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The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on the term “comorbidities” and the importance of managing these to enjoy a long, happy life. As the country approaches Diabetes Awareness Month in November, it is important to appreciate that dealing with a lifestyle disease is not a single event. Rather, it is a journey of acceptance, introspection, and a measured approach to living a fulfilling life.

I am no stranger to the shock and confusion of dealing with a diabetes diagnosis. As such, I draw on my personal journey from pain, depression, weight fluctuations, and ill-health to having my condition under control and sporting a positive mindset and strong body when I structure personal coaching courses for my clients.

Diabetes has always been with me

Diabetes was always present in my life, long before I was diagnosed. My earliest recollection of diabetes was of my maternal grandmother. She was diagnosed late in life.  I remember at family gatherings everyone doting on my gran about her ‘suiker’.  She was micromanaged by my mom and my aunts watching every morsel she ate!

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The next time I encountered diabetes was when I was in the UK. One evening, my housemate (one of my best friends) fell ill after a night out. After seeking medical attention, we were shocked to find out that she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This was the first time I was introduced to terms like highs, lows, finger pricks, diabetic coma. My response was empathetic.  A life sentence in her 20’s, what deprivation, I thought, yet I believed I would be okay.

Getting diagnosed

I returned to South Africa. A few years later, during the third trimester of my pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. It was devastating.  I was placed on insulin, visited my physician and dietician weekly. Thankfully, I managed to tightly control my blood glucose until birth.

A few years later, while running my own business, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This was followed by the tragic murder of my mother a few years later. I was on autopilot until it all came to a head. I collapsed and was diagnosed with depression and emotional exhaustion because of trauma. In the years that followed, I managed to get by on a cocktail of support and medication. However, my personality of triumph over adversity saw me, with the help of coaches and those closest to me, grab the proverbial bull by the horns and regain control of my life.

Taking back control

Helga Nefdt

In the last two years, I have taken time to specifically focus on myself emotionally, spiritually, physically, and cognitively. It’s been a journey of discovery, sometimes painful but mostly very hopeful, positive, and transformative.

I have learned the importance of self-care and what that means for me, and, importantly, I have accepted my disease. My diabetes does not define who I am! I have accepted my body as part of who I am and not as separate from who I am.

I have deepened my understanding of my disease and my triggers. I’ve also embraced how my emotions, life circumstances, stress, exercise, nutrition, and support all have an influence on the management of my disease. It’s this passion and understanding that is the fuel behind my coaching business to help others reach the same space.


Helga Nefdt

Helga is an experienced human resources practitioner specialising in Dispute Resolution, Employment Law, Training, and Skills Development. With over two decades of experience both locally and internationally, she has gained invaluable experience within her field, with a special interest in facilitation, mediation, designing, and development of training interventions and programmes. For the latter part of her career, Nefdt has offered her expertise as a volunteer for many years on pro-bono projects with various Non-Governmental Organisations and on Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives within the Corporate Sector. This, coupled with her natural inclination to support people and see them achieve their goals, is what has led to the culmination of her practice as a coach (focusing on the integral methodology), where she chooses to work with clients who are managing comorbidities, transitioning careers or looking for personal growth. Helping people is part of her DNA, and it was a natural progression to formalise this passion into a coaching certification and career. Helga wears many “hats” and can be described as a mom, foodie, “closet techie”, recycler, a storyteller with wanderlust, and comfortable showing up just as she is. She has a wicked sense of humour and chooses to face life with positivity and impact. Helga holds a LLM in Dispute Resolution and PGDip Employment Law and Social Security from the University of Cape Town, Coach for Development Certificate from the Center for Coaching University of Cape Town Business School, and a BTech Degree in Human Resources Management from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.