The way I see it, the longer a person lives with Type 1 Diabetes, the more time there is for complications to arise. There’s certainly a bevy of potential problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, the heart, blood vessels, eyes and kidneys are all major organs that can be affected by the disease. If that’s not disconcerting enough, several potential complications can become life-threatening. A child diagnosed at age 6 has a lot more time to cultivate these issues than someone diagnosed at, say, 36.
That’s why talking health with your diabetic child is just as important as discussing their medication.
If you’re the parent of a diabetic, you already know this. You also know that proper management is key in preventing most of these problems, if not all the them. Knowledge isn’t the issue…convincing your kid to walk the walk is where it gets dicey.This is how I convinced my eight-year-old daughter, Cheyenne, to choose the whole grain bagel over the glazed doughnut and never feel cheated.
First of all, I don’t sugarcoat, literally or figuratively.
I’ve gone into extensive research of the problems my daughter might face and had her sit right beside me as I did. After all, it’s her disease. It may seem harsh (although I did stop short of showing her actual images), tough love at its toughest, but it did something I couldn’t–delivered the facts first hand.
An amputated foot isn’t some scary story Mom threw out there to get her to eat her veggies, it’s a hard and cold fact of the effect of elevated blood sugar over time as it damages the capillaries. She wasn’t merely told; she herself possesses the knowledge. And that is a powerful thing.
Next up…I walked the walk first.
Choosing complex carbs over simple sugars is just health-conscious common sense (and easy prevention against sugar spikes that contribute to insulin resistance, a condition often preceding Type 2 diabetes). I could preach the difference all day, but I better put up or shut up when it comes time to do the grocery shopping. In this case, do-as-I-do is a given. I can’t tell Cheyenne to eat whole grains if they aren’t on the menu, can I?
So we eat whole grain brown rice and bread and processed food is a thing of the past. I don’t use the chemically-sweetened box desserts, I buy whole grain flour or minimally-processed sugar and do it myself; lemon bars, zucchini bread, dark chocolate greek yogurt…I’m sorry, Duncan Hines, who?
She’s not hearing about a healthy lifestyle, or reading about it…she’s living it. It’s a sacrifice and it’s a struggle, but like any great general you’ve got to lead by example.
Lastly, I NEVER give it a rest.
That’s not to say we don’t cheat and eat at Whataburger every once in awhile or splurge on birthday cake and ice cream when an occasion calls for it. But I never forget I’m eating outside the bounds of what I normally consider acceptable…and I never let her forget, either.
Sure, have a piece of cake, but my job as Mom and manager means you’re not getting past the first bite without being reminded of what’s going to happen to your blood sugar when you eat it. Enjoy your cheese pizza, but allow me to wax poetic on the much healthier whole wheat version we make at home while you do.
Call me a party-pooper or a Debbie-downer all day, but it’s critical that I implant these thoughts into her little, spongey head while she’s young enough to soak them up. When she’s an adult I want that nagging thought in her head–this is unhealthy–present and habitual every time she splurges.
That said, splurges are just as crucial as her awareness of them. Like the diet that suddenly turns into a binge-eating nightmare, you can’t permanently abstain from gooey brownies and grape snowcones without some hefty consequences.
With these few tricks I’ve turned both my kids–even the non-diabetic one–into healthy food advocates who applaud whole grain desserts and frown at high-fructose corn syrup in their yogurt. They read ingredient labels and make sound choices…and they never take a cheeseburger for granted.