The Normal Diet and Other Diabetic Myths

If there is one thing a newly diagnosed diabetic obsesses about, it’s what they are allowed to eat. Discovering that your food is no longer the comforting companion that you thought it once was can be disconcerting. In fact, it’s alarming if you consider how many people die from diabetic complications every year.

New members quickly learn that with the aid of insulin and medications they can still eat whatever they want. You don’t have to suffer any form of dietary abstinence. You can eat a normal diet just like anyone else. This is a core tenant of the mainstream Type 1 and Type 2 diabetic communities. It just isn’t “right” that a Type 1 diabetic child wouldn’t be allowed to eat a couple 500 cal. cupcakes at a friend’s party like all of the other children. This, in spite of the fact that most people will admit that such things “might not be good for us”.

Is this a defendable nutritional position?

For months after after my diagnosis, I had this same debate play out in my head. I’m here to tell you it is horrible! I was virtually paralyzed by how unfair it was that I couldn’t eat a “normal” diet like everyone else around me. Gradually, the utter absurdity of this situation began to occur to me. It reminds me of the H.G. Wells short story “Country of the Blind”. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend you read it!  It is a metaphor for so much of our modern world. It is available for free all over the internet. You can download it here at

The basic premise of the story is that an explorer falls into a deep crevasse. He finds himself in a forgotten world were a dominate genetic trait has rendered the inhabitants eyeless. Not just blind, but without eyes at all. They are horrified to discover that the explorer has these terrible disfiguring growths on his face (eyes). Long story short, he falls in love with the king’s daughter. He is given the choice to have his disgusting tumors removed, or not be allowed to marry the princess. I won’t spoil the ending for you…

I constantly find myself thinking of “The Country of The Blind” as it pertains to “normal” dietary choices. In the western world, it is “normal” to drink a 32 oz. soda or a Venti 500 calorie caramel Frappuccino. It’s “normal” to give a child (diabetic or not) cakes and cookies after every other meal. We live in the free world, so we shouldn’t have to compromise for anything or anyone.CRO_Health_Country_Healthcare_Spending_09-14

…and how’s that working for us?

The western world is especially sick. It is estimated that 75% of our healthcare money is actually spent on an umbrella disorder known as Metabolic Syndrome. Google it if you are not familiar with the details. Suffice it to say, ALL of the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome have aspects that lead directly back to diet.  The majority of our healthcare money is spent on the care of diseases synonymous  with excess. In short, the “West” might not be the best judge of “normal”. (See an excerpt from Carb-Loaded on this topic)

The western diet is akin to the final days of the Roman empire. Decadent and unsustainable. We live in a real world self deluding “Country of The Blind”. It saddens me when I see parents of diabetic children making concerted efforts to ensure their children have a “normal” childhood by availing them all sorts of insane high sugar foods. “We ate them as kids, why can’t our children?” Again, how’s that working for you now?

It’s NOT NORMAL, it’s just common.

This was highlighted recently in a dust-up on twitter between the CrossFit organization and Type 1 diabetic heart throb Nick Jonas. CrossFit tweeted a disparagement of Coke being linked to diabetes, which it is. Jonas chided CrossFit for not making a distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics. Was this an allusion to the “fact” the T1’s can drink soda? Setting aside that Nick Jonas has financial ties to Coke, among other things this seems to be a pronouncement of what it means to eat or drink “normal” food.

When it comes to food, we need to ask ourselves about what it means to eat food that is actually GOOD for us. Hippocrates famously said “Let food be thy medicine”. This is the complete opposite of “eat whatever you want… and then take your medicine”.

Normal is Illusive and Can Be a Little Dangerous

Statistics hold out that 1 in 3 of us are pre-diabetic or diabetic. By the middle of this century, the CDC estimates that half of the US population will be pre-diabetic or diabetic. That’s not normal is it? Well, neither are the dietary reasons that are taking us there.

There is a whole world of incredible “ab-normal” healthy and delicious food just waiting for you out there. We owe it to ourselves and our children to examine our attitudes about nutrition and health. Instead of settling for food that “might not be good for you”, it can be a liberating experience to seek out food that is both good to eat AND good for you.

Lathe Poland is one of the creators of the documentary film Carb-Loaded: A Culture Dying To Eat.

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