March 23, 2008

Sweet Temptation

Candy. Sweet candy. The devil in disguise. Candy carries with it all the innocence of our youth. It conjures treasured memories of Halloweens past eating candy corn until you could burst, finding goodies left by the Easter bunny in plastic grass-filled baskets, ice cream cake at birthday parties and bringing cupcakes to school, and the privilege of dessert upon finishing your peas.

As someone who developed Type 1 diabetes when I was 18, my youth was filled with these types of experiences. In the early years after my diagnosis, I thought I was lucky to have been able to fully participate in those events without having to think twice about what I was putting into my mouth. After close to eleven years, I'm beginning to think differently. I now wonder what life would be like had I not had a childhood love affair with the stuff - had I not developed a sweet tooth. Would it be easier to turn it down? To eliminate it from my diet?

Growing up, my parents did a fantastic job of filling our fridge with healthy foods. Our sweet snacks consisted of miniature boxes of raisins and perhaps a low-sugar granola bar. Dessert was usually fruit cocktail, which I now know to be marinated in corn syrup and sugar, but still, they had the right idea with fruit. The only time cereals like Lucky Charms or Coco Puffs and snacks like chips came into my reach was when I was at a friend's house.

Yet, when I suddenly had diabetes and sugar was out of the question, I simultaneously began to crave the damn stuff. As it became necessary for me to always have some of it with me at all times in case of low blood sugar, it was now even more accessible than it was before I was diabetic. Having never thought about sugar twice, I felt like I turned into an addict. It's not exactly a drug addiction. But knowing that certain foods are taboo leads you think about them. Frequently.

Today, as I turned the aisle to get in line to rent a movie, I spotted the candy section. Actually, I smelled it before I saw it, as I usually do. (I can smell marshmallows in the next aisle over at the grocery store.) Whoever designed the layout of the video store knew exactly what they were doing. I joined the line of craving-laden folks who were being forced to look at the delicious spread, and watched as each person in front of me eventually gave in and grabbed a brightly colored box.

I found a box of Red Vines staring at me. I picked them up. Then a box of Junior Mints was staring at me. I picked that up and put back the Red Vines. I came to my senses the moment the kid at the register said, "Next." looking right at me. Thoughts of blindness, leg amputation, and not being able to have children flashed through my mind. I put the Junior Mints back, paid for the movie, and walked out the door feeling good about myself.

I know this is just one moment of strength, but each time I can overcome the addiction, the better chances I have of overcoming it next time. Diabetics live with constant temptation. Seemingly harmless temptation to those who don't understand. But perhaps if we start to share the possible horrible futures us diabetics risk each time we give in to a sugar craving, they just might stop pressuring us to "just have a bite."

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