Hello! Who are you? And tell us a little bit more about your diabetes.Hey everyone! My name is Dennis Volkaerts. I’m 34 years old and currently living in Belgium. I have Type 1 diabetes for a total of 1 year.Besides being a type 1 diabetic I’m the commercial manager of the professional basketball team Stella Artois Leuven Bears. Basketball, sneakers, and food are my greatest passions. I’m also a participant in Married At First Sight 2021 Belgium.
I didn’t know that I had diabetes until recently when all signs were there; semi-professional basketball was keeping it under control for me emotionally though. It’s been tough but now we’ve made this part of our family tradition to look at any negative as an opportunity – so instead mine became “diabetes will not be able to control me”. My weakness turned into my strength. Healthier than ever before!
“I can become hangry!”
How do you treat your diabetes, did a lot change over the past years and are you able to manage it well?I get all the treatment I need for my diabetes from a diabetes convention at the local hospital. My current method is the old-fashioned way: using a finger prick to measure blood glucose levels and plain daily injections of insulin. It’s just what you would expect, but it gets me by!
My life changed for the better, as I never felt healthier and more energetic. A couple of weeks ago, I ran my first half marathon! After starting to run in November 2020, it was an amazing feeling – one that cannot be matched.
I believe I manage my diabetes rather well. I had to. I didn’t want to go back to the state I was in December 2019. I used to sleep over 15 hours a day because I was in an unhealthy state and continuously tired.
Can you recognize the symptoms of a low/high blood sugar? Do you test often and can you tell a bit more about your experiences with low blood sugar?My first indication of low blood sugar is a serious headache that makes it hard to focus on anything. If my blood sugar levels are too high, I fall into an uncomfortable deep sleep and feel tired for the rest of the day afterward. Every time I feel my blood sugar levels dipping, I always keep the lifesaver of Dextrose on me. 3 tablets are enough to get back up and running!
I test my blood sugar levels before every meal and when I go to sleep. Definitely a good habit because it means 95% of the time that I am testing myself!
I never fainted before due to low blood sugar. I only had 2 or 3 hypos, never fainted. I did lose my ground one time. I was standing up and hadn’t noticed the lower blood sugar yet. It was scary, but all was ok again quickly after a good sip of Coca-Cola.
Food and diet
How does your diabetes affect your eating and do you find being on a diet restrictive?I wake up every morning at 6 am to a bowl of Greek yogurt, nuts, and honey. I then enjoy some cucumber, tomatoes, and carrots as snacks during the day. I never skip any meals.
I’m a huge fan of Thai, Indian and Japanese cuisine. I love eating cucumbers with tomatoes on the side as well as carrots and fruit when they’re in season! Sometimes I’ll enjoy an oh-so healthy cookie or yogurt treat.
I don’t have any particular injection schedule. I vary my insulin dose on what I eat.
I drink gallons of water! I think I drink around 5 liters of water a day.
To be honest, I don’t feel like I’m on a diet. It’s not just what I eat, it is my way of life.
I am always happy to educate people about the food I can or cannot eat. When these conversations happen, it doesn’t bother me at all because they are coming from a place of caring and not judgment. I’m always so glad when someone asks an innocent question about my diet for health reasons instead of out of curiosity based on their own dietary restrictions
Do you believe that a plant based diet can improve diabetes? Did you ever experiment with this?I believe that a plant-based diet can improve diabetes. When I go all veggie or low carbs during the day, my blood sugar stays good and before bedtime, if it’s slightly higher than normal, Toujeo makes sure that it drops back down to an optimal level without me needing insulin shots beforehand.
Do you have a hard time eating out in a restaurant? And what are you thoughts on making this easier?Not at all. I love small restaurants with great quality food. Where your meal is cooked with lots of passion and where the chef honors your food request and can come up with a diabetic-friendly version of your meal if requested. There are so many choices to choose from, but I always enjoy it when they have healthy options that don’t taste like “health”.
“When my blood sugar is too low, I can skip taking insulin because it’s really dangerous!”
Exercise and work
Does your diabetes restrict you from exercise or your daily job?I am the commercial manager of Stella Artois Leuven Bears. I play basketball 3 times a week, run for 30 minutes to 60 minutes three times per week and take an hour walk every day. The irregular hours during work days make it hard to maintain my diet so sometimes I’ll eat too late at night or resorting to unhealthy options like french fries or pizza
Do you have any positive or negative effects because of your diabetes?To manage my diabetes better I am trying to make sure that what I eat is healthy and that I am aware of that.
The hardest part of being a diabetic is dealing with people’s prejudices. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve been accused of having diabetes because “I did it myself.” But the best part, in my opinion, is when they finally understand what type 1 and 2 diabetics go through every day.
The only downside of having diabetes is; I can become “hangry” 😀
One of the bigger problems I have is that our food culture with all the added sugars isn’t healthy. It’s tough to find something without hidden sugar in it – you can guess where your favorite candy bar ranks on a list like this!
What is the best advice that you can give to non-diabetics, new diagnosed diabetics and diabetics?When my blood sugar is too low, I can skip taking insulin because it’s really dangerous!
To welcome a new diabetic I would welcome to the family, “sugah”. We are now best friends. But to be honest I have never met a person who was diagnosed with diabetes after me.
My best and last piece of advice is to start focusing on what you can do, even if it’s just looking for the next opportunity.
What would you ask the other diabetics?How do you like your coffee?Feel free to answer in the comments below.
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