Need help navigating life with diabetes?  Ask D'Mine! That would be our weekly advice column, hosted by veteran type 1, diabetes author and community educator Wil Dubois. This week he's taking on some pretty unusual queries, about sports and love with the Big D. Read on.

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Anne from Oregon, type 1, writes: Hi Wil, I love reading your column!  I t i s a wonderful treat to sit down to every Saturday morning :-)  As a newly-dia gnosed type 1, I (of course) have a million questions. But the one I want to focus on is a fun one: Do we as PWDs have a "super power?" Where I'm going with this is that Gary Scheiner has a figure in his book Think Like a Pancreas showing athletic performance vs. blood sugar level. There is no reference for the figure, but it shows that performance peaks at a BG of around 150 mg/dL. My recollection is that non-PWDs can't get that high with their blood sugars, thus the "super power" question, i.e. can we outperform them at a certain BG level?. Of course, this assumes that we can keep our blood sugar in that range during physical activity...

Wil@Ask D'Mine answers: We type 1s tend to be super-stubborn. We learn to be super-tough. But sorry, no super-powers beyond that. And a damn lucky thing, too. Can you imagine if having slightly too high blood sugar made us perform better or smarter? Wall Street sharks would be getting pancreatectomies, athletes would be taking insulin-suppressing illegal drugs, school children would be saying "I wish I had diabetes," and the fastest-growing employment section in the nation would be for dialysis technicians and nurses.

Innovation 2015

The performance chart you referred to is on page 144 of the original 2004 edition of Scheiner's landmark book, but is missing from the latest version (which I bought as soon as it came out, but confess I haven't read yet). I think what Scheiner was trying to show us was NOT that athletic performance was supersized for everyone at 150 mg/dL, but rather that exercise for PWDs is dangerous when you're too low, and you perform rather badly when too high. But I'll admit, at a glance it looked pretty damn exciting.

In his new edition, Scheiner tells us "Elevated glucose can reduce your strength, flexibility, speed, stamina, and endurance." He reminds us that too much sugar in the blood leads to strains, sprains, and stiffness—actually making exercise harder.

Oh, in case you haven't read Gary Scheiner yet, you really should. His knowledge is top-notch and his writing style is highly entertaining, with good humor. (Example: "Raise your hand if you like being tired all the time. Okay, raise your hand if you're too tired to raise your hand. Elevated blood glucose reduces energy levels.")

He's my second-favorite diabetes author, after... you know... me!

Anyway, like I said, I haven't sat down (yet) to read Scheiner's revised classic from cover-to-cover, so to double check on the whole superpower thing, I emailed him about it. You know, just to be sure. Here, straight from the horse's mouth, is his answer:

"Unfortunately, there is no evidence that people with diabetes hold a competitive advantage over their non-diabetic counterparts when exercising at certain glucose levels. That's not to say that living with diabetes doesn't have its advantages; people with diabetes are generally more in-tune with nutrition, fitness, and how the body responds to various forms of physical activity than the average person."


So there you have it, Anne. Welcome to the family. Sorry. No X-ray vision. No super strength. No breathing underwater. We're not bullet proof. Or any of the rest of it.

But you can wear a cape if you want to. And it's OK to store all your diabetes supplies, gear, and meds in your own personal Bat Cave in your basement.


Wait a second!

I was wrong (it happens occasionally). We do have one superpower, after all. And that's the power of community. It's more a "power of numbers" than an individual thing, but you are now connected in a unique and powerful way to other people who share your hopes, fears, experiences, and struggles.

You don't need to have super powers of your own.

You've got us.


Sherrie from Minnesota, type 3, writes: I just rekindled an old flame. He is an easygoing spirit and the man I should have married. My problem is, he is diabetic, too. His numbers are all over the place, from 500 or down to 120. He takes two types of insulin and a pill, but he doesn't eat right. He complains of headaches, but he doesn't respond when I try to get him to eat healthier. Help -- I don't know what to do.

Wil@Ask D'Mine answers: Diabetes. That I'm good at. Romance? Oh boy... I'm not sure I'm qualified for that. But what the hell, I've never been afraid to say what I think. And I think this is right out of Shakespeare! Lost lovers reunited. As easygoing hero and a fretting heroine. The long shadow of a threatening chronic illness. Secret messages to a bard (that would be me), pleading for advice. It's got all the trappings of a great play.

And we all know that Shakespeare plays can end rather well for the cast of characters, or end rather badly. The same, I daresay, is probably true for your situation.

What you're facing is the largest challenge in diabetes, or in life in general, for that matter: How to inspire change. Let's assume for the moment that your flame's therapy is appropriate (although he should check in with his doc) and that the pair of insulins and the pill should be able to do the job. I think that's a safe assumption as in diabetes, a pair of insulins is the equivalent of a royal flush in poker, so there's no reason that his control shouldn't be better.

So if he's got a wining hand, why's the game going so badly? Most likely because he's playing it poorly. I think you need to communicate with him about why you are worried and try to find out how he's feeling about all of this. I know you've tried, but I have an approach you might not have used yet.

In medicine we often use something called Motivational Interviewing (M.I.), which was "born" here in New Mexico back in '83 at our big university. All it is, is a way of making people think. You'd be surprised how little most people think. Oh, and it's also a form of communication, and I can't think of a couple in the world who couldn't communicate better—old flames, or new. You can watch my buddy Dr. Keri talk more about M.I. on You Tube, if you like video.

The key is to remember that you're going to be talking about something he most likely doesn't want to talk about in the first place. As such, you need to stick with open-ended questions. Don't ask anything that can be answered with a single syllable. For example: don't say "Can't you see how much I worry about you?" Because then he can say either "yes" or "no." The conversation just ended before it started, and he didn't even have to use his brain. Instead, say something more along the lines of "How do you think it makes me feel to watch you suffer so from your diabetes?"

Hah! Just try and answer that one with one word!

The long-term goal here is to plant the seeds of change, water them a bit, and hope to hell they grow. Future thinking never hurts either. Ask him how he sees the two of you a year from now. In two years. In five. Ten.

How will his diabetes affect that vision, if it's left raging out of control? His vision may be that in ten years everything will be the same. Yours might be of seeing-eye dogs and dialysis centers. I don't like "going negative," but I think honest fear is valid, and he needs to know how you feel.

So the brain mechanics (psychologists and psychiatrists), who study the way people change, tell us that we go through a predictable series of steps. I won't bore you with them all, but the first two are pretty interesting. They are pre-contemplation and ccontemplation. For instance, let's take something simple like binge drinking. If you're thinking about cutting your boozing down, you've probably already accepted that there's a problem and that you want, in theory, to do something about it. That's contemplation. You really aren't ready to take action—not yet—but at least the groundwork is laid, and you'd be open to the next step in change, which is actually doing something about the problem.

However, before that contemplation step, our brains are stuck in pre-contemplation, which means we haven't even acknowledged that there is a problem. I drink. I get drunk. I fall down. No problem.

M.I.'s goal is to light a fire under pre-contemplation and heat it up to the contemplation point. To get people thinking. Once the brain actually faces up to realities, it can do amazing things.

So my advice to ensure that this play will be a Romance, or maybe even a Drama or Comedy—but not a Tragedy—is to start talking to Mr. Easygoing in a way that forces him to think. To contemplate. And not just about him. And not just about the here and now.

But about both of you. And the future.



This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.


Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.