We sat down with Innermost Insider Milly Williams, who gave us the lowdown on all things resilience. Her journey to making peace with her Type 1 diabetes, what keeps her feeling strong and resilient, and her tips on how you can feel the same.
Hey Milly! Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello! My name is Milly Williams, I’m a 22-year-old female from Greater Manchester. I love going to the gym and feel happiest when I’m in the sun surrounded by plants and eating fruit. I’ve always been passionate about science, in particular physiology and biology. I played for Lancashire girls cricket club during my teenage years and completed sports therapy courses alongside my A-levels in college. I then went on to do biology at bachelor’s degree level. During my final year, I was diagnosed with type one diabetes. I have since started an Instagram account documenting my life as a type one diabetic, whilst completing a sport and exercise physiology masters focusing on exercising and nutrition within type one diabetes.
Your Instagram @diabeteswithmilly, passionately talks about the reality of living with Type 1 Diabetes. However, before we dive into your experience, what are some other things you are really passionate about?
I’m actually really passionate about de-stigmatising being open and honest about physical and mental health. I focus on engaging in conversations with those around me and online about how they are really feeling, and how important it is to learn and connect with their own body, whilst empowering those around us to learn and connect with their own. The female reproductive system is something I try to raise awareness about, as it can affect a woman’s motivation, wellness, happiness, and is a constant cycle that needs recognition! A recent and progressive passion of mine is becoming sustainable and vegetarian. I try not to consume plastic products, using recycled mugs and bottles and wearing recycled material clothing. I have also just converted from cows’ milk to soya milk, I’m just finding it super hard to not eat chicken and fish haha! But I’m not trying to rush the process, I’m loving every minute of it. I just love researching what foods are making my body happy and healthy, even if it isn’t necessarily healthy foods, it can be making my soul happy. I guess I’m just searching for my own true happiness, living alongside earth instead of ruining it in my path, but also enjoying my time here and taking it all in.
Can you give us an overview of your journey with Type 1 Diabetes so far? How were you diagnosed, and how have things changed since then?
I have been diagnosed now for 1 year and 8 months. Whilst I was staying in my university accommodation in Yorkshire, I started to feel ill, and I’d miss university one or two days a week. I can’t really explain how I felt, but I definitely didn’t think I had diabetes; I diagnosed myself with all other sorts such as kidney failure, anxiety. My heart beat faster, even when I was lying down in bed. I couldn’t focus when I looked out of my bedroom window. Then it came to winter, and I moved back home with family for Christmas. Straight away my mum noticed I was drinking more water and going to the toilet more. She remembers me saying all the time “I love the water at home it tastes so good”. It started to keep me up all night going to the toilet, and id only be awake in the daytime from 12pm-7pm. The biggest pointer to something being wrong though was my weight loss. I was eating 3,000 calories but lost 2 pounds per day! Honestly, I ordered waffles and milkshakes and so many calorific foods because I dropped below 7 stone (from being 9 1/2 stone), and I ended up drinking around 6/7 litres of water a day. I'd down a bottle of water and still have a dry mouth. So, I booked myself an ECG and some blood tests with my doctors. The ECG came back fine, and the blood tests results shown that I was in Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).
I remember life to be so strict once I was diagnosed. Wake up at 8, eat at 8:30 (but only specific foods with specific macronutrients), eat at 12, then at 5, and nothing else after 5 o’clock. I was so hungry in the afternoon because I had to restrict my meals so much with no snacks. I became obsessed with checking my glucose levels, with over 150 scans per day. People don’t realise how much diabetes affects your life, even I didn’t. Every walk to the shop, ever shower, every night-time stressed me out and led me into panic and half an hour preparation. Since then, though, I’ve become more confident and comfortable with my diabetes. I’ve re-introduced all the foods I loved, I now go to the gym without fear and have climbed mountains. There are things I thought I’d never do again, that I have done, like go in a hot tub or sunbathe all day. Life is not the same but it’s as close to my old life as I can get, and I feel like the old Milly is back and I have full freedom and choice to make my own decisions for myself.
Our theme this month is resilience. Resilience is always a very personal journey, so what does resilience mean for you, in your own life?
To me, resilience means to constantly search for better. It’s so important to be content with present life, but it’s always good to want to improve certain aspects of life, and never settle. It’s not about how fast you can recover, and it’s silly to think that it’s a smooth road to your goals. I think resilience is more about the constant improvement over time, being happy with who you are and what you want, and growing, blossoming, learning. Resilience means standing by your own side and holding your own hand, being your own best friend and looking after the most important person in your life, you!
What advice do you have for someone struggling with resilience? What (or who!) has helped you in the past?
It’s very cliché, but my mum has been the best help with resilience. She’s been through a lot, especially in the past 4 years. She’s now a single mum providing for her four children, and I just love to rave about her. I’ve developed my confidence, my problem solving, and my self-care and self-love all through watching her blossom into the person she is today. If she is strong and persistent, it makes me strong and persistent. And I hope if I’m strong, it makes her feel strong too.
What are 3 things you wish people understood better about Type 1 diabetes?
- I wish people understood the pressure that type one diabetics have to act like we're not diabetic. There’s no real safety net for us when it comes to feeling ill after a low or high blood sugar episode. It feels like a non-self-inflicted hangover, one we haven’t caused and would do anything to get rid of, but yet some days we have to drag ourselves out of bed to carry on the day and perform well in school or at work. Some diabetics feel uncomfortable to inject insulin in public, despite the fact that everyone around them is allowed to give themselves insulin (naturally), there’s a stigma around diabetes and it can be really uncomfortable at times when all were trying to do is stay alive.
- There is a large genetic component to the onset of type one diabetes. Generally, type one is hereditary, however there is a large chance that a virus mutated my genes and caused my body to attack my own pancreas (because there is no one in my whole family that has type one diabetes). There is no diet or lifestyle influence on the diagnosis of type one diabetes, and no reversal effects of changing your diet or lifestyle. Once we are diagnosed, there is no cure! We have this for our lifetime.
- Type one diabetes isn’t the grim reaper. Some diabetics can live their whole life to their own expectations, with no complications. It’s important to know the consequences and risks of uncontrolled blood sugars, but at the same time it’s important to not let the hours of preparation and planning slow you down too much in life. We are different to non-diabetics yes but were also so similar. You manage your blood sugars automatically; we just have to do it manually. We’re trying so hard, and it really does impact our mental health more than our physical health. So, if you ever bump into someone with type one, keep this in mind!
This Summer, you conducted a study into how protein is beneficial for managing blood sugars. Can you share your findings with us?
Of course! So, my study involved 9 type one diabetics with a three-day intervention. The first day consisted of a sedentary day (no exercise), the second some physical activity of their choice (exercising day) and then a final day of whether they felt like exercising or not! It was an observational study, and I analysed food logs, glucose logs and sleep/physical activity logs. I found that the higher intensity exercise completed in the day, the more frequent nocturnal hypoglycaemia (night-time lows) occurred, and the less time spent asleep compared to the sedentary days. As I didn’t set protein goals for the participants, I did not find that protein affected glycaemic levels, however the research I conducted into this found many other studies showing protein to reduce hypoglycaemia risk. If I was to give any advice using my own personal experience and this research combined, I’d say to prevent having low blood sugar during exercise or during the night (if you normally experience this or are worried it’s going to happen) add some protein into your meal/snack! Protein has protective effects on hypoglycaemia for 150 minutes, and even up to 5 hours after eating, and a big bonus is that it helps repair and grow our muscles, ready for the next time we want to exercise.
What Innermost product(s) have you been loving recently?
I’m currently using The Fit Protein. It's suitable for vegetarians and has natural ingredients such as coconut minerals, magnesium, rhodiola root and pink Himalayan sea salt. It’s perfect for me and my type one diabetes because for every 4 scoops, it has 29 grams of protein, but only 4.5 grams of carbohydrates. I shake it up with my unsweetened soya milk for a low carb boost of protein, meaning I don’t have to inject insulin for it and its safe with my blood sugars. I also add The Power Booster into this shake, to add some pure creatine monohydrate, as my workouts focus on strength and power!
Milly, it’s been a pleasure chatting to you! Our final question is ... What’s your innermost desire that you’re hoping comes true this year?
My innermost desire is to continue growing as I have been in 2022. I love the journey I’m on so far, and I’m learning so much about myself that I have never known. I would love to work with more health brands and companies to raise awareness to type one diabetes. I’d love to be involved in research into type one diabetes and publish scientific articles with others who are on the same journey as me. there may not be a cure to type one diabetes, but more knowledge makes it even easier to live with the condition, and I’d just like to make life as fun and happy as possible for those with type one. Whilst also loving the planet I’m on and treating it with my upmost respect and gratitude <3.