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How To Manage Diabetes as a Dancer

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I’ve been Managing diabetes as a dancer for a few years now so I thought I would share some of the ways that I am able to deal with it as well as I do. I mean, I’m not perfect as it is pretty complex job at times but I have been able to refine certain ways of working with it in order to help keep my blood sugars steady.  Before I get into it, you have to understand that what works for me might not work for you. It is a very big game of trial and error. If you follow me on Instagram you will have noticed that I have to make adjustments fairly often and I often use this social platform as a way to keep track of how certain exercises affect my blood sugar. So, tip number one is to start keeping notes of your blood sugars, what you ate before class and how much your bolus was. You will begin to see trends which will give you something to work with.

Tips for Managing Diabetes and DancePay Attention to Different Teaching Styles and Genres of Dance

If you are already taking dance you may already be aware of the pace of certain classes, but if you’re thinking of going to a new dance class, don’t assume that all classes work the same way. I mean, yes, generally, most contemporary dance classes follow a specific structure but some teachers work much quicker than others and allow much less time for water breaks. Whenever I know I am going to be working with a new teacher or choreographer I always let my blood sugar run a little high before class just in case of a low – a high during a dance class is much easier for me to deal with than a low. Also, just in case there is no one in the class who knows you’re diabetic you should let the teacher know before class starts. I generally dance amongst friends which is why I never warn new teachers. I never tell events co coordinators that I perform at either, but writing this now I will make a note to myself to do so in the future.

Tips for Managing Diabetes and DanceJust Check

Towards the end of a dance class you might feel weak and shaky because of the work load, but if you are unsure of whether it is a hypo or not, just check because the sooner you do that, the sooner your mind is able to focus on the dancing which is the whole reason why you’re there. If you do check and you are low mid class, have some glucose drink or a quick snack and then get back to it as quick as you can. Don’t let it ruin your dancing fun. On average I would say that I check my blood sugar once before class, once during and once straight after. If it is a little low beforehand I usually eat a banana or a granola bar. Same process applies for rehearsals.

Learn About Your Own Training

Hopefully you take some time outside of dance class to practice, if so, this means that you should be monitoring your blood sugar with regards to your own training too. Notice if it differs or shares some similarities to your dance class and mark it down. Usually when I get the blood sugar / insulin combination just right, this means that it’s time to up my game in my own training because my body has become accustomed to what I’m giving it and therefore isn’t as challenging as it could be.

Tips for Managing Diabetes and DancePerformance

When you have a performance coming up you will likely do a little bit more training during the rehearsal period which will allow you to build up some stamina. If you are committed to building up that stamina, what worked when you learned the dance in the beginning, may not work during the lead up to performance because of how your body has adapted to the workload. Also, if you get really nervous about performance you are more likely to respond to the adrenaline rush which can raise your blood sugar. Be wary of this and don’t be scared to take insulin to cover the adrenaline rush. I can’t say how much it would be for you, but I am starting with the bare minimum and it has helped the last couple of times I performed. Similar to the above I check my blood sugar about 5 minutes before going on stage and as soon as possible when I have finished, length of performance times do vary, but checking where possible keeps my mind at ease and allows me to focus.

Food

Timing of food is everything for me. I tend to eat at least every 3 hours, but depending on what I am doing in those three hours will really dictate the amount of carbs I eat and the amount of insulin I take. If I have morning class I will eat a little less for breakfast and then have a piece of fruit right before I enter the classroom if my blood sugar is at a normal level.  However, if for some reason my blood sugar is high, I won’t eat the snack because I know there is room for a drop. Same goes for performances which are mainly afternoon or evening – I will eat a little bit less during the meal before it and then have a snack right before performance.

Tips for Managing Diabetes and DanceDon’t Ever Let Diabetes Stop You

This is more important than anything else. The other day I was in class and I had to stop mid-way through to check my blood sugar, it was a convenient time because the teacher suggested that we work on our own for a few minutes in order to go over the movement. Whilst I was pricking my finger and waiting for the number on my meter to show up I realised that when I stood up I would have to work harder than anyone else in order to catch up. I have this mind set anyway. I am one of the hardest working people in the room and diabetes, rather than letting it slow me down, I use it as fuel to speed me up. I have to pick up and retain movement quicker so I have time to fit in the diabetes thoughts too.

I hope this helps. Please email me if you have any questions because dancing, although it is quite a challenge to manage, it is also a way to help you attain a steady blood sugar and is a way to increase in insulin sensitivity. Similar to other cardiovascular activities.

Rowena x

I’d love to connect with you on Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.

Pump User Group

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Last night I attended an insulin pump user group and to be totally honest, before attending, I didn’t even know there was such an event so was really unsure what to expect. Upon arrival, during the buffet, the first thing I noticed was how strange it felt to hear so many pump beeps at the same time and to see so many pump users in one place. It was comforting in a weird way. The sandwiches and fruit were tasty, but I must say that I was slightly upset that they didn’t have the carb count of the food – especially the cakes. (a girl can dream thought, right?) After the buffet we moved into another room where we were given a talk and a Q&A session. I’ll share the main points below.

Insulin Pump User GroupResearch

Richard Webb spoke about his research and findings from the 4 year study he had been doing with type 1 diabetics who had transferred from MDI (Multiple daily injections) to insulin pump. To sum up, he found a positive difference in HBA1C, blood pressure and overall quality of life. Additionally, he found that there was no real difference in eating habits, weight or overall caloric intake. I thought that was interesting considering the amount of flexibility the pump offers in terms of eating. He said that people tend to eat less, but more often. Not necessarily more quantity.

CGM & Libre

There was a lot of talk about CGM and Freestyle Libre and how they are both better than testing blood sugar with finger tips. I’ve tried the CGM and can’t fault it. It clarified so many things for me which you can read more about in this blog post. I’m yet to try the Libre so maybe I should try it and do a comparison post? Quite a few people were resistant to pay for either and questioned when the NHS might fund it. The response from the speakers was that once we can prove how much money it will save the NHS; that is when it will be funded. Also, Libre is cheaper than CGM but doesn’t offer the detail that CGM does in terms of arrow trends etc.

Insulin Pump User GroupSide note: for those who don’t know. The NHS is the National Health Service in the UK.

Site Changes

A lady put her hand up and was asking about site changes and what you can do when you feel like you’ve fun out of space. The general response was that you should just make a note of where you put your sites in order to rotate them effectively. You see, if you keep using the same spot you will end up getting lumps underneath your skin and possibly even scar tissue from where the cannula has been sitting. I am totally guilty of using areas that I know don’t hurt as much but listening to how overused, cannula sites contribute to rising blood glucose levels is enough to motivate me to pay more attention. I’ve actually changed my cannula to my back this morning.

Airports

I’ve spoken about travel, in detail, in this post here. Have a look and you will get a few pointers from there. I will also update with any additional information I took from the pump user event.

Do you have these kind of groups in your city? I’m not sure how regular this one is, but by the sounds of it – everyone could use a diabetic buddy in their lives.

Rowena x

Micronutrients and Water

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Macronutrients and WaterAlongside macronutrients, it is also vital that you pay attention to micronutrients and water as they play a crucial role in human nutrition, including the prevention and treatment of various diseases and conditions, as well as the optimization of physical and mental functioning. Furthermore, if you are not fully satisfying your micronutrient needs, your macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) will not be utilized effectively. You’ll end up wasting your time, energy, and training, and leave both gains and health goals unrealized. So really make sure you are eating a variety of nutritious foods and you shouldn’t have to focus too much on the micronutrients. Low calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables have higher nutrients densities so it is good to aim for your 5 a day. Below you will see an example of some of the necessary micronutrients.

Calcium – milk, yogurt, spinach, and sardines

Vitamin B12 – beef, fish, cheese, and eggs

Zinc – beef, cashews, garbanzo beans, and turkey

Potassium – bananas, spinach, potatoes, and apricots

Vitamin C – oranges, peppers, broccoli, and bananas

Fiber is needed because it promotes the normal movement of waste through your digestive system. The ideal amount of fiber is directly related to how many calories you consume on a daily basis. The average recommendation is around 10-15 grams per 1000 calories per day. So if you eat 2000 calories per day you will need between 20 to 30 grams of fiber. It may vary depending on how your body responds so use your bowel movement as a gauge. Note, if you are currently eating a lot less than your required amount for your caloric intake, it is important to increase slowly otherwise you might end up feeling constipated quite quickly. The best sources of fiber can be consumed through a variety of fruits and vegetable as listed above.

H20

Did you know that even if you are mildly dehydrated it can affect your performance in the gym or at work? Water is central for the overall functioning of the body and plays a massive part in how you look and feel. The minimum amount of water you should drink on any given day, in addition to coffees, teas or juices, is determined by your size and activity level. I use the formula used by The International Sports Medicine Institute which is 1/2 ounce per pound of body weight if you’re not active (that’s ten eight-ounce glasses if you weigh 160 pounds), and 2/3 ounce per pound if you’re athletic (13 to 14 glasses a day, at the same weight). By consuming the correct amount of water for your body it will help you lose body fat and your body will eventually stop holding onto water because it knows that it is consistently getting enough of it. A good way to gauge your hydration level is by judging the color of your urine. The clearer it is, the more hydrated you are.

I know this sounds like a fair bit of information to take on board, but the more you educate yourself the easier all of this healthy eating stuff will be in future.

Let me know if you have any questions and don’t forget to check out my online training programs as I’ve space for two more clients in October.

Rowena x

I’d love to connect with you on Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.

Jet Lag and High Blood Sugar

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I didn’t know jet lag and high blood sugar had such a strong relationship until returning from my wonderful vacation to Cuba, Mexico and Vegas. I’ve travelled long haul before, but this time, since returning, my blood sugar has been insane.

When I landed back in the UK I went straight home to get a shower, then straight to uni and have barely stopped since. A week of juggling jet lag, high blood sugar, dancing, a shit load of theory work, work and life has been a learning curve to say the least. I’ve experienced numbers in the 20mmol range, even with a pretty similar diet to what I am used to. But, because it takes 5 days to recover from jet lag, depending on length of time travelled and number of times zones crossed, I am putting my crazy diabetes down to the fact that I was away for longer and crossed more time zones than usual.

According to the NHS, jet lag not only affects the body clocks sleeping and waking pattern, it also plays with your circadian rhythms too:

  • appetite
  • digestion
  • bowel habits
  • urine production
  • body temperature
  • blood pressure

And in relation to diabetes, the Diabetes Library suggests that “Sleep deprivation and misalignment of the circadian rhythm can cause serious endocrinologic dysregulation, which directly affects the appetite and satiety centres of the brain.”

So it’s confirmed – I can rest. I spoke to my endo and he said it is likely a stress response and that I should use the “sick day” rules to control my insulin. I’ve had a temp basal on +60 and it seems to be doing the trick. I was actually pleased to see a hypo because there were point when I thought my blood sugar would never come down.

Hopefully you can learn from my experience and take a bit of time to adjust to your routine when you get back to your home city. And be sure to monitor your blood sugar closely. If you BG is unusually high, take some extra insulin until you start seeing a healthier trend again.

Have you experienced jet lag and high blood sugar before?

Rowena x

I’d love to connect with you on Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.

What Does Your Diabetes Say About Diabetes?

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Sometimes, when looking to be inspired, I watch TED talks. They have an app and a range of different clips on Netflix. I watch them because they inspire me in writing, doing better and generally pushing myself to aim for bigger and better things. The speakers are experts from all different fields; choreographers, writers, entrepreneurs, chefs etc. The most recent one was from an African writer who was talking about Single Stories. As an example of a single story she used her experience as an African Female who moved from Africa to America for college. Now, before her roommate had even met her she had assumed that because she was from Africa she would be poor, listen to tribal music and wouldn’t speak very good English. This wasn’t the case at all.

This got me thinking about my single story and if that has changed since my diabetes diagnosis. Have I gone from being Rowena to being that diabetic girl? I certainly hope not. Do people think of diabetes when they think of me? As a diabetic person, what information do I implant into peoples brains about diabetes?Diabetes Story

How I act and manage my diabetes will give someone a story about it and I would prefer for it not to be a sob story. Yes, it is challenging but if I get it right I can feel well and energetic. That’s why I try my best every single day to keep it in check. I will never tell someone that I can’t eat something because I am diabetic, I will tell them that I don’t want to eat it because it is not good for me. If I’m having a crap day at managing my blood sugars I won’t tell a non-diabetic about that because I don’t want them to feel sorry for me or to assume that it’s my fault. When I am in dance class and I have a low, I will not make a scene; I will test and act accordingly. You get where is coming from? How I act will determine how another diabetic is treated. How someone’s mum manages their diabetes will affect how people see mine. An example, I have a friend whose mum is Type 1 who doesn’t exercise because of hypos. Thus, because her mum doesn’t exercise because of hypos, my friend is under the impression that I should be very careful around exercise.

If you know someone who has Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes you will obviously have an idea about it and a story to tell if the conversation calls for it. If you’re diabetic, you will understand that people have a “single story” about diabetes and some people will not change their idea of it even if you shove it in their face. The most common “stories” are that it is a self-inflicted medical condition brought on through eating too much sugar or it is believed that we can’t eat sugar at all. I live with type 1 diabetes and I can firmly tell you that both assumptions are incorrect.
Where does that leave me now? I guess I just have to make sure my story of diabetes is a one that won’t mislead people for years to come. What do you think about your diabetes story? What impression do you give to other people?

Have you followed me on Instagram and Twitter yet? As of next week I will be posting my weekly workouts, my before and after blood glucose and some of my meals. My timetable is sorted and I can’t wait to get into it.

Rowena x