Diabetes Month: How I turned a "negative disease" into a positive lifestyle change

My health journey began at the tender age of 11. After losing a dramatic amount of weight in a short amount of time, and feeling off for several weeks, alongside frequent thirst and fatigue, my mom decided to take me to my family doctor. I remember sitting in the room and getting my finger pricked to test my blood glucose (or sugar) levels. With a result of extremely high blood sugar levels, my doctor immediately diagnosed me with type 1 diabetes—I remember seeing my mom’s eyes swell up with tears, looking extremely upset. I, on the other hand, had no idea what was happening or how my life was about to change.

11 years of eating and drinking whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted was all about to change, dramatically.

Living with the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes

I was quickly entered into a whirlwind of education, learning everything about food, my body, my blood sugar levels, insulin and what diabetes meant. Without a doubt, it was a lot to take on as an 11 year old, but I didn’t know any other way. I knew I had to make a choice: either participate, learn as much as I could and live a healthy and happy lifestyle, or say “screw it” and let diabetes take over my health, and ultimately my life.

For those of you who may not know, diabetes is classified into two types: type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed to people under the age of 18 which has been linked as a genetic disorder, and type 2 diabetes, usually diagnosed during adulthood which has been linked to lifestyle factors (such as obesity and poor dietary choices).

I remember having to adjust to my new routine of testing my blood glucose levels 4-5 times per day, and taking insulin injections 4-5 times per day. Having to inject myself with needles throughout the day sure made me tough, real quick!

How nutrition helped me manage type 1 diabetes

I met with a dietitian who created a meal plan for me that was based on the Canadian Food Pyramid. My meals consisted of all macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) which seemed like a good idea until I started to feel sick. Almost every meal had a slice of bread, and a glass of milk alongside the main course. Little did I know, I was lactose-, and gluten-sensitive, which drained my energy. Soon after feeling constantly low on energy and bloated, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

After months of reading nutrition books and trying many different styles of eating, I discovered the power of eating plant-based. Filling my plate with veggies and pseudograins, while ditching bread and milk, made me feel like an entirely new person. I regained my energy levels, and ultimately my happiness.

They say “you are what you eat” and I truly believe in this quote. I can personally see and feel how different foods effect my blood sugar levels, mood and weight, very very easily. While over the past 14+ years I have experimented with almost every way of eating out there, I can definitely say that eating a diet that is rich in whole foods (mostly organic and plant-based) has made me thrive. Soon after studying at University of Toronto, I became a personal trainer, indoor cycling instructor and holistic nutritionist, which all helped me control my diabetes and help others regain their health.

I refuse to let diabetes run my life

Most people who meet me, don’t realize or know that I have type 1 diabetes until long-after we get to know each other. This is because I don’t let diabetes run my life. Many people think if you are living with the disease, it takes over your life, that you are restricted to many things—such as foods or activities—but I am here to let you know that this is simply a myth. I like to show people first that I live a normal life, then tell them I have diabetes. I always find it humorous to see their shocked faces and answer all their questions.

Even though I was diagnosed at an early age, my outlook on dealing with this life-threatening disease, has helped me to take care of myself. 

Whatever may happen to you in your lifetime, it’s all about your attitude.

When challenged in life, you always have the choice on how to handle the situation. Although sometimes staying positive may seem like more of an effort, I can promise you it is worth it in the end.

Today, I continue to eat well, exercise six times per week, and surround myself with like-minded friends. Support and positivity have led me to turn what may have seemed like a negative disease into a positive lifestyle that can hopefully encourage and help other people to take charge of their health and be the best versions of themselves.

Written by: Jessica Morris

Originally published on: www.myvega.com