Travel in India with type 1 diabetes – Amy’s first few food days

In late July 2011, exactly 7 months after Amy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we backpacked around India for four weeks, in a trip we called Monsoon Meandering.

This is post 11 in the series about that trip and its planning and how type 1 diabetes played a part.
This post is all about Amy’s first few days.

Honeymoon and counting carbohydrates

Amy had only been diagnosed 7 months before we travelled and was still definitely in her ‘honeymoon’ period. Just for the record that word ‘honeymoon’ should not be used for type 1 diabetes, it’s not fun like the real thing, although in a similar vein it can feel like your life has been <insert-your-favourite-past-tense-procreation-word-here>.
At this stage we were not carbohydrate counting and her insulin doses were based around a rough estimate of the size of the meal and whether it was heavy or light on the carbohydrates. Our carbohydrate counting training was scheduled for a month after we returned, but how I wish we’d known about it beforehand.

Breakfast is for wimps

I mentioned in the paragraph ‘A word about flight times’ (flying, medical letters & adjusting basal) that we took a day time flight to India, landing just before midnight (Indian time, 7pm BST, 6pm GMT), how well that worked and that our body clocks didn’t adjust for days. For this reason meal times were all over the place in the first three days and we were generally never awake early enough to have breakfast until day four.

A madly active first few days, no time for hypos

We only had three days in Delhi and we had a lot to do: food at Karim’s (video); a meal as honourary Food Enthusiasts of Delhi; Sunday lunch with my friend Madhu; Sunday dinner with my friend Gautam and his family.
Food times were all over the place, but we’d eaten so much that Amy didn’t have many hypos as the insulin we gave her was probably lower than it should have been.

Day 4: “I don’t like Indian food anymore”

These weren’t the words we wanted to hear but that’s what Amy declared on day 4.
Both kids have always been excellent at eating Indian food, from the moment we introduced “International Food Sunday” to replace the typical roast, although we never got much past “this week let’s try Indian” as they liked it, so many Sundays afterwards featured a Sunday Curry.
Amy had been fine eating Indian food virtually every day during the 3.5 week trip in 2009 bar the odd pasta day. But within 4 days it was all over. We’ve got a problem.

Injecting in not-so-posh restaurants

As a family we rarely eat out so haven’t faced any problems with injecting within the restaurant or having to take Amy somewhere away from the tables, so India brought us a new experience. How would it go we wondered, would she be self conscious, would it put her off if people stared?
For the first few days we’d only eaten a couple of times in restaurants and they had been relatively medium-budget places with nice dividers between the tables, or lovely washrooms. We hadn’t yet tried doing injections somewhere crowded, or just a room full of tables.
On day 4 we had gone to Amritsar to celebrate Jane and my wedding anniversary and I was determined to go to a really out of the way, almost locals only, restaurant named Kesar da Dhaba.
Kesar da Dhaba looks like a UK cafe with its plain uncovered wooden tables, its metal beakers and thali trays for food. There’s no knives or forks here given out by default, you need to request them. We requested 3 lots, I decided to go local.
Amy didn’t eat much, it was a bit too authentic for her liking but she wasn’t daunted by anything, bravely trying the different dishes but only really eating the Shahi Paneer and Aloo Gobi and multiple roti/naans.
When it came to do the injection everything went very well, doing it at the table without anyone really caring at all. We’d forgotten that India until recently was the diabetes capital of the World – now second to China – so everyone had seen it all before.
I believe going somewhere like Kesar da Dhaba really helped us realise that in general there would be no problems coping with injections during our trip.

Hypo, hypo, hypo and forgetting advice

Amy started having a few hypos over the new few days and it took us a few meals to realise why: we were giving pre-meal injections based on what she thought she’d eat but often she ended up only eating part of it, due to her new found dislike of Indian food.
We’d forgotten the advice that injecting after the meal was probably a better idea as when eating Indian food at home Amy had eaten everything put in front of her.
It didn’t take long to remember the advice and changing to post-meal injections seemed to settle the hypos somewhat.

Discovering the food issues

We tried to work out why Amy had suddenly formed a dislike of Indian food as this was likely to make the rest of the trip quite tricky.
A few months prior to the trip Emilia had decided to go vegetarian, something I applauded after doing it myself for a few years. I was also wary of eating meat after wondering whether it may have been the cause of my 2009 downfall.
Due to these two facts we’d so far predominately eaten vegetarian and specifically our dish of choice had been the sublime Shahi Paneer, unless of course you’ve just decided you dislike Paneer. That was it, she hated paneer, but didn’t really know this herself until she’d eaten it over several consecutive days, something that never happened at home when we had paneer.
It was really worth spending the time trying to discover where the problem lie as it made the rest of the trip easier.

Next up – The homestay adventure

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