When I was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 21, I had not given the first thought to living a healthy diabetic lifestyle. As far as I was concerned, a healthy lifestyle was reserved only for fitness junkies and overweight moms.
I didn’t know squat about the benefits and overall happiness a healthy lifestyle would lead to. I was perfectly content eating frozen pizza, smoking cigarettes, and binge drinking on a regular basis. After I was diagnosed with diabetes, I had a lengthy discussion with my doctor that resulted in an epiphany, “Everything I love is killing me!”
First, we’ll define what I mean by healthy lifestyle. When I asked the question, “What is a healthy lifestyle?” the common answer seemed to be, “Don’t smoke, don’t drink, eat only vegetables and protein, and make sure to exercise every day.”
My first thought was, “You can give that crap right back to the birds.” I was 21, loved to party, and absolutely chock full of testosterone.
The ideas, practices, and benefits a healthy lifestyle provided sounded great for managing my diabetes, but I sure didn’t like the idea of my social life falling off the face of the planet. Believing in the power of moderation, I made some compromises with my disease:
I quit smoking cigarettes and only smoked cigars on special occasions such as bachelor parties, Super Bowls, or the birth of my first child. That last part was a joke. After many years of searching, special occasions are the only reason I can find to put nicotine or smoke of any kind in your body.
For me, this was a big one. I’m not really the type of guy that likes to meet girls at church, and school was not really an option for me, but drinking was all my friends and I did. As a result, drinking alcohol (sadly enough) was a major component of my social life. From that day forward, I laid down some basic rules.
No liquor. Liquor causes severe instability in blood sugar levels, and will cause serious problems. I stick only to beer and wine with a maximum of three drinks. If you monitor your sugar regularly and eat beforehand, you should be able to enjoy a nice night out.
Of the areas available for improvement in my lifestyle, eating was the easiest for me to adapt and overcome. When I learned that protein had a minor effect on my sugar that was good news, any hamburger and steak-loving American would be happy to hear that, but the bad news was that French fries, baked potatoes, and (my favorite) sweet potatoes were off limits. That meant I had to learn to love vegetables.
From that point forward, I began cooking veggies with light butter and cayenne pepper. I know that sounds odd, but I like spicy food. As far as your diet is concerned, for the sake of your happiness, find your favorite spices and seasonings and begin experimenting with healthy foods.
When it comes to exercising many people (including myself) do not follow through for long enough to see substantial results. Personally, I believe in living an active lifestyle instead of becoming a fitness and free-weight junkie. What worked for me? Basic exercises (lunges, squats, and crunches) in front of the television every morning followed by a 15 minute walk.
Complying with the guidelines I listed above, I’m still able to have a fun, active lifestyle while controlling my diabetes. Finally, I need to say that I’m not a doctor, just a guy with Type 1 Diabetes. The practices I listed worked for me to maintain the young-adult lifestyle that I wanted. You may be different, and understanding your own personality traits is critical to successful moderation and control of your diabetes.