(We are thankful to our friends at DIYA for bringing this story to us)
Diabetes is often known as a chronic condition that leads one to live a lifestyle restricted to healthy foods and frequent walks. Marielle Bostrom, a Type-1 diabetic spoke with The Bridge on how living with diabetes has taught her many life lessons.
Since childhood, Marielle had always been immersed in sports such as football, swimming, and even went on to compete in gymnastics. Despite being diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes at the age of 13, she continued to compete and did not let the condition stop her. However, once her professional career took off, sports and fitness saw a halt for a bit. She decided to get back into fitness when she came to India last year.
One of the things that come to mind on hearing the word diabetes is food restrictions. Being diagnosed at a young age, she initially struggled with not being able to eat her favourite foods. However, she learnt that indulging in eating her favourite candies and other snacks in moderation, with other meals and combining exercise and monitored insulin intake, helps in managing diabetes easily.
A well-known fact among fitness enthusiasts is that blood sugar may drop down to low levels at the end of a workout. However, this is a misconception. It is mostly aerobic exercises such as running, cycling and other forms of cardio that leads to lowering of the blood sugar levels. Being a CrossFit athlete, Marielle explained that anaerobic exercise such as lifting weights can actually help as the liver releases glycogen to the bloodstream. This gives her more energy. That being said, she used to experienced hypoglycaemia while training. “I control my sugar level well during exercising now. Today, I have so much knowledge and understanding on how the body functions which I didn’t have when I was first diagnosed growing up” she said.
Some have called out CrossFit due to its high intensity nature. This might lead to compromising on technique. However, Marielle elaborates that the high intensity does not mean compromising on form. Lifting with the correct technique is the key to avoiding injuries. Restarting her fitness journey last year, she met her trainer Sahil Madan, a type-1 diabetic himself, who introduced her to CrossFit and powerlifting. “Being able to train with a trainer who himself is a type-1 diabetic has been a total game changer, as you fully understand each other’s conditions” she said.
Sahil Madan is the co-founder of Diabetes India Youth in Action, a non-profit organisation that aims to de-stigmatise and raise awareness about diabetes in India.
During the hiatus from sports and fitness when Marielle’s career took off, managing diabetes took a backseat. At one point, she realised that if she continued to go down this path, it may lead to severe complications. It was at this time that she decided to learn more about diabetes and nutrition, and planning a balanced diet that is beneficial for her health. When combined with exercise like yoga, running and powerlifting, it helped her in managing stress better.
Living with diabetes is something one has to manage at all times. “You become very much aware of your mortality, and you have to manage this high maintenance condition along with other stress from your work or personal life,” she explained. One of the ways to manage diabetes better is to acknowledge that it does affect mental health. Exercise may help as the positive hormones that come after a workout result in feeling better but it is important to get support and address the issue.
Marielle expressed that many others with the same condition as her may feel that they do not have access to the jobs or other opportunities due to their condition. However, diabetes is not a limiting factor, and many who manage their diabetes in a healthy way do not face obstacles due to it.
India is known as the world’s diabetes capital, however, for type 2 diabetes. They get diagnosed at an older age and it may be hereditary. Type 1 diabetes indicates that the pancreas completely stop functioning and is not capable of producing insulin. They tend to get diagnosed in childhood but it could also happen throughout life.
Managing diabetes becomes much easier when one has access to a community full of people supporting and helping each other. “When you are not dealing with it alone, you are so much stronger. You have a community around you and they support you throughout the journey” she said. Having suffered from type 1 diabetes for over 20 years, connecting with other type-1 diabetics helped her in managing the condition a lot better, especially in the mental health aspect. She also said “Doctors and nurses may not have enough time to explain all the dimensions of this condition, which is where connecting with a community, can help in understanding it better.” This blends with the theme of World Diabetes Day 2020 where the theme was ‘The Nurse and Diabetes’, aiming to help more nurses and healthcare workers to educate themselves and spread awareness on diabetes.
“Diabetes is a condition that needs to be taken care of holistically. A balanced, healthy diet combined with a good active lifestyle can help in managing the condition a lot better. Eating healthy can be tasty too, it does not have to be a boring diet” she said. Exercise can mean different things for different people, as some may be interested in the gym, while others may take to sports. Being active can help in understanding the body in a much better way.
Marielle also explained that diabetes does not have to be a limiting factor in other facets of life. People often assume that diabetes is something that one suffers from, but it is rather something that one lives with. She said, “Living with diabetes has taught me a lot of lessons in life, and I am now grateful for having it”.
DIYA has an enthusiastic community of type-1 diabetics and their families who offer support and empower type-1 diabetics to understand and take control of their diagnosis. They have many supportive and empowering stories on their Facebook and Instagram handles.