The rising music star shares her struggle with diabetes—and her strategies for feeling her best on and off stage.
Some musicians sing about love and loss, but Amanda Lamb sings about her struggle with diabetes:
I'm as fragile as a whisper
Avoiding a near miss
Pretending I'm fearless
As I'm balancing the high wire
Keeping my head up
Living the life of an aerialist
"Living with diabetes is a constant balancing act," says Amanda, 18, who's had type 1 diabetes since childhood. Her song, "The Life of an Aerialist," is featured on her pop-rock debut album, Highwire. "Aerialists walk on a tight rope. They never know if they're going to fall off or make it across. That's…my analogy for diabetes. You have to stay on the tight rope and keep in balance!"
It hasn't been easy for Amanda, who's been compared to pop star Taylor Swift, with her country voice and rocker edge. "It may seem like a drag to follow the 'rules' for managing diabetes, but if you ignore [the disease], then it will eventually control your life," says the singer, who's been on an insulin pump since age 6. "That happened to me. I had diabetes burnout, and I landed in the hospital. It was scary. Around that time, I gave myself a talk: If you want to live a long, healthy life, you need to take care of yourself."
Today, Amanda, who lives in Orange County, CA, is diligent about monitoring her blood sugar—especially when she's performing. Fifteen minutes before she goes on stage, she tests her blood sugar. If it's low, she'll have something to eat. "When I'm on stage, my mom is always near the front," she says. "She always has sugar tablets or juice in her purse. I can go to the edge of the stage and get something."
Three years ago, Amanda had a low blood sugar scare just before she stepped on stage to open for the Jonas Brothers at a "Rock for Diabetes" benefit concert in Los Angeles. She began to feel shaky, so she drank some juice and ate a granola bar.
The singer, who was a competitive horseback rider for 10 years, learned at an early age not to let diabetes rule her life. "I've never said I couldn't do something because of diabetes," she says. "I live my life as normally as I can." For Amanda, that means recording new songs and music videos (her latest, "I'm Moving On," was released in November) and shooting a pilot for a new reality show.
Amanda is dedicated to sharing her positive outlook with others. She's working with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to raise funds as well as awareness of the disease. She donated half of the proceeds from "The Life of an Aerialist" to the JDRF. For the past two years, she's sung the national anthem for the annual JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes. It gives me strength to see how many people come out and rally to find a cure for a disease I've lived with my whole life, she wrote on her Facebook page.
Diabetes certainly hasn't affected Amanda's success. She was named Best Youth Artist at the Orange County Music Awards in 2011, and made it onto Indie-Music.com's top 25 list last year. Here, her strategies for feeling her best:
Focus on healthy foods. Although experts recommend cutting back on high-calorie snack foods and desserts like chips, cookies and cakes, you don't need to restrict your diet. Fill up on colorful fruits and vegetables—especially non-starchy veggies, like spinach, carrots and green beans, advises the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Choose whole-grain foods over processed ones; eat plenty of dried beans, like lentils; and serve lean meats. "For breakfast, I'll have yogurt with granola or flaxseed mixed in," says Amanda. "For lunch, I might have a salad or cup of soup. For snacks, granola bars are my favorite."
Get moving. Regular exercise has many benefits for people with diabetes. It can help keep your blood sugar and weight in check and may even allow you to cut back on insulin or diabetes pills. Amanda enjoys yoga. "I know I'm working on my body and my emotional state, so it makes me happy," she says. "At the end of each class, we do deep breathing exercises. By the time I leave, I feel so much more relaxed." She also walks her dog regularly. "He's very high-energy, so he keeps me going," she says.
Drink plenty of fluids. Diabetes boosts your risk of dehydration because the disease causes your body to excrete more water, according to the ADA. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids when you exercise or spend time outdoors in warm weather.
Treat low blood sugar on the go. "Instead of carrying around a juice box, I carry glucose tabs," says Amanda. "They're more convenient, and they come in a variety of yummy flavors, like orange, raspberry and pineapple."
Use technology to your advantage. Consider using an insulin pump, a small device that delivers rapid-acting insulin continuously. "I love the pump," says Amanda. "It's allowed me more control over what and when I eat."
Be organized. Put your medications and test equipment in one place so you don't forget anything. Amanda keeps her meter, test strips and glucose tabs in a stylish pack in her purse. "If I'm running late, I don't have to look for my kit," she says. "I just grab my bag."