Fitness Not Fatness

You're Diabetic, but you are not fat? Did you get diabetes from being overweight? If they are fat they probably have diabetes.

Terms which we are sick to death of hearing about, and we are sure plenty of other diabetics would agree. What is it that makes the word Diabetes associated with fatness and not fitness…..the media of course and their inability to distinguish between T1 and T2!

Yes T2 diabetes is associated with being overweight, but not for everyone!

We still need to take into account genetics and age. But what about us T1 diabetics?

We have to live with this stereotype created by the media and continue to correct and re-educate others about how diabetes is not a ‘lazy’ condition.

Well this is why we do what we do in terms of fitness and lifestyle, fitness is our passion! As T1 diabetic women, we put all of our time and energy into our health, fitness and body composition, to prove that ANYTHING with diabetes is possible, even a fit, strong physique.

One of us (Vanessa) also recently prepped for a gym photo shoot, with the aim to spread the word that diabetics are fit, healthy people, just like individuals that do not have the condition. People may think that we feel flattered when people say: “Oh my god no way are you diabetic??” “Wow, your diabetic? I would never imagine that you would be” “You should be proud to look like that as a diabetic” but really, we are no different from anybody else, so why should we feel flattered, diabetes shouldn’t even come into it!

OK, but realistically, diabetes does make fitness and body composition that little bit harder to obtain and maintain. Why? Well, blood glucose levels play a big part. We are sure that many of you would have experienced finishing a gym session or a run, when BAM - Low BG levels hit you  and what does this mean well we have to consume glucose and carbs to treat our hypos, which in turn, completely reverses all the hard work and effort we put into our work out.

Frustrating we know.

However, it becomes easier and this also highlights how important it is to avoid low BG levels occurring. For example, our top tips include: Check BG levels before exercise. Consume LOW GI carbs before exercising (sweet potatoes, brown rice, oats), so that BG levels will stay more consistent throughout exercise. High GI carbs such as white potatoes, white rice or white bread will make our bloods spike and then drop suddenly again, something we want to avoid. Sip on energy drinks during bouts of high intensity exercise. Continue to monitor BG levels throughout the session. We find that consuming LOW GI carbs before training is crucial for avoiding drops in BG levels. Carbohydrates are also vital for fuelling the muscles during training. Even if you do have hypos, there are always healthier alternatives other than cakes or biscuits to treat them. For example, we find that the natural sugars in coconut water help to increase our BG levels, or even rice cakes as a carb source to stabilise low blood sugars.

Some people automatically think Hypo = Bad Food, when really this doesn’t have to be the case. But don’t forget, high BG levels can also have a detrimental effect on performance when training, therefore they too need to be avoided as much as possible. Again, checking BG levels consistently during training is key. What is also another annoying aspect of diabetes is how different exercise effects people differently. For example, we find that high intensity exercise, such as sprinting or HIIT can make our BG levels rise!

This is unfortunately due to the release of cortisol as a response to stress. We also find that aerobic based exercise such as running at a steady pace makes our BG levels drop, again highlighting how different exercise affects individuals differently.

Now, let’s look at the advantages of having diabetes in terms of fitness, which is what people tend to forget. As diabetics, we already have to be organised, disciplined and consistent with our day to day medical regimes, which can pass over to our fitness and activity levels. We find, as diabetics, we place a big emphasis on diet to improve our BG levels, which incidentally also helps with our weight management. For example, have you ever looked at a non-diabetic who drinks 2L of coca cola per day, imagine the calories!

So already we are saving so many calories by opting for sugar free alternatives. We also find that as diabetics, we are consistent, which follows through with our fitness. We are consistent with monitoring BG levels, administrating insulin, as well as our activity levels.

Let’s face it, as a diabetic your day is one big routine, so it is always easier to slip In a gym session into that! We are continuing our fitness journey to reverse the stereotypes that many people have of diabetic people, but we also want to help others achieve their fitness goals with diabetes.

Diabetes does unfortunately make fitness goals a little bit harder to achieve, however, anything is possible, even with diabetes.

This is where we come in, as qualified health and fitness coaches, with the important knowledge and expertise of diabetes, we are here to help motivate, guide and inspire other diabetics to reach their fitness goals, whether it be weight loss, weight gain, muscle mass, or just general health and fitness, we can provide individualised, tailored programmes to meet the needs of each individual.

And remember, we have diabetes too. We understand how degrading it can be having a non-diabetic providing advice on how we should reach a goal with diabetes in our way, as unfortunately diabetes isn’t a walk in the park.

Let’s continue to all prove people wrong and associate diabetes with fitness, not fatness.

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Vanessa