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Este Haim, bassist and vocalist of the indie pop band Haim, discusses living with type 1 diabetes. She talks about how she was first diagnosed, living with diabetes in college and touring with her sisters.
At what age were you first diagnosed?
I was diagnosed when I was 14. It’s actually kind of a crazy story how I was diagnosed.
How did you discover you were diabetic?
I was in Israel on vacation with my family and I had lost a lot weight. It didn’t really hit me that I was skinny as I was. I was getting really thirsty all the time but I assumed I was thirsty because it was so hot in Israel. Also I was waking up 3 times a night to go pee and my eyes started getting super blurry. I had to use my grandma’s magnifying glass to read things. For some reason it didn’t really hit me that something was wrong.
My mom took me to the doctor when we came back from Israel. The doctor told me that I probably had a parasite so they did some blood test to check. My first day of high school was the next day and in biology class we randomly started talking about diabetes and the warning signs: frequent urination, rapid weight loss, blurred vision. I sat there and said ‘holy sh*t I’m diabetic.’ I turned to my neighbor who I never met before and said ‘I think I’m diabetic.’ I got up out of my chair and ran outside to call my mom. She tried to calm me down and get me to go back to class.
Two hours later my parents picked me up from school and got my blood results back. My blood sugar was around 850, which meant I was two days away from having to be in the hospital. I went to the doctor and they set me up with syringes. That night I was on insulin shots. I was relieved to know what was wrong with me. I was happy to get a good night’s sleep. That’s the crazy story of how I found out I was diabetic.
How was it controlling your diabetes while attending UCLA?
It was pretty difficult. All my friends that are diabetic that went to universities say it is there biggest hassle. It comes down to the fact that college is so stressful and my problem was that I ate my feelings. There wasn’t a lot of diabetic friendly food available to me while I was there. I ended up gaining a lot of weight and that made me sad, which made me eat more. I was eating things that weren’t good for me.
It was difficult for me to maintain my blood sugar and find time to exercise. I was taking so many units. What helped was not living on campus and commuting everyday. When I moved back home my last year at UCLA I was able to cook my own meals and I had the support of my parents making me getting up early before school so I could exercise.
I don’t know if I could ever go back to school and do it again. It was really hard for me. My a1c was really bad while I was there. It took me a while to get back on the bandwagon. It took me leaving university to realize I had to take more accountability for my health. So when I left UCLA I became vegan and stopped eating super starchy, carby foods. I try to do pop physique two to three times a week and when I’m not doing that I try to walk after meals. I know there are people that had there stuff together in college but I was not one of them. I was going to school, working and trying to make things happen for the band. It proved to be a little trying for me.
How is it touring and maintaining your diabetes?
Touring is easy for me. There is always a place that has a salad or something I can eat. There is always a subway. My blood sugar has become something I’m obsessed with now because my a1c was super high when I was in college. The only thing that becomes trying is keeping my insulin cold on tour. When we are driving we’ll have a cooler. Everything else is pretty easy. My sisters are all really supportive of me. I call them my diabetes Nazis. They are always on me about it because they care. When we play a show they always make sure there is some diabetic food. I have hummus and carrots and veggies that are easy for me to snack on and are also good for me.
Did you always know you wanted to perform?
Yeah I knew I always wanted to do something that required me entertaining people. I think for a long time I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live. That was my dream. I wanted to be Gilda Radner. I would watch reruns with my parents and I just wanted to be her. But then once I hit high school and got a little older my love of music took over. I started writing songs with my sisters. It took us a while because we were all doing different things. I was in college, Danielle was touring with Julian Casablancas and Alana was still in high school. We always knew we wanted to perform. Now I just want to play on SNL.
What’s next for you?
We are finishing a record right now and then we leave for tour in Europe. After that we’ll come back to do the Governor’s Ball and Bonaroo. I’m really excited. I really just want to play. I feel most comfortable when I’m onstage.
I’m a huge supporter of veganism because it’s what has worked for me. When I became vegan my a1c was 9.2 and now it’s down to 7.3. It’s really helped me. I try to eat all my meals before 6. I want to wake up in the morning and eat a big breakfast and semi-big lunch. I lost 40 pounds because of it. I just feel better. Eating good healthy food is a part of the big puzzle and walking after you eat too. Taking a stroll for like 20 minutes really helps.
Just trying to stay positive and happy works as well. I know it sounds cheesy but when you really concentrate on having a positive outlook on things I found it was easier for me to maintain my diabetes and not get down on myself.
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