How Being Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes Improved My Entire Life!

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

If you’re reading this story in the hope of seeing drastic before and after photos, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed (unless of course I could wear my body inside-out, in which case the transformation would be pretty damn impressive!), but rather my story is about completely changing my life in every single aspect to become the healthiest and happiest version of myself.

Here we go…

I better start by introducing myself. My name is Drew Harrisburg, and I’m 28 years young. I’m from the beautiful Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. Ever since I was a young kid I’ve been intrigued with the human body, as well as had a keen interest in science and nutrition. My love for all of those topics is what sent me on the path to becoming a qualified health professional. By the age of 22, I had earned my title as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, and I was on my way to opening my own private practice.

I’ve always been a very active and sporty guy, but that didn’t mean I was holistically healthy. I used to exercise for mostly aesthetic purposes. Put simply—I wanted to look like the guys on the cover of the fitness magazines. I used to eat a diet fairly high in refined carbohydrates with most of them coming from packets of gluten-containing grains. I was a ‘glutaminated’ from inside-out (yes, I made up that word). I thought I was doing everything right because I was following the conventional wisdom of healthy eating guided by the old food pyramid.

When I was 23 years old I started noticing some pretty serious changes happening. Over the space of about 6 months I lost 13 kgs (29 lbs). I withered away from an athletic and muscular 82 kg (181 lbs) physique into a 68 kg (150 lbs) stringy ectomorph. To say I was constantly tired would be a vast understatement – I was absolutely exhausted! I often fell asleep whilst driving my car. I remember one time having to pull over and sleep on the side of the road despite being only 10 minutes away from my house. I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open no matter how hard I slapped myself, pinched myself, or yelled at myself. I even fell asleep in a job interview face-to-face with the head of the company, despite sticking a pen into my thigh under the table.


My strength was deteriorating in the gym. My muscle mass was melting away. I was hungry, thirsty, and frequently waking up in the night to urinate multiple times and drink from the tap. In hindsight, the signs and symptoms were very apparent, but when diabetes isn’t on your radar it’s impossible to know. I knew something was wrong, so I asked my parents (who are both doctors) to send me for a blood test. My results came back indicating that my Hba1c was very slightly elevated, but my auto-immune antibodies were through the roof! I was told there was a chance I’d develop type 1 diabetes at some stage in the future. The doctor at the medical centre pulled out a blood glucose monitor to teach me how to operate the device. The plan was to take it home and test my levels regularly to monitor tends and patterns in case I were to develop diabetes one day. As she took my very first reading the number on the device popped up as 16 mmol/L (over 3x the normal range) We thought it was a mistake and re-tested. It wasn’t.

The day I was diagnosed with diabetes was without a doubt the most difficult day of my life. I fought back tears in front of my parents as they sobbed for what felt like an eternity, just so I could show them that I was brave and that everything would be ok. The first time I really understood the meaning of the phrase “the world caved in” was when I saw it with my own two eyes. For a brief moment I honestly thought that life was over. I thought it would never be the same. It even felt a bit like a death sentence. It was a dark period of time around my diagnosis—but it didn’t last long. After the grieving process wore off and I came out of the post-diagnosis depression, I truly turned my life around. I even wrote a letter to my diabetes, as if it were a person, to help me voice my feelings. I strongly encourage anyone with a chronic condition to do the same. It’s a very freeing exercise. You can read my letter here.

I immediately began looking for solutions. Thankfully, after doing some Google searching (I think I typed into Google: ‘the best health website in the world’), I came across Mark’s Daily Apple. I read success story after success story until there were none left. I started reading all of Mark’s articles and found myself deep down a rabbit hole of life-changing information. When I finally resurfaced, I was a paleo bunny from head to toe.

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 8.47.50 amDiabetes was my wake up call to not only rethink how I was eating and moving, but it very quickly let me know that I was far from invincible. It allowed me to take a look at the bigger picture. I became aware that I had been overlooking many of the other aspects of life that contribute towards being healthy and happy.

I remember making a decision one day that I would become an expert in managing my disease and that I would cement myself as a world leader in diabetes. So, the journey began. I went back to university and completed my second degree, this time in Diabetes Education and Management. Since being diagnosed with diabetes, the last few years have been one big self-experiment, and the cool thing is—I’ve been the subject and the lead scientist. I’ve made countless mistakes and discovered just as many solutions. Perhaps the greatest discovery of all is that a primal lifestyle is not only an effective way for me to manage and survive with my condition, but rather it allows me to thrive with my condition. I immediately started following a paleo autoimmune protocol and the results were mind-blowing. Not only did I achieve a 70% reduction in insulin requirements and very stable blood sugar control, but my debilitating shin splints completely disappeared, so too did my chronic sinusitis.  

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 8.49.02 amNowadays my lifestyle is first and foremost about managing my disease, but more importantly it’s about being healthy and happy in a balanced and sustainable way. My training has shifted from typical bodybuilding routines towards getting stronger, more functional, flexible and athletic. I train indoors and outdoors, in the ocean and on the land. I discovered that walking is such a useful tool to stabilise blood sugar levels so now I walk after most meals. I lift weights, sprint, train calisthenics, play sports, surf…the list goes on. Exercise truly is a form of medicine that we can freely and happily administer to ourselves. I follow a grain-free, gluten-free, low(er) carb way of eating. I get some sunlight every day. I love nature. I practice mindfulness in each and every moment. It really is a balanced approach to living and moving!

Where I am today…

I’ve spent the last 5 years building a business around myself as the core of my brand. I’m here because l want to put a healthy face to diabetes. My aim is to share what I know with others so that we can learn to love our condition as a partner that walks with us, not one that rules us. I’m an ambassador for diabetes organisations as well as a spokesperson for Australia’s exercise science governing body. I’ve made multiple appearances on national TV here in Australia. I consult online and in person as an exercise physiologist and diabetes educator.   

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 8.46.42 am

I created a brand called Drew’s Daily Dose, as well as a website and various social media platforms, to spread my message as far and wide as possible. I like to think of Drew’s Daily Dose as much more than a website about diabetes. It’s a home that inspires, empowers and enables people to thrive with diabetes, rather than simply live with it. My background as a health professional and my own personal triumph with managing diabetes has ignited a passion to share everything I know. Drew’s Daily Dose is my way of empowering people to take control of their health, so that like me, they can live a fuller, happier and healthier life than ever before.

Diabetes is a very small part of what makes me Drew. I’m an exercise physiologist, diabetes educator, sport scientist and most importantly – I’m a happy and healthy guy thriving with type 1 diabetes. I’ve not only accepted living with it, I’ve learned to love it and manage it so that it doesn’t manage me.

To come with me on this journey, visit my website, Instagram, and Facebook.


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26 thoughts on “How Being Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes Improved My Entire Life!”

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  1. thanks for sharing your story. it’s great to hear about your interior transformation and how having a primal lifestyle helps with type 1 diabetes! i love the look of your website–hope you can reach and help lots of people.

  2. You definitely put a healthy face and body on Type 1. Congrats on taking charge of your life.

  3. What an awesome, empowering story! You are obviously doing an incredible job sharing the message of taking control of your health, regardless of any pre-existing conditions. I can tell that you have helped countless people in your mission to inspire others to live their best lives. Congratulations!

  4. Love the website!! Started following you on Instagram too. One thing though… you frame nutrition with “How Did Our Ancestors Eat?” but don’t really delve into the nose-to-tail side of things… to state the obvious, I’m a bit biased but I think it would serve your readers well to cover nose-to-tail eating habits… especially if they need targeted support with struggling organs / glands as a result of autoimmune complications.

    Traditional peoples, Native Americans and early ancestral healers knew that eating the organs (and glands) from a healthy animal would strengthen and support the health of the corresponding organ of the individual. For instance, the traditional way of treating a person with a weak heart was to feed the person the heart of a healthy animal. Similarly, eating the kidneys of a healthy animal was believed to support urinary ailments and overall kidney health… Pancreas was fed to people with digestive and endocrine problems… and spleen was fed to people with immune and blood deficiencies.

    Organ meats and glands were a staple of our early ancestors’ diets as the ultimate superfood, for good reason. It turns out, this nourishing tradition is backed by science… “Radioisotope labeling studies in animals have shown conclusively that, when eaten, organs and glands selectively travel to the corresponding organs and glands in high concentrations. This research, done at the University of Scotland in Edinburgh, lends credence to the ancient practice of eating animal organs to help ensure health in one’s corresponding organs…” – Dr. Ron Schmid, ND. Our early ancestors knew this, which is why their traditional diets included the frequent and nourishing consumption of nose-to-tail organ meats and glands.

    Thanks for sharing your inspiring story. I laughed out loud when you shared how you fell asleep during a face-to-face interview.

    1. Wow- I don’t know about Drew, but you sold me! Recommitted to trying organ meats, thanks!

  5. Fantastic story. What an inspiration. Amazing what exercise and healthy eating can do for your body. Usually what is going on inside is reflected on the outside. You are kind of a wake up that it might not be the case.

    I like your website too. Look forward to digging around there.

  6. Wow, what discipline, dedication and passion, amazing story!

  7. As a fellow Type 1er, I applaud. I’ve been Paleo/Primal for 4.5 years now, and it is the easiest way to thrive while diabetic. Delighted to see you come to terms with it, and even better, to work to make it easier to manage. Cheers!

  8. Wow reading this is a shot of pure adrenaline
    Thanks for posting the most energetic story ever and congratulations

  9. Best story ever — I personally suspect there are way too many bloggers or more so “famous” bloggers and podcasters out there scared to admit and confront they are pre-diabetic, type II, or type I diabetic – it’s a crisis and glad to see someone “embrace the suck”… I will follow your site!

  10. Love your work – you are certainly a great advertisement for your own brand of health management. It’s much easier to relate to someone who has walked the path themselves, instead of hearing it from an academic who hasn’t been along that journey. And I’m always pleased to find another aussie telling their story!

  11. Wow, glad to see that there are other T1D around who are doing the same, It’s similar to my story… I’m wondering if his pancreas is producing still some insulin, which makes sports much more easy.

  12. Hi, so you’re telling me your body doesn’t need insulin anymore?? DKA isn’t an issue for you? I’m not a scientist, but every scientist on this planet will tell you that without insulin a person will die. You have a neat story, and I’m sure it’s going to sell a lot of powders and cookbooks, but this type of MLM is dangerous to people who really do suffer from an incurable and deadly disease. Peace.

    1. Drew said he was able to reduce his insulin requirement by 70 percent. That’s not the same as eliminating it altogether. People who adopt a Paleo lifestyle frequently find they don’t need as much medication, regardless of their issue.

    2. Hi just chiming in. He stated this:
      “Not only did I achieve a 70% reduction in insulin requirements”

    3. T1D Dad, I live similarly to Drew. When I transitioned from about 150g carbs daily to 50g daily my basal insulin requirement decreased by about 50g/day. My insulin to carb ratio actually increased slightly (from an outrageous 40g:1U to a more reasonable 15g:1U). Overall still very much less insulin. I’m also an athlete, although more endurance focused.

      I love anyone out there looking out for us T1Ds, especially the parents of T1Ds who have lost more sleep than most anyone else knows, but we appreciate greatly. I warmly invite you to look further into a low carb approach. The advantages of reducing the carbs and hence reducing the insulin, is that it reduces the daily blood glucose variability. I see daily BG values typically ranging from 70-120. I still have diabetes and always will, but I will be much more protected from the damaging effects of varying glucose. It’s not easy, but it’s easier to manage normal blood sugars.

      We have a bunch of resources compiled for further investigation if interested.

  13. Drew
    Very inspirational story!
    “I even wrote a letter to my diabetes, as if it were a person, to help me voice my feelings. I strongly encourage anyone with a chronic condition to do the same. It’s a very freeing exercise”. Thank you for this suggestion.

  14. Great story about self-empowerment in the face of a condition that is often poorly managed due to lack of information. In six months I reversed a Type 2 prediabetic A1c back to normal range by eating a low carb high fat diet and am still improving with the addition of intermittent fasting. Best of luck in your journey!

  15. Drew,

    Your letter and story made me cry…in a good way! Your outlook and the way you purposefully care for your body is so inspirational. I was diagnosed with endometriosis and sometimes I feel like I’m at war with my body…which doesn’t make me want to respect and take care of it. I can’t quite put into words how you’ve embraced the disease as a GOOD part of yourself, but I’m determined now to learn that same mentality.

    Thank you Drew!

  16. Drew, congrats on thriving with T1D! I (and many others) have had similar experiences with low carb paleo as a management solution. There are >2000 of us T1Ds managing outside of the standard of care. We created a facebook group, TYPEONEGRIT where we discuss practical T1D management with Dr. Bernstein’s “Diabetes Solution” which pairs very well with Mark’s Primal approach. I’ve used to to manage an A1C ranging from 4.8% to [email protected]% over the past 5 years since my diagnosis with T1. We’ve even started working with Dr. Ludwig at Harvard to get our intervention studied and published. We’re still wait official publication but the average member of ‘Grit” aka TYPEONEGRIT see’s an A1C improvement from 8.1% to 5.3%.