Guest column: Emirati Aisha Al Ameer on staying active to combat diabetes and explore new challenges

Ameer says her adventure holidays to the Arctic and Antartica, where she was the only Emirati, put her in a very different environment, helped her learn new skills, push her limits and discover her strengths and weaknesses.

It’s very important, especially for Emirati women, to feel as if nothing is impossible. Your life is your own adventure. I have a passion for exploring the unknown and experiencing different challenges – to widen my horizons, to grow and feel the blessings that we have in life.

I’m 33 and I have type 1 diabetes, an auto-immune disease that causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin. It’s different from type 2 diabetes, which is generally brought on by poor lifestyle choices and being overweight.

I struggled when I started using insulin eight years ago. I didn’t know what to eat or how to control my sugar levels. Even though they tell you what you shouldn’t eat when you go to the hospital, daily life is different.

I’ve found that living an active lifestyle helps me combat diabetes and to stay positive. I want to discover new places and meet new people, and I can only do those things if I have good health.

My adventure holidays started six years ago, when I began going on regular hiking trips with friends to Norderney in northern Germany. We’d walk up and down this 14-kilometre-long island each day, choosing different paths – sometimes on the coast and sometimes inland. I loved the island’s sands, its open fields and its wilderness. After that I decided to take on physical challenges on a larger scale.

Last April, I was the only Emirati in a group of two men and eight women on an eight-day trip to the Arctic, organised by the Abu Dhabi adventure company Mountain High.

These kinds of challenges, in which you are going to a completely different environment and learning new skills, really help me maintain an active lifestyle and push my limits.

The environment in the Arctic is so different: the snow, the ice and, at that time of year, the 24-hour sunlight.

We also tried ice caving, and, of course, there was lots of walking. If it was a long distance we went dog-sledding, which requires a lot of skills that I didn’t expect, such as balancing your weight on the sled. The huskies were lovely, but you need to help the dogs move – it’s not like you are in a car. You have to step off, push the sled and climb the hill with them. All these activities require a good level of fitness.

We were given meals of dry food with water, which some people didn’t want to eat every day. But we managed. I usually have my own diet because of the diabetes, which includes lots of salads, fruits and raw food in general. Controlling the diabetes was not a problem while I was away because I was so active, which helped reduce my blood sugar level and meant I didn’t have to take more insulin.

My next big adventure was to Antarctica in November. This time there was one man and seven women, and again I was the only Emirati – and the only Arab. I always carry my Emirati flag with me as I consider myself an ambassador for my beloved country. The diversity of people and their different ages, backgrounds and purposes for making the trip were interesting.

Both of these trips gave me time to discover my strengths and weaknesses, and learn how to overcome them.

My personal trainer, Tarek Chatti, helped me achieve the fitness required for these challenges. Since I like to be close to nature, horse riding, swimming, cycling and walking were included on my activities list, too.

To me, health is a relationship between you and your body. If you treat it well, by eating healthy and exercising, your body will support you.

On May 28, Aisha Al Ameer will speak about pushing boundaries to maximise one's potential at the Women's Peak Performance Summit in Abu Dhabi at Eastern Mangroves Hotel;

* As told to Jessica Hill