Being Vegan and Diabetic

October 31, 2023 6 min read

Being Vegan and Diabetic

Hello everyone! Hope everyone is having a good 2023 and enjoying the return to normality after three years of COVID. 

Today is World Vegan Day, so I thought I would write a post on my own updates on my vegan journey over the years, which may not be what you expected. 

I went vegan when my son was around 1.5 years old, so I tend to reference my son’s age when people ask me how long I’ve been vegan. So that makes it around 8 years now, and it has definitely been a journey.

It started with my discovering I had ‘borderline’ diabetes which was picked up after my second pregnancy. I had initially dismissed it thinking it was ‘just’ gestational diabetes, which had also manifested during my first pregnancy. Only to find out after rigorous follow testing after my second pregnancy, that my blood glucose levels were still borderline high in tests, even some months after giving birth. 

Being the nerd I am, I researched anti-diabetes diets, and that was how I stumbled across a moving You Tube video on why we should go vegan, and just like that, I was converted and more or less turned vegan overnight. To be clear, my diabetes was the reason I found out about veganism, but is not the reason I am vegan, as it is very possible to have an unhealthy vegan diet as I soon found it. This was around 2016, and veganism on YouTube and Instagram was in its infancy. I did not know anyone else who was vegan, my family all thought I was crazy, and my soon to be ex-husband wanted no part of it. So I turned to social media, and for a while my vegan role models were back in the day YouTubers eg, Freelee, Cheap Lazy Vegan, Mommy Tang, Banana Blondie etc. And at the time the food they would prepare were very high in sugars and carbs, which didn’t seem to matter so much for those who exercised a lot. But for everyone else, it did seem to lead to general weight gain all round. In my case I went through a spell of getting skin infections which was pretty gross and distressing, and I had to take several courses of antibiotics for, before I finally figured out that it was because I was consuming way too much sugar. This was because I was stupidly listening to these YouTubers, specifically Freelee and Freelee followers, who were convinced that only eating fruit was normal and as long as you were vegan you could eat all the sugar you wanted. 

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So then I cut back on the sugar, but at that point it was still only the junk sugar I was cutting back on, mainly breakfast cereals that I was overconsuming but now could barely bring myself to take even one mouthful of anymore.

Over the years I have had a few more blood glucose testing done via clinics and doctors, and have had mixed results, on average I would say they are still borderline. 

I eventually worked out that it wasn’t enough to cut out the junk sugar, I also had to cut back on large carbohydrate consumption, which was a little tricky for me as vegan recipes and dishes often fall back heavily on carbs to substitute for meat, such as pastas, rice, potatoes and bread. The alternative was salads and zero glucose index vegetables. 

It was a little bit of a shock to me that not only was it all the cakes and breads I was eating was not helping me out, the large quantities of moorish noodles and rice were not either. 

Then I converted to eating mostly oatmeal for breakfast and brown rice instead of white rice, and for a while I thought that would do. 

Over the years the vegan scene went on a roller coaster ride, it started off with overhyping veganism where it really looked like it was taking off and there was hope that more and more people would become soon vegan. Back then a lot of the well known vegan influencers were angry and aggressive, and eventually there was fighting within the community leading to a falling out and a mini implosion where a few key players lost their followings and became less relevant on social media. Freelee got backlash from being overly aggressive with attacking non-vegans in her videos and promoting an essentially unhealthy vegan diet. And a few former vegans stopped being vegan, for me notably Vegan Cheetah and Tim Schieff.  

Social media also changed, and over time the OG influencers got replaced by other passionate vegan advocates and their passionate speeches, videos, blog posts, shorts and reels, from the likes of Plant Based News, Earthling Ed, and That Vegan Teacher. Not only that, new vegan social media chefs were coming out, and killing the instagram algorithms with their amazing reels showing off a dazzling array of vegan recipes that looked delicious and dare I say it even possible for me to cook. For me, there is Peng Vegan Munch, Plant You, Fit Green Mind Maya, and The Korean Vegan. 

Myself I started to watch the vegan influencers less and less. Over the years, my dietary behaviours changed. I began with eating anything vegan I could find, gorging myself even, healthy and unhealthy, in an effort to prove to myself and to the world that there was no issue with being vegan, that there was plenty of vegan food around. I tried all the different mock meats, Beyond Meat, Impossible Meat. I switched from soy milk to oat milk, because Oatly was the sparkling new vegan company breaking out on the scene. 

Then due to my blood sugar issues I started to refine my diet more and more. More recently I became very interested in the Glucose Goddess’s posts and message on sugar. I was stunned to find out after listening to one of her podcasts that oat milk causes sugar spikes, as it was just starch in water. That brown rice and sweet potato was not much better than white rice and white potato, and that most of the fruit we buy are genetically modified to be way sweeter than their original wild versions. I came across a book called intermittent fasting for vegans in a bookshop, and now I don’t feel a need to religiously eat carbs three times a day the way I used to, or indeed to have to eat three meals at all. Although I still do, but now that psychological pressure is gone, or at least reduced. If I go out and there’s no vegan food, I can actually opt to not eat, or just tide myself over with some nibbles, which is probably a better option than gorging on chips. Not that I don’t at times, I’m still human. I still eat the junk, but I’m much more canny about it. I’ve cut way back on rice now, and have replaced it almost completely with quinoa at home. I’ve stopped buying oatmilk, and gone back to soy milk. I am loving beans and tofu, and eating them with vegetables genuinely makes me feel great. For vegetables, broccoli is my go to at home, chopped cucumber with tomatoes and chickpeas is also a favourite. I keep a lookout for new recipes that I can add to my regular go tos. But now I understand I am definitely not lacking in food options, rather I need to pare back on what I eat. 

I do the blood sugar finger pricking test on occasion, when I feel I am slipping, I go back to testing myself more frequently to recalibrate myself. 

So that’s an abridged version of my story so far in 2023, I don’t go much into the social aspects of my vegan journey which are very significant and can’t be down played, and I hope to cover this in another blog post at a later date when I am ready. 

I am still struggling with my blood glucose, but at least I believe I have figured out one piece of the puzzle, which is my diet. I have been putting getting my Hb1Ac tested, but I hope to get over my mental hurdle and get tested soon. Although I don't always, I know that if I have had a carb overload, that I should do some form of exercise, and I work on different forms of movement to work out which are effective for reducing my blood glucose. 

I think I’ve gone on long enough now, thanks for reading this far, hope it was helpful for you, and see you in the next post!


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