings. As soon as I was physically balanced, they led me out of the ward, with a handout on carb counting and injecting and instructions to ‘find yourself an educator in Melbourne’.

2010 was a hard year. I often started crying for no reason, and I was resentful of this new part of my life. I was angry, and upset, and confused – and alone. Nobody in my life knew what it was like, and I had no idea where to find people that did.

Not only is it about time that we know the early signs, it’s about time we make diagnosis easier. Diagnosis is always going to be rough – but you know what makes it easier? Know the #4Ts, get people diagnosed before they reach this stage, and once they’re diagnosed?

Hold their hand a little. We may be adults, but we’re just starting out with diabetes. Slip a support group pamphlet into our hand, welcome peer support volunteers into your hospitals, and for the love of God – stop telling teenagers that they’re going to go blind and die as you teach them to carb count. 

Type 1 diabetes strikes anyone, regardless of age or lifestyle. Know the 4Ts – Thirsty, Tired, Toilet, Thinner – and if you’re worried, ask for a finger prick. It only takes a minute, and could mean an introduction to this world that is calm and positive, not one that is scary and lonely. Diagnosis needs to be holistic and considered – remember you’re dealing with a human that is dealing with this forever, not a medical textbook case study. Help us find our tribe!



 

Relief 

Guess who hadn’t had an eye test for three years because she’s scared of anything going in or near her eye?*

This girl.

Guess who has nightmares about waking up and going blind because her first endo told her that it was basically inevitable she’d end up on dialysis with no legs and no sight? 

This girl.

Guess who finally built up the courage to go and get them tested and has PERFECT eyes?!

THIS GIRL! ​

I went today because I was assured this optometrist was good with eye sooks like me – and this is why it’s so important to work with your patients. If I feel judged or patronised, there is no way I’m heading back. Sometimes I’ll go somewhere else, but often I’ll withdraw altogether. Treat your clients as equals, and we’ll be loyal and back every time 👌🏻 

*stop sniggering, I hear you

Keep ’em at home 

Whiny post alert!

PSA on behalf of type 1 teachers/teachers with chronic illnesses everywhere.

Keep your sick kids at home!!

I understand that it’s hard being a parent and having a sick kid is bloody hard work what with arranging care. I know it might seem easier just sending them to school BUT…

I am not a babysitter. School is not a childcare service. I am here to educate your child, and your child comes to school to learn. If they are not well enough to learn, they should not be at school –  they need to be at home in bed. 

Not only do other students get sick, this turns my workplace into a cesspit of snotty noses and infection, some teachers (*cough ME*) have compromised immune systems and a cocktail of other chronic health conditions – without a doubt I will catch your kid’s ‘harmless’ virus and at best, spend the next few days in bed. At worst, the Alfred Hospital emergency department, DKA, and I become acquainted once again. 

I know they “just have a small virus”, but that virus is contagious, and they also have working organs and a killer immune system (except those few spoonie students, god bless my compromised immune system kidlets). Let that system do its job and keep them at home for one more day while they’re still contagious – they and we will thank you. They’re teenagers, all they need is Netflix. an internet connection, and permission to raid the kitchen. 

Who feels like pricking their finger with aching skin, a sore throat, and a fever? Who feels like spending their weekend trying to mark exams with double vision? NOT ME.
“But Miss, you always seem sick” (Year 11 students after a dizzy spell) 

THAT’S BECAUSE YOU ALL KEEP COMING TO SCHOOL MATE, weirdly it’s frowned upon at work to walk around with a mask and industrial sized bottle of Dettol. 

“Line up outside 7C I just need to disinfect everyone before you come into the classroom” 

Keep 👏🏻them 👏🏻 at 👏🏻 home 👏🏻

Cut the crap 

I’m lying on my bed, just past 11pm on a Wednesday night, and I’m aching and nauseous and trying not to cry with anger. I’m so frustrated, and I’m frustrated that I’m frustrated.

I’m finding my sugars really hard to manage, and I’m doing everything right. I’m only eating foods I know the exact carbs to, I’m taking my insulin, I’m exercising daily, and you know what that’s done? TWO DAYS ABOVE 25. I ate NOTHING from 4pm until now, corrected every hour, and I only came down to 15. FIFTEEN, after not eating for SEVEN HOURS. I’m ‘hangry’ as hell, if someone even breathes the wrong way in the next 24 hours, I will not be held responsible for my actions.
I’m so fucking sick of this, of doing the right thing, of doing what doctors and educators

and nurses tell me to do, and my body deciding to make its own rules. I’m so angry, I’ve spent years working towards not being afraid to take my insulin, and as soon as I’m in a place where I can, it doesn’t fucking work. I correct and correct and it gets harder and harder, as all I see is insulin pouring into me, with no discernible effect yet the feeling that I’m gaining weight from the insulin by the hour.

I’m so tired of diabetes, I am so DONE. I am so under the pump this year with 12 hour work days, finishing off my Masters degree and volunteering, I just want to go about my life without diabetes stubbornly refusing to cooperate. I’m not expecting miracles, I’ll take a high reading every now and then – hell, I’ll take once a day. I just think that I should be able to do my job without a fuzzy head, weak muscles, and a brain that can’t work fast because it’s been wading through sickly sweet blood for the past few days. Everyone has bad days, we’re human. I’d just like the chance to have my bad days without the side of ketones???

It’s 11.09pm, my pump software just started to work after half an hour of suspending, rebooting, and giving my diasend cable the stink eye. My email to my educator has a subject line that reads “please help!!!” with a sad face emoji as a prelude.

Cut the crap diabetes, get your act together. Just respond to SOME insulin, PLEASE.

 

 

Have faith in others.  

I slid down against the wall, checked the train timetable, and sat back. I felt a little funny, but today had been a weird day. A small fire at uni, that had us joking in the corridor but then mildly freaking out as we realised we were stuck on the first level due to the single stairwell being blocked. Then news from Bourke St, that a person had mowed down pedestrians and left a trail of carnage behind him…today had not been a good day, I was ready to get home and build myself a doona and pillow fort.

Suddenly, I couldn’t control my limbs. I looked down at my thighs twitching, and inwardly screamed at them to STOP! Before I knew it, this twitching made its way up my entire body and I wasn’t able to see through my blurred vision. I started fitting -I couldn’t control my limbs or my head, it was like the screaming in my brain to stop was blocked by each jerk against the tiles. I could hear voices around me, feel hands touching my head and the sweat in every pore, but I couldn’t pause it. Being awake in your own body while you fit and watch people around you freak out is not something I’m keen to repeat.

 

I spat out “diabetes” as the convulsions became less strong and a nurse (found that out later, at this point she is an angel) pulled a coke out of her handbag and grabbed my shoulders as she forced it down my throat. Looking back, it must have looked very Steel Magnolias – DRINK THE JUICE SHELBY!

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Some beautiful women called Donna and Kate helped me onto my train, and let me cry at them until my stop, where a woman called Sal sat with me until my blood sugar reached the sixes. She fed me all the hypo food I had left while telling me about her niece with type 1, and how hypos are “such a pain!” You’re not wrong Sal, you’re not wrong.

Times like these act as a reminder that I’m not invincible. That however much I tell my body not to drop, to hold on, to keep it together, that sometimes I lose all semblance of control.

I forget that the majority of humans are inherently good. 99% of us want to help each other, and have empathy in spades. I felt so looked after by these three strangers, and they were so caring and genuinely worried that I nearly started crying again. Throw that together with my friend listening to me freak out on the end of the phone for a solid 10 minutes, and my diabetes crew assuring me that it’s happened to some of them…

Scary things can happen to those of us with diabetes, and I really think the only way to tackle it is by trusting that we will be ok. That people around us genuinely care, and that being vulnerable and letting yourself be helped (both physically and mentally) is really the only way to acknowledge those scary feelings and keep on living your life. We can’t let diabetes stop us altogether, but sometimes we have to let it stop us for a little while – stop us and force us to acknowledge that we are not invincible.

Camp, TWD style 

TWD

Teacher with Diabetes.

There are little things I never thought about when studying to be a teacher, and this is one of them – who knew school camps were such a pain in the ass when they’re not diabetes camps? What do you mean, there’s no hypo bag? I have to remember that I’m no use to anyone if I’m careening around at 2.4! Having diabetes when you’re a teacher is very doable, but by god it requires planning!

I’m off on a 3 day surf camp tomorrow with our gorgeous year 10s, and what with the constant activity and 38 degree forecast, hypos (especially heat hypos – hello darkness my old friend) are most probably on the horizon…so this is my Sunday night (PSA, Starburst are $1 each at Coles, get on it). 

Most other teachers spend the night before a camp getting into bed early and remembering to pack sunscreen, I spend my Sunday night sorting hypo servings into gladbags.

I’m hoping that I don’t hypo badly in the next few days (let’s be real, with my heat hypo record it’s impossible to ask for none!) – here’s to stuffing 5 bags of lollies down my wetsuit and hoping for the best. Nothing like a salt water soaked jelly baby to get your BGLs up. 

Tapping out 

World Diabetes Day has slipped under the radar for me this year. Unlike a lot of my diabetes community friends, I don’t work in healthcare or around diabetes. I work in a high school in suburban Melbourne. The only mention of diabetes today was a Year 8 boy calling the lollies I gave out in Period 5 “diabetes”.
Me: “Comment dit ‘lollies’ en français?

Student: “Diabetes!”

Raucous laughter ensued from one half of the class (who have only had me this year) and the other half of the class (who I’ve taught since year 7) looked around nervously. They know me – too well. Normal Ms. Peters would jump on that immediately.
But I’m tired. I’ve intentionally pushed diabetes awareness month to the back of my mind because I’m always bloody aware of my diabetes. It’s in the fifth trip to the loo, the blood on my desk, the jellybeans in my pencil case and the bags under my eyes. Along with French vocabulary and the plot lines of several Netflix series, it hangs out in my brain, not taking centre stage but always jumping in to whisper “you’re 17.3, get your life together”. Additionally, this year is talking about eye complications – call it denial, but I’m scared of mine, and I don’t like acknowledging it. I’m scared of losing my sight, and continuing to see dialogue about it makes me feel sick. I started off ready to social media the hell out of November, but thanks to reports, final assignments, and a shitty hba1c, I’ve hit a wall.
The social media frenzy during diabetes awareness month also seems to highlight and drive in the impression that everyone is doing better than me with their diabetes. I know this isn’t always the case, but seeing graphs with not a single spike above 8 and raves about particular diets send me spiralling into a vortex of self blame. Why can’t I eat low carb without my brain making me restrict? Why do I find it so hard to keep my BGLs stable? Why can’t I seem to do what everyone else is doing??!?!

This year I’m letting my beautiful D tribe carry diabetes awareness month and diabetes day. This year I want to put my diabetes away and only bring it out when needed. Some may call that selfish, but I call it self care. My diabetes management is challenging due to co-occurring conditions, and my focus this diabetes month is on my diabetes. Let’s be real here – if I’m trying my hardest to focus on turning my management around, am I not doing what diabetes awareness month wants? 
This month I’m gently tapping out – unfortunately I need to get little old me back on top before trying to help others. This November I’m saying no. 

PCD

What’s PCD? Post Camp Depression. After each diabetes camp, I come home, do a solo BIG time (Blood Insulin Glucose), and spontaneously burst into tears. I keep racking my brains as to why I’m so sad after each diabetes camp that I do – why do I love these people so much, and what is so special about them?

The people that go on these camps are incredible. We are all there because we love the work – there’s a reason most of us are nurses, HPs, or teachers. There is such an instant bond on these camps with the kids, for many of them it’s the first time they’ve met someone else with type 1, and to see them grow and develop in just one week is amazing.

The conversations you overhear between the campers, and the things that they achieve is fantastic – it’s like one of those great days at work where there’s a lightbulb moment with a student, but those lightbulbs are flashing constantly, for five days, with each new discovery, achievement, and conversation. That’s the thing I missed this year, as my first year as a coordinator….I wasn’t able to have those conversations with the campers, and instead plonked myself on a table with the campers whenever I was able to, to soak up their awesomeness.

Camp is about the campers, but the leaders on there are my family. My camp family love me for me – I don’t have to be anyone but myself; it’s a place where people aren’t suggesting or complaining that my diabetes is a burden. I don’t have a lot of people in my life who understand diabetes, and to have people like Mel test me at night as she gets up to pee because she ‘felt like it’ is weirdly comforting and normal. I don’t have to explain myself on camp – I’m low, we laugh at how I just dropped a burger on myself, someone throws me a hypo treatment, and we move on with our stupid conversation. I feel so loved and cared for, and so normal with these people. I’ve found my tribe and my family.

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That timing though…

Diabetes is quite particular when it decides to f*ck things up.

I guarantee you I will never go low or high when I am sitting at home napping on a Sunday afternoon. My BGLs will start to go insane right at the point where I really need my mind working – parent/teacher interviews, an oral presentation, networking events, in front of rowdy year 8s, on stage…

ON STAGE.

I had State Champs on Sunday night for calisthenics (it’s a weird Australian sport, I go from looking like this… –>

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 9.48.39 PM

to this –> ignore my terrible feet and focus on the fabulous feather)

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ANYWAY

I tested before I went on stage – 6.2 – great! As soon as the music started and I hit my pose behind the curtain, I felt myself start to shake and sweat, and instantly knew that I was low. I mumbled “Shit” as the curtain rose, and willed myself to get through the next three minutes.

Being low on stage is not like being low during ‘normal’ sport – on the court, I can just call time, treat my hypo, and watch someone else fill in for me. It doesn’t work like that with dance – I can’t yell “TIME!” at the judge and stumble off while my friends are halfway through a walkover. Technically, I could walk off, but to get disqualified after all that training…combined with hypo brain, all logical thought goes out the window and all you can think is “Get through this”

Thanks to diabetes, my balance was off as I couldn’t see straight, and thus couldn’t hold myself up in any sort of balance. I fell out of my headstand, right onto my back (it’s still aching, good job diabetes) and crouched into what my sister and I call the “ball of shame” until I could pick up the next movement. Those 4 seconds were so long – I could feel my lip wobble as I looked at the floor and willed myself not to cry. Do you know how hard it is to keep dancing on stage when your brain is starved of sugar? REALLY FUCKING HARD. It’s scary. There is a different move every second, and you have to rely on muscle memory to get you through as you use every last bit of brain power to focus on keeping in time. You can see your hands shake as you go upside down, and your heart beats so hard in your chest it reverberates up into your head and drowns out the music. Everything on stage is an overwhelming, bright, and terrifying blur.

I think what really angered me about this is that I was so frustrated at diabetes. I had practiced so hard for this competition – I had been having trouble with things in that routine, and had been finally nailing them at training. I was ready to smash it on Sunday, and diabetes HAD to interfere at THAT PARTICULAR MOMENT. Not five minutes before, not five minutes after, the THREE MINUTES I was on stage.

I came off stage and instantly cried into my coach’s shoulder (the poor thing still probably has my tears, snot and makeup permanently caked into her top). The combination of a bad hypo (they make me emotional…) plus the frustration of having screwed any chance of a place for our team in that performance, just because of something that was completely out of my control, resulted in me stuffing my face with lollies and crying for a good 15 minutes outside the dressing room.

Sometimes there’s nothing to say about diabetes, other than it SUCKS and has the worst timing in the world. The only reliable thing about it is that it will always choose the most inconvenient time to make things difficult. I can handle being bad at something, and I can handle making a mistake (OK, that’s a lie, but I can accept it…). But when my goals are ruined by diabetes, despite me doing all the right things, that is when I really resent my lazy pancreas. I have been doing everything I’m meant to do, DIABETES GOD, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?! A prayer? A sacrifice?!

frustrated

Food shamers? Leave my sight.

I’m proud of myself this week.

I stood up to someone who unintentionally food shamed the hell out of me.*

You know the people I’m talking about – they start a cleanse/paleo/vegan diet and all of a sudden your friend who is an accountant/HR manager/lawyer proclaims that they are the fountain of wisdom on all things ‘healthy’. Never mind that this person has not got a condition where they have to know way too much about food (*cough* diabetes), never mind that this new diet they are on will simply result in the weight being gained back because it’s not sustainable, the fact is that they’ve lost weight NOW and want everyone to know about it.

“Oh I couldn’t possibly have that cheese, so fatty, do you know what it does to you?”

I DON’T GIVE A FUCK IT’S DELICIOUS, HAND OVER THE BRIE OR SUFFER.

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I have no time for someone commenting about the food I am eating, unless it is one of two questions.

  1. “Oh my god, that looks so good, could I have the recipe?” Of course!
  2. “Oh my god, that looks so good, could I have some?” No. Especially if I’m eating Rondelé, bitch this cheese is mine.

Seriously, even if it comes from a well intentioned place and you honestly think you are doing the person a favour, say the sentence inside your head, swallow it (just like your herbalife smoothie) and move on. You have no idea about the mindset of the person who you are talking to – a ‘harmless’ comment about the fat content of their yoghurt could send them into a tailspin (I definitely did not cry in my car after someone told me that my yoghurt was fatty, definitely not).

I am ALL for healthy eating, some of my closest friends are dietitians and you should see the spreads we put on (OK, what THEY put on, I eat it and wash up). But healthy eating does not mean denial, or staying away from anything substantial until you whittle yourself down into society’s version of ‘health’. NO. Healthy eating means that you mindfully consider what you are eating, you eat a balanced diet, and sometimes you go out with friends and have fish and chips. You can eat LCHF/vegan/gluten-free without pushing it onto others – I have plenty of diabetes friends who do just that! Nobody wants to be ‘that guy’ at the BBQ that can only talk about his zucchini noodles – like c’mon, there are SO many more interesting topics, have you heard of a series called The Bachelor?

If you have found a way of eating that works for you, that is awesome, and I am happy for you, because goodness knows we all need some stability in this crazy, food-obsessed world of ours. What I do ask you to do, is consider others before talking about your food. I don’t know what it is about these last five years, but food talk seems to have slipped into small talk and it’s making me supremely uncomfortable. Frankly, I’ve had enough.

————————————————————————–

Last week I scooted over to my workmate to ask her if she had anything to eat – it was 4.30pm after a long meeting, and I still had 2 hours of marking to do.

“Oh, I have a lollipop!”

“Perfect!”

As I turn around I hear “Oh but they’re so bad for you! No, don’t it eat Georgie”

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She was well intentioned, meant no harm, but after a weekend of family commenting on my dietary choices (let me eat the goddamn sandwich, carbs are not the devil) I had had enough.

“I would appreciate it if you didn’t food shame me, [Name]. My food is my business, I’m an adult, and I’d rather you not comment on it unless it’s something like ‘Yum’!”

It doesn’t sound like much, but I was shaking. I am SICK of people thinking they have a right to tell me what I should eat, and work is my ‘safe place’. Do not invade this last bubble, please.

This person spent the next five minutes saying things like “I’d never heard of food shaming before you…I didn’t mean anything by it…I’m just trying to help’ which is completely understandable. I explained why it affects me, and why it would affect other people. I explained that so many people have issues with food, that it’s safer to only comment if you are asked or invited. I hope some of it got through – they may have left just thinking that I’m some precious, indulgent, easily-offended Gen Y, but at least I know that I won’t have any more comments on my lasagna or salad in the staff room.

Food is more than fuel. Fuel is culture, enjoyment, family, and memories. Food can bring back thoughts, experiences, and people. Every time I dip buttered toast into soup, I can hear my French host grandparents indulgently laughing at “l’australienne” who dipped baguette into her brouillon. “C’est comme ça en Australie? C’est bizarre!”

Our relationship with food is intensely personal – you wouldn’t walk up to my partner and say “Oh, that’s a terrible way to kiss!” – so why comment on something that’s equally as close? Unless you’re invited, keep away from my plate. 

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*Food shaming is linked to body shaming, which I will examine in another blog post further down the line, when I have a fresh story to relate it to (don’t worry, it won’t be long, the d*ckheads of Melbourne love a body shaming insult or two).