Name: Sarah Boison, age 25
Location: Washington, D.C.
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes on Dec. 5, 2012. I felt sick the month before, but I thought it was stress from my graduate classes at Georgetown University. I showed all the signs at the time—thirst, feeling tired, frequent bathroom trips—but I wasn’t informed, so I didn’t know it was diabetes. I went to the doctor and found out my blood glucose was in the mid-300s and my A1C (a measure of average blood glucose control for the past 2 to 3 months) was 10.7.
When they told me I had type 2 diabetes, I was scared and my family was worried. My grandma had diabetes and eventually passed away last year because of complications. But it opened up a family dialogue, because I discovered all of my family members were working hard to keep their blood glucose at normal levels. Although they don’t need medication at this time, at some point they all were considered to have prediabetes.
I went through stages of grief. Initially, I was in denial about my diet and figured I could still “push it” and eat whatever I wanted. But I found out the hard way when the food made me feel horrible. So I made a huge change by altering my diet and slowly adding exercise. It was hard to go from eating a lot of junk food and carbohydrates to only eating whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies. I started cooking more at home, eating five or six times a day and only drinking water. I had to change the way I looked at food, as I was an emotional eater and enjoyed eating for entertainment. Now, I look at it as fuel and try to eat foods that will give me energy throughout the day and during my workouts.
I bought products from the American Diabetes Association, like the portion-control plate and measuring cups, which help me out daily. I also exercise five or six times a week now. It was tough at first, but I built up endurance and can now run on the treadmill and lift 50- to 70-pound weights. I’ve lost 20 pounds since I started working out in December!
My family, friends and colleagues are very supportive, but I really had to take ownership of the situation. At 24 years old, everyone wants to go out and drink, party and eat fattening food after 8 p.m., and I really had to discipline myself. I decided to give up alcohol on my own and when I go out with friends I make sure they hold me accountable. I plan ahead by working the meal into my schedule or eating lunch or dinner in advance.
I found a ton of resources for older people with type 2, but not a lot of information or ways to cope with type 2 when you’re in your 20s. But I also learned that more young people are now being diagnosed with type 2 than in the past. None of my friends knew anyone with diabetes before I was diagnosed; I find that as I’m learning more about diabetes, I’m educating them as well.
When you’re young with type 2, it’s very easy to feel ashamed, alone or like I can only blame myself. Adopting the right attitude, taking accountability and having support have been pivotal to my success thus far. I was able to get my fasting blood glucose down from the mid-300s to less than 99 in two weeks. Now my blood glucose consistently sits in the normal range, and my doctor has lowered my metformin dosage. Not to mention, I still have an active social life! When I eat out, I make choices that will help keep my blood glucose down and help me meet my fitness goals.
I’d really like to help young people out there between the ages of 18 and 35, especially those in their 20s, because it’s such a huge transitional time period. My schedule isn’t consistent right now because I work so early and get home so late after my classes. I really had to think outside of the box to make my situation work. It’s easy to tell someone to cook dinner if they get home at 6 or 7 p.m., but what if a student doesn’t get home until midnight? Or what if a 20-something doesn’t know how to cook or is a picky eater? It would be great for young people in their 20s to start speaking up about having type 2 and give tips for coping with it at this age.
Do you know your risk for type 2 diabetes? March 26 is American Diabetes Association Alert Day®, so get ready to take the Diabetes Risk Test and share it with everyone you know. You will find this free test on Facebook, on stopdiabetes.com or by calling 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383).