The Healthy Diabetic
“Diabetes should never hold anyone back from achieving what they want to do”
Daniel Piper, a Structural Engineer in our London office, has had Type 1 Diabetes since November 2011. Since his diagnosis, he has been documenting his journey with healthy eating and nutrition in his widely successful blog, The Healthy Diabetic, which has been viewed over 100,000 times in the last 20 months. With Diabetes Awareness Week taking place in the UK from 12 – 16 June 2017, Dan wants to shed some light on what it means to live with diabetes.
It is estimated that around 1 in 20 of us in the UK have been diagnosed with a form of diabetes. Over 500,000 people are walking around with the condition without even being aware of it and unfortunately, these figures are only rising.
Everything we eat, and a lot of what we drink, contains glucose in varying amounts and our bodies use this in several ways to provide us with the vital fuel to live our lives and do what we want. With diabetics, the glucose stays in the blood stream rather than being used by the body and this is where complications occur.
These can be short-term such as feeling lethargic, extremely hungry, dizzy or shaky, while long-term problems can lead to amputations, blindness, organ failure, depression, slipping into a coma, or in the worst case death.
There are two main types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 Diabetes is where the insulin producing pancreatic cells in your body have been partially or completely destroyed. It accounts for approximately 10% of all diabetics and is an auto-immune condition where your body attacks itself. It requires an artificial input of insulin to manage either by injections, pumps or tablets. Unfortunately, there is not yet a cure for Type 1 Diabetes and it must be treated with a form of insulin for the rest of a diabetic’s life.
Just to give you an idea – I currently inject myself around 6 times a day (based on 4 meals a day and 2 background injections). That’s 2,190 times a year, and let’s say I make it to 75 years old, that’s another 103,000 injections to go.
Type 2 Diabetes is developed when your pancreatic cells are unable to produce enough insulin (although they still produce some) to cope with the level of glucose in the blood stream. This is otherwise known as insulin resistance.
The stereotype is that Type 2 Diabetes is usually down to a very poor diet, being overweight and a lack of looking after yourself, which in a lot of cases is true, but isn’t always correct. It can be brought on through pregnancy (Gestational Diabetes) or a severe amount of stress however, is treatable by injecting insulin, adopting a healthy diet and/or an increased level of exercise – it varies from patient to patient.
So, what does it mean to me to be diabetic?
Diabetes doesn’t have an agenda. It doesn’t care about your age, race, occupation, gender, opinions or views. It just happens, it stays, and it’s constant. It involves countless hours of putting something sharp into your body and taking calculations for food intake and insulin requirements. To be honest, I can’t even imagine a day where I’m not thinking about my blood glucose levels and how it affects me.
My experience with Type 1 Diabetes means that I am never without needles, pens, drugs or something to eat. Episodes of low blood sugar are really terrible – you can’t explain to someone who has never experienced them quite how bad they are.
But there are positives.
Without my diabetes, I wouldn’t have developed the level of understanding of managing my own health. I wouldn’t have found an enjoyment for learning about nutrition and fitness or have qualified as an Accredited Nutrition Coach alongside being a Structural Engineer, neither would I have met some amazing people via the #doc (Diabetic Online Community) who I’m lucky enough to call my friends.
Since my diagnosis I’ve worked alongside various charitable organisations to help fund research and provide vital awareness of diabetes and have started a blog and various social media accounts where my words have been read and published all over the world in national newspapers and websites. This is in addition to finding new physical and mental strengths within myself which have proved my diabetes doesn’t hold me back.
So, am I thankful to be a diabetic? Yes, I suppose I am.
Diabetes should never hold anyone back from achieving what they want to do because being diabetic means you are part of a wonderful community who help and support each other! It allows you to find new strengths, to push yourself and to find out what your body can achieve after it’s turned its back on you. Yes, it’s hard – there’s no getting away from that, but finding the ability to deal with it every day is a huge accomplishment.
Click here to read his full blog.