Pancreatic Musings

Diabetes is a condition where the pancreas either cannot produce the adequate amount of insulin to keep blood sugar balanced within a healthy range, or where the pancreas just simply stops being able to produce insulin. These two types are known respectively as type 2, and type 1.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease which usually occurs in children and adolescents, with the pancreas completely unable to produce insulin. In this type, injections and regular blood sugar testing must be undertaken daily, and permanently for the rest of one's life (although there are developments in research with cures).

The result of not keeping a check on blood sugar, are potentially serious future complications such as kidney failure, blindness, limb amputation, heart attack etc. Therefore, its important to do the job of the pancreas as accurately as possible through checking blood sugar regularly and injecting insulin accordingly throughout the day.

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 14 years old after the experience symptoms of extremely high blood sugar such as blurred vision, unquenchable thirst, frequently needing to urinate and tiredness. I arrived at the hospital with a reading of 40 mmol, bearing in mind that a 'healthy' person has a maintained blood sugar of 4mmol - 10 mmol. I was kept overnight on a drip and given a cardboard container to piss into through the night since my body was still not retaining much fluids. I didn't feel massively phased by being diagnosed to be honest and didn't really internally rebel against it or anything, but rather accepted it without too much questioning. There was actually something strangely alluring about having a bag of syringes that I could carry round and use on myself in front of people at school.

After 7 years of having a condition like this, I would say that it has made me who I am in many ways. One of my biggest motivations to stay active and pursue a healthy lifestyle is because I have a real-time, constant indicator as to how I am doing. I inject about 5-8 times a day and test my blood sugar about 10 times a day by pricking my finger and applying blood to test strips. Looking at it, this does sound like quite a bit of hassle, but I am extremely used to it now. I would get asked whenever going out to a bar or whatever "why are you taking a rucksack?". I need to carry my insulin and testing kit 24/7 wherever I am, which essentially acts as my pancreas externally, with me regulating manually instead of my body doing it naturally.

Diabetes has really helped me clean up my diet (post below not counting!!) and given me a further reason to keep moving and active throughout my life. It is kind of an internal laboratory I can use to experiment with different foods, seeing the direct effect of starches and sugars within minutes. You might 'know' that a french baguette has a glycemic index of 95, but I can see the demands it places on my body when I eat it and try to balance it with insulin. I know just from experience that a melon is an absolute bitch to counter correctly, and so I know what a healthy pancreas has to do to keep up with what people are eating. Fruit can be quite demanding on the insulin, but the effects something like some cake or pastries can have on your insulin demands is another level. From eating that half a cake and entire vienetta (admittedly not an average desert!), I was feeling the effects of it and having to act accordingly right through to the afternoon the following day. To see what some people eat as a daily lifestyle really scares me to how hard their body is working, and also how amazing the body is at dealing with the amount of crap some people put it through.

Don't worry though, this isn't going to turn into a rant about how people's health are going down the drain, or how Oprah Winfrey is winging out free KFC for her American viewers in an effort to promote health.
Having diabetes has given me an increased sense of responsibility in keeping on point with my health on a daily basis, spurring me to pursuing better nutrition and to train daily. It's become like brushing my teeth. However, in the first few years I had some really struggles with it, and still do depending on my situation, such having to make my own food in China last year rather than die an early death from the local cooking. However, now unlike before, I don't get overly depressed from a month of poor control, but deal with it better and acknowledge that life is a learning process and this is just an element of that for me.

It seems to be quite a popular and perhaps western ideal that the fewer responsibilities, the better, that freedom comes from being free from responsibilities. Staying at home playing video games without a plan for a job or study, or taking off "Into the Wild" to utterly detach oneself from society's expectations (awesome film btw).
Its pretty attractive to be independent of responsibility, or further from that, accountability. People who don't look after their health in a society where it is possible to, are neglecting the most immediate responsibility given to them from birth.

Aside from this though, the challenge to such a notion: "is it not our responsibility, to seek responsibility?" By this, I mean that instead of pursuing freedom through trying to live as independant, 'free souls', is there a kind of obligation and merit to taking on responsibility? The ideas of becoming bogged down by mortgage, getting to work, writing that 3000 word essay, getting up to feed the baby, are all fairly unattractive in themselves. But they are the responsibilities required to fulfill greater ends: keeping a roof over your family, supporting the family, getting a good degree, taking care of your kid.

Within the culture of parkour is an almost universal notion of altruism, of helping others. Sometimes I lose perspective that I am in the minuscule percentage of the world who have the privilege to train and do what I do, whilst most of the world are struggling to feed themselves, or working 40+ hour weeks to pay the bills and support their family. I actually find that through parkour, I have become very precious with my time, hating to be interrupted when training hard or having to sacrifice a planned session for something else. This is just my personal experience, and I actually think its fine to be like this to a degree because certain things need to be done. For me staying active and well is primary. But being honest, how altruistic am I, or you? I have heard so many people talking about the freedom parkour brings, and it does in a way for sure, which is very positive. But in order to 'be altruistic', responsibilities must be beared. Responsibilities to not put yourself first and to widen your net of responsibility further, bearing more upon yourself, but also being involved in more than your own microcosm world of training.

This is something that I struggle with. Through 7 years of fairly steep learning, I have learnt to fully accept and bear the responibility of being diabetic and accountable only to myself for my health. What used to get me down such as poor blood sugar control in a certain month still happens, but I more readily accept it and learn from it. If someone told me before I was diabetic that I will essentially have to do the job of one of my organs for the rest of my life, regulating my blood sugar non-stop, I would have found that difficult to take in. Now though, its fine.

Can the same be applied for other things? I think so. Tasks or responsibilities that initially seem daunting or highly unattractive, over time can be beared and accepted more easily, until it is like brushing your teeth, or regulating your blood sugar.

I am definitely finding out that as I grow up, more responsibilities are coming my way. I used to really run from the idea of perhaps having to get a mortgage, saying that "ill just live in a van or something". And it still does turn me off, but if its part of a greater good, then its something that I can accept. With a year left of my degree before I try and do something with myself, I am responsible for being the one to get off my ass and engage with the world and pursue something worthwhile. I am no longer fully independent, with responsibility for another person with my girlfriend in China, which is great. I am sure things will just increase and pick up speed as life goes on, which I guess is otherwise known as growing up! With this process, I think there also needs to be a healthy and frequent dosage of 'manning up', and getting on with life.

How do you view the relationship between your 'freedom' and 'responsibility'?


  1. I find the idea of trying to practice parkour in an open field quite analogous to this falsely dichotomy of freedom vs. responsibility.

    With a limited number of obstacles, certainly one can practice a variety of movements in parkour, but as the variety, diversity, and frequency of obstacles is decreased, the possibilities (freedom) is decreased as well. (Of course, a lack of obstacles is an obstacle in and of itself, rendering the lack of obstacles an opportunity/freedom to explore parkour within that specific context.)

    Responsibility and freedom are not mutually exclusive, but rather complimentary. Responsibilities give context and purpose to freedom. Freedom without responsibility is meaningless. It is the nihilist who will claim that responsibility inhibits freedom.

    Perhaps I do not articulate so well. I do find this post of yours to be extremely inspiring. I find it has helped me to take a step back to view my training (and life) from a slightly more objective perspective.


  2. Anonymous6:08 PM

    Really interesting post Jin.

    After reading all your stuff about barefoot running and your particular technique in running - could you explain this technique? or perhaps link me to some places about the technique... what are the benefits? is it not extremely uncomfortable?


  3. Very interesting insights!

    To answer your question, I see that I have the freedom to choose my own path, which means yes I can pick the easy options and take the oh so popular 'line of least resistance' but also that I have the option to undertake challenges which I will undoubtedly come out stronger from (whether I succeed or fail).

    I could talk for ages about this (as you have), and it's a minority that would understand why I'd be saying what I would.

    Best wishes man,


  4. Anonymous12:27 PM

    Quite interesting and profound insights dear Jin. Cool!

    Pretty much like you say- I feel freedom, TRUE freedom, comes from facing facts and living upto responsibilities. We all have individual responsibilities in life that - if we partake in, can help life "just work", and perhaps even enable us to better places like you speak about with regards to taking on a mortgage, etc.

    It's interesting and refreshing to hear this point of view from someone in their early 20s, as I know so many people (guys in particular) who - even in their late 20s, early 30s still shudder at the thought of responsibilities as if it is "hip" and freeing to think in that way. Sadly, I think they are ultimately mistaken....and miss out on so much riches from life by doing so. But, that's just my thoughts....:-)

    Peace bro' (scarey picture of oprah BTW!)


  5. Hey anonamous,

    for barefoot running, check out www.barefotted.com

    The technique is basically running almost flat footed, with a slight bias toward landing on the ball of the foot but only by a fraction. If you want to start, I would recommend seaching the net and trying easy barefoot running on grass to experiment with what feels comfortable, and then build up very slowly indeed on concrete after some good sessions on grass because concrete is extremely unforgiving to biomechanics and the human body in general.
    It is pretty uncomfortable at first, especially on the calves but like anything you build up slowly and cautiously ,


  6. Anonymous3:29 PM


  7. Interesting article Jin! This is definitely something that needs to be raised (in the cushy, comfortable western world in particular).

    A wee while ago I posted on my blog an article entitled, "freedom means following rules" which is kind of similar in nature to this topic. I'm also about halfway through an article about altruism, self discipline, and creativity in parkour which considers some related ideas.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughgt's mate, again it's crazy that many seem to undergo the ssame throughts as time progresses. I've been questioning my practices and it's practicality to helping others.

    Be safe and we must train soon!


  9. hey jin, it's been a while, hope you're well and that!

    i did have a bit of a chuckle about what you said about people putting their pancreas' through a hard time. people often say i must have a healthy liver 'cos i don't drink, but i never stopped to think about how much i stress out my pancreas when i indulge my sweet tooth!

    as for what you're saying about freedom and responsibility, i completely agree with you on that. i think what the problem might be with a lot of people is that there is no sense of balance between the two poles; you either have those who shirk all responsibility, and those who become bogged with responsibilities they did not plan for or did not choose.

    the way i see it, freedom is a state that allows you to evaluate and choose your responsibilities. but at the same time, you should never take on more responsibility than you can handle, because this is firstly irresponsible, and secondly, i think everyone needs their selfish time, or maybe it's just me. then again, i've never been big on the whole ascetism thing!

    i'm at an interesting point in my life now, in that i have just finished my degree and moved out of uni. some might say i have complete freedom to do whatever i want, and that is true, but i do honestly feel uneasy with the thought...the freedom to choose your path is a huge responsibility!

    stay safe and well,

  10. Hey.
    I've sat here thinking about what your've said, and while i've always lived with the idea of 'be strong to be useful' I've found the saying is o so much easyer than the doing!

    Which is why during my future travel I hope to spend a sizable amount of time seeking out people to help, working in third world countreys to help those that don't have what I do.

    My point is that even when you are strong, you have to be strong in both body and mind, so that you can use that strength in a usefull manner, and fullfull what ever goals you have.

    The good news is that I've read many blogs about people who have done just this (they actually gave me the idea). So perhaps the world parkour comunity could one day become a large scale movement to help people, known arond the world in much the same way as the buddist monks are known.

    This would be truly great eh!