Getting to Know Mila Clarke, the Hangry Woman
Mila Clarke is a Houston-based type 2 diabetes advocate and digital storyteller. She started her website, The Hangry Woman, after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2016. Per her website, her goal is to show every person with diabetes has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to their chronic illness. On the Hangry Woman, Mila covers topics from diabetes management to travel and provides recipes that don’t make you sacrifice flavor.
Her work has been featured on Travel Noire, WebMD, Healthline and she’s worked with brands such as Walmart, AARP, Kroger and more. Mila is also a Top 10 diabetes food blogger. Mila chatted with the Beyond Type 2 team about her diabetes diagnosis story, how she currently manages diabetes and her approach to eating her favorite dishes.
Tell us about yourself: When were you diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes? Were you experiencing any symptoms? How did you react to your diagnosis?
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in May 2016. I was feeling clammy and exhausted all the time, but I honestly just thought working 60 hours a week at a really stressful job was the culprit. I thought I needed to slow down, but when I went to the doctor for a check-up I was very surprised to find out that I had type 2 diabetes. It really changed my whole world.
Does type 2 diabetes or diabetes, in general, run in your family?
Type 2 diabetes does run in my family—my mother and grandmother both have type 2, but developed it after gestational diabetes. I figured that the same thing could happen to me one day, but I never expected to be diagnosed at 26 years old.
How do you currently manage type 2 diabetes? What are your favorite foods and exercises? Are you currently on any medication?
Right now, I’m doing a lot to manage my type 2 diabetes. My husband and I take a spin class two times per week, and I’ve also taking up boxing and cardio training to burn some extra calories and build my endurance. We have a long commute home, so we try to spend the time exercising to wait out traffic. I also currently take metformin and meal-time insulin to help me manage my blood sugar.
What are some of the challenges you think people with type 2 diabetes face? What challenges have you, personally, faced? How did you or are you attempting to overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges is getting people to take you seriously. Sometimes getting a drink at a restaurant means sending it back several times because sugar is added when you’ve asked for it not to be. Or, people think that being picky about your food is just something you’re doing to be difficult and embarrassing. I have to educate friends sometimes to let them know why I’m so picky about my food, and why type 2 diabetes is a serious chronic illness. Most people’s perception is that it’s a lazy person’s disease, or it’s something you cause yourself, but it’s much more to deal with than that.
Let’s switch gears to your blog, The Hangry Woman. You’re a Top-10 diabetes blogger. When did you start your blog and why?
I started my blog, Hangry Woman, originally as a way to talk about my feelings about being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Before I started, I never really heard people openly talking about having type 2, and I really felt alone. One of my first posts about it focuses on how upset and lost I felt. It was overall a means of catharsis for me, but as I kept going people would send me encouraging emails, or share that they had felt a similar way. From there, it made me feel like it was up to me to start talking about it openly, and really breaking some of the myths about having type 2 and what that person “looks like.” I also wanted to show that it’s possible to live a positive and healthy life, with some joy.
Hangry Woman features all kinds of recipes, from breakfast to dessert to keto—and they look and sound pretty awesome. What’s your recipe development process like? You seem to take the approach it’s okay to have diabetes, eat well, indulge a bit and not have to sacrifice flavor.
That’s absolutely it. I try to take things that I love, and modify them for something that fits my diet (on the low carb side) a little better, but there are also some indulgent recipes because it’s life. My approach is that you know your body better than anyone else, and you know whether you can fit a treat in or not. When I have a craving for something, I don’t ignore it as long as I know it fits into my daily goals.
My husband also doesn’t have diabetes, and he tries to support me as much as he can, but I always think about him when I create recipes. What is he going to enjoy and want again and again that also matches our health goals?
You’ve worked with some well-known brands such as Kroger, San Marzano Tomatoes with Walmart and Be Mixed. Can you talk about how those experiences have helped shape you as an influencer within the diabetes community?
I think working with big brands has allowed me to introduce the conversation about type 2 diabetes, and share that audience with them. I think a lot about my audience when I choose who to work with. I always mention that my angle is going to be specific to type 2 diabetes, and overall I get a positive response from many of the brands I work with, and they’re usually willing to work me so that my content is inclusive of this audience. I always hope that I represent the community well and that I also leave an impression on these brands that makes them think about people with type 2 in a positive light.
What are some misconceptions about type 2 diabetes you think people should know about?
One thing I’d like people to know about type 2 is that it isn’t often an easy journey. Some days feel like a rollercoaster even when you’re doing the best you can. Changing my diet and focusing on exercise has been a really helpful adjustment for me, but additionally, learning to love myself instead of blame myself for this has been a huge perspective shift for me. The moment I started to embrace how much I could learn about type 2, and my small victories, the sooner I started making positive progress.
How do you think people with diabetes can learn to develop a healthy, balanced relationship with food?
Don’t be afraid to talk with your health team about your goals and what you want. The moment you involve yourself into the process instead of passively participating, the better your chances to learn.
What are three things you think every home cook should have?
I think a good imagination, a solid set of non-stick pans and a willingness to try anything will get you pretty far in the kitchen!
Finally, how do you live #BeyondPowerful with Type 2 Diabetes?
Living #BeyondPowerful for me means that I continue to be open and honest about my wins and struggles with diabetes. We are not alone in dealing with this. The more information that’s out there will show us that we can all live perfectly healthy lives and manage our type 2 diabetes instead of letting it manage us.