Hello! Who are you? And tell us a little bit more about your diabetes.
Since my work revolves around diabetes I’m very interested in this topic. When I’m either not running my business or spending time with my partner and kids, I’m learning about different kinds of wine from Italy!
I didn’t grow up with diabetes because I was diagnosed as an adult. I did, however, grow up seeing my father deal with his type 1 diabetes. He never tried to hide his diabetes which probably helped with my own attitude toward diabetes when I eventually got my diagnosis.
As a family, we have been rather familiar with diabetes because of my father’s diabetes. On top of that, my partner, Christina, is a diabetes nurse. So, my own diabetes was not exactly a curveball for my family. Instead, it was more of a curveball for me emotionally. It’s one thing to be familiar with diabetes when others around you have diabetes. It’s another thing to suddenly find that you have diabetes yourself. My diagnosis was quite a shock and it shook me up a fair bit.
“Slow down, take a deep breath, and know that this is not the end of the road.”
How do you treat your diabetes, did a lot change over the past years and are you able to manage it well?
Fortunately, I feel that the Danish healthcare system treats those with diabetes rather well. In my case, the healthcare is provided by the Copenhagen Capital Region.
Emotionally, however, I get support from my other half, Christina, who is rather used to handling people with diabetes.
At the moment, I use an insulin pen and a blood glucose meter, along with a pen and a continuous glucose meter. Later, I will most likely move to a smartpen and BGM/CGM.
I use both fast-acting and long-acting insulin. Luckily, I don’t take any other medication.
I would say quite a lot changed over the years after my diagnosis. Learning to deal with diabetes in itself is quite a change. On top of that, I felt that I needed to change my lifestyle a bit to become steadier and to take better care of myself.
Most significantly, I founded my business, Hedia, which has grown tremendously. That growth is exciting in itself. But with regard to my diabetes, it has allowed me to fully open my eyes to the condition and even see the positive side of diabetes. So, generally, it has had a positive effect.
I manage my diabetes fairly well, but like everyone, I have my moments where it feels like it’s not going brilliantly. For instance, I do like to eat junk food when I’m stressed. That combination is not great for blood sugar levels at all. Generally, though, it seems to be going well. I think the fact that I’m always talking about diabetes at work helps to remind me of the importance of taking care of my diabetes. Hedia’s app, Hedia Diabetes Assistant also helps me (which was the whole point of the app really).
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?
Sometimes, I can recognize them. It really depends on what is going on in my life at that moment. When I do get symptoms, I get the typical symptoms associated with hyper- or hypoglycemia. Whether I get symptoms is a sort of 50/50 split. The lows are quite easy for me to notice. The highs are more difficult for me to feel.
When using my blood glucose meter, I test between six to eight times a day. When using a CGM, I check all the time.
When treating my hypo, sometimes, I do the right thing (having the correct amount of carbs from orange juice). Other times, I empty the fridge!
Luckily I didn’t faint yet due to low blood sugar levels.
Food and diet
How does your diabetes affect your eating and do you find being on a diet restrictive?
In the morning I often eat the same: eggs or oatmeal.
Lunch and dinner depends on what’s on the menu (especially when it comes to the lovely lunch that is prepared at my workplace canteen).
My favorite food depends completely on the situation. I love the morning breakfast with my wife and my two small girls – no matter what’s on the plate. I also might enjoy a burger before a football game with the “gang” or some fine dining with a couple of friends.
I actually think that it’s more important to have good company – with people who I love spending time with – is more important than what’s on my plate.
I never skip any meals and for snacks, I eat fruits, nuts, rye bread (rye bread is a big thing in Denmark).
When I eat something that is not planned and I need to adjust my insulin dosage, it’s one of the situations where Hedia really adds value for me. It gives me the dose recommendation and reminds me to remeasure my blood glucose level. This makes me catch the blood glucose spikes fairly quickly and respond to them.
My other half keeps telling me to drink more water because I often end up going for the coffee. But, yes, I do drink water regularly.
For me, a diet is almost by definition restrictive: you are purposefully restricting certain foods. So, in that sense, a diet is obviously restrictive. But I don’t think that “restrictive” needs to be bad. As long as you feel that you have a balance, it can be rather fun to find creative ways to cook foods that belong to a certain diet.
When people ask me about the food I can or can’t eat, it certainly can be annoying. I suppose the frustration comes from the fact that others do not always understand the complications and nuances of diabetes treatment. They potentially never will understand since they don’t deal with diabetes on a daily basis. At the same time, it’s important to remember that many people who ask this are asking because they are concerned. It usually comes from a good place.
Do you believe that a plant based diet can improve diabetes? Did you ever experiment with this?
I haven’t exactly experimented with this, but I have tried some plant-based alternative foods, which have been rather tasty. In any case, I believe that people should be able to decide to eat what they want. It’s not uncommon for people with diabetes to get comments about whether they’re “allowed” to eat something, which can be irritating. If a person with diabetes notices that a plant-based diet works for them, then they should go for it!
Do you have a hard time eating out in a restaurant? And what are you thoughts on making this easier?
I personally don’t have a hard time eating out at a restaurant. Again, this is probably due to the fact that I’ve been used to seeing my father inject insulin while growing up. So, injecting insulin at a restaurant is something I don’t even think about. I just do it. I don’t want to make my diabetes any more complicated than it needs to be. I understand that many others do have a hard time eating out at restaurants, though. At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice whether people want to deal with their diabetes in public.
I like to go out eating at many different places! Copenhagen is known as a “foodie” place. You might even call it the capital of Nordic Cuisine. So, there’s always some exciting restaurant around the corner.
“Well, this might be biased but my best advice is: use Hedia!”
Exercise and work
Does your diabetes restrict you from exercise or your daily job?
I go to the gym usually three to four times a week and used to play a lot of football until my body broke 👨🏻🦳!
The same goes with running – love it but my body has a hard time doing it.
I am the CEO of Hedia. I founded Hedia because I felt that something was lacking from my own diabetes treatment. I wanted to make my diabetes easier and so, the other two co-founders and I set out to develop an app as a medical device.
Now, Hedia is a fast-growing business. That means that there is always a great deal to think about, which can be stressful occasionally. But for the most part, my work affects me positively because I have lovely colleagues and a positive work environment. Naturally, when that work balance is going well, it’s easier to keep on top of keeping the balance with blood sugar levels.
As I mentioned before, the fact that I work so closely with the topic of diabetes means that I am able to think rather positively about diabetes. I can even be grateful about it: I wouldn’t have this work today without diabetes.
Do you have any positive or negative effects because of your diabetes?
Just keep talking about it. The more open I am about it, the more I can accept that diabetes is a part of my life.
I think the hardest part is the mental side of diabetes because it’s the part that isn’t visible. There’s quite a lot to think about when you have diabetes; it’s like a full-time job in itself. There are many mental aspects of having diabetes that we perhaps don’t realize ourselves. For example, the term “diabetic” can even subconsciously make us feel like we are defined by diabetes.
The best part of diabetes is that it forces you to think about your wellbeing. While the mental side of diabetes is tricky, I’m also grateful that I am actually considering my mental health.
The same goes for my body. Everyone is encouraged to exercise and eat well for the sake of their health, but those with diabetes notice the positive changes immediately in their blood sugar levels. That means that it’s a lot clearer for someone with diabetes to notice how important it is to stay healthy and to stick with it.
Copenhagen is by the sea, so, if anything, the place where I live has a positive impact on my diabetes because the seaside helps me relax.
What is the best advice that you can give to non-diabetics, new diagnosed diabetics and diabetics?
There’s a lot to think about but there are many great devices and people who help along the way.
Take time to give yourself a breather. Slow down, take a deep breath, and know that this is not the end of the road. It might even lead to something wonderful.
Well, this might be biased but my best advice is: use Hedia!
What would you ask the other diabetics?
I am interested to know what kind of devices you use to help manage your diabetes.
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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