Riding the Diabetes Surf

Hey everyone, my name is Ben. I’m 24 years of age and I’m a surfer and a Physiotherapy student, and I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 11.

As a competitive surfer with type 1 diabetes, good management is crucial to being able to focus on my long-term goals, upcoming contests, and training. The last thing you want to have happen is for an unexpected hypo event to take your focus away from the situation at hand entirely. But training and contests can be tricky, especially when this active lifestyle contrasts with the rest days and rest weeks I need as I complete my Physiotherapy course at university. That’s why I’ve made a point over the last few years to create and stick to some systems that I know will allow me to stay on top of my diabetes no matter the circumstance I’m in.

Eating before bed: I have found that if I stay disciplined with snacking and when I eat my main meals, I am able to keep great control over my BGLs. The main thing here is trying to have my last meal about an hour and a half before I go to bed. This is definitely something I don’t stick to 100% of the time but by doing this consistently I have found that it gives me an eight-hour window where I really don’t need to worry about my levels.

Fasting for basals: I have found by giving myself days where I may do some form of time restricted eating (typically missing breakfast and eating lunch anywhere from 12:00pm – 2:00pm) I can ensure that my basal settings are great which is another bonus as getting this right takes the stress out of wondering whether my glucose levels will be trending upwards or downwards between meals.

Consistent meals, less snacking: Now I have had a number of things that have worked for me, one of which being intermittent fasting. The reason this has worked, similar to not eating before bed, is that if my basal levels are great then I essentially have another part of the day where I don’t need to worry about my levels. Eating within a 8-10 hour window just means that I’ve got a larger percentage of my day where I’m less stressed about my levels. Now intermittent fasting can be good but the same goes for eating a great breakfast, lunch and dinner without the in-between snacks. These in-between snacks are what I’ve found typically throw things out of sorts where it might be something we see as not big enough to bolus for or may be something we grab out of a jar. 

Sure, diabetes can be very demanding, but a good way I’ve heard it explained before is to gamify the situation. Now this isn’t to say that diabetes is fun and that we should play around with it like it doesn’t matter, but with all of the technology we now have available, like being able to see the glucose trends using a CGM and being able to watch in real time how the basal and bolus doses are going, we can set some realistic short term goals for ourselves. This has been a real change in perspective for me, as we all have a long term condition, but these short term wins keep me motivated and prevent me from slipping into a rut. 

Personally, I don’t know how my life would have gone if I wasn’t diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 11. But what I do know is that diabetes has been a strong factor in influencing me to be very health conscious. Would I have developed an interest in strength and conditioning? Or Physiotherapy? I’m so interested in learning how my body responds to different forms of exercises, different foods, stress levels whether this be in the lead-up to competition or being put on the spot through Physiotherapy placements. I like to be optimistic with my diabetes. I personally believe that these systems I have put in place so far make keeping my blood sugar within range easier and less of a hassle.

I don’t want to limit my perspective to being just a healthy diabetic. By exploring what works for me, exercising regularly and developing a real interest in health and well-being I’ve set the important goal of striving to be the healthiest human I can be.