Uma on living with Type 1 Diabetes and the recipes she loves the most.
When I first learned about diabetes it was through my seventh grade English teacher Mr. Murray. On the first day of class he explained to all of us that he suffered from diabetes and that if he ever started slurring his speech that we should remind him to go and drink some of the apple juice he stored in his desk. I had never heard of the disease before, yet, as I grew up, I met more and more people with the condition. When I recently heard about my friend Uma’s new website T1Buddies, a recipe sharing platform aiming to help those with Type 1, I knew that it was a resource that I had to share with you all. Uma is a complete inspiration and I am so honored to share her story on the blog. Also, head to T1Buddies to share a recipe of your own or to try and spot my homemade tomato sauce recipe if you’re feeling in the mood to cook!
Uma! Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi! I’m Uma, I’m 17, and I currently live in Singapore. I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes for about 4 years, but in spite of this I’m still a big foodie, and I’m almost always craving bubble tea.
When did you first find out that you have Type 1 Diabetes and what was your reaction to the news?
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in my freshman year of high school, so I was 14 years old at the time. It was an incredibly unexpected situation for me and my family, so once I was finally able to begin processing the news, it was quite disorienting, to put it mildly. And before I could fully acknowledge the diagnosis, I was being bombarded with more information, so overall it was a very confusing time.
What has been the most challenging part about managing your Type 1 Diabetes?
When I was first diagnosed, the most difficult part was not the physical management of the condition, but rather taking care of my mental health. I had just become a teenager, ready for a “normal” high school experience – one that didn’t include needles and carb counting. The mental hurdles took a lot of patience and effort to overcome, but thankfully, I’ve reached a place where it’s not the hardest part of diabetes management anymore. Now, the most challenging thing is keeping my blood sugar stable while stressing over my college applications.
What do you wish more people knew about Type 1 Diabetes?
Where do I begin? Just kidding, the list is not long. The main thing I wish more people knew is that Type 1 Diabetes isn’t caused by a person’s diet or an ‘unhealthy’ lifestyle. In reality, no one actually knows the cause of Type 1, and there isn’t a way to prevent it. I remember a time when I told a friend about my condition, and he assumed I got it because I “ate too much sugar.” I knew after the fact that he wasn’t trying to call me unhealthy, and that he just didn’t know much about Type 1, but it still felt like an accusation at the moment. I hope that in the future, people will be more aware of Type 1 diabetes, and understand that it is not the person’s fault for having it.
How has Type 1 Diabetes changed your perspective on life, health, and food?
My condition changed more of my perspective than I could’ve imagined 3 years ago. First, I’ve become a lot more knowledgeable about my physical health, and the science of diabetes. If you asked me what I knew about diabetes in middle school, I would’ve responded: “That’s what happens when you eat too much sugar…?”
Type 1 Diabetes has also made me realize that it’s better to teach people about the condition instead of becoming angry at comments or questions that seem ignorant. In the story above, I was pretty upset at the comment, but since then, I’ve tried to educate my friends and relatives if they have questions.
Finally, the most important change: food. Being diagnosed at 14 was already a challenge that was amplified by the fact that teenagers eat out often. At first, I was disheartened when I watched my friends buy sugar-heavy bubble teas, or order off of restaurant menus without a care. But, with practice and patience, I learned how to enjoy myself and food in spite of my condition, which will be very helpful when I head off to college.
Overall, Type 1 taught me how to take care of myself without restricting every part of my life. Plus, I am no longer afraid of needles and blood, which is a helpful side effect.
What are some of your favorite recipes to make?
A recipe that I recently discovered is oyako donburi: a Japanese chicken and egg rice bowl. Its literal meaning is “parent (chicken) and child (egg) rice bowl” which I thought was an amazing name. Oyakodon is now one of my favorites because it is relatively healthy (lots of protein) but is still really delicious. I’m also a big fan of pancakes – not a complicated or fancy dish, but that’s kind of why I love them. When I have the time, I spend probably way too much effort decorating plates of pancakes like a food artist, and they are very Instagrammable.
Tell us all about your new website T1Buddies!
T1Buddies is an online collaborative cookbook for the Type 1 Diabetes community. (T1BudDies… get it? Anyway…) All of the recipes are submitted by Type 1 diabetics and friends/relatives, and the collection is continuously growing. I started this project because I realized that there are not a lot of resources and support for Type 1 in Singapore, and that the group of people affected by T1D is quite scattered here. T1Buddies is a way to unite the community both in Singapore and around the world by connecting through food – which is also a personal passion of mine. Before I developed T1 Buddies, I started an Instagram account for personal recipes, which was additional inspiration for this website.
What is your hope for the future of the Type 1 Diabetes community?
The Type 1 community has already come so far, both scientifically and socially. The advancements in medical technology alone are remarkable, and the community in the US is quite strong. My hope is that this unity will expand outside of the USA because, a bit unfortunately, the network of Type 1 diabetics is very much global. I also hope that awareness of the condition improves around the world. In Singapore, advocacy for Type 1 is overshadowed by the more prevalent Type 2 diabetes. In the States, although Type 1 is more common than in Singapore, there are still incorrect assumptions and a gap of knowledge about the condition. I’m confident that the T1D community will advance in the future, and I’m excited to see where the medical and technological research takes us next.