Matt Vande Vegte
Hello! Who are you? And tell us a little bit more about your diabetes.
I am a certified personal trainer and nutritionist, author and speaker. None of these things would have ever been possible without type 1 diabetes, which has allowed me to see the silver lining in some of life’s most difficult times and remain grateful.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 19, which means that I still had a bit of that teenager rebellious attitude inside me. I hated my diabetes upon diagnosis. I thought that it made me weaker as a person, and as a result I hid it from the world. Even to the point of not taking care of myself at first. It took me years to come to terms with it fully, and even then I wasn’t a fan until I was able to shift my perspective around 8 years into it, all because of a near-death experience.
I had the hardest time with acceptance. I grew up as an athlete that ate healthy and exercised. I thought “why me” and “what did I do to deserve this” instead of accepting my new list of responsibilities as a diabetic. I fell into a depression, which led to anger and frustration. Until finally, about 4 to 5 years into my life with diabetes, I decided that it was time to accept it as part of my life and actually take some steps to manage my diabetes better.
“We are all WARRIORS, and I love serving and coaching the diabetic community.”
How do you treat your diabetes, did a lot change over the past years and are you able to manage it well?
I make all of my own decisions and take responsibility for my diabetes, as I always have. However, I’ve had tremendous support from family, friends, and my wife all along the way. Their continued support means the world to me and gives me comfort, knowing that they are there to catch me if I fall or have a rough “diabetes day”.
I’m currently using the Tandem insulin pump with Humalog insulin with the Dexcom G6 CGM combo. This is what I’ve found works best for me and allows me to fine-tune my insulin needs while using my unique blood sugar formula to stay in range for longer periods of time. I was on MDI (multiple daily injections) for the first 8 years of my life with diabetes, and there are definitely pros and cons to each version of insulin therapy. But I’ve found what I like best.
When I was on MDI I used Humalog as my fast acting insulin and Lantus as my long acting insulin.
A lot has changed over the years. In the beginning, I was ignorant. I chose to pretend that diabetes didn’t affect my life, and I lived that way for many years. But a few years ago, I nearly died.. by myself.. in a foreign country because of some blood sugar struggles. Since that moment, I’ve learned to manage my blood sugars tighter than ever, I’ve improved my mindset, and I’ve been able to see the positive in life, and in diagnosis.
I manage my diabetes pretty well. Being that I coach other T1D’s through my business, it is my duty to stay on top of my blood sugars. Both to prove that my blood sugar formula works, but also to practice what I preach. I would say that I am the most controlled I’ve ever been, and may ever be.
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. I rarely go out of “range”, and as a result I’ve been able to feel the symptoms of low blood sugar and high blood sugar a lot easier than when I was all over the place earlier in diagnosis. When I go low I get shakey and sweaty. When I go high I feel sick to my stomach and feel like I’m drying out on the inside.
As a type 1 diabetic, I’ve been recommended to test around 5 to 10 times a day, but with my CGM updating every 5 minutes I glance at my blood sugars throughout the day whenever it crosses my mind.
To cure my low blood sugars I use glucose tabs (easily measured to avoid over-treating) or fruit (the healthier choice).
I’ve had some pretty scary experiences in my life, though they are few. I remember once I was at the drive in movies in college and I felt a low coming on. I rushed to the candy stand and the next thing I remember I was sitting against the tire of my friends truck in the parking lot with a soda in my hand. Being that it was in the middle of nowhere, it could have gone much worse.
Food and diet
How does your diabetes affect your eating and do you find being on a diet restrictive?
I follow what I call the “flexitarian” diet where I eat mostly plant-based, but I also eat whatever I want if an opportunity opens up and I feel like it (like a holiday with family). I stick to 3 meals a day and I eat a TON of food in order to hit my fitness goals. When I coach my clients, I tell them to find a “diet” (I hate that word) that fits their lifestyle and unique goals. It must be realistic and fit a long-term goal in order to work. Be happy AND healthy.
California Burrito, but ONLY in southern California is my favorite food. That being said, I haven’t had one in over a year. I make burritos a few times a week though haha.
I never skip any meals and I rarely snack, but when I do I go for healthy veggies like celery or cherry tomatoes.
I typically eat similar foods, but as long as I match my insulin to the contents of my meals, all is well and I can enjoy it guilt-free.
I try to drink water throughout the day, though I don’t measure it very often anymore.
I firmly believe that any diet that is truly restrictive will eventually limit your success with the goals you set to accomplish with that diet in the first place. Hardcore diets work in the short term, but rarely long enough to see any lasting change, which leads to us feeling like a failure, and then going on a binge with unhealthy items and feeling defeated.
Usually I don’t get annoyed when people ask me about food I can or can’t eat. I assume that they are either uninformed or were taught by current entertainment on tv things that just aren’t true. I don’t expect them to know everything about my disease, just as they shouldn’t expect me to know everything about whatever it is that they are going through. I am happy to share with them information upon request, if and only if it is welcomed.
Do you believe that a plant based diet can improve diabetes? Did you ever experiment with this?
I 100% believe this. I’ve experimented with just about every type of diet for diabetics. I’m known for my experimentation and how they led to my unique methods for coaching T1Ds to better their blood sugars. When I tried out vegan, I felt incredible and unstoppable. That being said, it was not a realistic and long-term commitment that I wanted to make, so now I’d say that I’m about 80-90% plant based.
Do you have a hard time eating out in a restaurant? And what are you thoughts on making this easier?
I used to have a hard time, but ultimately if you understand the glycemic impact of each food (how will it impact your blood sugars) and have a good estimate of the macronutrient content (check out apps like Myfitnesspal or Calorie King or even Google) then I can navigate just about any meal smoothly and stay in range. Honestly, I prefer to eat at home 99% of the time. But when I do go out, I look for healthy and whole food options if possible. If not? Chipotle, hands down.
“Diabetes does NOT have to slow you down!”
Exercise and work
Does your diabetes restrict you from exercise or your daily job?
I work out intensely 5 to 6 times a week.
I am the head coach and co-founder of a health and fitness coaching company for type 1 diabetics called FTF Warrior. It is the single greatest thing for my diabetes because it allows me to spend my time discovering the newest and greatest cutting-edge strategies for blood sugar automation, WHILE being surrounded by other type 1 diabetics. While yes, my entire life is diabetes (I’m also an author and speaker at T1D events and conferences), it is my dream to help as many diabetics around the world with my methods for blood sugar stability and predictability through the use of my unique formula. We are all WARRIORS, and I love serving and coaching the diabetic community.
Do you have any positive or negative effects because of your diabetes?
To manage my diabetes better I made consistent exercise and healthy eating a HUGE part of my life. That, in addition to the use of the blood sugar formula that I teach, keep me in range almost all the time.
The hardest part of being a diabetic is the mindset. I’ve spent years learning and practicing to improve my mindset, mental health, and peace of mind. I’ve come a long way, and I know I still have room to improve.
The community is by far the best part, with a close second of me having the ability to make a career out of helping and coaching other people who are on a similar journey to happier and healthier lives just like me.
My diabetes causes some other problems in the past. Mental health was a struggle for a bit, but I’ve spent a lot of time and energy to ensure that I’m better equipped to handle the burden that is type 1 diabetes.
What is the best advice that you can give to non-diabetics, new diagnosed diabetics and diabetics?
It’s a 24/7 full time job that has no breaks, no do-overs, and doesn’t allow for quitting. I might have a rough day every once in a while, and I ask that you have patience with me (us) while I (we) regroup and reset for another daily battle.
This is tough, but you are stronger than you’ve ever known. You’re becoming a Warrior, now go find your tribe.
Diabetes does NOT have to slow you down. It may require a little extra planning ahead, but you can (and should) still live a truly EPIC full life filled with happiness.
What would you ask the other diabetics?
What is your biggest fear pertaining to your diabetes?
Feel free to answer in the comments below.
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