By: Jennifer Wheeler
Being healthy has been a goal of mine since I was very young. When I was 5 years old, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I had an experience in the hospital that made a strong and lasting impression on my young mind. I’ve always been very social, so I was visiting all the kids on my floor while I was in the hospital and trying to get to know them. I went into one young girl’s room who had just had her leg amputated. She was on sitting on top of the sheets, so it was very visible. It shocked me, and I didn’t know what to say to her. After a few moments, I left. This experience stuck with me and became significant to my story a few years later.
My parents were referred to a good endocrinologist shortly after I was diagnosed. At this doctor’s office, I saw a dietician as well. She taught us what the best diet for a diabetic is. One of the first things we were taught is to avoid sugar. The second was to eat protein with every meal because it slows down the metabolic process and helps your blood sugars not spike as easily. We were told that the best form of protein is animal products. They also taught us about the importance of fruits and vegetables, but that fruits should be eaten sparingly because of their high sugar content. (The reason I remember what they taught us is because they reviewed the same things several times a year until I was an older teenager.)
Another thing we were taught was if we didn’t learn to control my blood sugar levels, all kinds of bad things could happen, like having my foot or leg amputated. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when this conversation registered with me, but I remember being very young (maybe 8 or so). Because I had seen the young girl in the hospital without a leg, I actually knew what the doctor and dietician were talking about when they told my parents this, and I determined at a very young age that I wanted to be healthy and keep both my legs and feet.
My parents were diligent about helping me avoid sugar, and eating protein with every meal was no problem because we all LOVED meat! As a teenager, I was counseled several times in various blessings to follow the Word of Wisdom. I felt the main emphasis was to avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco, but I recognized there was great counsel as to how we should eat. I tried to limit the amount of sugar I ate. I loved whole grains and ate lots of them. I didn’t love vegetables, but I’d eat some because I knew they were good for me, and I ate fruit sparingly. Even though the Word of Wisdom tells us to eat meat sparingly, if at all, I justified not following this counsel because of my diabetes. I was very active physically and had lots of energy. I thought I was healthy, and I thought I was following the Word of Wisdom.