I know Halloween has come and gone, but every year it brings lots of feels for me. Halloween with T1D has been a journey.
How was your Halloween?
Ours was FANTASTIC!
Every year I make my son’s costume, usually relying heavily on Duck Tape and hot glue to hold it together.
I loathe sewing.
This year, my boy chose to be Bart Simpson, and the costume was amazing! I kid you not, he was the hit of Halloween! We couldn’t go two steps without children and adults exclaiming over it.
Not gonna lie, I was beaming inside!
I love this time of year.
The fall season in general is my favourite – the colourful leaves, the smells of the trees, and the wind in my hair. I love snuggling into a warm sweater with a hot tea in my hand. And yes, folks, I love Halloween too.
But that Halloween love didn’t always come easy.
Rewind: Halloween and the early years
I have a few fond memories of Halloween pre-diabetes.
I remember dressing as a homemade bunny one year with hangers stuffed into the ears, and an impressive Raggedy Anne another year where my red yarn hair was attached to a nylon wig covering.
My mom was Queen of the DIY costumes.
But most of my early year memories were Halloween with T1D.
I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes in the 1980s, and this was a time when diabetes management was super stringent. The recommendation was no candy and no sugary foods, unless blood sugars were low. And even then, it was mainly juice or dextrose tabs.
Not exactly the best recipe for Halloween.
But, my parents didn’t want me to miss out on trick-or-treating. So, I still got costumes and I still went door-to-door. And I came home with a bag of candy.
I don’t remember exactly how it was meant to be managed, but here are a few of the highlights of what happened with that candy:
- I sorted it in the living room and sold a few of the pieces to my older siblings; already an entrepreneur 😉
- I kept the stock in my bedroom for “future” sales, or so that’s what I told my parents
- I stuffed at least half into the tiny holes that I created in my stuffies, and proceeded to pilfer my own stock
- I hid under my blankets eating piece after piece, because under my blankets no one would see me
As a teenager, I remember running down to the candy bowl on Halloween and stuffing my pockets with chocolates, and even throwing a bunch down my shirt. I then ran up to my bedroom, and hid under the blankets, stuffing the empty wrappers between my mattresses.
Hello distorted relationship with food.
Halloween with T1D and disordered eating
Leading up to Halloween this year I saw a lot of recommendations for how to “manage” kids consumption of candy. These recommendations were from fellow dietitians and parents alike. These recommendations were for kids with T1D and without.
Most of these recommendations had some form of restriction or limitation or tricking the kids into thinking that trading their candy for a toy would be a much better option – oh yeah, my parents tried that one too.
My skin crawled with nearly every single post I saw, and I think a lot of that comes back to my memories of the restrictions put on me for Halloween with T1D.
Clearly I am proof that restricting and limiting Halloween candies is not the answer.
My Halloween with T1D experiences as a kid helped shape my disordered relationship with food in those early years. A relationship that took years to better, and some days can still be a struggle.
So, what’s the solution?
To the kids we trust
Trusting our children to make balanced decisions with foods can be a challenge, and even more so when T1D is involved.
I get that.
But here’s the thing, if we don’t trust them, and if we don’t allow them to make their own choices and experience the results of those choices, we risk messing up their relationship with food.
Yes, eating candy after candy after candy is scary, because we know that candy is going to raise their blood sugars.
But we also know that we have the tool of insulin to help manage that. It’s not an always perfect tool, but it is a tool.
Here’s my suggestion:
Let your children grab what they want for a serving – no judgement, no controlling parent – figure out the carbs, and dose for it. If they choose more, they may need more insulin, and that’s okay. If they choose “too much” they may get a belly ache and that’s a good lesson for them to learn too so that maybe they won’t choose so much the next time.
Keep the candy in a cupboard with other foods. It’s not hidden, it’s right there with your breads, nuts, seeds, pastas, etc. But it’s also not out in the open, therefore not always on their minds.
By relaxing the reigns, disordered eating is less likely to occur.
And that’s a great outcome!
It’s a journey
I want to be clear, I am not a perfect parent.
I struggle every day with my decision making, constantly second guessing if I’m doing the right thing or not.
Parenting is not easy. And parenting a child with T1D, I cannot even imagine.
So, I think we need to be kind to ourselves too. Just like our children, we are going to make mistakes, and we learn from those mistakes.
Halloween with T1D it’s a journey, just like every other day and every other event with T1D.
Now, excuse me please while I go nosh on a pack of fun-size peanut M&Ms (~10g carbs), because yes, I am that parent that steals from the boy’s stash 🙂