Maintaining Blood Sugars on a College Diet
Let me just get this out of the way first: Having diabetes as a college student is not nearly as hard as you think it might be…if you pay attention and accept the fact you are not like most college students. No, you cannot go out drinking every night and expect your blood sugars to be okay. No, you cannot stay up all night on caffeine and pizza and expect your blood sugars to be okay. And if you plan on eating cafeteria hamburgers and French fries everyday, don’t be surprised if your waistline expands and your insulin needs increase. In other words, learn to love the salad bar, because it’s the only food in the cafeteria your doctor would approve of.
It’s very simple, unfortunately. If you want to maintain healthy blood sugar levels while attending college, it’s your responsibility to make the right choices. I’m not saying you can’t go out and have fun. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy pizza and Chinese delivery now and then, but let’s be real: You aren’t like the other students.
The biggest issue, I would assume for many, is hypoglycemia. While I’ve personally always been able to feel a low blood sugar coming from a mile away, it seems many others can’t feel it and need their friends and family to tell them it’s time for glucose tabs. If this is you, and there really isn’t anything you can do to help yourself become more aware of a dropping blood sugar level, the first thing to do when you get situated at school, is to let your roommates and your Residential Assistant know what hypoglycemia looks like and how to treat it. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid, once you explain to people what diabetes really is (there are a lot of misconceptions, such as: Oh! You can’t eat salt, right?), most of them will think it’s extremely cool that you take several shots a day or wear a pump (or carry a “pager”).
The second thing to do is to get a letter from your Endocrinologist explaining your needs as a student with diabetes. You need to be able to leave class (to get sugar or take insulin) and not be reprimanded. You need to be able to eat in class. You need to be able to retake a test if you had complications with your blood sugar during that test. Then contact the Student Disabilities Office in your school (there could be many different titles to this, like “Special Needs Students”). You can provide them with the paperwork from your doctor and they will provide you with letters for each of your professors explaining your unique needs. There is always the occasional professor who will raise an eyebrow of suspicion, but for the most part, your professors will be very understanding. Of course, if you decide to abuse the privileges and constantly tell your professor you can’t come to class because of your blood sugar—when in reality you were up all night partying—then you can expect them to start raising their eyebrows, too.