As someone who has always loved the comfort foods like pizza and mac and cheese, being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was a college student hit me hard. I grew up in a healthy home and there was no history of this auto-immune disease in my family, so my diganosis was a complete suprise!
Shortly after being diagnosed, I gained a lot of excess weight, felt sick all the time and was practically fainting at my internship multiple times throughout the day. To say it was a dark and difficult time in my life is an understatment. I knew there had to be a better way to live! After doing a considerable amount of research on the effects of carbohydrates and sugars on my body, I decided to adopt a grain-free, real-food and Paleo way of eating.
Almost immediately my health improved. I felt so much better and it gave me much tighter control over my blood sugar levels. This feeling of stability and control was so exciting I jumped whole-heartedly into following the Paleo-centered lifestyle and I have never looked back!
Of course, it wasn't easy at first since for me food has an emotional component to it. The elimination of grains, gluten and refined sugars left me longing for many of my favorite foods but when I reminded myself of the benefits of following the diet—and how fabulously I felt each day— it boosted my will power and made it easier to say no to foods like sandwiches and pasta.
It also helped that I like experimenting in the kitchen and was prepared to clean up food creativity that got messy. There were definitely failures and yes, endless batches of completely flat cookies and batter spilled all over my oven, too. But I thoroughly enjoyed the process and began to slowly re-create all my favorite foods from classic butter biscuits made with cashews to spaghetti squash lasagna to cinnamon toast cereal and peppermint mochas—all made with ingredients that make me feel great. My love of good old fashioned classic comfort food eventually lead me to writing my cookbook, All American Paleo Table!
Adopting a Paleo-friendly diet means returning to eating foods the way nature intended them—whole and pure. Eliminating processed, refined sugars and carbohydrates is what gave me the control I longed for. I was amazed to see the difference that occured when certain foods that caused my blood sugar to spike were eliminated from my diet. The margin of error for highs and lows became instantly so much smaller that I stopped constantly stressing over my blood sugar levels throughout the day. For me, the difference was astonishing.
People often ask me if eating in this way feels overly restrictive. I always respond that it’s quite the opposite! My daily plate is filled with foods that taste delicious and leave me healthy, happy and satisfied. Eating a grain-free and Paleo diet is actually quite liberating because it provides me with the energy, enthusiasm and freedom to enjoy my life each and every day.
Tips for Thriving with Type 1 Diabetes
Note: Anyone considering diets that restrict entire food groups, such as whole grains, should always consult with a physician first.