At the doctor’s office, your diabetes is assessed based on numbers and your “adherence” to performing the daily required tasks of checking your blood sugar, counting carbohydrates, taking insulin, and getting daily exercise.
But what if the focus fell first on how you think about living with type 1 diabetes (T1D)?
What if your attitude, your beliefs, your entire perception of diabetes and its effect on your life actually took center stage instead of the numerical test results and relative ability to eat the “perfect” diet?
“There’s no changing the fact that diabetes is hard. I can attest to that myself,” says Nick Kundrat, author of the newly published book “Positively Type 1,” which takes the refreshing perspective that how you think about diabetes matters most.
This book steps away from the constant physical assessments we all face in living with diabetes and picks instead at what’s happening in your head and your heart.
In short, “Positively Type 1” is the no-fuss roadmap to realizing and embracing that your mental habits and perceptions of living with T1D are a choice, with a huge impact on how it affects your life.
In every chapter, you’ll find the most concise pep-talk on a particular skill or habit with a no-room-for-excuses approach. Kundrat manages to skip over any lectures or shaming and boils his message right down to what happens when you embody positive skills.
Maryland-based author Kundrat is something of a force of nature. He’s a 21-year-old exercise physiologist, personal trainer, and holistic health coach “with a passion for helping others get back to their roots, move better, and feel their best through holistic practices.” His energy seems somehow reminiscent of actor Zac Efron’s new Netflix healthy living series Down to Earth.
In January 2020, he founded Type 1 on the Move, a holistic health and diabetes education group that touts the benefits of exercise, clean eating, and mental wellness for T1D.
With 18 years of T1D under his belt — diagnosed at age 4 — Kundrat is certain that the mental game of diabetes is the linchpin.
He came to this conclusion after spending numerous summers at diabetes camps for children and teens over the past 18 years, where he transitioned with age from being the one in need of diabetes education to one of the people educating others.
Through this transition, he became more and more aware of the contrast between children, teens, and adults constantly struggling with diabetes burnout and depression, and those who seemed to never let diabetes get in their way. As a camp counselor, Kundrat found that burnout was painfully common among the campers.
“I realized that there is a tendency to focus on the negatives of life with diabetes,” Kundrat tells DiabetesMine. “We spend so many years teaching kids about insulin management, carb-counting, and lifestyle changes. While all of this is no doubt important to living with this disease, it can all be a bit bleak and depressing, especially for a young child.”
But burnout was something Kundrat hadn’t encountered personally.
“Why had I never experienced diabetes burnout? My diabetes isn’t any easier to treat than anyone else’s.”
The biggest difference Kundrat could pinpoint was his perception of the disease and how that perception fuels his life with diabetes.
“I have always seen my diabetes as a challenge and a motivator rather than a burden on my life,” says Kundrat.
“To me, my diabetes is something to overcome every single day rather than something that holds me back. And I learned to focus on the good rather than the bad.”
Kundrat acknowledges that some of this may be a natural part of his personality, but that doesn’t mean others can’t adopt this same mindset.
“This positivity that has guided my life is something I have within me, yet many kids don’t,” he adds. “It breaks my heart thinking of all the people living with diabetes who might never see their condition through this lens of optimism.”
And so, Kundrat set out to write a book that embodies the mindset that has helped him thrive.
Each concise and quick-to-read chapter of Kundrat’s 136-page book focuses on one specific skill or habit in your thinking that directly impacts how you manage diabetes and how diabetes affects who you are as a person.
“If you can change the way you perceive a situation, you can indeed change the situation itself,” says Kundrat.
Some chapters don’t actually ask you to change anything but to simply notice and give yourself credit for what skills diabetes has already given you.
“For example, we’ve all had to become amazing problem-solvers while counting carbs and dosing insulin with every meal. This is a skill that could translate into every aspect of our lives, not just diabetes,” says Kundrat.
One chapter focuses on “composure” — a skill he says anyone with T1D has mastered, whether they know it or not.
“Work, school, kids, sports, health — there are millions of responsibilities to get buried under,” Kundrat writes. “Maintaining composure in our fast-paced world is tough, to say the least. Add type 1 diabetes into that equation, and it becomes next to impossible.”
“I like to say that diabetes is like the person in the woods who pokes the bear repeatedly, and you are the bear,” continues Kundrat. “Poke the bear enough (no needle pun intended) and little things begin to not bother you too much anymore.
“When a new friend watches you prick your finger and set up a new infusion site, have you ever heard the question, ‘Oh my gosh, you didn’t even flinch! Didn’t that hurt?’
“Sure, you felt the sharp poke. Yes, it hurt. But you’ve felt it so many times that your brain not only ignores it, it can also maintain total composure while enduring it.”
Other chapter topics include forethought, self-awareness, discipline, toughness, and pride. Each chapter is concise, no more than 2 to 3 pages long, featuring a personal, direct message from Kundrat.
One of the most powerful aspects of Kundrat’s book isn’t just the spotlights on more than a dozen people living with T1D, but also pictures of their faces.
Reading their personal approach to letting T1D empower them is invaluable, yes, but being able to open this book and immediately look into the eyes of someone who endures the same burdens you do could be a game-changer for a child or adult who has no real-life relationships with other type 1s.
On top of sending a young child with T1D to camp to make other friends and find mentors like Kundrat, this book could be a great enhancement; they can just flip the pages and see the faces of other people of all ages dealing with diabetes, which is so difficult to do in daily life.
Alongside the kudos, there are a few things I found lacking from this easy-to-read mental boot camp, namely, the deep dive and the “how.”
If this book is intended for those struggling with burnout and seeking a more positive mindset, Kundrat could dig deeper into each chapter’s theme to help readers see just how much their mindset is feeding their unhappiness, stress, and depression.
People struggling with these aspects are often so overwhelmed by depression or stress that it can feel nearly impossible to see through them to the other side and the possibility of feeling differently.
Additionally, if you’ve been practicing a negative, woe-is-me, feeling defeated approach to T1D for the last few years (or the last few decades), it will take more than a few chapters of positivity to adopt that mindset in your day-to-day life.
Changing your mindset takes time and a tremendous amount of self-awareness. You need to learn and practice how to catch yourself in the habit of negative thinking and retrain your head and your heart to adopt a more positive mindset.
With Kundrat’s experience in health coaching, there’s no doubt he knows how to help fellow type 1s look more closely at the “how.”
Kundrat’s book could absolutely be the kick start for that process. In fact, because it is so easy to read, some may find it helpful to go over multiple times to help ingrain the positivity. Just as you practice throwing a basketball to improve your skills, you must practice choosing a positive perception instead of a negative one.
Clearly, change doesn’t happen overnight and remember that you — the one living with T1D — are the sole controller of that process. However, Kundrat’s words can definitely help you along the way.
“’Positively Type 1′ is my attempt at shining a new, hopeful, and empowering light on your diabetes diagnosis. However, I urge you to find comfort in the fact that while diabetes can take some things from you, the things it gives you are so worth the struggle. I hope (this book) can help you do just that,” he writes.
Interested in winning a free copy of Nick Kundrat’s new book “Positively Type 1?” We thank the author for helping us give away a copy to one lucky reader. Here’s how to enter:
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the codeword “DM-Positively” in the subject line to let us know you’re hoping to win. Or you can ping us on Twitter or our Facebook page using the same codeword. For shipping purposes, we must limit the giveaway to those with mailing addresses within the United States.
- You have until 5 p.m. PST on Friday, August 28, 2020, to enter.
- The winners will be chosen using Random.org.
- Winners will be announced on Monday, August 31, 2020, via social media, so please be sure to keep tabs on your email / Facebook / Twitter messenger box, as that’s how we contact our winners. (If winners don’t respond within a week, we select an alternate.)
We’ll update this post to announce the winner.
Best of luck to all!