Living with Diabetes: Ryan Clauson Thrives

Clauson’s experience caused him to begin a mission to become the healthiest person with diabetes possible. He made two significant changes; the first was with his lifestyle and the second was with his diet.

| Oct 27, 2008

I have had type 1 diabetes for 16 years and, after a long path with many ups and downs, I have finally achieved optimal diabetic health. I have discovered the special lifestyle and diet mix that works and have brought my A1c from 11.4% to 5.2% while increasing my energy and overall health. I'm an elite athlete who plays professional ice hockey, and I currently run marathons. 

I am truly grateful that I have type 1 diabetes because I believe that I am healthier now than I ever would have been if I had not gotten the disease.

I was diagnosed with type 1 when I was eight. Ironically, I left the hospital on Halloween and was forced to give my trick or treat candy to my sister.

After battling with the disease for years, I became discouraged because I could not get my blood sugars under control. One week I would have extremely high blood sugars, and the next week I would collapse due to low blood sugar after an intense workout. In five years I was taken to the hospital four times after passing out because I went too low.

One particular time occurred while I was a student at Northeastern University. Becoming dizzy on my way to class, I rushed into the dining hall to get juice, but it was too late. I went black and collapsed, falling into and breaking the juice machine as well as cutting my hip open on the metal rack that is used to hold the trays.

I woke up as the police arrived. Thinking I was drunk, they refused my desperate cries for juice as I lay bleeding on the ground. They held me down and started asking what my social security number and home address were. At the time, I could not even remember my name. I knew I was going to die if I did not get sugar so I began screaming in the middle of the packed dining hall, "I NEED JUICE!" 

I remember kids whispering, "He's crazy, why does he want juice?"

Finally a fellow student, who had an uncle with diabetes and recognized my symptoms, brought me orange juice and saved my life while the cops looked on with handcuffs ready.

This event shocked me and set me on a mission to become the healthiest person with diabetes possible. I made two significant changes. The first was with my lifestyle and the second was with my diet.

For the first 14 years of my diabetic life, I hid my disease from people. I told no one I had it. If I needed to test my blood sugar during a social gathering, I would go to the bathroom so no one would see. I even dated a girl for five months, and she never knew!

I was uncomfortable about having diabetes and how people would react if they saw me injecting myself with insulin or pricking my finger to get a drop of blood.

But then I met Chris Jarvis, a Canadian Olympic rower who had type 1 and was proud of it. He tested in public. He injected insulin in public. Everyone knew he had type 1, and he talked about it freely. I loved this new philosophy and I quickly adopted his attitude. This resulted in better diabetic control and a renewed sense of freedom.

It was not until a little over a year ago, in August of 2008, that I made the change that I think will ultimately prove to be one of the biggest decisions of my life. I decided to experiment with the effects that a diet change would have on my diabetes. I set out to consume only raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and small amounts of fruit. I completely cut out all meat, dairy, and bread products.

I met with a top Harvard nutritionist just as I was about to start this new diet, and she told me that this would be the biggest mistake I ever made. She said, "You can't do it. You have diabetes. You need meat, dairy, and bread."

Despite this shocking rejection of my planned diet, I started it anyway with the acknowledgement that doctors and nutritionists had steered me in the wrong direction too many times in the past.

A year later, my results speak for themselves. I have run in two marathons and experienced increased energy and overall health. My A1C dropped to 5.2%, lower than many people without diabetes. Doctors, not understanding how I achieved these results, have begun asking me for advice on what to tell their patients. 

With a background in stand-up comedy and acting, my mission is to tell my transformational story to as many people with diabetes as possible in an exciting way that will inspire them to change their lives and improve their health. 

Ryan Clauson, the youngest of six children, was born in Hanover, New Hampshire. One of his passions is ice hockey, and he will be competing in the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships this January with his three brothers and a sister, who all play as well. He is now focusing on long distance events and learning how to swim (he swears he only dog-paddles) so he can compete in an Iron Man event. Ryan calls himself a transformational entertainer. He specializes in the topics of "powerful communication, the art of attraction, optimal nutrition, and diabetes wellness." He also provides personal coaching to those who desire to enhance their life and break through barriers.

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Categories: A1c Test, Blood Sugar, Diabetes, Diabetes, Insulin, Kids & Teens, Living with Diabetes, Men's Issues, Nutrition Advice, Personal Stories, Success Stories, Teenagers, Type 1 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 27 October 2008

Is this the same 6'6" Ryan Clauson who played hockey at Northeastern university?

Posted by whimsy2 on 27 October 2008

Clearly Ryan Clausen didn't have very good diabetes education. If he'd been taught to test frequently and make corrections (i.e. glucose tabs or insulin) accordingly, he would not have had all those hypos and hypers.

Posted by Anonymous on 27 October 2008

I didn't have very good diabetes education either! All the specialists I've ever consulted insist that it doesn't matter how much insulin you take, as long as it matches your carb intake. Rubbish! I'm not a medical professional, and yet I read extensively, because this is MY body and MY life and I'll do it MY way ... based on appropriate information, of course! Ryan's story is inspirational because I too, have moved away from the "standard" diabetic diet, and also believe that RAW FOOD rocks. When you cut out acid-forming foods, additives and processing, you'll discover a whole new world of health and energy. Why not feel great every day? It's not as difficult as you think, unless you buy into the limiting beliefs touted by most medical professionals.

For the record, I've been a Type 1 diabetic for 20 years and have ghastly stories to tell about mismanagement. Mine, unfortunately. And yes, it was deliberate! After many wasted years, I eventually overcame the need to destroy the body that had betrayed me, and today my HBA1C is better than it's ever been, I take less insulin than ever before (approx 20 units in total per day), have absolutely NO complications (thank the gods and goddesses!) and loads of verve.

Posted by Anonymous on 27 October 2008

good on you Ryan.I am 14 and am going to try it out for myself.I have been thinking about it for many months but havent heard about a diabetics feedback on how it went.

I know not to listen to my diabetes educator and doctor as they don't seem to like it.

Posted by Anonymous on 28 October 2008

I have read a great deal about the benefits of eating a raw food diet, especially for people with chronic illnesses. Doctors and nutritionists in general recommend conservative measures and I think each person needs to find out what works for them. Ryan Clauson has taken his own path but he seems to be doing well and taking care of himself so it works for him and I applaud him for his achievements. M. Hernandez

Posted by Anonymous on 28 October 2008

Kudos to Ryan for his determination and approach to life! His experience clearly shows the power of nutritional excellence and a healthy lifestyle.

Posted by shosty on 28 October 2008

Ryan, it sounds like you have done a great job getting your A1C down. But it does make me worry about your nutrition long-term, especially with the kind of exercise you are getting. Don't you have to carb load?! Can you meet with a nutritionist who will work with your general ideas, but make sure everything contributes to and doesn't harm your overall health? Have you ever spoken with Dr. Bernstein?

I also want to express a little concern for teenage girls who might hear these ideas, in terms of potential eating disorders (and any guys who have this problem too, though that is rarer). Diabetes already sets the stage for eating disorders, since the required attitudes toward food aren't exactly natural. Who else has to do math before eating?!

As an athlete, everything you do makes sense. But advocating for a lot of exercise, and a restricted diet, can also be a recipe for trouble for many.

We try to follow the "golden mean," meaning, trying to keep things reasonable and doable for the majority.

Oh- and do you wear an ID bracelet? Did you have one on when the police came to Northeastern? I have a kid in college, who has diabetes- very scary.

Some people are very hard to manage. There are many possible responses to being hard to manage, and it sounds like you have found yours. But please, make sure you get your nutritional status tested, and be careful what message you give to people less mature than yourself, who may suffer harm from incorporating that message, perhaps incorrectly, in their own lives with diabetes.

Posted by Anonymous on 28 October 2008

Ryan is my brother. From what I understand, he received lousy advice from his doctors for several years. His A1C would be high (7 or above for example) and yet his doctors, not expecting that a teenager could do much to change this himself, just told him that his scores were fine, they were Ok, they were good, they were "average". My understanding however is that if you're diabetic and your A1C score is "average" that this is a likely indicator that you may be heading for trouble later in life. No one should be told that such a score is fine. Perhaps doctors need to demand more of their diabetic patients? Telling someone that their A1C of 7 is "fine" isn't doing them any favors. I couldn't be prouder of my brother. He found his own solution - it may not work for everyone - but it certainly works for Ry. I've never seen him healthier or happier in his entire fact our whole family has even begun adopting his diet! Doing away with dairy, meat, and bread is a whole lot simple than you'd believe - you just need to be willing to explore the host of alternative options - and you can still maintain a perfectly healthy and well-rounded diet without dairy, bread, and meat. I think it's tremendously important that Ryan's story is shared as an example of one great solution for combating diabetes.

Posted by Anonymous on 28 October 2008

Clearly... Whimsy's comment can just be ignored as it is nothing but a fine display of negativity and ignorance

While I agree that Ryan has made a unique choice in his diet that may not suit everyone... I find it amusing that we are concerned not to promote this as an option for people due to potential eating disorders...
the norm in the American diet is not leading anyone to better health...
In fact the Normal American diet could be considered an eating disorder.

But the point is understood, the ideas Ryan suggests using a simple diet are interesting and can be investigated with the support of a health care team.

I would add my perspective as a diabetes educator, that many athletes with diabetes end up struggling more with attempts to carbo load before competition or training. Proper caloric intake is often exceeded, particularly with a long endurance event like marathons, we can rely on our body's fat stores as well.
In the end, experimentation leading to glucose control is possible and Ryan has found his way, and feels the benefits. That is a great message... thanks Ryan!

Posted by Anonymous on 29 October 2008

can I please ask how long have you been on the diet and have you had any side efects?

Posted by rilz on 29 October 2008

Don't listen to whismy he is talking a load of rubbish.As my Diabetes educator say's Diabetes is not a Science it's a ART!!In two days you can do things exactly the same and you can still have one day of high's and one of low's.

Posted by rilz on 29 October 2008

Hi agaian I am wondering wouldnt you get keytones? why or why not and how can you avoid it?

Posted by rilz on 29 October 2008

Hi agaian I am wondering wouldnt you get keytones? why or why not and how can you avoid it?

Posted by Anonymous on 30 October 2008

I'm curious why no meat? Most meat has very low, if any, carbs in it.

Posted by Anonymous on 11 November 2008

Hi All, Ryan Clauson here.

I wanted to follow up on my article to answer many of the questions that have been raised. Concerning my overall health, I routinely have a complete check up on my blood and the results are 100% normal. I feel strong and healthy. I have read Dr. Berstein’s book and agree with most of it. I love how he holds himself and his patients to a higher standard when it comes to A1C scores than any other doctor. But I disagree with his recommended diet of high quantities of meat. While consuming meat will not spike your sugars, I think it is unhealthy for many other reasons which are documented in Dr. Campbell’s book, “The China Study” and you can find out more about it here:

The one doctor who I think is doing amazing work with Diabetes, both type one and two, is Dr. Gabriel Cousens. You can find out more about him and his resort for diabetics here:

Many disagree with my diet because they say it is “not reasonable for the majority of diabetics to follow.” I don’t think it’s anyone’s decision, whether it be a parent, doctor, or friend to decide what it reasonable for an adult diabetic to eat. When I wanted to play Division 1 hockey at an elite school, I was told it was unreasonable because I had diabetes. When I wanted to run the Boston Marathon, I was told it was unreasonable. And doctors have been telling me my whole life that it was unreasonable for me to want an A1C below a 6.

My opinion is that it’s not up to the doctor or the parent or anyone else to decide what is reasonable for a diabetic. It’s up to the diabetic. My goal is to put all the information on the table so diabetics can see all the options. If a diabetic hears about my life style and diet and decides not to follow it, that’s his or her decision and I support it. My goal is to offer the choice that no one offered me. Of course, I am speaking to adult diabetics, if you are a child with diabetes, your parents do have a lot of control when it comes to what you eat.

No one ever said to me, “Hey, Ryan, you’re doing ok, but if you want excellent health, you should consider this.” Maybe I would have said no, but the point is no one ever gave me the option. If you’re a diabetic, and you’ve tried different things, and you’re tired of having high blood sugars everyday, then I urge you to give my lifestyle a try. If it worked for me, it is very possible it can work for others.

As far as raw food goes, I love it and probably eat 90% raw. But I don’t think whether you cook the veggies or not is the defining factor when it comes to good diabetic control. The major thing is getting rid of the bread, pasta, muffins, bagels, cereal, and all other similar foods that spike sugar. Instead of counting carb after carb after carb, just stop eating so many foods that are full of them and you will notice a huge difference. Keep in mind that veggies have carbs, and I also consume a ton of beans and lentils which are the miracle food for diabetics because while they have a huge quantity of carbs, there is so much dietary fiber that they do not spike blood sugars.

Someone asked about ketones. I’ve never had a problem with ketones which result when the body begins to break down fat and muscle instead of glucose (Usually when there is not enough insulin present.) Ketones most often appear when your blood sugars are high but can also occur when they are normal. I still take insulin everyday, just much less amounts. I still consume carbs everyday but the carbs I consume are so high in dietary fiber, the effects on blood sugar are controllable.

I do wear an ID bracelet but the problem is, few people are trained to look for it. Make sure that people know you’re a diabetic and be as safe as you can. I have lived by myself for months on end, and although I see the potential danger, it’s a freedom I’m not willing to let my disease take away.

I don’t really think of myself as being on a diet. I actually eat whatever I want. It just so happens that what I want is endless fresh organic vegetables, beans, lentils and small amounts of nuts and fruit. I also consume many super foods which are amazing for diabetics but you will never hear a doctor mention them. These consists of raw chocolate which is called cacao (yes, diabetics can eat all the chocolate they want), maca, chia seeds, aloe vera, hemp seeds, and a mixture of powdered greens. Four foods which are particularly good for diabetics are chia seeds, aloe vera, slippery elm bark, and Nopal cactus. These foods all help stabilize blood sugars and help you to avoid spikes. Lentils are a staple that I mix with everything to increase my caloric intake. There are many other wonder foods such as coconut sugar (very low GI is great for diabetics) that I would be happy to share with anyone who wants to know more.

Wishing you all my best,


Posted by Anonymous on 15 January 2009

ryan, i totally agree with u on the way u manage ur diabetes, i believe u should throw the by the book approach to diabetes out the window as you will never know another way to control diabetes better without trying new methods. im 19 now and during my secondary school years totally ignored the fact i had it and just ate what i wanted still doing just 2 injections a day now im on four, i constantly check my blood sugars allthough im still not mega confident in telling people about my condition and go to the gym every day and stopped smoking which i was doing from the age of 12! my only problem is that allthough i have a great HBAC level i just inject accordlingy everytime i eat and it can be a bit of a pain i would describe me method as trial and error but your diet intrigues me i would like to know if you had any advice for my management and could give me an example of how you eat these foods i.e at breakfast many thanks and keep them levels down

Posted by Anonymous on 11 February 2009

Hey, Thanks for writing. I have a huge smoothie in the morning with a ton of stuff in it. Then I snack all day on veggies and some seeds and nuts. Huge Salad for lunch packed with 25 ingredients that I eat out of a large pot. Email me at for more info. I would love to help you out. Ryan

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2010

I'm 14 & was diagnosed as a 10 year old, but i don't understand how so many people are ashamed of their diabetes or try to hid it, i mean it's part of you but it doesn't change the kind of person you are so why should people judge you by it?

Posted by Anonymous on 13 April 2010

I could just about smack the next person who portrays themselves as an expert on diabetes who doesnt have it and doesnt understand it. People dont realize that although a diabetic shouldn't eat certain foods that NEITHER SHOULD ANYBODY!! A lot of that stuff is bad for everybody. I'm glad to see that you went against your doctor and decided to cut carbs and proteins. I am also diabetic and while I dont adhere to a diet that restrictive, I have at points in the 23 years I've been dealing with this and the positive obvious difference in feeling and energy is too blatant for anyone to ignore. It's hard to stick to something like this and adjust your medications though. People would rather lie to themselves and remain out of control then to just adjust and try it and reap the benefits.

I hate to say this but anyone with type I diabetes knows that you DEFINITELY can NOT trust your doctor implicitly. You have to consult with them and also work to figure out how your body operates under different conditions.

I never heard of Ryan Clauson before I read this but I won't forget you now. Keep up the good work.

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