What to Do When Your Diabetic Child is Sneaking Food

So, you’ve figured out that your son or daughter is sneaking food – maybe it’s at school, at a friend’s house, or during the night when everyone is sleeping.

But, it’s not the sneaking food that is the problem – it’s that they aren’t taking insulin for it.

First of all, know that it’s normal. (Not good, but normal.)

I, along with all of my other diabetic childhood friends, did this many, many times.

In grade school, I would walk to a friend’s house after school was let out to “play” for a few hours. Which, we did, but I also knew they would have snacks. (Lots of stories like this in my book, The Type 1 Life!)

Lots and lots of snacks.

I would eat cereal, chips, and pop-tarts…. all in one afternoon. Without insulin.

I wouldn’t check my blood sugar when I got home either.

Fast forward to being 28 years old, and I’m still alive and doing well – my A1c has been 6.2% for over a year!

So, why do we do this?

1. We’re tired. We’re tired of shots, tired of checking, tired of counting, tired of NOT BEING NORMAL. You know when you come home on Friday and just want to sit on the couch, eat pizza, and watch TV after a loooooong week at work? That’s how we feel…. everyday. Even when we’re 10 years old.

2. We might be emotionally eating. It’s unfair that a kid has to manage diabetes, on top of trying to figure out life. We feel weird at school. The mean kid in class makes fun of us. We don’t get to eat cupcakes at birthday parties. We’re mad at God for making us diabetic.

3. We’re rebelling. Like I said, we’re mad. We think if we can just ignore it, maybe it will go away. It won’t hurt us to just eat a few snacks one afternoon… and every afternoon after that.

What can you do to help your child?

1. Take them to counseling. There’s a lot to process in the mental and emotional side of being diabetic. Letting them process their feelings out loud with someone (who is not mom or dad) will be very healthy.

2. If you can, get them a pump and/or sensor. The sensor would be best to start with, so you can track their blood sugars and get alerts on your phone about their levels.

3. Don’t nag them. It’s not going to help. It’s going to make you the bad guy. If you can, take them to the doctor more often, so the doctor can be the “bad” guy in this situation.

4. Gently remind them of their future. Do they want to get married? Do they want to go to college and become a ______? They have to be alive and healthy to do these things.

How to Deal With Type 1 Diabetes Burnout

When we think of experiencing burnout as adults, we usually relate it to work. Maybe it’s been a stressful quarter, or you have to deal with a terrible boss. We get overworked, we experience a lot of stress, and that leads to burnout.

Well, burnout can also happen with Type 1 diabetes.

Look again at this sentence: We get overworked (Type 1 diabetes requires 24/7/365 work), we experience a lot of stress (fluctuating blood sugars, doctors, pressure to be perfect), and that leads to burnout.

Burnout as a Type 1 diabetic can look like:

  • Not checking blood sugars

  • Not giving insulin

  • Not eating healthy

  • Canceling doctor’s appointments

And yes, burnout can happen to children and teens – it’s not just adults.

Based on the typical symptoms of burnout, you can see that this can lead to really bad control of their Type 1 diabetes, and possibly severe complications.

So, there are a lot of ways to deal with burnout, but I have one starting suggestion:

Start small. Don’t expect perfection.

It can be really overwhelming to try to go from a 10.0% A1C to a 6.0% A1C.

It can be really hard to go from not checking your blood sugar at all, to checking 4-5 times a day.

So, if your child or teen is experiencing burnout and doesn’t want to control their Type 1 diabetes, set very small goals for a few weeks at a time. Maybe it’s just to start checking 1-2x a day again, and work their way up. (This is also a great reason to have your child wear a CGM! They don’t have to check as often, and you have more data about their blood sugars.)

Yes, total control is the goal, and that’s what all of the doctors and family want – but it can be too daunting to go from 0 to 100.

When they start to do things more consistently, reward them – whether it’s out for dinner at their favorite restaurant or a new shirt. Then, add in another small goal.

In my experience, one of the hardest parts of checking your blood sugar more often is seeing the “bad” numbers.

I often feel like a bad blood sugar meant I was a bad person. Reaffirm your child’s value, even if their blood sugar is too high. Tell them that you are there to help them, and you can work through this together.

Medtronic Minimed vs t:slim Insulin Pumps

I have been an insulin pump wearer for over 10 years now, and have tried out two different pumps in that time. There are a lot of insulin pump options out there (more than just the two I’m talking about today), but wanted to share my experiences. These are not in-depth reviews of all the tech, FYI.

Medtronic Insulin Pumps

When I first got a pump in high school (2007), I chose a Medtronic Minimed pump. It’s been so long that I don’t really remember why I chose that one, other than the few diabetic friends that I had, also had that brand of insulin pump.

One of the things I most appreciated about Medtronic pumps was the different length of tubing. While I was finishing up high school, I really liked having the extra length of tubing during sports. They also have two different inserters than you can use – one is a quickset, but is not recommended for people who are super active (which I am).

I’ve always loved Medtronic pumps – maybe because it was the only one I ever knew! But, I have had some hiccups with the Medtronic pump. Every time there’s been an issue, it was very sudden – like I went to give a bolus, and it froze on me. And then it just…. won’t do anything.

Luckily, it’s a very simple process to get a new pump.

  • Call the company and tell them what happened

  • They’ll review your warranty and/or insurance policy

  • They usually overnight or 2-day ship you a new pump, and you send the old one back

Luckily (knock on wood), I’ve still been in warranty whenever my pump went on the fritz.

So, I used the Medtronic pump for about 7-8 years, until I decided to try out the t:slim pump.

t:slim Insulin Pumps

I loved the t:slim! It felt newer (a.k.a. fancier) with a touch screen…. which was really one of the only things that stood out to me.

One big disadvantage with the t:slim (at least when I tried it out) was that there was SO much more packaging involved when you had a pump site change. The whole process felt a lot more tedious than when I changed sites on my Medtronic pump. I also felt like the menu of options inside the pump was harder to navigate.

But, the real reason I changed back to Medtronic was due to insurance and the companies. A lot of insurance companies don’t let you order supplies directly from the pump company, so you have to use a third party supplier. There was a lot of confusion and miscommunication, and rather than dealing with all of that hassle…. when I ran out t:slim supplies, I just switched back to Medtronic.

(Luckily, I still had a stockpile of leftover Medtronic supplies!)

Insulin Pump Training

If you’re considering getting your child on an insulin pump, or switching, you will also have insulin pump training! I’ll be honest – when I switched to t:slim, I didn’t even take any training. The company said to call my doctor’s office to schedule it, and I didn’t. I was 25, and tech-savvy enough to navigate an insulin pump without training.

Medtronic also has a rep (or multiple, sometimes) in each state, to help answer questions or train you. I don’t think t:slim is the same way, at least not that I knew of when I was on that pump for a few months.

If you have any questions about my insulin pump experience, feel free to contact me!