The Artisan Diabetic: food for thought

Galway woman Anne Daly is trying to make cooking fun for diabetics all across the world with her new website – and reduce stigma along the way

 

A 55-year-old Galway woman, Anne Daly, may well be on the way to becoming Ireland’s newest celebrity chef after launching her new website, TheArtisanDiabetic.ie, last November.

Since its launch, Daly has amassed followers across the world in her bid to give diabetics more recipes to cook with, while also raising the profile of those with the condition. Daly’s mission is a personal one for her, as she has now had type one diabetes for more than 50 years.

Type one diabetes is a chronic condition where the pancreas creates either little or no insulin. Insulin is responsible for allowing sugar to enter cells to produce energy, meaning that those with the condition must closely monitor their diets, as well as keeping a close eye on their insulin and blood sugar levels.

For Daly, this requires a constant vigilance which she has developed over 50 years of navigating the condition.

“Carbs and insulin are the currency of a type one diabetic,” she explains. “We can’t function without our insulin and without knowing what carbs are in something. Some diabetics practically cut out carbs, as in bread, potatoes, and those kind of things, but there are carbs in everything really, so you’re going to get some carbs no matter what you do.

“Nowadays we’re encouraged to choose what type of dietary things we go along with, because different people have different food styles that would suit them. I would be fairly low carb, but I definitely don’t cut out carbs or anything like that. So yes, I would have a sandwich occasionally, but I wouldn’t choose to go out and get a sandwich. I would be more into slow release carbs.” 

Estimating insulin

As Daly has spent almost her entire life navigating the challenges of living with type one diabetes, the idea of a website full of recipes for those with the condition appealed to her.

“A couple of years ago I started to really think about setting up a website,” says Daly. “I started to do some research of what was online and the only one who actually told her story of having it for 50 years was a lady in New Zealand, there was nobody in England and Ireland that I could find. I put it aside a couple of times and put it to the back of my mind, but it kept coming back. A year ago, I started seriously thinking about setting up the website. The name “The Artisan Diabetic” suited me because I didn’t do it by the book. There was no internet for the first 30 years that I had it, so I kind of had to wing it, so that was the artisan element of it.”

Daly’s target audience is, of course, people with diabetes – and this is not just limited to those with type one. She also caters for those with type two diabetes, which is the most common form of the condition. She is also keen for non-diabetics to use her recipes, and insists that there is no such thing as “diabetic food”.

“So many people have said to me, ‘it’s all diabetic stuff, that won’t be any good to me, what would I want to be looking at that for?’ It’s this assumption that the website is just diabetic food, and I hate the term ‘diabetic food’, because there is no such thing. Anybody that buys diabetic bars or biscuits or anything, it’s a complete waste of time. There is more bad stuff in it in general, that you’re as well off with the sugar or whatever else is in it.”

Daly was also partly inspired to create the website by the pervasive ignorance around diabetes in our society, and she hopes that The Artisan Diabetic can go some way towards redressing that.

“It might sound a bit weird, but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve spoken to people about my diabetes,” she says. “I find people don’t really understand it. That’s why parents of little kids that get it are so shocked when their child gets it, because they are horrified when they realise what they have to do, and they do it by the book and it is not as easy as they think it might be.

“I think some people think we’re looking for sympathy or something,” she adds. “But it is frustrating when people don’t realise that you can be kept awake all night with hypos, and that it can affect your mood and so many other things. It’s also frustrating when people don’t realise the difference between type one and type two, so it’s only when they have someone very close in their families that they realise that they’re different.”

Increase awareness

“I want to keep the awareness of type one alive,” says Daly. “We are only 10 per cent of the total diabetic population. Type one is a chronic, autoimmune, unpreventable disease that requires constant monitoring of blood glucose levels to stay healthy, so it’s important that funding is available for new technologies.

“Type ones should not have to continuously wreck their fingers doing blood glucose tests, which only gives a moment in time reading, when other methods are available that capture continuous data, which is much more beneficial for making decisions on insulin dosage. Investment in modern technology will let us lead more normal lives with reduced risk of life-changing complications.”

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