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shabbos, with a side of betes

for a while now i've been wanting to experience a real shabbos.  from friday night at sundown to saturday night 1 hour after sundown, religious jews observe shabbos, or the sabbath, and they refrain from doing pretty much everything.  they can't use any electricity (though there are some ways around this), write, or basically do any kind of work.  the idea is to use the day as what it was intended for in the torah (the old testament) - a day of rest.


my family is not religious.  we were raised in a reform jewish temple, which is a totally different kind of judaism that does not have the same rule-based approach that orthodox judaism has.  i have never observed the sabbath before, and until the last few years i knew very little about it aside from the fact that orthodox jews don't drive on saturday.


i got the opportunity this year to participate in a real, live shabbos.  a co-worker of mine, whom i love, is an orthodox jew.  when i mentioned to her that i had been interested in doing this, she immediately offered for me to come to her house.  this has been in the works since september, and finally, this past friday night, we got it together.

first of all, it was a wonderful experience.  k, my coworker, has a beautiful and kind family.  her husband was a sweetheart, her two little kids adorable and well-behaved.  the three of us adults stayed up until 1:45 AM friday night talking about pretty much everything.  they were more than happy to answer all the questions i had about shabbat and orthodox judaism in general.  they were even interested in my secular life as a single 22-year-old woman (most 22-year-old orthodox jewish girls are married and often have at least one child).  on saturday, k's husband's brother and his wife came over with their 18-month-old.  they are the same age as me, and she is expecting her second child this summer.  it was a pretty surreal experience to be a part of this world that is quite different from the one i was raised in.  overall, though, i loved it.

of course, this whole event would not be complete without diabetes making everything slightly more interesting.  and by interesting i mean stressful and annoying.  i didn't let it bug me too much; i was careful not to ruminate, but it was definitely testing me.

basically, shabbos is a diabetic nightmare.  it's like 2 thanksgiving meals - one friday night and one saturday during the day.  both meals begin with a blessing over grape juice that everyone drinks (ok not too big of a deal, i can take a microscopic sip) and then a blessing over challah (the yummiest jewish bread in the world) that everyone also eats.  this is where problems begin to arise.  the challah is blessed and then everyone starts chomping down on it.  i have my insulin pen sitting on the table, and as i ingest this delicious high glycemic carbohydrate, the pen stares back at me.  i can FEEL my blood sugar rising, and the actual dinner hasn't even started yet.  i don't want to do my injection yet, because i have no idea what else i'm going to eat.  i know there are a lot more carbs coming my way, but i haven't assessed them yet.  i usually need to taste everything, see what's bolusworthy, and then go from there.  but here we are, eating the challah, and just hanging out.  every course of the meal is dragged out.  it's shabbos, you're relaxing, so the meals last for hours and hours.  you talk, you schmooze, it's great - except when you're me and you're silently freaking out about when/how much insulin to give yourself.  finally i decide to just shoot up 8 units.  i know i'll be eating a lot of carbs, and if i need more i'll take another dose.  i couldn't sit there uncovered any longer.

so i take my insulin, and more food slowly makes it's way onto the table.  gefilte fish (no carbs), minestrone soup (maybe some carbs? hard to say), sea bass (no carbs), vegetable casserole with bread crumbs (carb-y), potato kugel (carb-tastic), fruit cobbler roll (carb frenzy), and finishing with chocolate cake (holy mother of carbs).  i ended up taking 13 units total, and was still in the 250s 2 hours later, and gave a bolus before bed.

lunch the next day was even worse.  k was such a sweetheart - she tried to make a million things that i can eat because i'm a vegetarian, but unfortunately she didn't realize that it's not only sugar that i have to worry about.  pretty much everything had carbs in it.  and i am totally shooting in the dark (no pun intended) with insulin.  i don't know how many carbs are in any of these things.  for lunch we had challah again, salmon, carrot coffee cake, phyllo dough dumplings filled with spinach (made especially for me), stuffed portobello mushrooms, asian coleslaw salad, kugel again, chocolate cake again, and fruit trifle w/ whipped cream-y stuff on top.  just typing that is making my sugar go up.  i gave myself 18 units of insulin. 18.  that's more than i usually take in a day.  and 2 hours later - 220, 3 hours later - 215.  GAHHHH!

granted,  i ate a lot.  wayyy more than i needed to.  part of the problem is that the food comes out, and it stays out.  on the table. in front of my face.  a giant chocolate cake.  and we sit at the table for hours.  the meal began at 1 and we finally left the table around 4:30.  it was great, but stressful.  eventually i had to whip out my gum and chomp away to occupy my mouth and make it try to forget about the ridiculously yummy chocolate cake.  it pretty much worked, but by that point i was already stuffed and not feeling so great.  it doesn't help that i'm trying to lose a few pounds either.  these meals were both dieter and diabetic unfriendly.

but so what, right?  a few times a year we have to just give in and be ok with the highs.  next shabbos, i'm going to have my entire gum arsenal under the table (i usually have 5-10 different kinds of gum on me at all times) and hope for the best.  also, maybe i can ask for the menu beforehand so i can try to estimate carbs better.  or i could just do the same thing i did this time and say whatever.  it's only 25 hours of my life.  may as well enjoy it.

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