Lauren Grout (30) lives in Pretoria, Gauteng, and is a senior fraud investigator (admitted attorney) at a bank. She has Type 1 diabetes.
Both Lauren’s gran and aunt had Type 1 diabetes, however, that never prepared Lauren for the shock of being diagnosed in her matric year. She was fit, healthy, active and was on a well-maintained diet, rarely eating sugary or processed foods nor drank soft drinks. She admits that she was not aware of how one got Type 1 diabetes. “I was hugely hurt, unsure of myself, upset and angry…all the ‘why me?’ questions flooded me. And, being a young woman – all sorts of insecurities followed,” Lauren explains.
Another surprise was all the implications and what treatment would entail: all the snacks required, injections, testing glucose levels, hypos (she had some bad ones), mood swings, diet restrictions and horrible highs.
The 30-year-old currently still uses insulin pens (Novorapid and Lantus). She has considered a pump; her GP believes she’ll be a good candidate as she is sensitive to insulin and has lows quite often. The fact that the pump is attached to the body the whole time and must be ‘hidden/kept’ somewhere is somewhat of a deterrent for Lauren. “I also am wary of the location sights – a friend showed me what her abdomen looked like due to the pump,” she adds. But she does see herself eventually making the change in the future as one can control their sugar levels to a greater level with a pump.
When Lauren began her career as an attorney, she would often fear that she would have a hypo in court and would have to request the magistrate for an adjournment. She was aware that in such instances, it would be understandable and granted but it was still a constant worry. She adds, “I have had moments of doubt; however, it has not stopped me from pursing my dreams or studying further, and I do not believe that it will in the future. But, there are careers that would not really be suitable for a diabetic patient, such as a deep-sea diver, or miner etc. This is due to the risk involved should the diabetic suffer a hypo.
Diabetes in the corporate world
The bank that Lauren works for has been extremely supportive and understanding. She has been open about it, as she attends numerous meetings, which are long in duration, and may need to excuse herself to eat a snack. She explains, “It helps for one’s colleagues to understand your needs etc. In addition, it is a great opportunity to create a greater awareness for diabetes in general.”
Corporate wellness programme
A free corporate wellness programme is offered through her employer. However, it is managed externally. It caters for all types of concerns, such as physical and mental wellness. Counselling sessions are also offered and remain confidential.
Eating at work
“I believe in breakfast! So, if it’s a rushed day and I leave early, I will usually have yoghurt and All-Bran, which I keep at the office. Alternatively, I will have a boiled egg or scrambled egg and Provitas/melba toast (as the canteen does not have low-GI bread). Our canteen offers sugar-free smoothies and there is a café with banting options too,” Lauren says.
“Around 10am, I have a snack, either a fruit (apple, plum, pear), biltong, a small handful of almonds or four Provitas with cheese. This depends on whether my sugar level is dropping (then I will have the fruit/crackers option) or if I just need a snack for sustenance (then the protein options).”
“For lunch, I usually take a chicken salad, or I’ll buy a grilled chicken wrap; basil pesto pasta; grilled chicken/beef and veggies or a salad. I also keep a snack in case I need something around 4pm (as sometimes I only get home around 7pm).
Canteen food options
The canteen at Lauren’s office does offer a few healthy options but she feels this could be expanded as the ‘healthy meals get a bit boring after a time’. “Like most large commercial canteens, most of the foods either have added sugar, or have a high fat content. All the things like stir-fry’s, sauces, pumpkin etc. have added sugar, and there is quite a lot of crumbed foods as well as ‘fast food’ like fries, burgers and tramezzinis,” Lauren explains.
“I avoid refined white flour, wheat flour/gluten pasta, high fat foods as well as overly rich foods. However, we have various salad options that one can mix up, as well as grilled chicken/beef wraps, smoothies, veggies, grilled chicken breast, soups, meat options, samp, rice etc. Yet, this depends on the menu for the day. Fortunately, the bank has three other cafés on its premises, which offer healthy and banting options. A bit expensive, but worthwhile for the change at times.”
Lauren advises other diabetic patients to tell their employers about their condition. “Being a woman and saying ‘no’ to sugar, many people assume that it is because I’m on a diet to lose weight. I am relatively healthy and slim and this would attract negative assumptions or comments from people, for e.g. “Why won’t you have any cake? Are you on a diet or something? You don’t need to be on a diet!”
She also adds that she often goes on corporate team building, and thus dietary requirements need to be catered for. “But, being open about your condition is mostly important for people to know, if you have a hypo. People need to know what actions and steps to take, as well as who to contact in such circumstances,” she clarifies.
Exercising is dependent on Lauren’s workload. She tries to exercise at least 2 – 3 times a week for 45 minutes, consisting of a minimum of 20 minutes’ cardio (running usually, or spinning) and weights thereafter.
Though it has been a challenging journey thus far for the senior fraud investigator, it has become easier to handle. Lauren believes the most important thing is to have a strong foundation of support. “I have a very loving and understanding family, who immediately jumped on board, and we accepted this challenge together. It was not ‘my diet’ and lifestyle that changed, but all of ours, as diabetes does not only affect you, but all those around you. Even within a work environment. Thus, it is important for one to be open with one’s colleagues and staff, and vice versa for a company to be understanding and accommodating.”