Diabetes tips

Fear of high blood sugars and the truth about "perfect" T1D management

June 8, 2023

On a recent episode of the Reclaim Your Rise podcast, sports nutritionist, trainer, and athlete Nina Gelbke shared about her journey of overcoming blood sugar perfectionism. For Nina, her obsessive management was rooted in a fear of high blood sugars.

She shared, “I know a lot of people with diabetes have this fear around using insulin. I'm kind of the opposite… because of more of my fear around higher levels, I'm the first person to accidentally give myself too much.”

Nina explained three steps that helped her find a better balance with managing her diabetes.

  1. Recognizing that she physically didn’t feel good while maintaining these “perfect” numbers.
    Nina says that her Dexcom stats showed she spent 30-40% below her target blood sugar, in the low range. She admits that she “physically felt like rubbish, but mentally felt safe there.” But, once she started listening to her body, she realized, “I wasn't feeling good there. I was feeling lethargic and tired and sad and depressed when my blood sugars were low all the time.”  And especially as a competitive Crossfit athlete and swimmer, Nina saw the difference in her performance when her blood sugar was in the low to mid 100s rather than in the 70s.
  2. Realizing that blood sugar increases are normal.
    Learning that people without diabetes have fluctuations in their blood sugar helped Nina realize she was “setting the bar way too high for myself for something that wasn't even achievable for somebody that had a working pancreas. So how on earth can it be achievable for someone who, who doesn't have that is doing it like manually themselves?”
  3. Learning more about macronutrients and working with an expert.
    For Nina, working with a diabetes educator who was able to tell her that she didn’t need to stress about going up to 130 after a meal was also a big part of her journey to change her relationship to her blood sugars. She found it very supportive to seek “help from like a professional in the diabetes space to just give me that bit of support and that bit of logic and an outsider perspective to say, ‘you don't need to be so hard on yourself. You're doing great.’" She also learned that her body needed carbs in order to perform athletically at the level she was striving for.

Nina knows that overcoming perfectionism is a work in progress, but she’s proud of how far she’s come. She remembers, “times a few years ago when I would see a high number on my blood sugar monitor, I would beat myself up about it. I'd be so angry at myself, I'd the day would be ruined. It would be completely ruined. But now it's just, ‘All right, I'm a little bit annoyed, but…’ I give myself a correction. Maybe I go for a walk. I deal with it. I move on, and that's something I'm super proud of because that's been life changing for me. Being able to change my mindset and not letting blood sugars control my entire day and just being able to say, all right, it is what it is. I deal with it and then I move on and that's been a really powerful change.”

If you struggle with this mindset pattern around achieving "perfect" blood sugars, are uncomfortable with your blood sugar being 130 or higher, and know that this isn't serving you, work with your healthcare team or therapist, or explore our programs. All of our coaches have type one diabetes so we have navigated these challenges personally and know what it's like.