Diabetic does debut

By Whitney Sharp

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bret Michaels lately.

If the name doesn’t ring any bells, it’s okay. He’s the lead singer of 80s hair metal band Poison, the star of the short-lived reality show Rock of Love and he’s a Type 1 diabetic.

Just like me.

I was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic on September 17, 2015. I was 23 years old. After months of progressively feeling sicker and sicker, drinking in excess two gallons (seven liters) of water a day and losing significant weight, I was hospitalized for four days with severe diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

DKA occurs when your body consistently has high sugar levels over a prolonged period of time. As my pancreas was no longer producing insulin (the hormone your cells use to turn what you eat into energy), my cells weren’t getting the fuel they so desperately needed. My body began to break itself down.

No wonder I lost 70 pounds (31 kilos). In my case, it was estimated I was in a state of DKA for three months or more. I had absolutely no idea.

After four days of intravenous therapy, regular blood work and constant finger-poking, I was discharged with a prescription for extensive medical supplies, rapid and long-acting insulin, and special instructions: diabetic diet.

As if life wasn’t overwhelming enough in that moment, I had no clue  what a diabetic diet was. All I knew about diabetes was that you couldn’t have sugar. I was scared. I was tired. I was nervous. I was hungry. But what could I eat?

Diabetics can eat whatever they want. It’s a big (and as I’m learning, common) misconception that diabetics can’t eat any of those sweet treats we all love. It just takes some planning and discipline: one cookie, not one plate of cookies; once in a while, not every day.

As a general rule, adopting a diabetic diet means balance and, yes, limited sugar. It’s important to get a mix of all major food groups while keeping track of carbs, as your body turns them into glucose (a.k.a. sugar).

Coinciding with my diagnosis, I’ve been thinking a lot about moving towards a less animal-based diet. The health and environmental benefits that come from a vegan or even vegetarian diet are outstanding, not to mention the majority of vegan recipes that are diabetic friendly.

While I’m still learning about proper nutrition and living life with diabetes (my purse looks like aisle 5 of Whole Foods), it’s all progress and I’m excited to share my journey — and my story — with you.

Rock and roll!

Photo credit: FreeImages/ChobiCapeta

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