Christel Oerum is a Los Angeles-based blogger, certified personal trainer, and diabetes advocate. She invites all of us — athletes to couch potatoes — to take part in her annual Fit With Diabetes Challenge.
I’ve been living with type 1 diabetes since 1997 and for the first 15 years or so, I did it all on my own.
I went to my routine doctor visits, but outside the doctor’s office, I didn’t really discuss my diabetes with anyone. Not because I was embarrassed in any way, but because I preferred being private about my diabetes.
Quite frankly, I didn’t realize the power of the diabetes community and what I was missing out on.
Once I got involved with the diabetes online community (DOC), I quickly realized that not only do I have something to offer others living with diabetes, their support and camaraderie have helped me tremendously as well.
Discovering the diabetes community
The pivotal point for me was when I started a more structured exercise regime, which ultimately led me to compete in bodybuilding competitions.
As my training got harder, so did my diabetes management. I was lost at first and received very little support from my medical team at the time on how to manage blood sugars and exercise. I was handed a pamphlet telling me to eat 15 grams of carbs before exercise… that’s it.
So I started to write everything down and document it online. I have a very structured mind and quickly started to see trends that allowed me to reduce the risk of high and low blood sugars during and after exercise by manipulating food and insulin at the right times.
Somewhat to my surprise, others were also benefiting from my online scribbles and that’s how I realized that I have something to give to this community. And I found others who were facing the same challenges as I was, who I could learn from as well.
As I engaged more and more on Instagram, Facebook, in-person, and ultimately through my website Diabetes Strong, I started to make friends. Friends who also live with diabetes, who understand how frustrating it can be at times, but who also know how much stronger it can make us.
Find your own diabetes tribe
You, of course, don’t have to create a website like I did to get involved with the diabetes community. I think a great starting point is finding us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
My preferred social media platform is Instagram. Here you can search hashtags such as #diabetes, #T1D, T2D, #diabadass 😉, etc. and a whole world of diabetes accounts will open up to you. You’ll instantly meet people living with diabetes from all over the world who show what life with diabetes looks like for them.
If you’re not into social media, you can meet others through your local diabetes associations, meet-ups or diabetes camps (primarily in the U.S.). I’ve been attending adult diabetes camps this year and I can tell you, those are fun!
Or you can join my free Fit With Diabetes Challenge that kicks off January 3rd, 2020, and get a chance to meet thousands of others living with diabetes…
The Fit With Diabetes Challenge
Creating the annual Fit With Diabetes Challenge is a way for me to give back to the community. It’s a community event for people living with all types of diabetes and from all walks of life. It’s a free 3-week journey where we dive into everything from goal-setting, exercise and nutrition, to general diabetes management, mental health, and creating healthy habits for life.
Although movement will be encouraged, it’s not an exercise challenge as such and people of any fitness level can participate. Last year, for example, we had a small group of people in wheelchairs join and they helped each other come up with exercises they could do sitting down.
All the content is written by myself and a team of experts who all live with diabetes, just like us. This is the 4th year we’re hosting the challenge, and last year we had 4,000 people from across the globe sign up and join us!
One of the challenge components that I’m the proudest of is the Diabetes Strong Community Facebook group which functions as the challenge peer group community. This is where we all get together, cheer each other on, offer support when someone is struggling and share our experiences.
This group is the essence of community and I love to see how people living with all types of diabetes can be there for each other year-round, even when we don’t have an active challenge.
So what are you waiting for? Jump in and meet your tribe by signing up for the 2020 Fit With Diabetes Challenge here.