Title

Personal Stories

Meet Diabetes Virtuoso Ginger Vieira

Type 1 maven Ginger Vieira is an author, podcaster, vlogger, and diabetes content specialist. Her vast experience covers social media marketing, branding, product development, clinical trial recruitment, and more. She has a gift for paring down complex subject matter into relatable mainstream terms.

Meet Diabetes Virtuoso Ginger Vieira

Nobel Peace Prize winner and author Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

In college, Vieira began powerlifting and teaching yoga. She became a competitive powerlifter, setting 14 records and deadlifting 300 pounds. Unfortunately, lifting triggered fibromyalgia (FM), forcing her to quit the sport and gradually rebuild her body’s tolerance for intense workouts. “I was was getting full body muscle spasms and joint pain, so I had to stop all intense exercising for a number of years.”

At the time, Vieira began studying exercise physiology, wishing someone, somewhere, would teach this to type 1’s. When she was powerlifting, Vieira said there was no support or education on managing her blood sugar during that type of intense exercise.

Voilà —Vieira’s Exercise with Type 1 Diabetes was born. She published her first book in her 20s and has written seven other diabetes-related books. Vieira shares her sage wisdom on subjects like diabetes burnout, anxiety, pregnancy and how to stop overeating with low blood sugars.

About Ginger Vieira

Vieira was a teenager at the time of her diagnosis and had no family history of T1D. “I diagnosed myself at a school health fair, and no one believed me for like a week until I started crying and saying I really don’t feel good.”

“My parents were good at letting me take the reins. There were no CGMs (continuous glucose monitors), so they couldn’t be helicopters. I was 13, and it could have gone either way.”

In the hospital, Vieira remembers feeling sorry for herself but then acknowledging classmates with issues like leukemia, hemophilia, and another whose mom had a brain tumor. “Everyone has challenges in life; type 1 was one of my challenges.”

In addition to T1D and FM, Vieira has celiac disease. “My multiple chronic illnesses all give me certain challenges, but I figure out how to live the biggest life I can live despite those challenges. Now I just enjoy exercising for how it feels and how it affects my health and mental health. I have no attachments; I’m consistent and enjoy the actual time I get to spend exercising.”

Vieira received her Bachelor of Science in professional writing and fell into diabetes and fitness as her first niche of expertise.

Vieira’s advice is to approach T1D like a daily science experiment. “Type 1 diabetes is really hard, but do your best and make little adjustments each day.” Today, Vieira lives in Vermont with her husband, Karl, and daughters, Lucy (age 9) and Violet (age 7).

Insulin Therapy of Choice

Vieira wears the Libre 3 Sensor and does multiple daily injections. “I’m on MDI, a pen; I use NovoLog, Lantus and the inhaled insulin, Afrezza. Inhaled insulin is out of your system pretty quickly; I can always add more Afrezza if I need to.”

In addition to the inhaled insulin for any rapid-acting insulin needs, Vieira still takes a bit of NovoLog daily, Metformin at night to battle the dawn phenomenon and a tiny amount of Ozempic. Metformin and the semaglutide Ozempic are typically used to treat type 2 diabetes (T2D) and are not currently approved by the FDA for T1D usage. However, it is sometimes prescribed off-label to certain individuals.

As a proponent for Ozempic, Viera believes the drug makes it easier to stay in target range. “It just calms down all the things that are working against you. It helps your body compensate for those other five hormones you don’t produce properly as a type 1, and it helps signal to your brain that you’re full; most type 1s have a constant appetite, and we never feel full when we’re eating. Ozempic also tells your liver to stop producing so much sugar, which contributes to hyperglycemia.”

Diabetes Nerd

The term ‘nerd’ may mean techie or egghead, but in Vieira’s case, it refers to an individual who studies a subject passionately. Vieira’s YouTube vlog, Diabetes Nerd: Diabetes Science Made for You, has over 144 videos on diabetes-related topics where she captures nuggets of wisdom from her 25 years of life experience with T1D.

Journalist, Author and Content Strategist

Vieira’s early career started as a blogger for Health Center, and then she became the editor of Diabetes Daily.

Today, Vieira works for a dozen different companies, doing various types of content marketing, creating social media content, and gathering participants for clinical study recruitment.

Her books Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes, Diabetes Burnout, Emotional Eating with Diabetes, When I Go Low (for kids), and Ain’t Gonna Hide My T1D! (for kids) can be found on Amazon. “All my books come out of not just my experience. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to other type 1s, but it starts with knowing this first hand.”

Vieira’s Exercise with Type 1 Diabetes explains how to examine all the variables and proactively determine what you can control to achieve the desired outcome. Vieira said, “It’s a honed-in version that explains in 100 pages the exact science for what you need for your everyday workout.”

Vieira went on to say how scared she was to pursue pregnancy, but after watching many women in the DOC (diabetes online community) blog about their experiences, she realized, “If they could do it, I could too. Pregnancy really is so challenging; it’s immense, that pressure to stay between 70-140 is like trying to manage a part-time job.”

T1D Anxiety and Burnout

As T1Ds have to micromanage dozens of components every day, all day, Vieira said, “The obsession over having to watch everything we eat, and the pressure to keep our blood sugars in this target range, or else you’re going to face the consequences, long term and short term. Going low, I mean, that’s an anxiety attack every day—just that fear of going low. How could it not result in anxiety? I think it isn’t talked about enough in the doctor’s appointments because the time is so rushed.”

With diabetes burnout, Vieira advises T1Ds to acknowledge it and give yourself permission to be burned out. “That doesn’t mean don’t take your insulin; it just means maybe this week and the next, I’m going to give myself permission to aim for a target range a little wider than usual. Remember to be more forgiving with yourself when things don’t go perfectly.”

TYPE 1 TEA with Sami Parker on Spotify

Vieira also discussed studies that show how women have a harder time with type 1 than men because the body’s hormones are constantly changing. “Then when you add birth control, it’s a huge variable.”

Vieira met T1D influencer Sami Parker and the two decided to start a podcast, Type 1 Tea. “We go into deep dive discussions on diabetes topics; our last one was on birth control and the impact on blood sugar.”

Our Relationship with Food

One of the most important variables that affect blood glucose levels is eating. After several years of struggling with food, Viera has come to a more peaceful relationship. “I really love trying to identify and help other people untwist that.”

“I’ve experimented with different approaches to nutrition and diet, and what I took away was that consistency matters, whole foods matter, vegetables matter, but depending on where you’re at in life— finding where I can be not so perfect, whether it’s chocolate or popcorn or homemade cookies or gluten-free Oreos.”

“I try to make really good choices for two-thirds or three-quarters of my meals, and then I save room to indulge a little. That, for me, prevents feelings of deprivation. I know from experience if I say no dessert, five days a week, all I’m going to be thinking about is dessert. It’s finding that middle ground that gives you peace where you can be reasonable and make good choices.”

For Vieira, intermittent fasting also helps. “I just find that I feel so much clearer headed, my energy is more stable, and I have less to juggle with my blood sugars because I’m not adding food to the mix.”

Advice for the Newly Diagnosed

“I would say take a deep breath and avoid all of the extremists’ approaches. You can do anything; you just have to bit by bit increase your knowledge about how insulin works in every part of life. And that comes through trial and error, taking good notes and making adjustments.”

Path to a Cure

“One thing I’m really excited about is a drug that Zucara Therapeutics is developing,” said Vieira. “The drug works by telling your liver to release stored sugar when your blood sugar drops. It protects you from low blood sugars for 12 hours, but they hope to have it evolve to where it lasts for seven days. It would be really awesome to have our body protect us from lows the way it’s supposed to.”

Vieira is also excited about stem cell therapies. “I think I won’t be taking insulin injections 20 to 30 years from now. It will be replaced with one of these stem-cell treatments, where you get an infusion or an implanted pouch of insulin-producing cells and that pouch is protecting those cells from your immune system.”

“They’ve figured out how to mass produce these insulin-producing cells so they can manufacture as many as they need, not relying on organ donors. That’s a huge step, one of the biggest things. Now, they have to figure out how best to protect those cells. And all these companies are trying slightly different ways; those clinical trials are happening right now.”

For more on Viera’s services, visit GingerVieira.com

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