I’m quite proud to say that I managed to sail through my student life with Type 1 Diabetes. What is “student life”? Not to sound basic, but student life really is mostly comprised of excessive drinking, 11am considered as early mornings and a bowl of beans for dinner. Two of the most essential things for healthy diabetes control is routine and wholesome, nourishing foods. Neither of these things really fall into the category of ‘student life’. So, here’s how I managed to get through those troublesome years whilst maintaining a steady blood glucose and avoiding any major hypos or diabetes related complications.
Get a Kit
I’m starting with the simplest yet the most important. You need to get your scatty, student self a kit for all of your diabetes bits. As soon as I hit my young adult years, I could no longer rely on my mum to have everything I needed in that bottomless pit of a bag of hers.
My top tip: Have one kit in your bag and another in the place you spend the most time outside of home.
Back in the glory days of having a car, I used to always keep an extra kit in the glove compartment. I can’t count the amount of times I pulled into college in the morning (11am) and looked in my bag to realise that in my pre-coffee, hungover state, I’d completely forgotten my insulin. Not to worry! My past, reliable self has blessed me with a spare kit in the car. It’s honestly the best feeling. I LOVE the ones from Sugar Medical. They have everything you need in quirky designs. Another complete PRO of these kits is that everything is laid out in front of you, so it’s so easy to see if you’re missing anything. PLUS, you can use the code josiewilkins15 at checkout for 15% off!
2. Wait 2-3 Hours Before Cardio
Before college I never really dabbled in exercise. I’m not sure how I managed to keep a healthy(ish) weight throughout my school years considering that I used to write sick notes every week to get out of P.E class. Anyways, once I started college I was introduced to the gym. It took me a very long time to suss exercise and type 1 diabetes. I was constantly having lows or going high and absolutely clueless as to why this was happening. You can click here to read more about the different types of exercise and diabetes.
My top tip: Keep cardio 2-3 hours after your last insulin injection to prevent hypos.
Also, bear in mind that weight training may increase sugar levels due to the stress hormones released, but cause a lower blood sugar later on in the day.
3. Delay The Insulin
With the student life comes pizza and fatty food, which was probably the reason for my sudden interest in the gym. Something I wish I knew during this time was that fatty foods take a longer time to digest. The same goes for a large volume of food. With a big delicious Dominos pizza ticking both of those boxes, you should expect the carbs to kick in a few hours longer than usual. Also, I won’t bore you with the science, but these high fat meals cause a prolonged, gradual blood sugar rise that occurs many hours after eating so my tip here is to take extra long-acting insulin after these meals. You can click here to read about the first time I mastered the art of eating a pizza and maintaining a steady blood sugar level.
My top tip: Take half of the insulin at the time of the meal, and the other half 2 hours later.
4. Learn the Alcohol Trends
Another thing that inevitably comes hand in hand with the student life is alcohol and if you’re living in Ireland, probably lots of it. I would always avoid mixing alcohol and taking insulin.
You can click here for a few of my favourite low-sugar drinks that don’t require insulin. Also, I take my night time, long-acting insulin before I go out in-case I forget before bed (very likely to happen after 4 glasses of pinot). Alcohol causes sugar levels to drop at some stage afterwards. For me, it happens the following morning after a heavy night out. This may differ for you.
My top tip: Keep a note of what happens to your sugar levels the following day after you’ve drank alcohol so you know what to expect in the future.
For example, I now know not to take any insulin with breakfast after a night of drinking as my sugars go low in the morning!
5. Deduct the Fibre
Having grown up with meals handed to me and being told how much insulin to take, I never properly understood how to carb count. This was something I had to figure out myself once I moved out of home and started buying my own foods. If you google or my fitnesspal your foods to carb count here is my tip for you-
My top tip: Deduct the grams of fibre from the overall carb count.
For example, if something has 20g of carbohydrate and 5g of fibre, then only take the amount of insulin that you would for 15g of carbs. This completely solved the recurring hypos I was having!
* A point to note is that on food packaging in Europe the fibre is already deducted, in America it is not.
6. Keep a Long-Acting Routine
I’ve always struggled with routines. Even to this day, they bore me. It’s quite a bummer that one of the best things you can do for your diabetes control is have a routine, as this is something I will always lack. However, your sleep-ins and late nights don’t have to have an impact on your sugar levels.
My top tip: Keep your long acting injections to the same time each day.
For example, I take my long acting insulin before bed and in the mornings. On the weekends I set my alarm for 8am. I have my long acting insulin ready to go on my bedside table. I take the shot without even fully waking up, and return to sleep for another few hours. This satisfies my weekend laziness without having a terrible impact on my sugar levels.
So, those are my top tips for surviving student life with Type One Diabetes! If you feel like you have some additions that should make the list, feel free to let me know. Hope this has helped! xo