Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, in a little beach community called Sea Gate (at the end of the Coney Island boardwalk), Austin Basis, 36, has been performing in musical comedies since he was about 5 years old. Today, he plays the character JT Forbes, the funny and likeable confidant of the beast on the CW television show Beauty and the Beast.
And while he thrives on the long hours and chaotic schedules, as an actor with diabetes—a condition he’s had for more than two decades—he also has to be mindful about where his blood sugars are at. For Austin, frequent blood sugar testing keeps him on track. “Normally, I test my blood sugar 4-5 times daily. When I work, it’s more like 7-8 times.”
The strategy appears to be a success: “All in all,” says the jovial actor, “my diabetes doesn’t get in the way of my life.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite: “My diagnosis gave me my first big obstacle to overcome. Managing it has given me the skills, structure and motivation to succeed at everything I put my mind to. I wouldn’t be the actor, the husband, the man I am today without the lessons in personal responsibility I learned from diabetes.”
Here, some of the lessons he’s learned—maybe they can help you balance your blood sugar and reach some other goals, too!
“When I was diagnosed, ironically, my dad owned a candy store,” says Austin. “However, even before that, my parents wouldn’t let us indulge. Most of the time we got sugar-free gum. That set me up for a smooth transition to eating more complex carbohydrates.”
Yet Austin still satisfies his sweet tooth from time to time. “There’s always a balance. If I don’t eat the full serving of bread, rice or pasta I’m allotted at lunch or dinner, I can have a very modest portion of cake or sampling of dessert.”
That’s the key to not overeating sugar and being able to adhere to a healthy diet. “The more you stifle urges to eat moderate portions of things, like desserts, the more risk there is of bingeing later on.”
It’s important to understand the nuances of your blood sugar highs and lows, says Austin. “It took a while to learn that the condition has so many levels. My mouth could be dry, which means I have high blood sugar or that I’m dehydrated.” Learning the difference helps ensure symptoms are properly treated.
Long days on the set make it tough for Austin to exercise. But that doesn’t stop him from being active. “I prefer competitive sports,” says Austin, who has played basketball in adult leagues. He also enjoys playing racquetball at the gym and aerobic activities.
“I’m not a fan of lifting weights, but my wife and I invested in a type of combative workout class that’s a form of martial arts at the gym.” Once or twice a week, Austin also hikes in the Hollywood Hills.
Austin’s immediate family and close friends have all been educated to spot warning signs, like unusual irritability, that his blood sugar might be low. “My parents, brother, wife and close friends all know how to deal with a bout of low blood sugar,” says Austin. “That includes getting me to check my blood sugar, and making sure I have food or drink on hand to get things back on an even keel.”
Photo credit: Vince Trupsin