According to the American Diabetes Association, one in three Americans are expected to develop type 2 diabetes by the year 2050 if current trends continue. While most commonly diagnosed in adults aged 65 or older, young adults can also receive the news that they have developed type 2 diabetes. Bea Dominguez was diagnosed with type 2 when she was 25, and Mike Durbin was also diagnosed in his 20s. Today I’d like to introduce you to Sarah Boison, a social media strategist who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when she was 24.
In November 2012, Sarah was managing a full-time course-load as a graduate student in Public Relations and Corporate Communications, plus working full-time, when she started to feel unwell. “I started feeling a little ill and I wasn’t really sure what it was,” she said. “I thought maybe it was the fact that I had a huge work load at school and at my job. Around Thanksgiving, I tried to slow down, but it didn’t go away. I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep. I was very thirsty and prior to that, I really didn’t like water. I eventually went to the doctor in December and when they checked my A1C, it was over 10. That’s when they told me I have type 2.”
The news didn’t particularly surprise Sarah, given her family history of diabetes. “I wasn’t really shocked because my grandma had type 2 diabetes,” she said. “A lot of my family members have been borderline pre-diabetic and have been able to keep their blood sugar levels within normal ranges, but we never really talked about it within my family. I didn’t think at my age that I was going to get it, though. I always thought that it was for older people.”
The next day Sarah began changing her lifestyle, starting with her diet. “If I even attempted to eat the way I ate before, I immediately became ill so I had to forego a lot of the comfort food that I was used to, like pizza and other high carbs like white pasta and white rice,” she said. “White rice is a huge staple. My family is from Africa, so that’s served at every meal. That’s been a part of my struggle because I’ve had to back off of eating the food that our family eats.”
Fortunately, Sarah’s family has been very supportive of her lifestyle changes, particularly her father. “It’s been a learning experience not just for me but also for my family,” she said. “They’ll still eat some of the traditional food but they’re more accommodating to my diet; they’ll make something for me on the side as well. I think the family support is crucial. I don’t think I would have been able to keep this up as far as I have without the support of my dad because he has been really aggressive about making sure that I’m not trying to go back into my old habits.”
Another challenge was Sarah’s busy schedule. “At the time of my diagnosis, I was working from 6:30 a.m. and then I had class till 11 p.m.,” she said. “It didn’t leave a lot of room for me to cook healthy meals because I wasn’t home. A lot of information I found about diabetes was geared toward people age 40 and above, people that in my opinion have a more stable lifestyle and more time to cook. Millennials are constantly on the go and don’t need recipes that feed a family of six. At my age, everybody wants to go out and I had to factor all that in with my diet. I had to figure out foods that were good for me and where I could find them on the go.”
Exercise played a role in Sarah’s new lifestyle as well. “I first started with 15 minutes,” she said, “and then it became 30 minutes and then I added strength training. That’s what really helped reduce my weight. I lost the first 15 pounds in my basement. We had 10 pound weights, which I would just lift over my head. I would do some squats and push-ups. Then, I would do another 15 minutes of cardio. I tried to do that as many times a week as I could, maybe six times a week. I was very aggressive with it.” Sarah also consulted a certified trainer for tips on working out safely with diabetes.
Sarah has learned to make her health a priority. “Sometimes I have to speak up for myself and be assertive about taking breaks at work to eat,” she said. “I need to make sure I keep my blood sugar stable. I try to eat throughout the day, small meals like granola, peanuts, bananas, little things that I don’t have any excuse not to pick up. A lot of people look at food as entertainment but I’ve had to change the way I view food. For me now, I view it as fuel.”
Finding a lack of resources for young adults living with type 2 diabetes, Sarah is now an advocate for diabetes awareness. “One of the more frustrating things I encountered is not finding a lot of people out there who were going through what I was going through,” she said. “The only way people are going to start acknowledging that young adults can get type 2 and start to create more resources for us is if we start talking about it. I’m actually working with the American Diabetes Association on some education materials now.”
Kudos to Sarah for being willing to start the conversation about young adults living with type 2 diabetes, and for addressing the need for relevant resources. My thanks to her for sharing her story.
All the best,
Disclosure: Sarah Boison received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.