You Want Some Sugar With That?

Phil was briefly hospitalized following our recent ER adventure (Up All Night), so we had the opportunity of seeing into the belly of the beast of a large institution. The care from nurses, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, doctors, technicians and staff was beyond reproach. Their attitude was upbeat, and caring, and helpful. Of course being wakened repeatedly from sleep for “your vitals,” that is, to see if you are still alive, has little charm, but is understandable.

But the one institutional mind quirk that befuddled us was the approach to food. I am not talking about the quality, though that varied widely, but about the composition of the meals and the nutritionist’s approach.

Because of a drug he was treated with a few weeks earlier, Phil had slipped into a diabetic state. By monitoring what he ate, and watching his blood sugar, he was able to get the blood glucose levels to just above normal. Watching what he ate meant severely reducing simple carbohydrates (the whit things like rice, flour, sugar) and eating complex carbs (brown rice, fruit, some whole wheat flour or pasta).

But here is a typical dinner:


And here some low carb muffins that he is not addicted to:


So he hasn’t been exactly suffering.

Enter the hospital breakfast: a heaping pile of pancakes, syrup, and apple sauce. And a nurse with a needle full of insulin. At first he complained that he was supposed to be getting the food for diabetics-only to find out that this was the diabetic diet!

Flashback to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” with Phil as McMurphy and the dietician as Nurse Ratched:
“But I don’t want all those carbohydrates!”
“We count the carbohydrates for you. You get four to five each meal.”
“But then my sugar goes up!”
“And we give you insulin for that.”
“But I don’t want to be dependent on insulin, just cut out the carbs!”
“But you need carbohydrates for a well-rounded diet!”

After that I brought food in for him.

I have thought a lot about this, and, I will admit, have some understanding for their approach. The average diabetic is used to this regimen. Eat 4-5 carbs per meal (or more) and adjust sugar with insulin. A life with minimal carbs would be too hard.

Phil, of course, is a different breed of cat, which I knew from the day I met him. He had already dropped 20 pounds to keep a pre-diabetic tendency under control (it’s a family genetic thing), mainly through limiting carbs. The nutritionist override was not acceptable.

Fortunately, the stay was brief, so only a few trays of food were wasted. You can bring a man carbs, but he doesn’t have to eat them!


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