I have had type 1 diabetes for 16 years and, after a long path with many ups and downs, I have finally achieved optimal diabetic health. I have discovered the special lifestyle and diet mix that works and have brought my A1c from 11.4% to 5.2% while increasing my energy and overall health. I’m an elite athlete who plays professional ice hockey, and I currently run marathons.
I am truly grateful that I have type 1 diabetes because I believe that I am healthier now than I ever would have been if I had not gotten the disease.
I was diagnosed with type 1 when I was eight. Ironically, I left the hospital on Halloween and was forced to give my trick or treat candy to my sister.
After battling with the disease for years, I became discouraged because I could not get my blood sugars under control. One week I would have extremely high blood sugars, and the next week I would collapse due to low blood sugar after an intense workout. In five years I was taken to the hospital four times after passing out because I went too low.
One particular time occurred while I was a student at Northeastern University. Becoming dizzy on my way to class, I rushed into the dining hall to get juice, but it was too late. I went black and collapsed, falling into and breaking the juice machine as well as cutting my hip open on the metal rack that is used to hold the trays.
I woke up as the police arrived. Thinking I was drunk, they refused my desperate cries for juice as I lay bleeding on the ground. They held me down and started asking what my social security number and home address were. At the time, I could not even remember my name. I knew I was going to die if I did not get sugar so I began screaming in the middle of the packed dining hall, “I NEED JUICE!”
I remember kids whispering, “He’s crazy, why does he want juice?”
Finally a fellow student, who had an uncle with diabetes and recognized my symptoms, brought me orange juice and saved my life while the cops looked on with handcuffs ready.
This event shocked me and set me on a mission to become the healthiest person with diabetes possible. I made two significant changes. The first was with my lifestyle and the second was with my diet.
For the first 14 years of my diabetic life, I hid my disease from people. I told no one I had it. If I needed to test my blood sugar during a social gathering, I would go to the bathroom so no one would see. I even dated a girl for five months, and she never knew!
I was uncomfortable about having diabetes and how people would react if they saw me injecting myself with insulin or pricking my finger to get a drop of blood.
But then I met Chris Jarvis, a Canadian Olympic rower who had type 1 and was proud of it. He tested in public. He injected insulin in public. Everyone knew he had type 1, and he talked about it freely. I loved this new philosophy and I quickly adopted his attitude. This resulted in better diabetic control and a renewed sense of freedom.
It was not until a little over a year ago, in August of 2008, that I made the change that I think will ultimately prove to be one of the biggest decisions of my life. I decided to experiment with the effects that a diet change would have on my diabetes. I set out to consume only raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and small amounts of fruit. I completely cut out all meat, dairy, and bread products.
I met with a top Harvard nutritionist just as I was about to start this new diet, and she told me that this would be the biggest mistake I ever made. She said, “You can’t do it. You have diabetes. You need meat, dairy, and bread.”
Despite this shocking rejection of my planned diet, I started it anyway with the acknowledgement that doctors and nutritionists had steered me in the wrong direction too many times in the past.
A year later, my results speak for themselves. I have run in two marathons and experienced increased energy and overall health. My A1C dropped to 5.2%, lower than many people without diabetes. Doctors, not understanding how I achieved these results, have begun asking me for advice on what to tell their patients.
With a background in stand-up comedy and acting, my mission is to tell my transformational story to as many people with diabetes as possible in an exciting way that will inspire them to change their lives and improve their health.
Ryan Clauson, the youngest of six children, was born in Hanover, New Hampshire. One of his passions is ice hockey, and he will be competing in the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships this January with his three brothers and a sister, who all play as well. He is now focusing on long distance events and learning how to swim (he swears he only dog-paddles) so he can compete in an Iron Man event. Ryan calls himself a transformational entertainer. He specializes in the topics of “powerful communication, the art of attraction, optimal nutrition, and diabetes wellness.” He also provides personal coaching to those who desire to enhance their life and break through barriers.