Niall has been living with diabetes for 20 years. Talking to him was eye-opening and a confirmation that we are in control of our health.
My mom was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over 15 years ago. At that time, I wasn’t living in Sardinia. She just explained to me that she only needed to take a pill daily.
By then, I knew nothing about diabetes. I thought that my mom was just getting older and diabetes was a disease that you eventually might get with the years passing by.
With time, I learned more about diabetes. I learned that type 2 diabetes, the contrary to type 1, is a disease that you can actually reverse with a good diet, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle.
My mom was already in her sixties by then; she didn’t even think to change her lifestyle because she thought it was just too complicated and required too much effort.
Last year, I had the opportunity to meet Niall, an Irish young man who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was six years old, and he has been living with it for 20 years.
I was surprised and intrigued to see that Niall was conducting a very active life full of activities, traveling and hard work. With very of curiosity, I asked him if I could interview him.
Here is his story.
How did your journey with diabetes start?
When I first got diagnosed with diabetes, I went to the doctor and was told that I need to do a certain amount of ingestion; I need to eat in a certain way, based on the diet guidelines based on carbohydrates. I was advised to have three meals a day with each meal consisting of 60 grams of carbs. The base of my diet was supposed to be potatoes, rice, pasta, bread and then adding vegetables and proteins.
The theory of this book is if we want to look for the best way to eat, we need to look at evolution. He says that carbohydrates and dairy are relatively new foods and our body is not ready for them yet. So, we are supposed to base our diet on good fats, protein and a lot of vegetables.
In fact, whenever we eat carbohydrates, our body releases insulin to store it.
So, rethinking on my diet at the moment, and knowing that whenever I was eating carbohydrates, I needed to inject myself with insulin so that my body would be able to store those carbohydrates, I thought that, maybe, reducing my carb intake by eliminating the ones from grains and starches, I would be able to become less insulin-dependent.
After a few months, by eating this way, I was able to reduce my insulin intake of 30 units a day to only 2 or 3 units a day. I went from my blood sugar going up and down to find my energy has been more stable during the entire day.
Do you also eat fruits?
If I’m training and I have low blood sugar, I would eat a banana or an apple to bring it back up, but I try not to eat too much of it.
For example, right now my test says that my blood sugar level is 6.5, which is good if we consider that it should always be between 4.5 and 7. If I eat an apple now, my level would go up to 11 and I would need to inject some insulin or do some exercise.
You do exercise to lower your blood sugar?
Yes, I would go for a walk or do some burpees just to move my body.
As I have been dealing with diabetes for 20 years of my life, I have built a certain connection with my body; I have a good understanding of how it works.
In general, I exercise because it has been scientifically proven that if you exercise, your body is more sensitive to insulin, which means that I would need to inject less insulin.
In fact, one of the reasons why people get type 2 diabetes is because they don’t do any physical activity and their body is constantly producing insulin, up to the point that your body becomes insensitive to it.
Do you get to crave carbs and how do you deal with the cravings?
Everyone has cravings for many reasons and it’s ok if we indulge sometimes. I personally have one day a week when I feel like eating much more than I usually do.
What I would recommend is eating slow carbs like sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice or root vegetables.
As a general principle, I recommend avoiding carbs, but it’s different for everyone. Mark Sisson, for example, recommends 150 grams a day.
What do you usually eat in one day?
I used to have oatmeal as a first meal of the day, but I’d get hungry after a couple of hours.
With such a meal now, I don’t get hungry until 6 or 7 p. m., when I usually have dinner.
If I get hungry before dinner, I eat some nuts, an avocado or some dark chocolate.
Dinner would have some sort of protein, preferably fish, together with veggies. I love broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and greens. I like to have a colorful plate with as many veggies as possible.
This doesn’t seem like a big quantity of food for a man.
Well, we need to consider that when I eat, I have big quantities, like my breakfast, which is quite big.
I’m not suggesting that everyone should eat the same quantities of food that I eat, or having only two meals a day, because this is what works for me and my lifestyle.
However, I believe that everyone should experiment in order to find the best strategy that works for them.
Meeting Niall and talking to him about his life with diabetes was eye-opening. It was the confirmation that we are in control of our health, even if we weren’t born that lucky.
YOUR TURN: What do you do to keep control over your health? Leave a comment below if you would like to share your experience.
As always, I appreciate you stopping by my blog, and if you think this post might help someone you know to make even a small step to a healthier lifestyle, please don’t hesitate to share it away!
Happy Healthy Living!
A big hug,
Claudia Canu is a former junk and sugar addict transformed into a Health Motivator with a master’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She has created this website not only to share her “Journey to her Healthy Forties” but also to help other busy women with basic knowledge about nutrition and who don’t love cooking, to live a healthier life and achieve big goals.