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Managing Diabetes as a College Student
(AUGUST 2013) For most young adults, college is the first taste of freedom away from parental control. Most students live in a dormitory on campus or an apartment off campus, but either way, mommy and daddy aren't be there to cook, clean or take care of you. Most students consider these four years a gift - not having to abide by the rules that they previously did while living under their parents' roofs. Others suffering from diabetes, however, may feel differently.
Since diabetes is a complicated disease, many young adults have help from their parents to maintain and control their blood sugar levels. The thought may be frightening, but living on your own as a diabetic college student can be much easier if planned well. By making a schedule, you can devote time to exercise, test your blood sugar levels and prepare healthy, well-balanced meals.
Looking inside most dormitories, you will find cases of Coke, empty Cheetos bags and leftover cookie crumbs scattered around the room. The eating habits of a college student are different, to say the least. With a limited amount of time throughout the day, most students find it easier to grab a processed snack on their way to the library than to cook a four-course meal in the community kitchen. Although not a healthy lifestyle in the least bit, many young adults are able to eat this way without suffering from diseases such as diabetes due to high metabolism. Diabetics, however, cannot.
By organizing your prescriptions and food items in your dorm or apartment, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will come much more naturally. Make sure to clearly identify and label an emergency contact list where your roommate can see, stock up on essential prescriptions and medications and have a designated spot to store all diabetic supplies. If you're living in a dormitory, make sure to invest in a mini-fridge. This will allow you to have a small variety of healthy food options when the dining hall doesn't seem so diabetic-friendly. You’ll also be able to store your insulin and hypoglycemia treatments inside.
The dining hall
The dining hall is another obstacle that many diabetics in college face. Although it may seem like an upward battle, the dining hall doesn't always have to win. Sure, some of the options are greasy, high in fat and calories, and loaded with sugar, but there are options that are not. For a light dinner, try opting for a healthy salad full of grilled chicken for protein, vegetables a low-fat vinaigrette based dressing.
Steer clear of greasy pizza and hamburgers, and avoid the dessert table all together. To help satisfy sweet cravings, buy sugar-free Jello packs to store in your room. This will help you get past any cravings that may surface and allow you to feel like you're enjoying a sugary dessert without raising your glucose levels.
Since you will typically share the same living space and sometimes even bedroom with your roommate for a full year, it's important that they know what to do in case of an emergency. Teach them the process of how to administer a shot and check your blood sugar levels. Teach your roommate about diabetes, and make sure that they are aware of your diet restrictions. Wearing medical identification bracelets also helps so people everywhere know what to do in the event of a medical emergency.
Most importantly, don't let your disease define you. Just because you have diabetes doesn't mean that you can't enjoy your college years. By educating yourself on healthy foods and lifestyles, you will navigate through these four years much more efficiently. Preparing in advanced, planning and making schedules will make the process much easier. Not only this, but educate your friends about your disease. Let them know the ins and outs of your diabetic lifestyle so that they can be supportive and accommodating.