Hello! Who are you? And tell us a little bit more about your diabetes.
I’m a copywriter, a content planner and a creative project coordinator. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 20 years old.
Emotionally, it was tough. I couldn’t come to terms with a sudden “lifelong, chronic condition without a cure”. I especially hated the prospect of injecting myself multiple times a day for the rest of my life. I also struggled to accept that even if I followed the guidelines, correct behaviour and protocols, I wouldn’t be necessarily improving, let alone curing my condition. I would just be maintaining or preserving my health. It seemed a lot of work just to stay ‘normal’.
“I’m determined to keep making progress!”
How do you treat your diabetes, did a lot change over the past years and are you able to manage it well?
I get support mostly from my close friends (I am not living with/near family currently). I see a private hospital specialist for my check-ups.
Currently I am using insulin injections to treat my diabetes. I use Humalog and Lantus insulin. For a short while, the doctors wondered if I had an ‘aggressive type 2 condition’, so I tried using Metformin tablets (didn’t work – definitely type 1!).
I am much more accepting of my condition and its consequences now. I still occasionally lapse into anger and frustration, like an unexplained or unexpected low or high, or getting annoyed at the cost of medicine when it’s inconvenient to spend money. But I am overall much more positive about handling and dealing with my diabetes in a proactive and positive manner.
I am managing my diabetes better than I did at first, but still not as well as I could. I’m determined to keep making progress!
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?
Yes, I can recognize them. When I have a low blood sugar I feel dizziness, sweating, tingling in my legs, have a ‘cloudy mind’ and struggle to think and speak clearly. I’ve been having ‘hypos’ more frequently recently, so I’ve been adjusting my basal dose. When I have high blood sugar I feel exhausted, sluggish,
I test my blood sugar around 3 to 4 times a day, which is probably 3 to 4 times short of what I SHOULD be testing.
To treat my low blood sugar I use powdered glucose, honey, a water-sugar solution, or sweets like candies.
Food and diet
How does your diabetes affect your eating and do you find being on a diet restrictive?
Early in the morning I usually survive just on black coffee!
Breakfast – oatmeal with peanut butter and dark chocolate, or scrambled eggs on wholemeal bread.
Lunch – Some variety of meat and greens, with low to no carbs, like a chicken salad.
Dinner – various things like pasta, soup, noodle dishes, roasted vegetables, chili, burritos,…
This all varies depending on my work and workout schedule and sometimes I skip meals. Diabetes is definitely a huge factor in choosing what I eat – but I can still enjoy pretty much everything, just in more moderation than most people. But there’s no harm in sticking to a healthy diet!
It’s tough to pick a particular favourite food … in Malaysia, there are so many options. Local food is amazing, plus Indian banana leaf rice, Chinese hawker stalls, Japanese, Western, Korean, … Literally anything! So I try and visit as many different ones as I can.
As a snack I eat nuts or fruit. Celery, carrot sticks and hummus are great, or apple slices with peanut butter! I will check my blood sugar and dose accordingly for fruit, especially for dried fruit snacks such as mango.
I vary my insulin according to whichever meal I am eating, which can include “cheat meals” with more carbs and sugar than usual! But, that’s quite rare and I try to maintain a reasonable routine and sensible diet plan, without going too crazy over controlling it.
I try to drink at least 8 cups of water per day.
By definition, a diet is restrictive. I tend to stick to generally sensible and balanced eating habits rather than a strictly defined and controlled diet.
I don’t get annoyed by people if they are asking if I can eat certain food. They are taking an interest in trying to understand my condition, however the question is phrased. So I’m fine answering that, if it comes up!
Do you believe that a plant based diet can improve diabetes? Did you ever experiment with this?
Definitely. Especially with Type 2 diabetes. We should be careful about heralding this as a “miracle cure” (as some recent Netflix shows are saying). However, there is no doubt in my mind, that including more fruits and vegetables and whole foods into one’s diet can only be a good thing. Since type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle-based disease, it can definitely make a difference.
I personally tried going raw vegan for one month to see the results, which were honestly quite mixed. I found that I significantly cut down my insulin intake, which was great. But, it’s a very restrictive and relatively difficult diet to sustain. Thankfully it was my housemate’s idea, so he was the one doing all the food preparation. I felt very healthy, but I also really enjoyed my first chicken pasta when that month was up. So, balance! I definitely think there is merit in a plant-based diet – with strong emphasis on the ‘plant-based’ (as opposed to strictly vegetarian or vegan) – meaning that we can incorporate meat into our diets if we want to!
Do you have a hard time eating out in a restaurant? And what are you thoughts on making this easier?
Occasionally, but I overcome it. Just get creative with what’s on the menu and don’t be afraid to ask for different or replacement combinations and ingredients. I’ve found a lot of places can be pretty accommodating if you explain you are diabetic and need a low-carb or low-sugar option. Obviously it depends where and what they’re serving, but as long as it’s not too much trouble it’s usually fine.
“The best part is that it encourages me to take care of my health.”
Exercise and work
Does your diabetes restrict you from exercise or your daily job?
Not at all. In fact, it encourages me to keep up with my fitness and exercise routine. I work out in a gym mostly, doing a mix of circuit-based, functional and strength training. I aim for at least 4 to 5 workouts a week.
I am a copywriter and creative project coordinator. It’s a busy lifestyle sometimes, and can be quite stressful. But otherwise it doesn’t affect my condition.
Do you have any positive or negative effects because of your diabetes?
I was always interested in sport and exercise, but since my diagnosis, I have been much more active (literally) in using fitness to keep my condition in check, physically and mentally. I use food and exercise as my main “pillars” in managing this disease.
The hardest part is having to make so many daily decisions and ask so many questions solely related to the condition. What effect will this have on me? Do I have enough medication? What about working out? What’s my blood sugar now? What’s on this menu?
The best part is that it encourages me to take care of my health.
Mentally, I struggled for a while coming to terms with it.
I don’t have any personal (e.g. religious or social) problems with diabetes – but Malaysia, where I live, is the most diabetic and obese nation in Southeast Asia.
What is the best advice that you can give to non-diabetics, new diagnosed diabetics and diabetics?
Non-diabetics; There is a big difference between type 1 and type 2.
Newly diagnosed; Having diabetes is going to change your life. Make sure it’s for the better.
Diabetics; Keep up the good fight!
What would you ask the other diabetics?
Quite simply; how are you doing?
Feel free to answer in the comments below.
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Hey! I'm Ely Fornoville, the founder of Diabetic & Me.
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