T1D Q&A with a Diabetes Coach

Q&A

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We continue our Q&A blog series with a conversation with Melissa Slemp, a diabetes coach. I recently connected with Melissa, and I just love her vast knowledge of diabetes and her positivity in the face of chronic illness. Not that she hasn’t had her share of challenges along the way. Here’s what she shared with me:

Q: So first tell me a bit about your diagnosis. How old were you when you were diagnosed, and how have you managed your diabetes over the years?

A: I was diagnosed at 14 years old, and I had the typical symptoms leading up to it. I was home with my older brother when I started to hyperventilate (knowing now I was in DKA). When my parents got home, I was rushed to the ER. It was the day before Easter in 1982, and I spent a week in the hospital practicing injections into an orange, just taking it all in.

Q: Your own diagnosis isn’t your only connection to diabetes, is it? 

A: No, and this is a great story… I met my husband, who was, at the time, working as an EMT and fireman. He came to my house in the middle of the night to rescue me from hypoglycemia. My husband at the time was so impressed that David (the EMT) also had type 1. We knew of no one else in town who could relate to what I managed day to day. Years later, after the divorce from my first husband, this connection with David came up when our paths crossed again—and led to our marriage. Crazy!

You literally married the man who saved your life. Not many people can say that!

Q: Having diabetes since you were 14 years old, have you faced any complications or hardships along the way?

A: I had very poor control in my earlier years. I was not well educated about diabetes or how important blood sugar balance really was to prevent complications. I went years without even testing my blood sugar. My family didn’t get it either, and they didn’t understand the disease, so I lacked support and education. 

So when when I was 10 years in, at the age of 25, I woke up seeing “floaters.” That’s a nice way to describe leaking blood vessels caused by poor blood sugar control. Diabetic retinopathy was the diagnosis, and I was told if I didn’t get it together…I could go blind. That warning, and my fear of high blood sugar, led me to very strict control. Well, probably too strict. 911 was called to my rescue too many times to count.

Q: I’m sure that whole experience taught you so much. What would you say diabetes has taught you over the last 40 years? 

A: After my health scare and many years of strict control, I had to find out what being in control of my blood sugar looked like without causing other stress in my life. I needed to learn to give myself grace and know that I am doing all I can do each day to care for my levels. And I also needed to remind myself that God is truly in control. Daily prayer and time in the Bible keeps me close to Him and His protection over my health.

Q: Your day job now is being a diabetes coach. How did that come about?

A: I studied finance in college and went on to a 9-5 office job, which was ok for 20+ years. But then it felt stale, and I knew that my passion for health and wellness was what I wanted to do. I first got certified as a personal trainer and ran some neighborhood bootcamps and trained a few people on the side. Exercise was a big part of managing my blood sugar, but I knew nutrition was important too, and I needed to learn more to not only better care for my diabetes but to health coach and help others as well. 

So I left my corporate job and went back to school. I studied Integrative nutrition at IIN and then furthered my studies on hormonal health which encompasses diabetes care. For 7 years now, I have been certified in personal training, nutrition, and hormonal health. I coach a holistic “whole body” approach for women living with diabetes.

Q: That sounds so helpful. But why does someone with diabetes need a coach? What are the benefits of having someone else’s help in trying to manage as best we can?

A: Most people with diabetes know what they need to do each day. But often the roadblock is creating a plan, following through, and building sustainable habits. As a health coach, I give my clients a framework while holding them accountable. Living and managing type 1 myself, I can provide them that extra support, understanding how tough this journey can be.

Q: You mentioned helping others make healthy and nutritional food choices. What kinds of suggestions do you find yourself making most often in this area?

A: Understanding carbohydrates and how to build a balanced plate is something that comes up a lot. To combine complex carbohydrate with fiber, along with protein and healthy fat is the way to go. I initially learned this very important rule when I was pregnant with my daughter Sarah, 27 years ago. It’s a method I continue to use whenever I prepare meals and snacks. It’s really the best way for everyone to eat, diabetes or not.

Q: Outside of nutrition, you also coach people in regular exercise. How have you seen that as a benefit to managing diabetes?

A: Exercise is a game changer for managing diabetes. As we age, women need to have a plan because, blood sugar, hormones, energy, bone density, and overall health are all positively impacted by exercise. Exercise also increases insulin sensitivity, gives us more energy, improves our mood, and even affects our mindset. It can really make a huge difference.

Q: What have you found most rewarding in your coaching work? 

A: To see and be a part of my client’s transformation. When women can accept their diagnosis and believe they have all they need with God’s love and direction to thrive with diabetes—it’s just so rewarding to be a part of that!

Q: How has your faith had an impact on your diabetes management, or in your role as a coach to other women? 

A: Like I shared with my own struggles and fear of going to high and suffering more health complications, I had to give this worry to God. I know He equips me with the tools to take care of myself and to live my best life.

Q: Do you have a specific verse you cling to when you face hard days, or a certain bible story that inspires you? 

A: There are so many verses that speak to me every day when I’m in the bible. I try to begin my day with gratitude first, then asking God to show me how I will work His will and His purpose into my day. My favorite verse, and one I also post on my website to inspire visitors, is:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” 

Philippians 4:6

Yes – I love that verse, too. And also the one that follows it: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The peace of God. How we so desperately need that!

Q: To wrap up here, if you could say one thing to women with diabetes that would encourage them today, what would you say? 

A: You can do this! No struggle can paralyze you or stop you from reaching your goals. Lean on a community, whether it’s others living with diabetes or friends. And lean on God to share where you are and what you need. To love and appreciate all that you do for yourself each day.  Celebrate each win, small or big, and see your strength and God’s protection in all things.


Melissa Slemp

Melissa is a wife and mom and has been living with type 1 diabetes for 40+ years. She is a certified health coach and personal trainer, and owner of Abundant Health with Melissa, helping busy women overcome obstacles and emotions managing diabetes. She has navigated menopause, an empty nest, life’s curve balls, and run two thriving businesses, all while reaching her own health goals.

If you would like to connect with Melissa, you can visit her website at abundanthealthwithmelissa.com.


OTHER Q&A BLOG POSTS

Q&A: Managing Multiple Chronic Illnesses

Q&A: A Wife’s Perspective on Diabetes

Diabetes Q&A with a School Nurse

Q&A About Diabetes Preparedness

 

 

 

 

Kaycee - Devotions on Diabetes

HEY - I'M KAYCEE!

Welcome to my Devotions on Diabetes website! Thanks for stopping by. I've lived with diabetes for 30+ years. And I'm here to provide you with a heaping helping of encouragement while you deal with diabetes and navigate this chronic illness with God by your side.

There are lots of goodies here: devotions, diabetic friendly recipes, Bible reading plans, and more. So grab your favorite (sugar-free) beverage and enjoy your stay.

 

 

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Devotions on Diabetes: A 30-Day Journey to Anchor Your Soul by Kaycee Parker

 

 

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