Singer Nikki Lang on Diabetes

Nikki Lang shares her simple strategies for stopping stress and other blood sugar spikers. 

Linda Childers
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When nearly every night finds you in a different place—Toronto, Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Boise, Reno, Dublin—you can imagine how stressful that must be. Now imagine you also have to perform each night and you have diabetes

For Nikki Lang, it’s par for the course, as this modern-day troubadour takes her songs of heartbreak and self-discovery from coast to coast and even across the pond: “Touring isn’t really a relaxing experience; it’s actually the complete opposite,” says the singer-songwriter, whose newest video, “My Sad Hero,” is now airing on MTV. “There were times I found myself wearing the same clothing for more than 24 hours, and actually went on stage with greasy hair and two hours of sleep. There’s so much stress involved! You have to get to the venue on time, and when you’re traveling with a bunch of other people from Dublin to Cork, there’s no telling what will happen along the way.”

Yet no matter how unpredictable things may be, there’s one item that always gets top billing on her agenda: keeping her blood sugar in check.

It’s something Nikki is used to, having been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10. But instead of adopting a “why me” attitude, she immediately embraced it: “I have always accepted having diabetes as a part of my life,” says Nikki. “I’ve never gotten angry about having the disease or let it prevent me from living life to the fullest.”

And she’s dedicated to sharing that positive outlook with others who have diabetes. Together with her father, producer Rocky Lang, she is working with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to raise awareness of the condition. In 2010, she donated proceeds from the iTunes downloads of her song “Feel Better” to the ADA.

Indeed, taking action—whether throwing herself into her music or going for a run—is one of the ways she keeps stress and other blood sugar spikers at bay. “If I’m feeling bad, I can sit down and write a song or play my guitar and immediately feel better.” Along the way, she’s also discovered these other strategies for keeping things, well, humming along!

Blood sugar spiker: Excitement
Blood sugar tamer: Frequent monitoring
Those adrenaline surges that feel like a bolt of electricity don’t happen only when you’re scared or threatened—they can also happen when you’re excited and eager. For Nikki, it’s while she’s on stage. For you, it may be during a job interview or maybe before walking into a party you’ve been anticipating. Problem is, that hormone surge can cause your blood sugar to rise. To compensate, Nikki checks her glucose levels more often on the days she performs. “If there’s an activity you love, you just need to find the right blood sugar/food/insulin balance to make it work.”

April 2013