Living with Diabetes...Before and During Covid-19

Friday, November 6, 2020

Livliga with Diabetes before and during Covid-19

Guest Blog by Karen Graffeo

My memories around my diabetes diagnosis and my early years of life with a chronic illness are fuzzy. It was more than four decades ago, so it makes sense that the details aren't clear. But I do remember that food was suddenly a huge issue.

In the early 80s, living with diabetes meant sugar was forbidden. It meant following the "exchange diet," which dictated eating specific amounts of certain food groups at certain times, whether I was hungry or not. As a teenager, this was so hard. I hated being the different kid - the kid who had a snack when nobody else did, the only kid at the birthday party who couldn't eat the cake.

I'm thankful that diabetes treatment plans have significantly progressed, and with careful planning, I can fit almost any food into my diet. But I still feel my relationship with food is somewhat warped. Sometimes, I find myself eating something to prove I can, rather than because I genuinely want to eat it. I've been trying to eat mindfully for the past few years, but that's still a work in progress.

And then 2020 hit, with its COVID pandemic. Mindful eating seems to be a challenge for many of us now, as we crave comfort foods to get us through our "new normal." Living with diabetes puts me in the high-risk group, so my husband and I are (still) sheltering in place. Back in March, when we began hunkering down at home, I had a lot of stress around food availability. I needed to reserve each grocery delivery time slot a week in advance. Meal planning was difficult because many foods I considered staples were unavailable. Suddenly I worried a lot about food, just as I did decades ago.

Luckily, those issues have been resolved as the pandemic progresses. I can put in a grocery order to be delivered within a day or so. Almost everything in our order is usually in stock. Now that the "food worry" is gone, I can see some ways that the pandemic has improved what my husband and I are eating.

  • Solid meal plans - We still order groceries once a week. We can't just run to the store on impulse. So, every weekend, I plan my complete menu for the coming week and stick to it.
  • No dining out - I make poor food choices in restaurants. I’m not proud of that, but it's true. And although restaurants here in Connecticut are now open, with indoor and outdoor dining options, my husband and I don't feel ready for that. We order curbside pickup on occasion, but it just seems easier to cook at home instead - which means I'm making better food choices.
  • Cooking more from scratch - I've never been one for frozen meals and heat-and-eat options. But since March, I find myself making more and more from scratch, resulting in healthier, less processed food with fewer additives and artificial ingredients.

Perhaps the best example of how the pandemic has helped us eat better is Friday Pizza Night, a tradition in our house for years. Before COVID, we'd place an order every Friday at one of the many great pizza places in town. In addition to a small pizza (which is always too big for just the two of us), we often added an appetizer and sometimes a salad and dessert. There was way too much food, and we ate way too much of it.

Being on lockdown didn't eliminate Friday Pizza Night, but it changed it for the better because I make our pizza from scratch now. Every few weeks, I knead up a batch of dough and divide it into three portions. Two go in the freezer for the next two Fridays, and one gets rolled out, topped with pizza sauce (also made from scratch), sprinkled with toppings, and baked up. Our homemade pizzas are smaller, just the right size for the two of us. There are no heavy appetizers, and dessert is also something I've baked up from scratch. It's all much healthier, and our portions are reasonable.

Living with diabetes is never easy. Living with it during a pandemic is hard. So yes, things since March have been difficult. But it isn't all bad, and I'd like to think that the new food habits my husband and I are forming will continue even after COVID becomes a distant memory.


Karen Graffeo was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 11. In 2008 she founded her diabetes blog, Bitter-Sweet, where she blogged for almost a decade. Karen has been leading DiabetesSisters Virtual PODS Meetup since 2014. In 2017 she joined the DiabetesSisters staff as Content Manager. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and the world's most adorable cat.

Find DiabetesSisters on the web at and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @DiabetesSisters.

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