A week of ups & downs! – juggling excitement, sleep deprivation & a break in usual D-routine

travel and diabetes tipsGuest Post Sally Marchini, Dietitian

It was the week of the much anticipated International Diabetes Federation World Diabetes Congress, being held in Melbourne Australia for the first time in 30 years in Australia, and what a week it was!

I bought a ticket as a Person With Diabetes (PWD), so had a pink tag, but was fortunately also helping out on the Diabetes Counselling Online stand (amazingly exciting experience!) so also had a red tag which meant that I was able to spend time in both the Congress sessions and the Exhibitor Hall where all the diabetes companies were exhibiting (including Diabetes Counselling Online – one of the most popular stands!).

The organisers wouldn’t allow people with the pink tag only into the hall as there were drug companies that aren’t allowed to promote themselves directly to the public. This was an unexpected disappointment for PWD as it meant also missing the poster sessions and the Global Village.

Today in my blog I mainly wanted to talk to you about my food experiences being away in a big city for four nights and how my diabetes managed along the way.

On the first day I was chatting with some other type 1s and we decided to run our blood sugars a little higher (not too high – around the 8-9mmol/L mark) over the conference as a safety precaution, and knowing that if we have a week without perfect control it wouldn’t upset our long term health but would keep us alert for longer in this intense environment. Diabetes is Not a Game of Perfect 

I originally had a plan (one of Helen Edwards’ ideas) to order my meals for the week from a supermarket that delivers so I could keep as much stability in my time as possible. In ordinary life, although we eat a variety of foods, we include many vegetables and low-GI carbs while minimising saturated fats. This can be tricky to achieve when you’re away at a business conference, but then again I didn’t want to miss out on the social networking side of the conference which would of course include eating out! So I decided to take the risk and just took the basics.

I weighed out my cereal for three of the four days, as I had one breakfast meeting out (smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toast), so that was one meal easily managed to help keep my BGLs stable.

Lunch was provided through the entry cost of the congress – I was most impressed with the healthy standard of these lunches. Each day I had something different and we were all encouraged to have either a hot meal or a sandwich with a salad, a piece of fruit and a drink (I chose water). The salads were very tasty indeed, especially for something so mass produced!


I’m glad I left my night time meals free though as, although not planned in advance, I did eat out for three of them. The fourth one I made a simple salad with a bag of mixed leaves and a tin of tuna with a couple of slices of the grainy bread that I’d brought with me for emergencies. I ate that early before I went out to the #OzDOC in person chat that was held at 7pm on the Tuesday night.

Back to the beginning, I arrived late on the Monday afternoon and had arranged to share an apartment with a dietitian friend of mine and a GP friend of hers (now also a friend of mine 🙂 ) so the first night we found a bar that served delicious sounding salads to sit down and catch up. There are soooo many places to eat in Melbourne, it’s quite mind-blowing, but this one had been recommended to us and we enjoyed a healthy meal with a delicious glass of wine.

Tuesday was my first day at the Congress, and what a very busy day it was! Being so excited about everything I hadn’t slept well on the Monday night, so after a full-on morning I thought I should try to have a catch up nap which I did, but woke with the lowest hypo I’ve had in awhile – 2.3mmol/L – that really wiped me out, so I decided to look after myself and have a restful evening. The Tuesday had been planned to spend with the #OzDOC crowd as mentioned, so I went to meet with everyone and headed home a little early.

The Wednesday night I was very fortunate to be invited out to dinner by my new GP friend in celebration of my dietitian friend’s birthday. She had lived in Melbourne previously and being Iranian, decided to take us to her favourite Persian restaurant in Melbourne. It was amazing!

I hadn’t eating Persian food before and the flavours were complex and delicious, as well as quite healthy with lots of salad and vegetables. I was fortunate to be coeliac that night as I wasn’t able to eat their pastry based desserts, but had a special treat of ice-cream made with pistachios and flavoured with rose water and saffron – very special!! I enjoyed every mouthful.


The restaurant was decorated traditionally and was very attractive, and we had a guitarist playing Persian music as we enjoyed our meal. It was a very late night which two days later I’m still feeling the effects of, but it was a wonderful surprise that I will remember forever.


On my last night I was too tired to join my friends who went to a Russian restaurant with a Russian friend, so I enjoyed a light Vietnamese meal which was also a taste sensation with a dietitian colleague of mine from the Australian Diabetes Council (NSW branch of Diabetes Australia). I was tucked up in my bed by 9pm, which made me happy.


It’s also worth noting that there are fairly healthy options available at the bigger city airports. This store, Hudson’s at Melbourne airport had a number of tasty salads, but very pricey! This small brown rice (high-GI) salad was $9, so you’re better off if you can be organised to bring your own…


Of course I also attended lots of learning sessions, so I’ll share info from those later along the way.

I wanted to finish by sharing that I had brought with me my breakfast cereal, 4 juice boxes for night-time hypos, a loaf of my favourite low-GI bread, a tin of tuna and some muesli bars (just for emergencies). Most of it (other than the cereal and the tuna) has travelled home with me, but I’m glad I had it just in case. I was very happy to have no night-time hypos, as sleep was limited enough without those extra disruptions.

Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too.