From climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to running the Angkor Wat Marathon, Michelle Hale knows all about beating the odds to live a healthy life!
How many carbs and sugar are in this xiaolongbao, kung pao chicken and champagne combo? I ask myself this question, while doing a quick calculation amid the ambience of a Hong Kong free-flow brunch in full swing. After deciding three units of insulin should cover me (at least for a while, depending on the champagne intake), I whip out my insulin-pen and inject at the table with one hand, and ready my soup dumpling with the other.
Trying to be healthy, for me, is not an option, it’s a necessity. I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 21 years, given birth to two sons (20 months apart!) and have learned a few lessons about self-awareness and control when it comes to managing diabetes. As we embark on the festive season full of food, drink and devoid of willpower, here are some tips from a T1D to help you manage your health during this jolly time.
What is Type 1 diabetes?
It’s important that I begin with an explanation here. Type 1 diabetes is the term used to describe someone with a pancreas that no longer produces insulin (a hormone key to turning glucose into energy), as opposed to Type 2, where the pancreas still produces insulin but in limited quantities. Type 2 diabetes is a bit more manageable through diet. Those of us with T1D never stop thinking about our sugar intake and blood sugar levels (this is even truer when pregnant and steady sugar levels are a necessity to keep baby healthy). It’s also true when there are constant celebrations and feasts, like during the festive season. Given that I’ve been at it for 21 years, I’ve listed out my top tips to be healthy and happy this Christmas.
Check yourself (don’t wreck yourself!)
The adage of not being able to manage what one doesn’t measure applies here in full force. For better or worse, I know how much sugar and carbs are in Pad Thai dishes from the top five Thai delivery services. Do you drink fruit juice for breakfast? Some of the more processed apple juice contains 39 grams of sugar and 165 calories per drink (compared to 40 grams and 140 calories for an 8oz Coca Cola). I drink apple juice when either my Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) or my body lets me know I’m going low on sugar. This happens sometimes and is commonly known among T1Ds as “having a hypo”. My CGM is a small device attached to my arm or belly that has a tiny sensor inserted into my skin, measuring my blood sugar, or glucose, every five minutes. It communicates with my smartphone and lets me know my blood sugar level at any time, and has an alert function built in to warn me if I’m going really low. If you’re not a diabetic, you don’t need the precise and immediate data from a CGM, but you should have a good understanding of the nutrients of what you consume. Bodybuilders will tell you that diet contributes up to 70% of being toned. Have you ever considered how much sugar is in one piece of bread? So think about what you eat and drink and let it not be empty calories.
Have a plan
Try to plan ahead for what you’ll eat during the week. While none of us mere mortals may have the ability, time or bandwidth to completely prepare meals beforehand, we can certainly plan them. Similar to the planning that goes into the meals for my babies, I try to map out or have a rough idea about nutrition for the week (with at least a cheat session or two built in). For those who are busy (and who isn’t?!), try one of Hong Kong’s growing healthy food and nutrition services.
Commit to a fitness goal
My husband and I have signed up for the Angkor Wat half marathon, because…
- Badass! (need I say more?)
- There are lots of new resorts in Siem Reap
- There will be lots of champagne at the finish line and…
- More to the point of this story, it has given us a very tangible fitness goal for which to train. Our half marathon (21k) training guide has step-by-step recommendations for how long to run daily. I successfully completed an 18km in November…you may have seen me running to and fro (and to and fro again) on Bowen Road.
If you’re interested in setting yourself a fitness goal, sign up for one of the many half and full marathons in the region. There are plenty of training guides available online as well.
Give yourself a break
It’s the holidays. You’re expected to let loose a bit, indulge in a bit too much bubbly, and succumb to the occasional tryptophan turkey coma!
‘Tis the season to indulge and be merry. With a little planning, your New Year’s resolutions won’t need to be so extreme. Take it from a T1D. See you on Bowen Road!