Part 3 of 3 - This is the final part of our blog posts with Chris Pennell. We hope you have enjoyed reading about how Chris manages type 1 diabetes as a professional athlete.
Chris is a firm believer in the power of positivity. Diabetes can often present a huge mental challenge to overcome, it is therefore important to acknowledge and accept that like anything, there is a process to better managing your condition.
Chris stresses the importance of being able to "move on quickly from set-backs" by focusing on what you can achieve rather than what you can't. When Chris first agreed to being interviewed for these blog posts, he told InsulCheck that diabetes has had a positive affect on his career as a professional athlete. This ability to turn diabetes into such a positive is inspirational! Diabetes should not define you or prohibit what you are capable of achieving.
"The mental side is massive" Chris acknowledges, "that's not to say I don't still struggle at times and so my support network is vital. I rely on my family and close friends when things are tough, not just in relation to diabetes. I think that having people to talk to and that you're comfortable with is so important".
Staying on top of your insulin levels can be a major struggle for people with diabetes. Chris advises that "the best way is to test lots". Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) allows Chris to track and recognise how different foods and exercises affect his blood glucose levels.
"Diabetes is about constantly tweaking your insulin levels to figure out what works best" Chris says.
As a professional athlete and in diabetes management, diet is a huge part of being successful. Food is a really interesting topic, not just because of it's importance for helping diabetes management but also more generally what we 'should' all be eating.
"I personally follow a high-fat, low-carb diet which reduces my insulin intake by about 75% compared with a my old 'normal' carbohydrate based diet". Chris says.
Low-carb diets are not for everyone but high-carb diets are often associated with spikes and crashes in blood glucose levels. It is important to seek medical advice, especially in the early stages of managing your condition, especially if you feel that you are unable to control your blood sugars.
Chris recognises that his "diet does differ from everyone else in rugby but diabetes hasn't necessarily dictated that".
Diabetes can feel like it is going to be an extremely daunting journey, but it should not define you. When InsuCheck asked Chris what advise he had for people struggling with their mindset surrounding diabetes management, here is what he said...
"Sometimes all the early conversations are about what you now can't do and tend to have a fairly negative tone. Your view on your diabetes is up to you. The point is that it's YOUR diabetes, which means all the power is in your hands. That for me makes it quite an exciting thing. Diabetes will change aspects of your life, that's just part of it, but it doesn't have to stop you from doing anything you really want to do. Everyday is a school day with diabetes, you never stop learning. Roll with the punches when its tough, as it will be sometimes but accept that it's part of who you are and be proud. So many people worry about what others think. You're the special one, you manage this every single day, that makes you a stronger person than the average. Good luck!" - Chris Pennell.