Kyle is a firefighter. He’s also a person living with type 1 diabetes. Just a few years ago, that combination was unthinkable. And yet, Kyle (and other first responders like him) continues to prove that diabetes can be simplified into just another one of life’s barriers that can be overcome.
Kyle lives the life he wants to live, diabetes included. And he’s on a mission to show others that they can do the same. On Instagram, you’ll find Kyle under the @the_t1d_firefighter moniker, which makes perfect sense: Kyle shows off his tips, tricks, and wisdom of fighting all of everyone else’s real-life fires, while discreetly fighting his own in the form of diabetes.
And he proves just how exquisitely it can be done.
Why Can’t We Aim to Be Normal?
Like most of us, Kyle received the quick and dirty at diagnosis: you can absolutely still eat whatever you want and you should definitely be eating your carbs to make sure you’ve got all the proper fuel you’ll need so that you don’t go low.
But it didn’t take long for Kyle to recognize some things quite simply did not work well with his body, including carbs. He decided to punt his doctor’s advice and, instead, do his own research.
Kyle went out on his own and started digging deep into type 1 diabetes Facebook groups, learning as much as he possibly could from others who had gone before him. He quickly saw a trend: these people were finding answers to their problems from each other; people with type 1 diabetes were sharing lifehacks with each other in real-time. As a result, they had a much better grasp on their diabetes.
Kyle wanted in.
After doing all sorts of deep-dives into the diabetes online community and watching blood sugar fluctuations happen around the clock with the help of a CGM, Kyle realized there was an entire community of people with diabetes based around a low carb lifestyle. And that at the helm was Dr. Richard Bernstein.
Kyle adopted a low carb lifestyle very soon thereafter. Immediately, he saw the positive results. He went from a 7.4% A1C to a 4.8% in a matter of weeks, with no severe lows involved. But it wasn’t just his A1C. His blood sugars on a daily basis were nondiabetic; he was sleeping better and feeling better.
What he couldn’t understand, though, was why no one in the medical community bothered to tell him about this lifestyle; why it took a stranger’s comment on a Facebook post to clue him into this monumental discovery.
This kickstarted Kyle’s own attempt at helping to educate others. He saw the void: people with diabetes being told a safe and “good” blood sugar range is actually quite high, and possibly detrimental. Rather than shoot for a typical diabetes range, why can’t we aim for normal?
“I’ve been a sub-5.0% A1C for over 3 years now. And that’s not because I have these crazy lows or bottom out constantly. In fact, I’m constantly in-range; I have normal people’s blood sugars.
“In the beginning, I didn’t think I was up for the job. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever have normal blood sugars, much less be able to fight fires for a living. But once I found the low carb community, my entire life changed. For the best. Our doctors, even our families, think we have to shoot for these higher numbers just so we don’t bottom out. But we don’t; we can shoot for normal. Even diabetics deserve normal, non-diabetic blood sugars.”
The Secret to Achieving Normalcy
It all comes down to education. Education for ourselves, and for others.
“Everyone advocates for a cure, for lower insulin prices. We certainly need that advocacy. But what about advocacy amongst ourselves, to be better equipped with common knowledge we all need to be better able to take care of ourselves every single day? We need to advocate for more common knowledge about this stuff.”
Which is exactly what Kyle does through his Instagram. There, he posts his personal daily data: blood sugars, food intake, and insulin doses. If you take a look at the data he presents, you’ll find a profile that looks very unlike someone with diabetes. His blood sugars are consistently in-range, meaning very few highs or lows. Kyle rarely goes above 150 mg/dL and his latest average blood sugar was 94 mg/dL.
He also is quick to tell you how he’s able to get numbers like that: living a low carb lifestyle.
Once Kyle found Dr. Bernstein early on in his diagnosis, he did everything he could to locate and dig into the low carb community.
“It’s relearning a lot of things that most people with diabetes have been told; we have to be open to wanting to learn, to doing the learning for ourselves rather than relying on suggestions from our 6-month checkup.
“We’re taking someone else’s word for how we should best live life with diabetes and not looking at the truer, bigger picture. Instead, let’s go back to class, let’s go back to learning to figure out what is actually going on inside our own bodies.”
As always, the main goal is normal, non-diabetic blood sugars. Kyle is absolutely adamant that we, as people with diabetes, not only can achieve normal, non-diabetic blood sugars but that that should be our end-goal. It can be done, Kyle suggests, through constant education and advocation.
“I just have to keep putting the data out; the more data I put out, the more people will realize how much low carb actually works. Again, it all comes down to education and advocation.”
It’s not just the diabetes community Kyle hopes to reach. He also takes every in-person chance he gets to educate his fellow first responders about all the nuances in diabetes care.
“Just the other night, we went to take care of a woman who had passed out. The immediate reaction of my EMT was to disconnect her insulin pump. I asked him why he did that; he said he didn’t want her to go any lower.
“But then I countered and asked, well what are you going to do with someone on MDI? I explained to him, I educated him on the insulin process; that particularly for someone on a pump you could place them in further danger by disconnecting. There’s so much we’ve got to keep educating not just the first responder community, but the medical community as a whole.
“We are the ones living it; we are the experts. Let’s use our knowledge for good.”
The Pursuit of Positive
In everything, Kyle always finds the positive. Diabetes is no different. He considers life-changing, for the better.
“I can’t tell you how much diabetes changed me from a health aspect. I have gotten healthier since being diagnosed with diabetes. Before, I was eating all of the carbs; I was on a very bad path.
“But diabetes changed that. It forced me to exercise, it forced me to look at my eating habits, it forced me to become the healthiest version of myself. It made me reevaluate my entire purpose: how could I be responsible for saving someone else’s life when I couldn’t save my own?”
Kyle is quick to note that while he’s found the exact nutrition, medication, and fitness cocktail that works for him, it may not work for all. Ultimately, he wants everyone to find what works for them—through self-education—so that they can live their own best lives with diabetes.
“We can always make some type of positive change in our lives, there is always room to grow. We just have to get ourselves into that positive mindset. When we do we might even surprise ourselves as to what we can do.”