Photography by Kylie Martin
5 years—5 years that quite literally they have been the best, worst, craziest and most fabulous years of my life. I have lived everywhere from Michigan to Washington DC, Paris to Italy, San Diego to Hawaii. I have studied for finals, graduated from college, fallen in love, gotten married, became a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), taught myself to blog and photograph, write a cookbook, send a husband off on many deployments, snuggled endlessly with my puppy, and just generally tried to enjoy each and every minute of life.
Most importantly during the past five years I got a medical diagnosis that has and will forever change the course of my life—I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, Type 1 Diabetes.
I say that this is one of the most important things that has ever happened to me, because that is true. My disease shapes my each and everyday, and I can truthfully say 5 years later, that it has shaped it for the better. It has not been easy, in fact it has been painfully difficult. Underneath the smile and joy that I seem to constantly exude, is quite often a lot of dark and miserable moments, moments that I quietly keep to myself.
I shared my complete story of diagnosis HERE, so if you haven’t read that, I would start there. Some of the dates may seem confusing, because it took multiple months for me to be properly diagnosed. So today on March 14th, I celebrate 5 years of dealing with Type 1 Diabetes.
My purpose of this post is to encourage others struggling with this disease, other auto-immune conditions or any struggle in general! I have learned a lot, and in no way have learned everything. I hope I can look back on this post in the next 5 years and even have more to offer you all, my community!
I write this with tears and with a joyful heart, because I know now that my diagnosis has made me into the woman I am today. For some reason, God gave me this disease, but I know in my heart that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
5 years with Type 1 Diabetes & 5 things I have learned to keep me healthy
Allow Your Condition to Define You
The saying goes “don’t let your circumstances define you,” but I reject that statement and I in fact say the opposite—let your circumstances, condition, disease or life situation define you. Let it not only define you but also influence you for the better.
For the first few years after my diagnosis, I didn’t want to accept my condition and that really hindered me in the long run. I was embarrassed and didn’t want people to think I was weird or weak. As soon as I accepted that no matter what, I am perfectly made and just the way I should be, this opened up a lot of emotional freedom for me as well as many fabulous career opportunities.
If it wasn’t for Type 1 Diabetes, I would truly not be the woman I am today. My diagnosis led me to becoming a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP). It gave me a passion for helping others and teaching that a healthy lifestyle can be a fun and delicious process. My diagnosis also lead me to writing my cookbook, All American Paleo Table, which re-creates all my favorite childhood and comfort foods (finger lickin’ good health food, yes please!).
Most importantly, my diagnosis has taught me to choose joy. Something that does not always come easily but this motto has truly impacted everything I do in daily life, and so I can say, I am thankful for my disease!
Don’t Allow Anyone to Make you Feel Guilty
For some reason, which I will never understand, people that eat healthy are automatically judged or shamed and sometimes even bullied. I say I don’t understand this because I am choosing to eat healthy to better myself, to save my health and to have energy to do the things I love with the people I love. Maybe people are threatened by the way I eat and the way I choose a healthy lifestyle, but no matter what you cannot allow people to let you feel guilty for making choices that positively impact your life.
People may tell you, “oh you can eat that” or “just one bite wont hurt you.” But for me, my response is “yes, one bite actually will hurt me.”
When I was first diagnosed, I would give in more often. I didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings that had made me a special dinner or dessert—because I know that for many people food is their love language. So, I would compromise and eat something knowing I would get sick afterwards.
Now after a few years, I completely say no! It was hard at the beginning but if you are gracious and explain your situation, your true friends and family will understand. And if someone really throws a fuss when you say you can’t eat something, I would argue to say you might want to re-evaluate that relationship!
Having your health allows you to be a better friend, better spouse or better co-worker, so don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for making a choice that allows you to be the best possible version of yourself! Stand your ground and let that slice of chocolate cake pass right on by.
Be Consistent and Disciplined
Sadly, I can’t ship my disease off in a suitcase to the frozen tundra while I go vacation on a tropical island, but wouldn’t that be awesome! I can’t tell you how many times, I have told my husband, I wish I could just take the weekend off from diabetes, or even the day off for that matter.
Managing this disease is for life, which is why I am very strict with what I eat on a daily basis and in no way embrace the concept of “dieting” or “cheat days.” For me, consistency and discipline is key and having diabetes means I have to be very strict, but this has truly allowed me to thrive! I enjoy and live my life with little ups and downs that I know are prevalent with this disease, so I don’t view the way I eat as restrictive, in fact I view it as freeing!
When I am consistent with when I eat and what I eat on a pretty tight regimen, I feel fabulous and my blood sugar is under control. Obviously life happens and we can’t always live this way, but for the most part I try to stick to a routine of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time, and eating similar types of foods at each of those meals—this has proven to be one of the best things to help my situation!
I also am consistent with “treating myself” and indulging in sweet treats often—always treats that I have homemade, so I know exactly what is in them. Yes, I eat a treat each and every day for the most part, but this has allowed me to make my way of eating a daily lifestyle choice. This has allowed me to never be tempted by the dessert menu or those gourmet donuts at a cute little coffee shop (ok tempted yes, but I never give in to that temptation)! I know that having a bite or three of a homemade dessert is going to make me feel a lot better than having a weekly “cheat day.”
Build Your Community
I can’t tell you how big of a role my husband has played in managing my disease and for that I am forever thankful! I could go on and on about how wonderful he is, but I won’t amuse you all with that love story!
I truly am thankful that my husband has embraced this way of eating with me—but funny story, I never once begged him or forced him to eat this way with me. We focus on good, flavorful foods that we both enjoy eating and that we know make us healthy and happy!
Food is such a central part of every day life, celebrations and emotions. I wanted healthy eating to add to that story rather than subtract, which is a huge component of my cookbook, All American Paleo Table.
Diabetes is consuming—the blood sugar testing, the highs and lows, the emotional component and having people that support and understand what you are going through will help you thrive! Having people that encourage you when all you want is a chocolate peanut butter milkshake from the drive through, having a husband that makes you steak dinner when your blood sugar is all over the place, or having friends that understand you can’t eat a certain restaurants. Tell your story, build your community—you truly can’t do this alone!
Recognize the Emotional Component of Your Health
Photography by Kylie Martin
With Type 1 Diabetes, you are consistently told to “count your carbs,” something that is very, very important, and in no way am I trying to eliminate the importance of that action. However, something that I feel is majorly ignored with this disease, is the intense emotional component of managing Type 1 and monitoring blood sugar.
I realized first hand just how emotions can impact blood sugar when my husband was deployed this past summer. At this point I am used to him being out to sea, and although I missed him, his absence is just life to me. But the whole time he was gone, my sugars were all over the place and I couldn’t quite seem to fix that problem. Within one week of his homecoming, my blood sugar “magically” went back to normal.
Life happens and quite often much of life is out of our control. But we can recognize moments of change (even good change), stress, happiness, fear, sadness, confusion, anger and joy. And we can realize how those emotions impact us! Whether we realize we miss someone or are stressed due to life circumstances, these events impact our health, especially when it comes to managing diabetes.
I think this is why I am drawn to colors, to sunshine, to God’s beautiful creation, to puppy snuggles, to a home cooked meal, to binge watching Netflix—these things make me happy and I know that that internal happiness impacts me on such a deep level!
Fill your days with happiness, because happy people are healthy people 😉
Thank you all so much for following along, playing a part of my community and sharing my story with other! My heart’s desire truly is to influence others for the better and that starts with each of you.
Take a moment to share my story with someone today—because there are a lot of people out there suffering with health issues. You can share on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or pick up the phone and call a friend today who might be on your heart!
For more information about nutrition consulting and working individually with me, please contact me HERE.
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