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How I Found My Diabetes Tribe

Photo: Courtesy of Diabetes Strong

Living with diabetes can be tough, it can be confusing, and it can sometimes be lonely. But what I now tell people is that you don’t have to do this alone. We are a big group of people living with diabetes and if you’re interested and willing to put yourself out there, you can find your diabetes tribe, just like I did.

I’ve been living with type 1 diabetes since 1997, and for the first 15 years of my life with diabetes, I thought I had to deal with it alone. I didn’t hide it and I wasn’t embarrassed by my diagnosis, despite people’s misconceptions, but I was private about it. 

I didn’t realize how much being part of the diabetes community could benefit me or how much I had to offer others living with diabetes. 

Growing a movement

Everything changed in 2014 when I started training for a fitness competition. As my workout regimen intensified, I found it increasingly difficult to manage my blood sugars and all the medical guidance I had was “eat 15 grams of carbs before exercise,” which wasn’t very helpful. 

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Resistance training & Blood sugars 💪🏽💉⁠ ⁠ Earlier this week I gave you the download on aerobic exercise (my Tuesday hiking example) and blood sugar management, so now lets dive into anaerobic exercise and blood sugar management.⁠ ⁠ Anaerobic exercise is the type of exercise where you really push yourself for shorter periods. Examples are sprint training, boot camps, and heavy resistance training.⁠ ⁠ It’s important to distinguish between anaerobic and aerobic since the two types of exercise generally impact blood sugars differently. Where aerobic exercise can make blood sugars drop many will see an increase or no real movement to blood sugars during anaerobic exercise (although it often drops after).⁠ ⁠ That just means that we need different diabetes management strategies depending on the type of exercise for our blood sugars to stay in range. And please note I say “generally” you need to determine exactly how you react.⁠ ⁠ If I do resistance training in a full-gym (which I still don’t have access to) I’ll most often need to dose 100% for my pre-workout meal and sometimes I even need a little extra for my blood sugars to not shoot up.⁠ ⁠ Now that I’m doing resistance training at home, I don’t have access to heavy weights, so I’m increasing my repetitions and do more supersets to challenge my muscles. That does mean that my home resistance training workouts tend to have an aerobic component to them so I generally don’t add any extra insulin to the mix.⁠ ⁠ I know I make it sound simple, I know it’s not. It takes time to find your exact formula, but it can be done. Don’t accept blood sugars that are constantly out of wack when you exercise. You can go to www.DiabetesStrong.com and download my tracking sheet to find your Formula for Exercise & Diabetes, just type om “Formula” in the search field on the website⁠ ⁠ #t1D #type1diabetes #resistancetraining #diabetesstrong #diabadass #insulin #cgm #bloodsugar #exercise

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So I started documenting my workouts, my food, my insulin, and everything else I found relevant and quickly saw patterns for how my blood sugar reacted to different types of exercise. 

I began to blog about my findings online and quickly realized many others were looking for information on exercise and diabetes in the format I was providing. My blog quickly grew into something much larger and today I run one of the largest private diabetes websites, DiabetesStrong.com

Finding community

Not only did my passion for fitness and diabetes lead me to a new career, it also led me to the online diabetes community. As I connected with more people online, I realized how powerful it can be to connect with others who “get it.” People who understand my frustration when my blood sugars aren’t playing nice or my joy when I reach a diabetes goal.

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#AD Hiking is the best, but wonky blood sugars are the worst, and that’s where my InPen, an FDA-cleared Smartpen, comes in handy. I rely on the bolus calculator in the InPen app for calculating all my insulin doses, which can really help keep my blood sugars in check when hiking. Sure, I could guestimate my insulin need or calculate it (carb dose +/- correction needed +/- Insulin On Board (IOB)), but just typing it into the calculator is so much easier! Plus, the app keeps track of the IOB for me so I don’t have to remember when I took my last dose or how much I took. Before a hike such as the Malibu Creek State Park hike (a 90-minute round trip), I start by calculating my dose using the app and then reduce the recommended dose by 1/3. I only reduce it because I know I’ll be active and the reduction will help reduce the risk of a low blood sugar during my hike. Halfway through the hike, I usually check my blood sugar. If my blood sugar is above 130 mg/dl (7.2 mmol/L) and steady, I’ll often type my blood sugar into the app to see if I should take a correction. That’s what I mean when I say that I top off my insulin halfway through the hike as I did in this photo. The reason I do it halfway through a 90-minute hike is that the insulin will hardly have started to work before I’m done with the hike and back in the car. So that reduces the risk of a low blood sugar during the hike or an increase in my blood sugar once I’m done hiking. And the reassuring part is that the app will tell me if I have too much IOB and shouldn’t do a correction at all. Pretty nice…💙 Follow @companionmedical to learn more. Or order your own Smartpen on their website #MyInpen #Inpen #t1D #type1diabetes #hikingwithdiabetes #diabetesstrong #diabadass #insulin

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The online community can be a place where you find support and friends from around the world. All you have to do is go online and look for us. 

My favorite social media platforms are Facebook and Instagram, but there’s also a strong community on Twitter. Just go on any of those platforms, type in #diabetes, and I promise you, a whole new world will open up.

You can find me at Instagram @diabetesstrong_ig and on my Facebook page @DiabetesStrong.

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