Jet lag. Lows. Time zones. How Austin reduces travel anxiety.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 8, and now a busy actor in L.A. (appearing most recently in episodes of Lucifer and Scorpion), Austin has learned a few tricks for managing his blood sugar while traveling to film locations or just heading away for the weekend. Here's what he had to say.
As an actor, your routine has to be fairly unpredictable. How do you manage that?
I've been using an insulin pump since the late '90s, and I have a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). But then I test my blood sugar throughout the day to make sure it's all calibrated. On set, I'd check about 7 or 8 times a day. I just try to keep things as close to normal as they can be. Even with the pump, I try to eat well. When I was diagnosed, my dad actually owned a candy store. That's when I learned, "everything in moderation."
How does your management change when you're traveling?
It depends on how long I'll be away. If it's just a weekend in a different time zone, I won't change the clock on my pump. If it's for longer, though, I need to adjust the time and watch out for jet lag.
So the real challenge is time zones?
Any time I fly, it's hard to predict the effect on my blood sugar. Airline food or airport snacks can make it go up. But if I just eat energy bars or something from home, I may not eat enough and I can go low. Then I've got to get through the airport, carry my bags and get where I'm going, so it's not a good time to be low.
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Here's an example—I don't normally run, but I was recently inspired to run my first half-marathon at Disney in Orlando. People say you should train at the race time, but it started really early—and 5:30 a.m. in Florida is 2:30 in L.A. I knew that wasn't going to happen, so I just made sure I got as much rest as I could before the race instead of trying to adjust to east coast time.
The other issue is the insomnia that comes with jet lag. I have a lower overnight basal rate set on my pump, and I know that if I stay up too long, I'm going to get hungry. Eating at 3 a.m. definitely affects my control. I once had to film in India, and I spent 24 hours getting there. That takes a lot of planning.
I carry a bag with protein bars, nut bars, fruit bars for fast-acting carbs—probably 15 kinds of bars for every mood I could be in or any diabetes need. I also try to fly in the morning, so I can have breakfast at home. Then I eat when I arrive. If I'm hungry when it's late, I'll have strawberry milk or something that gives me carbs with some protein. Ever since I was a kid, I've liked an excuse to drink strawberry milk. It's medical.