Diário brasileiro – living with type 1 diabetes in the land of sugar

Some short statistics (2015), Brazil is the largest producer of sugar cane in the world, which is linked to its colonial and slavery history. Not exactly the best place in the world to discover you have type 1 diabetes. Have you ever tried to quit sugar? Have you tried to quit sugar in Brazil? It’s really hard, you’re in for constant scanning of the environment, everything comes with sugar in it – the fat-free yogurt, as well as the integral or Greek one, even those labelled  No added sugar, sugar from own ingredients only – come with sugar from fruit juice.

Most bread comes with sugar in it. Your coffee too. When you ask for a cafezinho, the barista in most botecos (cheap bars/ lunch places) pours you coffee from tap that already has sugar in it. How non-consensual can you actually be? Sure you want the answer to that? 🙂 But the Brazilians like it that way – the sugary displacement of responsibility – otherwise this practice would not be in place. If you ask for a coffee with no sugar, you are handed adoçante (sweetener). If you don’t want that either, they look at you eyes wide open in disbelief. My fellow Europeans agree that when we ask for a cappuccino, what we expect to get is coffee with foam milk, no sugar. Not in Brazil, here they add chocolate syrup and chocolate powder, both loaded with sugar. If you want the European version, you ask for cafezinho com espuma de leite for a small one and café grande com espuma de leite for our normal size.

What’s with the sugar that makes it so sticky to the Brazilians’ psyche? I get it and don’t get it at the same time. All their desserts are loaded with sugar to the degree that you can only taste the sugar and nothing else. The Italians have learnt long ago that excess sugar kills all flavours, so many of their traditional desserts have rather scant amounts. For once, it’s addictive. Over the past 3 months of my stay in Brazil, I have slowly developed a sugar addition. I’m not saying that I previously had a 100% healthy diet (it’s probably impossible in today’s world, unless you live off prana, in which case please teach me how to do it too). A recent article in Folha de Sao Paulo details the disastrous effects of sugar excess – obesity and diabetes – among formerly super-healthy people, the Xavante Native Brazilians. Second, I can’t help but speculate that Brazil’s sugar haze is still deeply linked to its colonial history, as sugar was linked to the sweet taste of freedom:

 “o açúcar adoçou tantos aspectos da vida brasileira que não pode ser separado da civilização nacional”. Muitas das receitas hoje consideradas tradicionalmente brasileiras são de origem portuguesa, como o arroz-doce, o papo de anjo e a ambrosia. O sabor tropical foi exportado para as mesas dos nobres, e ainda hoje, cinco séculos depois, os brasileiros compartilham a mesma paixão do país do Velho Mundo: saborear as delícias do açúcar.Gilberto Freyre (1900-1987)

However, My Sugar app tells me I had been having diabetes 1 for quite some time and something here only triggered more severe symptoms. Wanna hear my alternative explanation? You know you get diabetes 1 independent of your diet, as it is your pancreas that stops producing insulin? The German New Medicine says that children who are forced to move to schools they hate develop type 1 diabetes. So it is my guess that I got diabetes (which can have an onset of 5-10 years before any symptoms appear) because of living for too long in places I didn’t want to be. The internal state of resistance can be sustained only for so long before producing somatic manifestations in the body, unless it’s met with a healthier response, which in my case would have been to run away. You might know that athletes before a race sometime take a dose of glucose, for fast burning; in my case, my brain conjunct my pancreas stopped the insulin production so I could have more glucose in the blood to run away. I didn’t listen. Always listen to how you feel. Feels like crap? Run away.

I know won’t have it forever, now that I have started with being ok again in the only place that should always feel like home – my own body. Funnily enough, my homeland Romania – which I have been running away from since 2010 is calling me now, the wild Loba/ Wolf woman appeared in a dream some nights ago, I opened my diary, in it there was a mirror with a handle, I picked it up and looked, it was me, but with a wolf´s head over my own head. A documentary on the mysterious properties of water states that we are physically bound as water-based creatures to the land we were born in through our connection with the local water, which has specific structure and memory. I´ll be home soon.