I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 12, in Sydney, Australia, where I called home growing up. The diagnosis was a blur; dropping 20 pounds off my already tall, slim frame and was super thirsty and lethargic. I was sent to the emergency room of the children’s hospital and immediately diagnosed with type 1. No DKA, fortunately, and I only stayed in the hospital for a couple of days, learning how to give shots and test my blood sugar.
I was already growing into a quiet, awkward teenager and having diabetes made me more uncomfortable in social situations. I didn’t test my blood or inject in front of others, but still managed to have decent control, as my parents were quite strict on my management – my A1c was always in the 7’s.
When I moved out at 21, my path took a rebellious turn, my diabetes management included. I partied, drinking a lot from Thursday to Sunday most weekends. Over these 4 days, managing blood sugar was the last thing on my mind. Avoiding going low was my main goal. If they were high, that was fine. I would happily let my levels run at 270 for 8-10 hours while I was at the club dancing. Short after, I would eat a high carb, high fat meal at 5am to soak up the excessive alcohol in my body, then wake up early in the afternoon the following day. Lows were occasional in the morning when my liver was busy dealing with the alcohol and unable to excrete glucose.
This roller coaster lifestyle lasted around 3 years. Continuously repeating this abusive cycle, which is not only tough on the average person, but especially so for someone with type 1 diabetes.
The positive change of lifestyle happened shortly after I moved to NYC. A couple of months prior to the move from Sydney, I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives and became immediately sold on the plant-based vegan lifestyle. The plant-based transition happened while still drinking.
Then, when I set foot in New York, I made myself a promise to stop drinking and partying, fully embracing a healthy life of eating plants, exercising and embracing a life where I took control of my diabetes diagnosis, not vice versa for the first time.
2 years later, my life has transformed positively in all aspects—especially my diabetes management. My A1c is currently 5.7 while eating a low fat, vegan diet consisting of loads of fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes and some unrefined grains. On average, I eat 500gms of carbs a day and my BG numbers are more stable than ever. If someone presented to me this kind of diet to treat diabetes, I would have laughed two years ago. My diabetes educator and endocrinologist are continuously wowed at my insulin to carb ratios and A1c.
I’m passionate, not perfect but actively strive for ways to better control type 1 diabetes. I know my control is getting better, my health is still improving, and I have never felt better.
Given our propensity for heart disease, I’m perplexed at endocrinologists and educators continual insistence at a low-carb, high fat, and high protein diet. Cutting fat (even plant fats) out of my diet was one of the best food-related decisions for my management. Even now, when I occasionally eat food high in fat (e.g. a spoon or 2 of peanut butter), it’s guaranteed my numbers will rise while I struggling to get back in range over the following hours.
This transformation has sparked a career change, as I look to become a dietician who works with PWD. I firmly believe in a whole food plant based diet to help manage type 1 diabetes.
For those who are curious, this is what I eat in an average day:
6am – Banana before a morning run (about 6 miles)
7am – Breakfast—smoothie with 4-5 bananas, raw baby spinach, cinnamon, turmeric and fresh ginger (approx. 100-120gms carbs)
10am – Banana or apple for snack, depending on my BG
1pm – Lunch—raw salad with spinach, carrots, tomato, buckwheat groats and some other veggies with another piece of fruit OR oatmeal with banana or smoothie (if I am working out in the afternoon)
4pm – Afternoon Snack—banana with another fruit, either mango, clementine and sometimes some heavier carbs like oatmeal if I’m really hungry
7pm – Dinner—quinoa salad with another homemade green banana smoothie OR rice and vegetables
Total insulin intake is usually 20-30 units.
Feel free to reach out with any questions to my contact information below!
If you would like to contact me with any questions my email is: [email protected] or you can find me on Instagram @vegamy