Have you ever experienced a time in your life that marked a radical change? A time where you faced a choice that later would prove to be life-changing for you.
I have – and a day in August 2011 marked the beginning of a shift totally changed the trajectory of my life. Not because I necessarily wanted to – it was because it had to.
The day started with a call from my doctor. The blood tests I had done the week before were ready.
Earlier that summer I had struggled with immense leg cramps. Every night I would wake up with my leg muscles locked in an immutable position. Hoping that it would go away by itself I waited a few weeks, but it just kept getting worse. So off to my doctor I went,.
Answering the call I was wondering which vitamin or mineral the doctor was going to say I was missing. I could then just take some supplements, and be back on my feet.
But what the doctor said came as a total shock.
I had type 1 diabetes.
I couldn’t believe it.
The doctor wanted me to come to his office right away to inform me about the next steps.
Next steps? What was the rush? I didn´t feel that sick.
Looking back at this day, I really didn´t have a clue what diabetes was. So I was pretty surprised when the doctor sent me straight to the hospital for check-ups – AND I had to stay there for two days.
After more blood tests and check-ups, I was sitting in my hospital bed thinking. My life had been turned upside down – again.
It had only been 5 years since my doctor called and told me I had testicular cancer. And now I was sitting in the hospital with another life-threatening disease. What was going on with me?
Cancer is a scary disease. Not only because it is deadly. But also because we know so little about it and why people get it.
The same goes for type 1 diabetes. Also potentially deadly. And a disease that we know little about and why people get it.
All this uncertainty about the cause has made these auto-immune diseases something that we say the unlucky ones get. If you get it, you have drawn the winning ticket in the deadly disease lottery.
Sitting in my bed thinking about this, I felt unrest grow inside me. Not only did I now have two major diseases on my resume, but also some other minor issues with my health to this point: Keloid scars, sarcoidosis, and scoliosis.
Was this all bad luck?
Being a computer engineer, I am used to dealing with bugs in computer software.Now using this way of thinking I was about to debug my own health.
I didn´t believe in bad luck anymore. There had to be a fundamental cause for all these “bugs” that kept showing up in my body. And to be honest – I was done getting calls from my doctor with dismal news. I wanted to live a long and healthy life.
Looking out the hospital window as the sun set, I reframed my outlook and gave myself a gift I cherish to this day. The power of my health.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” -Albert Einstein.
Looking at my track record of disease, it was evident that the way I lived my life was not promoting health.
Armed with my laptop I started a search for answers. I was ready to make changes.
Thankfully, I found my first lifestyle change already at the hospital. Back in 2011, the low-carb diet was still a big no for people with diabetes. But coming across in my research it just made sense. Carbohydrates increase blood sugar. So why not reduce the amount of carbohydrates in the diet?
So the day I got home from the hospital I made my first low-carb dinner, and it was amazing. I had taken my first step to own my health. Eating real food and healthy food I had prepared myself. Even though I have made numerous modifications to my diet over the years, my diet is still today one with few carbohydrates, moderate protein and mostly fat.
Little did I know when I sat there with my first low-carb meal that this diet change would make a big positive impact on my health in the months to come.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes type 1, I had a C-peptide of 128. In other words, my pancreas was still producing some insulin, but not enough.
So daily I shot myself with both fast-acting Novorapid and long-lasting Insulatard, and with the low-carb diet, it was pretty easy to set the right amount.
However, after three months, I noticed that with the same amount of insulin and the same diet I was starting to see that my blood sugar levels got lower. Soon I had to stop taking fast-acting in order to not get too low.
Then after three more months, the trend continued. And on March 2012, about six months after my diagnosis, I also stopped taking Insulatard. I was a type 1 diabetic off medications, and I couldn´t believe it. Neither could the doctors.
Using a low-carb diet and regular exercise I had gone from using both fast-acting and long-lasting insulin to manage my blood sugar with the insulin that my pancreas produced.
Seeing how my internal system could change in such a short time fueled my interest further to find out what really is the fundamental cause of type 1 diabetes.
This has taken me on a journey of self-discovery that I can honestly say has had both its ups and downs – and still does.
When it comes to lifestyle, diet and exercise are actually pretty straightforward. When you know the recipes and the workouts it is the consistency over time that will determine the outcome.
And since I was so determined to improve my health and to fix my diabetes, I was very consistent with my diet and exercise.
But there was something else going on.
Even with the consistency of my routine, my blood sugar would sometimes be higher. I couldn´t understand why until I one day scrolled through my journal and noticed a pattern.
What I noticed was that whenever I wrote about struggle and negativity, basically “bad vibes”, my blood sugar was worse at that time.
The question that arose was: Is it the blood sugar that makes my mood worse, or is it my mood that makes the blood sugar worse?
Knowing what I know today about the complexity of my body and how everything is connected, I am sure it is impossible to say “this action leads to this action – and this is the way it works all the time”.
Because what I also learned from seeing this pattern is that there is a third player involved to optimize my health – my mind.
And this third player adds a whole new level of complexity.
Returning quickly to what I wrote about diet and exercise, it’s easy to share a recipe or workout routine. Sharing an easy understanding of your mind, thoughts and feelings?
Not so easy.
But important? Resoundingly YES!
When I started becoming aware of my own thoughts that most of the time was running on autopilot, it was literally mind-blowing. The negative self-talk, the feelings of lack, and limitations I imposed on myself left tracks, all directly affecting my health adversely.
Breaking these thought patterns, some of which go way back into my childhood, has been beyond challenging and much more challenging than keeping my diet or motivating myself to workout. But I experience that for each layer I peel off, I feel better, my body is more relaxed, my blood sugar improves. In the end, I become my true me.
This brings me to the last lesson of my journey of self-discovery: Purpose.
And what that means to me is something I call “Soulace”. Peace for the soul.
What I have become keenly aware of on my inner journey is that there are times when I am elevated to a higher state with meaningful work or when I think of something inspiring. I feel energized and happy. Work becomes play and I get into flow states where time just flies.
The common factor for when I get into this state? I spend time on something I feel is aligned with my soul. Like writing this story about my journey. Sharing something that I hope will help someone else on their journey inspires me.
Yes, talking about the soul is taking diabetes way down the rabbit hole into the spiritual world. And as a computer engineer, it’s something that doesn’t “compute”.
However, I can´t ignore the positive feelings I experience each time I do this kind of work, and I can´t ignore how my blood sugar levels positively correlate.
And what better way to have lived than knowing that you have touched someone´s life?
The challenge I have seen for myself is that we ignore these signals.
So I ask, what brings you true joy?
It is so easy to get on the treadmill of life and copy how someone else is living. After all, it looks like they are happy, successful and have it all figured out. Life becomes a struggle to figure out the key to happiness and to keep up with all the expectations.
What if happiness – Soulace – is inside of you – if you just listened?
If it is one thing that spiritual teachers repeat it is that we all have a unique gift. Something you are here to bring to this world. Whether it is the care of someone, creating music, making sure people get to work each morning or devotion to a child – only you know what that gift is.
So I invite you to start listening and to trust what you feel. As distant as this might sound from diabetes management, in my experience, it’s an often overlooked component to optimize health. And it’s the difference that can take you from just living to thriving with diabetes.
Motivated to make a change? Tired of uncontrollable blood sugar? Looking to optimize your health at every level?
I’m honored to help you on your journey.
As you might have noticed in my story I touch upon 4 lifestyle principles that I have discovered on my own journey:
These 4 principles make up what I call “Thrivestyle”. It’s a lifestyle that not only will let you live a better life with diabetes but also help you create a life where you thrive with diabetes.
Here is what you can do:
One thing I’ve learned is that knowledge will only take so far. It’s action that will make a change.
So to make it as easy to find the actions that can help thriving with diabetes, I collect them all on this platform.
Recipes? You got it.
Exercises? No problem.
To make it is simple. This is the one-stop-shop you need to take control of your own health and diabetes.
Questions or feedback? I am happy to hear from you! Get in touch with me here.