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.
Accu-Chek: As an actor, your routine has to be fairly unpredictable. How do you manage that?
Austin: 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."
Accu-Chek: How does your management change when you're traveling?
Austin: 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.
Accu-Chek: So the real challenge is time zones?
Austin: 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.
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.
Accu-Chek: Any tips for heading off potential issues?
Austin: 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.