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Connecting & Coaching with Miriam

From the “leafy suburbs of North London,” Miriam Santori is currently studying naturopathic health coaching, “returning to education after many years!” as she shares with excitement. “I will be qualifying this year and building an online hub, specialising in support for people with diabetes and hopefully help provide a better, less complicated journey with the condition.”

Miriam was diagnosed at the age of 15, and now with her ideas, her motivation behind her eagerness to study, she shares that she is in a great place with her diabetes. Miriam also opens up that “it hasn’t always been the case.” She hosts a passion for fitness. This includes investing in a peloton at the first covid lockdown, and now cycling 10 miles most days. It doesn’t end there… Miriam hikes, loves the outdoors and to travel (a deep love for the Thai islands where she spent a whole month) and has been into horse riding from a young age. In this DiAview with Miriam Santori, we get an ongoing journey of self-discovery, with diabetes rooted at the centre of it, but blossoming like a flower which expands a positive energy and infectious love for life itself.

In your eyes, what is a diabetes health coach and how do you feel about the importance of holistic approaches to diabetes education?

Miriam: "Ok so firstly, a 'Health Coach' to me is an individual that; educates, empowers, promotes accountability and offers positive support to achieve optimal health and wellness. Rather than a nutritionist focusing solely on nutrition or a personal trainer engaged directly for fitness, a health coach has a broader reach to help with all aspects of wellbeing.

So, to me, a diabetes health coach is someone that can offer all of those support aspects with the ultimate goal being, to feel better about your diabetes. I’m a big believer in personalised treatment plans and so that can look very differently to each person. Perhaps better blood sugar control would be the goal or feeling better about life with diabetes - even having someone there to check in with - so that you put what you already know into practise.

My plan as a diabetes health coach is to fill in the gaps, outside of the doctor’s office. Our endocrinology teams are excellent to check in with every 3-6 months, do our blood work and make sure there are no real issues. But the problem here is that diabetes is so much more; it’s a full-time job and there needs to be better, readily available support available.

As someone studying at a naturopathic college, I have had my eyes opened to the importance of holistic education. The more we can naturally assist & support our bodies the better, diabetic or not. There are some really excellent ways to increase insulin sensitivity and boost metabolism without medication, that are game changers when it comes to diabetes control. However, it’s really important that we understand that Type 1 diabetes does not have a cure, insulin is essential. The holistic approach is a tool we can use to support Type 1.

Type 2 is a slightly different story, in cases Type 2 can be reversed with diet & exercise which can result in less requirement for medication, which is a separate goal."

What motivated you to start connecting with others sharing T1D in common?

"I had the rare and privileged opportunity to start a brand new career at the beginning of 2022. I chose to exit a corporate job and it allowed me to take some deep-rooted time to really think what I want to do with the next chapter of my life.

I hadn’t ever had that opportunity before and although I hadn’t discovered health coaching as yet, the main trend that kept coming back into my mind was finding a way to help others with Type 1 Diabetes.

I had a bad start to my diabetes journey where I was misdiagnosed leading to a critical hospital admission. Being only 15 years old, it was a really tough time to be different so I tried to hide my condition to fit in ultimately resenting it.

I then had some difficulties through the covid lockdown years. My NHS team weren’t as available, my appointments were continuously cancelled and my life routine was thrown completely upside down which in turn meant my blood sugars really suffered.

I felt quite alone and although I have always used the diabetes forums as a reference, I desperately needed something more. I eventually paid privately to see a team at the London Medical Centre which was the best decision I could have made. But I know, had there been a diabetes coach available, I would have chosen that and probably much earlier down the line based on the price point alone. I think of myself in that moment and I use that as my motivation and inspiration."

The majority of people living with type 1 diabetes have not spoken to a psychologist before. Why do you feel this is the case and on a personal side, what has been your experiences in this?

"I’m quite surprised and shocked that most diabetics haven’t spoken to a psychologist. When I was diagnosed, a counsellor was part of the main endocrinologist team at my local hospital clinic. I had a course of 6+ sessions and although I wasn’t in the best mindset to actively work on myself, it definitely helped. I’ve since dipped in and out of therapy throughout my adult life and it was instrumental for my acceptance of living with a chronic condition. A lot more needs to be done throughout the NHS to make sure that diabetics are getting better mental & emotional support. By taking that heavy mental load off, you feel better about yourself and naturally you want to do better.

Mental wellness affects how we handle stress, relate to others, make healthy choices & stabilise our mood just to name a few. I would consider it to be foundational pillar that’s crucial for overall well-being, if we aren’t addressing how we feel about something then we aren’t getting to the root. Through my experiences, once I began to connect with my emotions and feelings surrounding diabetes, that was the beginning of my upwards path where I really started to look after myself."

Continuing from that... how do you feel psychological support could be better implemented into diabetes health care?

"In an ideal world, counsellors should be reintroduced as part of diabetes clinics and available to all patients. Whether it’s online or in person, this support is an essential part of diabetes care especially in young people and at diagnosis. However, the reality is that the funding isn’t being allocated to allow this and so we need to facilitate another way of integrating this support into our community."

What does “peer support” mean to you? Have you experienced it to your benefit with diabetes management? Is it only available online or are you seeing / would you like to see, more opportunities to connect with others in person?

"Social media and forums have always been a great place for entry level peer to peer support and I’m sure they will continue to be, but we need more…

Peer support is an invaluable resource and actually something I was discussing with my consultant last month. He is incredible progressive when it comes to diabetes health and always recommending blogs and websites that are exactly that, peer to peer support. His viewpoint of it is that doctors can give us the theoretical information, almost a single sided view. Us as diabetics then go and put that into practise, sharing with others our view, experiences and modifications. That’s peer support.

There’s definitely a huge type 1 diabetic community online and I’ve seen how supportive we can be of each other; the truth is only another person with diabetes will truly know how hard our condition can be on us and that pain and emotion ties a bond. I would certainly love to see more in person events and opportunities, I think we have all had that moment where you see another wearing a CGM on the beach or in a yoga class even out in the park and immediately you are connected! That’s powerful, the more we have of that - the better!"

Personally, what is the achievement in your diabetes life that you feel most proud about?

"My biggest diabetes achievement has to be turning my perspective around. I could talk about my little wins like managing long & strenuous hikes... but what I’m honestly most proud of is coming from a place in my early 20s of absolute hatred and indifference for my diabetes, not taking my fast-acting insulin, DKA every 9 months, HBA1C of 100+, mentally checked out, to where I am now. Accountable, connected with my body and proud of my HBA1c of 47!"

What would be your key message to others living with type 1 diabetes?

My message to others living with T1D is, never give up.

We all have bad days, weeks …even months. I have times where I’m yoyo-ing between 3.5 and 15 mmol/L or I’m running high and I don’t know why. What matters is that you do something about it, first take a breath and a step back. Stop reacting and go back to basics.

Be mindful with your food choices, incorporate exercise and activity in your day & treat your hypos correctly.

Unfortunately, we are living with a condition that needs attention most of the time however what’s important is that you control your diabetes, don’t let your diabetes control you.”

Diaview’s are interviews sharing personal experiences and holistic projects connected to type 1 diabetes. Content may be associated to an individual’s opinion or response to their personalised diabetes care; for any medical decisions, always feel welcome to ask questions but please consult your healthcare team for clarification or final decisions you may look to make regarding your personal management.

Diaview shared January 2023.



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