Live your best life with type 1 diabetes
Tuesday 14 November marks World Diabetes Day and with more than 200,000 Aussies affected by type 1 diabetes and the number of diagnoses increasing, it’s important to understand how to #liveyourbestlife with the condition.
Exercise physiologist, diabetes educator and Fitbit Ambassador Drew Harrisberg was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 23 and has been on a mission ever since to stop the condition controlling his wellbeing and happiness. Drew says diabetes is the catalyst that changed his life. We asked Drew to share how to come to terms with a diagnosis and how to manage your mental and physical health with type 1 diabetes.
Getting diagnosed with any chronic condition takes a huge emotional toll on the body.
It’s important to identify that diabetes is not a death sentence. Yes, it can be very difficult in the early stages, but the grieving process doesn’t last forever. Thankfully, it only gets easier as you start to put in the work to improve your health.
It’s important that you get to know your diabetes, in the same way that you would a partner in a relationship. You need to learn what it likes and doesn’t like.
Not only can you live a happy and healthy life with diabetes, but it may even be the push you need to make a whole array of healthy changes to your lifestyle and ultimately thrive with diabetes.
In my personal case, I’m happier and healthier today than I was before being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Diabetes was the catalyst that I needed to really become an expert in my own health.
Step it up
It doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Start simple. Any movement is better than no movement. Don’t underestimate the importance of walking for stabilising your insulin and blood sugar levels.
Walking is also an excellent tool to use throughout the day, and in my opinion, is one of the most under-utilised tools at your disposal. It’s particularly beneficial after eating carbs, allowing them to be soaked up rather than causing hyperglycaemia.
To keep up my motivation for walking and exercise throughout the day I use a tracking device to monitor how many steps I’m taking, and I love the fact it gives me a few gentle reminders to get up and moving throughout the day. Aim for 10,000 steps daily, but don’t worry if you fall short – every step is beneficial!
Start resistance training
The other key exercise that’s really vital in my opinion is resistance training. Whether you’re using your bodyweight at home, in a park, or lifting weights in the gym, this type of training is an essential component in an any exercise program for people living with diabetes.
This type of exercise can reduce insulin sensitivity, making it easier for your body to better tolerate carbohydrates and ultimately improve your blood sugar levels. It does this by opening up a glucose ‘gateway’ to the cells of your body so that glucose can enter freely without the need for insulin, hence why exercise is such a powerful tool to combat insulin resistance and diabetes.
Aim to do a full body resistance circuit at least three times per week. If you don’t know where to start invest in a tool that can give you a head start. You can use the Fitbit Ionic for full body workouts on your wrist that you can do anytime, anywhere, even on your living room floor. No equipment needed.
Carbs are still your friends
When it comes to carbohydrate intake, timing is key!
The ideal times include before and after workouts. By doing so, the carbs you eat before training will likely fuel a productive session. After a workout, your body is primed to soak up sugar in the muscles because the ‘gateways’ are now open and ready for glucose to enter.
You are also more insulin sensitive after a workout, meaning that you need less insulin to get the job done. Therefore, the excess carbs you eat after training will likely be stored in your muscles in the form of glycogen rather than sitting in the blood stream as excess sugar or converted into fat and stored in and on your body.
In a nutshell, save your carbs for around periods of activity.
For the rest of the day eat meals that are lower in carbs, higher in healthy fats, and high in fibre. You can never eat too many plants.
Put that coffee down
Finally, don’t drink too much coffee.
Caffeine actually induces a state of temporary insulin resistance because of the hormones that it releases. So, if you’re consistently drinking coffee throughout the day, you aren’t doing your insulin and blood sugar levels any favours.
If you’re eating large amounts of carbs with your coffee, you’re setting yourself for not being able to tolerate them very well, ultimately increasing hyperglycaemia.
Drew Harrisberg, Fitbit Ambassador and exercise physiologist