Off the Table: My Journey with Food

As a kid with type one diabetes, it was excruciating to watch a room full of people eat food I was not allowed to eat. My friends could scarf a Snicker’s Bar down whenever they felt like it. meanwhile, I had a plethora of carrots, celery, pickles and broccoli I could gorge upon. My cousins were allowed to delight in holiday goodies with wild abandon while I munched my solitary cookie. I hated this; I didn’t want to be different.

I remember waking up one morning to the sounds of laughter and conversation while the TV blared in the background. Rolling out of bed and trudging down the hall, I found aunts, uncles, siblings and parents enjoying breakfast around the kitchen table.

As the adults interacted with the Husker game booming from the TV, I quietly pulled open the drawer where Grandma kept the store-bought Hostess cinnamon rolls. I glanced over my shoulder, making sure no one noticed me. My hand snatched a roll from the connected bunch, tearing it free. Setting it on a plate, I calmly sat down at the fifties-style kitchen table.

Tempting fate, I suspended a butter knife in mid-air, and asked, “Does anybody want to split this with me?”

Finally taking notice, the adults turned in my direction. Several heads snapping towards me at once as if yanked by a string. Someone said, “Bridgit, you can’t have that.”

Enraged, I chucked the knife across the table and ran from the room, crying over the injustice of my life.

This was years ago, but I recall how alienated I felt because of food. Everyone partook in a ritual that I was excluded from. At least that’s how it felt. I decided to turn the tables on the world. Ha-ha, I thought as I did not worry about ggaining weight on my half-cup of steamed veggies and my one-third-cup of shredded cheese and chicken breast the size of a deck of cards. Go ahead, eat your candy and cakes, I don’t care. I have health on my side. I still dreamed about the titillating sensation of eating what I wanted, when I wanted.

Oddly enough, I no longer crave sweets with the passion of a child willing to do any chore, go any length just to find bliss with one peanut butter cookie, one chocolate bar, one fudge brownie, one ice cream Sunday. I also don’t mind being different; in fact, I rather enjoy it. Nonetheless, I don’t like to be told what to do, or what not to do for that matter. Apparently, I’m still learning lessons.

What did happen is that I obsessed over my food in-take. I counted calories and fat and carbs, tracking how much I consumed in a given day. Restricting food was now in my control. If I couldn’t gorge on massive amounts of food anytime I wanted, then I would restrict food as much as possible. I can’t say if this was my thought process or not, but it makes a certain amount of sense. In my mind, I gained the upper hand.

What does this mean now that I’m 40? I have a lot of hang-ups about food. I’ve been through eating disorder programs, worked with therapists, and yes, I can say I’m on the healthy side of this mental illness. Well, at least a healthier side. But the desire to restrict, to be in control always hovers on the sidelines.

I’m still T1 diabetic, obviously. So, to some degree, I have to be aware of what I consume. Fortunately, diabetes management has evolved since the 80s. Despite how ill-informed most people are about diabetes, there’s actually nothing off the table for diabetics. We can eat anything.

What we need to do, and what anyone should do, is watch portion sizes, attempt to eat healthy or healthier foods and not snack a lot. What is most important for diabetics is carb control. Regardless of what type diabetes you have, we need to know how many carbs we eat at a meal. For insulin-dependent diabetics, we can then accurately deliver insulin for a meal bolus. And For diabetics on oral meds or controlling with diet, you often have to stick to a restrictive carb count for meals, meaning it’s equally important to be aware of carbs.

For multiple reasons, I will never be able to eat without thinking about it to some degree. I have to find the balance. I have to find my routine and stick with it. Otherwise, I find myself confronted with sketchy behavior.

By Imperfection

Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax. In her spare time (A.K.A. her dreams) she’s a Broadway star. Kuenning-Pollpeter is a freelance marketer during the day, a creative writer at night. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers and Random Sample Review. She has her BFA and MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee. She is blind and writes frequently about disability. She’s working on a memoir about the disabled feminine experience. With the kids though, expect it in stores in about a decade.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: