The Fearless Diabetic Project
Editor’s Note: Matt Vande Vegte recently joined Beyond Type 1’s Global Ambassador Council.
My name is Matt, and my diagnosis story began just before Christmas in 2009. My introduction to diabetes education was given to me by an ER doctor who was in a rush and, unfortunately, misinformed. He briefly explained that I may have a rough road ahead of me with complications such as amputations, organ failure, and even death. He finished by letting me know that I would never be able to eat any kind of sugar again. My first thought was, “But my favorite peanut butter granola bars have added sugar… In fact, nearly everything has some sort of sugar.” The thought that I would never be able to eat some of my favorite foods again devastated me. Traveling the world, I was later introduced to a well-educated endocrinologist that assured me that I could not only live a normal and healthy life, but that as long as I took my insulin, I could have sugar too! Thank God because I don’t know how long I would have been able to keep that up. After a few rough patches, I started to figure this new lifestyle out a little bit better. I rejoined my collegiate rowing team. I started traveling again. I started to feel like me again.
The truth is, this disease can really tear you down if you let it, but we have the power and the ability to live a truly fearless life. Sure, we as diabetics have to do a bit more planning ahead with supplies, a little more math at meal times, and need a little extra luggage space for our “just in case” stash, but we can still have just as much fun as anyone else. Over the years, I made it a goal of mine to prove to the world (and to myself) that I would not be slowed down by diabetes. I have traveled to 33 countries since my diagnosis. I have skydived over the Great Barrier Reef in Australia (in a Superman costume), celebrated Christmas Eve in South Africa, cried tears of joy on New Year’s Eve under the northern lights in Iceland. But none of this would have been possible if I had allowed my diabetes to hold me back in fear. I’m not perfect now and I’m not saying that I’ve never had fearful moments. I’m definitely not saying that I had perfect control of my blood sugars while jumping across massive time zone differences. But I did have control over my mindset. What most people don’t realize about diabetes is the heavy mental toll that it can take. Anxiety is real. Depression is real. Living in fear is real. These are all things that I have experienced over the years and it took some real effort to cope with them. After much trial and error, and a lot of help from my loved ones, I was able to find strategies to overcome these mental blocks that messed up my mindset and I pushed myself closer and closer to that “fearless” mindset that I mentioned before.
In good company
Looking back at how far I had come, as well as all of the experience and knowledge I had gained over the years, my wife and I decided to create a company to give back to the diabetic community as a whole. Our goal is to teach the strategies, habits, and knowledge necessary to truly live fearlessly with this disease. We decided to call the company “FTF Warrior”. The first half is derived from our last name, Vande Vegte, which means “from the fight” in Dutch. The second half was a no brainer because we are all warriors. We fight this disease day and night with no breaks, no time-outs, and no substitutions. My passion to help diabetics, so while the company is called FTF Warrior, we dubbed the program “The Fearless Diabetic Project” because our goal is to help people with diabetes around the world fearlessly live their best lives. The incredible life transformations nearly bring me to tears knowing that these people have gained control over their lives and get to live the life that they thought they had lost when they were diagnosed with diabetes.
Understanding your diagnosis
Life doesn’t have to end with diabetes, and it starts by you choosing to do something about it. Choose to live life on your terms and refuse to let diabetes hold you back from doing what you love. Our mission statement: FTF Warrior is a health coaching company that is dedicated to improving the lives of diabetics through online fitness, nutrition, and mindset coaching. We empower diabetics to gain control and renewed purpose in their lives through lifestyle changes, education, accountability, and community. My wife and I are certified personal trainers and nutritionists, we both have auto-immune diseases (myself with T1D, and my wife with Crohn’s Disease), and our goal in life is to help others. If you are struggling right now, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I know this disease can be rough and I know that it can feel isolating. Join a community of people with diabetes who have similar struggles and goals as we all work together towards a healthier and happier life. We continue to propel ourselves further with knowledge gained. My wife is currently pursuing her master’s degree in occupational therapy and I am currently in the process of becoming a master fitness trainer to better understand nutrition and fitness and their correlation with diabetes management. We are all in this together, we are from the fight, and we are warriors! Keep up the fight. Don’t let diabetes force you into a life of fear and sadness. Diabetes does not have to define you, but you do have diabetes – how you react to that is completely up to you.
You can do this! Let me know if I can help.
Keep up the Fight,
Matt Vande Vegte, CPT
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” -Viktor Frankl
If you are interested in health coaching by FTF Warrior, or in joining a community of supportive people with diabetes from around the world in “The Fearless Diabetic Project,” feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or get more info here.