Dealing with diabetes in Melbourne (hypo, beers and sometimes saying ‘fuck it’)

Dealing with diabetes in Melbourne (hypo, beers and sometimes saying ‘fuck it’)

Kebab - Diabetetes
Words by Joseph Carbone

What it’s like having to reconsider the 2AM kebab

In January this year, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It was a big shock, of course, but not entirely surprising. I’d been unwell for the back half of 2020, lost heaps of weight, needed to drink water all the time and was constantly rushing to the bathroom.

After the diagnosis, I had to come to terms with the basics of diabetes management: checking my blood sugar levels, learning to inject insulin and having to incorporate pretty significant lifestyle changes, the most significant of which are the changes to the food I eat, when I eat it and how much I should eat. 

Stay up to date with what’s happening in Melbourne here.

When you zoom out, the equations are all quite simple, with the results being that you either maintain your health or start developing some very serious complications. You don’t want to go blind, lose feeling in your extremities or cop renal failure, so you should do the right thing by your body and just accept that you can’t eat like you used to. 

But when you zoom in, when you want to get on the beers with mates or eat a huge HSP after said beers (or anytime, really), these simple decisions become much more difficult.

“What’s one load of chips really going to do to me in the long run?” you ask yourself. But this is a slippery slope, and characteristic of the endless debates I’ve been having with myself almost every day since my diagnosis. 

Because I love food. I love carbs (the number two villain of my ‘beetus experience, behind straight-up sugar, of course) and I live in Melbourne’s inner north. Fuck. There is an embarrassment of affordable quality restaurants, eateries, pubs, bars, or whatever other pretentious label you want to slap onto a dining option in the northern suburbs. But carbs are still a dominant force in most venues, so how does one manage? I’m still relatively new to the diabetes game, but I thought I’d share some options along and around one of the north’s main arteries – Sydney Road – that I rate, sorted into different strata depending on my needs at the time of eating.

Low blood sugar – Also known as a hypo, it means I’m in a bit of trouble and need some sugar. Fast. If I’ve had a poorly managed week and I’m out of my emergency sugar options at home, there’s a few choices for me (and the sweet tooths currently reading) to help fix me up. So, beyond just rushing to the pharmacy and buying those Glucojel jellybeans that we all know and love, a great pick is the new Billy van Creamy ice cream store. Simple, baby blue walls and a small board with standard choices means I can get in and out without too much trouble. Apologies to the staff for only shopping there when I’m straight-up angry and irate (it’s a low blood sugar thing). 

When you want low-carb options – This is the standard state of my being. It’s also a tough ask along Sydney Road. That being said, you obviously want to avoid dishes with too much (or any) pasta or rice for example, so I always check in with the staples of low-carb diets: fish and eggs. Not together. 

New kids on the block Docks Fish and Chips do a mean grilled fish pack that I can recommend, served with your choice of chips or brown rice (which I’d have to share, but we can’t win everything). And head to Green Refectory for their classic breakfast options, (the eggs have cured many Scary Sundays for yours truly).  

No carbs – I’ll be honest, I don’t get around this one too much. Go buy some veggies or something, I’m not really sure how it works. 

Beers – Where to begin? Diabetics have to watch it with beers, because the carbs will first raise your blood sugar, before the alcohol will get you later in the night and could drop your sugars dangerously low, which is always fun to manage when you’ve had a skin full. That being said, favourite drinking holes include classics like The Retreat Hotel and Edinburgh Castle, as well as shiny Welcome to Brunswick and its rotating Four Pines selections. There’s also plenty of other classic pubs and trendy bars stretched over Sydney Road that are worth having a look-in. Beers are beers.

God, I love beers. 

Fuck It, Lots of Carbs – Sometimes you just have to say fuck it, and make sure you’ve got your insulin handy. Ciao Mamma! is a carb-lovers delight, with classic pasta dishes made your own way and a vibrant, moving dining area. And underrated Green Field does cheap Vietnamese fare with an ease that fits well with the fuck it mentality. The food comes quick, and it doesn’t hurt your wallet. The rice, however, may hurt you in the long run. Oh well.

It’s a minefield out here for diabetics, but self-control and respect for yourself and your body are key. The mental toll can also be immense, so it’s important that I treat myself occasionally and let myself off the hook. I mean, Christ, it’s Sydney Road. It’s a great place to live and an even better place to eat.

This is an honest account from an inner-north foodie, but if you’re a diabetic, ensure you’re also aware of the medical health and lifestyle advice here,