Nikki Lang shares her simple strategies for stopping stress and other blood sugar spikers.
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.”
Blood sugar spiker: A totally unpredictable schedule
Blood sugar tamer: Tech smarts
Nikki knows it’s important to track her carb counts, but she admits this can be challenging when she’s on the road. “I’ve found several smart phone carb-counter and tracker applications that can determine the carb counts of foods I eat,” she says. “They have been especially helpful when I’m abroad and eating foreign foods.” If you have a smart phone, like Nikki, consider downloading Glucose Buddy (glucosebuddy.com), a free app that helps you log your blood sugar, meds, food, exercise and more. It also syncs up with your computer.
Blood sugar spiker: Anxiety
Blood sugar tamer: Boxing it out
“I love boxing—it’s a fun way to reduce stress and offers a good workout,” says Nikki. Don’t have the time or inclination to join a gym? Don’t worry, you can de-stress like Nikki does without leaving your home! Researchers at Brigham Young University recently found that playing an active video game such as Wii Boxing for 20 minutes is the equivalent of walking a mile at a brisk pace.
Blood sugar spiker: Sitting around—after a meal
Blood sugar tamer: Doing a chore
“I’ve noticed that when I’m active, it’s easier to control my blood sugar levels,” says Nikki, who enjoys running 3-4 miles several days a week. Not a runner? Turns out, just walking the dog or even loading the dishwasher after a meal—in short, doing just about anything besides hitting the couch—may help keep blood sugar levels in check, according to research presented at the June 2011 annual meeting of the ADA.
Blood sugar spiker: Pasta dinners
Blood sugar tamer: High-fiber fare
“I take care of my diabetes because I value my life,” Nikki says. “I stay away from heavy carbs such as pasta and pizza, which can cause my blood glucose levels to rise, and instead eat foods that are high in fiber and nutrients and low in fat, refined carbs and sugar.” Habitually feasting on oatmeal, bran, beans, berries, nuts, greens, barley and other whole grains is a good strategy. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, people with type 2 diabetes who eat about 50 grams a day of fiber enjoy far better blood sugar control than folks who skimp on it.