Skip to main content

Could Using Blood Sugar Monitors be Triggering for People with Eating Disorders? with Priya Tew

Home » Inspiration and Insights » Could Using Blood Sugar Monitors be Triggering for People with Eating Disorders? with Priya Tew

Podcast Episode Description

JenUp Podcast Transcript

Share this podcast to help others

Blood Sugar Monitors Discussion

Speaker A [00:00:10]:
Hello and welcome to the Jen up podcast. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder and feeling lost, you’ve come to the right place, as we’re both former sufferers of eating disorders and we understand the challenges that you’re facing. So join us for inspiration, inspiring, educational and relatable content, whether you’re seeking support, guidance, or just someone who understands. Both myself and Becky are here for you. So today, really excited to introduce our guest, we have got Priya. So, Priya is a specialist eating disorders dietitian with over 15 years of working in the field. So she runs a private practice called Dietitian UK, where she supports people in their recovery on a one to one basis. She is also an author of two books, the Dash Diet and the complete low FODMap Diet Plan.

Speaker A [00:01:05]:
Priya is well known for her media work, including being on tv, and for spreading common sense, practical nutrition through her social media presence, as well as calling out the ridiculous nutrition that is out there. So today we’re going to be discussing the potential sort of, you know, harmful effects and possible the positives of using blood sugar monitors if you don’t have diabetes or any other medical condition. So thank you, Priya, for coming on. If you’d like to say hi to everyone, that would be great.

Speaker B [00:01:44]:
Hi, thanks so much for having me.

Speaker A [00:01:46]:
No, it’s great to have you. Of course, I’ve seen, obviously, this topic in the media for quite a while now. And I saw an article, I think it was in the independent, I thought, right, got to get someone to speak about this. So, firstly, can you explain what these blood sugar monitors are intended to actually be used for?

Speaker B [00:02:10]:
Sure. So, a blood glucose monitor does exactly what it says. It’s there to check your blood sugar. And years ago, we would have used a little skin prick test. So you would have had a needle, you would have pricked your, your finger or your thumb, you would have had a strip, and then that would have been the way of analyzing your blood sugars. Now, we have these continuous blood glucose monitors which can be attached to you and they have sensors and actually using your phone or a device, you can monitor in real time exactly what is happening with your blood sugars, which is incredible in terms of science and technology, but it is something that is designed to be used in diabetes or similar conditions.

Speaker A [00:02:59]:
Okay, great. No, thank you very much. Can you actually buy these monitors now online or do you have to get it from your GP?

Speaker B [00:03:08]:
You can actually buy them now online. And that’s not something that I would recommend that people dash out and do, unless they absolutely know that that’s going to be useful for them, because I think we can over monitor and over track things in our bodies, and that can lead to disordered behaviors. So it’s something that is useful for some people, but I do think it’s something to be done with medical supervision rather than going it alone.

Speaker A [00:03:36]:
Okay, now, really good. Obviously, Diane, to ask this question. So could glucose monitors be triggering for, like, vulnerable people? So I’m talking about, you know, people with a history of an eating disorder, because I’ve seen that, you know, people have been using them in so. And misusing them.

Speaker B [00:03:53]:
So, absolutely, I would say that they could be triggering. I think, when we start tracking our body’s response to food, if you have an eating disorder, if you’ve had an eating disorder, you know, if any way you. You’re vulnerable in that situation, then it’s something to be really cautious about doing. And I personally wouldn’t be recommending it because it’s going to potentially make you start questioning whether you should be eating certain foods. One of the issues with blood glucose monitors and this constant tracking is that when you are looking at individual foods, it isn’t always that accurate because we don’t tend to eat individual foods by themselves, do we? All of the time. So, you know, if you were seeing that you had a blood sugar spike or your blood sugars increased quite quickly after, let’s say, a piece of bread, it might make you think, oh, well, that’s not very good, so maybe I shouldn’t eat bread, which might cause somebody to cut bread out of their diet unnecessarily. Now, if you were to have that piece of bread with some tuna and some salad within the context of your sandwich for lunch, you’ll actually have a different impact on your blood sugar levels if you were to monitor that. And that, for me, is the reason why for some people, blood glucose monitors just aren’t the best idea because if you’re not sure how to interpret the results, it can be very confusing.

Speaker A [00:05:25]:
Yeah. Now that’s actually a really good point because obviously you’re combining different phase, which is going to have an effect on your blood sugar, like what you said. And if you have the bread by itself, it’s not giving you a true reading, is it? Really? It’s. Yeah, I think that is the most important point, I think, from this. And that’s. That’s education, isn’t it, in people and understanding the nutrition and food combining as well.

Speaker B [00:05:49]:
Yeah. And so often nutrition is seen to be quite simple. And on the one hand, it is, it’s like, you know, eat food. It’s quite simple. Eat balanced and be sensible about it. But on the other hand, when we start to get into the nitty gritty here of things like the impact of food on blood sugars, it’s not as simple as just what does this food do to my blood sugars? Oh, that means I should or I shouldn’t eat it. There’s a lot of nuance that comes into nutrition, and I think it’s great that people want to be educated about it, but it doesn’t mean that you’re an expert just because you’ve read a few books or listened to a few podcasts. You know, if you were having electrical work done on your house, you wouldn’t just read a book and do it yourself.

Speaker B [00:06:33]:
You might do something simple by yourself, but if you were changing the consumer unit, you know, you’d get an electrician in to do it. And I think it’s the same with nutrition. If you’re making some simple changes and improvements to your diet, great, go ahead, do that with the education. When we’re delving into something that’s complex like this, that’s where you need the support of a proper healthcare professional.

Speaker A [00:06:56]:
Yeah, no, I agree. I mean, even if you, like, had a piece of food, right, and you saw that it spiked your blood sugar, I mean, at the end of the day, nothing bad’s going to happen unless, like, kept happening over a consistent amount of time. Right. Surely it’s like, oh, someone shouldn’t immediately think, right, I’m going to cut out, spike my blood sugar.

Speaker B [00:07:15]:
No, yeah, absolutely, absolutely. We’ve had this, this misinformation out there saying that blood sugar spikes are bad for us and they shouldn’t be happening, whereas actually our blood sugars are meant to go up and down in response to what we eat. So just because you’ve got an increase in your blood sugars doesn’t mean anything negative is happening. And I don’t think that information has been getting out there.

Speaker A [00:07:41]:
No, because I think that for some people tend to be, like, quite obsessive. Like people, like, why it’s not recommended for people with eating disorders. Let’s put someone like me, if I did that, I’d be like, oh, my God, it spiked it. I’m not going to touch it ever again. It’s like, creates, like, food anxiety, I imagine, around it.

Speaker B [00:08:00]:
Yeah, absolutely. And you can see why. Can you? And then you can see why that that’s going to be detrimental for somebody I mean, there can be a lot of health anxiety. I work with people who come to me, and they’ve got so many food rules and so many anxieties around what they’re eating or around the impact on their health. We really don’t want to be increasing that for people.

Speaker A [00:08:23]:
No, because I think that’s a whole. I think that’s another sort of illness within itself, I think. Cause you’re constantly on edge about food, and it’s not sometimes the food, it’s the stress or the anxiety, isn’t it?

Speaker B [00:08:38]:
Yes. Yeah, most definitely.

Speaker A [00:08:42]:
So, basically, if someone’s had a history of eating disorder. No. Go to use one of these monitors.

Speaker B [00:08:50]:
I would say it’s a no no to do it by yourself. If you have diabetes or if there’s something going on with your blood sugars and your doctor recommends that you use one, and you are, you know, above board with them about your concerns of, I’ve previously had an eating disorder. I don’t want this to be triggering for me. Can we work around that? And if your doctor or team are going to support you, then, yeah, absolutely. We don’t want this to become a, oh, I’ve got an eating disorder and I’ve got diabetes. I shouldn’t be using my monitor situation. In that situation, you very much need to be using it. We’re talking about, should I go down the road and buy a blood sugar monitor and start experimenting with it at home? For me, that would be a complete.

Speaker B [00:09:38]:
No, don’t do that.

Speaker A [00:09:40]:
Yeah. Okay. I guess. I think it might be useful, actually. Sorry. This has come into my mind about a question of, like, if someone did have issues with their blood sugars, like, what symptoms would you see in someone who started to present with.

Speaker B [00:09:56]:
They could see all kinds of symptoms. It could be that they start feeling quite tired. For some people, they can actually lose weight quite quickly. It could be that we’ve got just this lack of energy. For some people, they can feel quite thirsty. So there can be lots of different symptoms. So if you are just not feeling right, that can also be a symptom. Headaches, there’s a whole range of symptoms.

Speaker B [00:10:24]:
So that’s why it’s always good that we stay in tune with our bodies. And if you’re suspicious of anything not quite being. Being right, if you’re thinking, oh, after I eat something, I feel like I crash, then that can be a sign to just go and talk to your doctor, and they can actually test your blood sugars for you.

Speaker A [00:10:45]:
Okay. And that. That would be like, obviously, glucose testing, like, fasting glucose, all those types of tests.

Speaker B [00:10:52]:
That’s right. Yes. That’s right.

Speaker A [00:10:54]:
Okay. Okay. That’s good to know. And I think it would be good to get. I think it would be good to maybe, Becky, if you want to talk about your experience using it just for, like, especially for, like, perhaps maybe menopausal women. I know there’s no evidence on it, but might be good to hear your view of how you found it as well.

Speaker B [00:11:11]:

Speaker C [00:11:12]:
I used the. One of the blood glucose monitors for about a week. I’m very, very lucky. I’ve got Jen, who’s very close to me, and I’ve got. One of my really close friends is a nurse as well. So for months and months and months, I just kept saying something’s not quite right with me. Couldn’t put my finger on it, and I used the blood glucose monitor, and I was eating and eating, but my bloods kept dropping. So I only used it for a week, and because I accidentally ripped it off my arm, but once I’d worked out what was going on, I wasn’t eating enough slow GI foods.

Speaker C [00:11:46]:
So for me, actually, it’s been quite a positive thing. I have suffered with an eating disorder before. I had anorexia, and I’ve had binge eating. So I’m very aware that for me, I couldn’t do it for a long period of time because it could potentially be quite triggering. But actually, for me, it was quite beneficial because I learned that I needed to increase my calories around my period. That is on and off at the moment, and I needed to eat more GI foods, and possibly now I’ve got in a routine, I eat every 2 hours because it was literally, I was sitting there, and it was doing my head in, to be honest with you. My blood sugars kept dropping, and I’m sitting here thinking, I’m freaking eating jacket potato, beans, and cheese. So it was that part of changing what I was eating, as well as adding in more frequent foods, especially around my hormones.

Speaker C [00:12:35]:
So I have found it very helpful. Would I do it again? I don’t feel like I need to now because I’m really in tune with my body and what’s going on, but I’m very, very aware that it could be really dangerous. It could be very addicting. I love a gadget, so for me, it was like, oh, new toy. It was something because I love a bit of technology. So for me, it was more curiosity around what was going on in my body, and I’m very in tune with it now. So if my blood sugars are dropping straight to go and get something more nourishing, more stable, and actually, within, I don’t know, half an hour, I’m back on track again.

Speaker A [00:13:17]:
No, thank you for that. It’s just good to hear how you found it. Priya, did you want to say anything to that, or.

Speaker B [00:13:23]:
I was just thinking that it was just a really sensible way of doing it. You know, you felt like something wasn’t quite right, you wanted to try this, but you did it within the support of people around you who knew. And actually, I like the fact you only did it for a week. You know, maybe a couple of weeks would have given you more answers, or you could have just backed up what you thought. It would have been a confirmation, wouldn’t it? But then what I really like about what you did, Becky, was then you worked out the changes that you needed to make. So I need to eat more regularly, I need more low glycemic index foods which are going to help sustain my blood sugars for longer. And it gave you that information without you having to continuously continue tracking or cut anything out. So that’s great.

Speaker C [00:14:07]:
Yeah, it has made a big difference. I will be really honest. The alarm thing did my head in, and I think when, like, my blood sugars kept dropping, it was. I was. It really irritated me. So. And of course, I’m on session with my clients, I don’t need that distraction as well. So the fact that it.

Speaker C [00:14:26]:
I got out the shower and it ripped itself off the. Off my arm and it fell on the floor, I’m dumb and it has taught me a lot about myself, but at the same time, I think it, for me, it’s just because I’m ADHD, I don’t need any more distractions in my head.

Speaker A [00:14:46]:
Actually, on that. Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers, Priya, but just come into our mind, like, with ADHD and, like, nutrition, I don’t know if you know this, but I need to sort of look into it myself. Like, if someone’s ADHD, are their blood sugars naturally going to be a bit more up and down, or, like, they have to eat more regularly, or, like, do you know about that at all?

Speaker B [00:15:07]:
Not that I’m aware of. I don’t think that having ADHD or anything along the neurodiversity spectrum is going to specifically impact blood sugars, but it’s to do with what somebody eats. So if they’re eating maybe to try and keep their energy levels up because they keep crashing, then that’s going to have an impact you can get in this sugar cycle of, oh, my energy levels feel low. Let’s have a couple of biscuits. That brings them back up again, they crash again. And sometimes, you know, those kind of like surges that people get in ADHD can be related to the sugar. So I have a stepson with autism and I see that in him, like, you can really tell when he’s had some sugar because all of a sudden he’s a bundle of energy that and is all over the place and pinging around. And then you can also see when he crashes.

Speaker C [00:16:01]:
Yeah, my blood, when I don’t have that consistency, I can feel that zoning out. So I think working out for me every 2 hours to have a snack and have something really wholesome for my lunch has really made a bit of difference with my concentration as well because otherwise I get like jittery and I’m a bit flighty. And I don’t mean to be. It’s just like this nervous energy that’s just heightened even more than it already is.

Speaker A [00:16:30]:
Yeah. So, yeah, ADHD, really important for slow release GI foods, keeping blood sugar stable. Not too many foods that spike the blood sugar, like with sweets, biscuits, cakes, stuff like that. What’s your opinion on the Zoe project?

Speaker B [00:16:48]:
Big question. I think there are very. There are many different elements to the Zoe project. I think some of the work they’ve done has been really, really great with some of the research that has been going on and the work that has been done there. I think with things like the blood glucose monitors, if we take that as the example, because that’s our topic we’ve been talking about, that has appealed to what I would describe as the worried, wow. People who have got income that they can spend on something like this, who are worried about their health and potentially are already looking after their health to a certain extent as well. And from people I have association with and I’ve talked to some people have actually found it helpful for them. But I think one of my big concerns has been that it is very expensive and the marketing has almost made it feel like it’s something you have to do for your health.

Speaker B [00:17:56]:
And for those people who can’t afford to do it, it leads to them feeling like that perhaps they’re not able to look after their health and look after themselves. I think we’ve just got to be very careful about the messaging that goes out with things like this. And I also know from people who have done the Zoe blood glucose monitoring work, who’ve taken the tests and eaten the cookies and then eaten the rest of their food. It has led to a substantial number of them cutting foods out of their diet because they’ve been given a report saying, these are the foods that you should not eat, as in, they cause your blood sugars to go up faster and they haven’t been given the necessary information of, well, here’s a way you can still eat those foods if you really like them. And I feel like there’s perhaps a missing thing. I feel like it could be a very useful tool if somebody was to bring that to a dietitian in a one to one session, and then that bit was worked on. But I don’t feel that that is being given out. Yeah.

Speaker B [00:19:04]:
So I’m kind of mixed on the Zoe thing. I feel like it’s very expensive. There’s a lot of very clever marketing going on there, and some of the information that is actually being given out is stuff that, as a dietitian, is not new. Yes. It’s being portrayed as all being brand new.

Speaker A [00:19:25]:
Yeah. Again, it’s clever marketing, in my opinion. So, like, what you said, it’s not. This is not new information. And, like, what you said, I really like what you said about, I’m not a fan of. Of giving a list of foods, like, you can eat this and you got to cut that out. I’m really not a fan of that. I don’t really like that.

Speaker A [00:19:43]:
And like what you said, if there’s a way that, like, instead, why not give them, like, you can have these foods, but have it with this instead? Because that will balance out your blood sugar. That’s giving a balanced view for need. It’s not saying this food is okay, okay, these are off limits. I just don’t like that.

Speaker B [00:20:01]:
Yeah, absolutely. You know, as a dietitian, when I work with some of these disorders, I’m exactly the same. I had someone come to me once, and I remember she was petrified that I was going to make her get rid of her favorite food, which was nutella, because I was a dietitian and why wouldn’t I? Why would a dietitian encourage you to eat? Nutella was her mindset. Whereas mindset. My mindset is all foods are great for us. We want to be able to include everything in our diet. Nothing should be off limits. Yes.

Speaker B [00:20:29]:
There needs to be balance and moderation and common sense about how we do it. The way I instantly was like, oh, I see you like Nutella. This is fabulous. Let’s bring this in as a snack. How are we going to do it, and she almost cried because she was so relieved that she wasn’t being told to cut something out. So I think it’s really important that we get that message out to people that actually everything can be incorporated if we find the right way of doing it.

Speaker A [00:20:56]:
Yeah, it’s just. It’s everything in moderation, I think, as you said, like, with nutrition, there’s such extremist views out there, and I think it’s just so unhealthy that because, you know, it just. Having had a bit of health anxiety in the past myself, like, it’s actually. That’s more of an illness with itself, and it’s actually horrible. Um, and I, like, especially with working with eating disorders, like, know, putting restrictions on things is not good, in my opinion.

Speaker C [00:21:21]:
So really hard to shift those beliefs as well, those rigid beliefs that they’ve cut the foods out, that they’re bad, and it’s like, no, it’s about balance and enjoying food as well.

Speaker A [00:21:34]:
Yeah, yeah, no definite. Well, yeah, as you said, we all work with eating disorders, so everything, like, balance, everything in moderation. Kind of, like, you know, I think that’s a really healthy thing to promote, and that’s. That’s what I always stand for, because I know. I know there’s some people on social media that promote specific things and say, don’t eat this or have this, and I don’t like any of that. I’m all, food has purpose. In my opinion. It’s just about moderation, education.

Speaker A [00:22:00]:
So definitely. Becky, is there anything that you wanted to ask one last question on it? If not, no, I’m all good.

Speaker C [00:22:07]:
My brain, as soon as you put me on spot, my brain blanked out. But no, I’m all good.

Speaker A [00:22:13]:
Okay, great. Well, thank you, Priya, so much for coming on. It’s honestly loved what you said. Like, had some amazing points. So I’m really excited to kind of market this and get it out there and get people to listen to it. So thank you so much.

Speaker B [00:22:26]:
Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Speaker A [00:22:29]:
No, thank you, Becky. I’ll let you say bye to everyone.

Speaker C [00:22:34]:
So thank you very much for listening to the genlut podcast. Please subscribe and share this podcast so other others can benefit. You can find us on Facebook and Instagram at Ask Jenup and the Jen’s if you visit the website and you find lots of different resources available here, please like and subscribe and share.

Speaker A [00:22:58]:
Yeah, thanks, guys. Yeah, if you can share the podcast, that’ll be really good because obviously, we’re trying to spread a really good message here and get this to as many people as possible. But thanks, guys, and take care.

Speaker B [00:23:10]:
That’s okay. Thanks so much. Bye.

How to get help?

Jenny Tomei is a Nutritional Therapist and Eating Disorder coach. See all her credentials on her About Jen page and then should you need help then make contact with her today. Your road to recovery can start now!

Contact Jenny