Eric Paslay Opens Up About His Struggle with Diabetes

Eric Paslay opens up about his decades-long battle with Diabetes in this SLN exclusive. 

Written by Chuck Dauphin
Eric Paslay Opens Up About His Struggle with Diabetes
Photo by Joseph Llanes

If you’ve ever see Eric Paslay live in concert, and you see him venture over to a stool to take a swig from a red solo cup, you just might wonder just what vice the singer is drinking.

Would you believe…….Orange Juice?

The EMI Nashville recording artist laughs when asked about the red cup on the stage, attributing his need for the beverage to his decades-long battle with diabetes.

“There’s been times before I had this thing where I would get super low and tell someone ‘I need orange juice right now,” the singer tells Sounds Like Nashville. “Someone would run a red solo cup up to me, and I down it. Some people in the crowd would go ‘Yeah’ thinking I’m getting hammered with them. But, I’m not. I’m working. I’m a designated diabetic,” he jokes. “But, it’s always funny to watch a crowd when I’m sipping a whole thing of orange juice. But, now that I have this system, I realize just how much everyone’s body is different in how they react to food. Just three or four sips and I’m good to go for another thirty minutes to an hour.”

Paslay has just announced a partnership with Dexcom, Inc., a leader in continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) for patients with the disease. He says for him, the machine has made a world of difference in how he maintains a healthy blood sugar level.

“I have juvenile diabetes, and I am realizing just how incredible this system is – I’m always good at dragging my feet when it comes to making big decisions, and this means wearing other device because I already have an insulin pump. I always thought I was a good diabetic because I tested my blood five or six times a day to make sure that I’m good.” He says that Dexcom has raised the bar – and made his job even easier, allowing him phone access to his level now. “Every five minutes it sends me a reading. So, if I eat a food, I can see exactly what it does to me. I’m totally changing what I eat now because I see what it does to my blood sugar level, and what is good for me and what isn’t. I’ll probably add a few days to my life for wearing one of these things because I’m super-extra healthy, at least compared to what I thought my blood sugar levels were actually doing. When you have a low level, you drink a whole glass of orange juice and a granola bar, and then you adjust it. Ten minutes later, you’re back to a good blood sugar level. But, you don’t realize that in the next hour, you’re going to go back up to 300, and then crash again to 198 when you test it again, and you go ‘Ok, I’m sort of high.’ Dexcom is insane. The CGM system is insane. And, it goes right to my phone, so it is super easy, and my wife can see it as well as my tour manager. So, if I’m playing a show, and my blood sugar gets to a certain point where I need a little something, we always have a glass of orange juice sitting on the stage. He’ll just tell me in my inner ear monitors – ‘Hey, man. You’re at 100. Go sip a little orange juice.’ So, I’ll just go back, and take a sip and keep on rocking. The fans don’t even know that I could have gone low….but I didn’t,” he stresses.

The singer – known for such hits as “She Don’t Love You” and “Friday Night,” says that he was diagnosed with the disease at age 10, but had a lot of positive reinforcements to manage things. “I had great doctors and nurses to teach me. I got to go to Texas Lions Camp when I was a kid. That’s something that the Lions’ club sponsors. There’s kids with disabilities, kids with cancer, and myself with juvenile diabetes, kids that are paraplegic, and burn victims. You get to learn about your sickness, and know that you’re not alone – you’re not the only weird kid that has to go to the nurse every now and then because you need a juice box and crackers. I’m grateful that I had great doctors and got to go to camps like that. I was taught how to take care of myself. I learned how to count the carbohydrates and also to know what you’re putting into your body to give you just the right amount of insulin where your fuel tank is always full to go.”

According to the singer, managing diabetes is more than just avoiding a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. “Pasta and pizza will kick your butt a lot more than candy will. It’s all about understanding that certain carbs will send your blood sugar level through the roof. The crazy thing is that I have talked to people who have wore the Dexcom device just to see, and they don’t have diabetes. I was talking to one of the guys who told me ‘I ate some oatmeal with raisins and sugar, and I don’t have diabetes. I work out, but my blood sugar was about 200 for an hour.’

One of the biggest keys to living with diabetes, Paslay says, is knowing your body – and everyone is different. “It’s kind of wild to see that even if you don’t have diabetes, there’s certain foods that your body just can’t keep up with. I think it’s eye opening for everybody that foods affect people in different ways, and you might not even realize that you’re eating foods that will send your blood sugar through the roof. I love oatmeal. I just don’t think you need to cake it with sugar and raisins. I put a little bit on there, but I think the biggest thing is just the balance – making sure what you put in you compensate with insulin, and that you make smart and healthy decisions.”

That’s not to say that there aren’t frustrations. A diabetic can do what he or she thinks is the perfect recipe for a good reading…..only to have it turn out the other way. The key is trying not to get upset with yourself. “No one is perfect, and I think as long as you are trying as good as you can to manage it, you’re doing a good job. The danger is when you get frustrated and you say ‘What does it matter, anyway? My blood sugar is always jumping around.’ But, if you’re not trying, you’re not going to figure out what works for you and how your body reacts to certain foods. Your doctor can’t make you a good patient. It’s up to you to take care of your body. Hopefully, with any diabetic, you just get educated on how to take care of yourself. I still have my high blood sugar moments, as well as my low ones. I’m having fewer of those now that I am getting more in tune with how my body reacts to any food that I am putting into it.”

As a touring artist, truck stops and backstage catering don’t always provide the best nutritional choices, but there are ways around that. “The good thing about having a bus is being able to stock it with what you want. We try to put some good snacks on there that aren’t all sugar. I have a busy schedule, and that’s the good thing about having a CGM – I can always see where I’m at. I just have to look at my phone, and see if I need to eat something, or whether I need to give myself some insulin. There’s no guess work involved with it at all. I know where I stand, and it’s pretty amazing.”

Though he has carved out a successful music career, Paslay’s first career choice was something with which he had a great deal of experience – he wanted to be an endocrinologist. “I had some really good doctors around me, and that made me feel like I knew a little bit about diabetes. I thought I could relate to the kids, having been in their shoes, and help to encourage them. I know the struggles of being a kid with diabetes and wanting to be like everybody else. Then, this thing called music came along, and I figured out that I wasn’t too bad at singing and writing songs.”

Though he might not have a medical practice, the singer is grateful for ways of giving back – such as his new partnership. “The coolest thing now is that we get to do so many things like teaming up with Dexcom, where I am getting to play shows and educate people about taking care of themselves with diabetes. We also get to do events where we raise money for JDRF. There’s a benefit that my buddy Dylan Altman and I do every year. His little brother had Type 1 diabetes, and actually passed away due to the complications of it right around the time we met.”

“Angels In This Town” is the new single from his upcoming sophomore album, and he says the lyrics definitely apply to those who try to make a difference. “It’s all about miraculous things happening, which is great. Unfortunately, there is so much tragedy going on around us right now. I’m grateful there is a song that reminds us that great things can happen. There’s still a lot of good in this world. Miracles happen every day that don’t make the news. We’re getting to go around to organizations like Habitat For Humanity, and got to work with them. One guy we worked with has been a part of three hundred houses. We went to Ronald McDonald House, and encourage the families that get to stay there. We’ve been to fire departments, police departments, and got to thank the EMS people. Miracles can happen, but God can also send us, and we can be a miracle in someone else’s life. I think the coolest thing about the song is we’re getting to encourage people to do good, and thank those who do it every day.”

Admittedly, the singer has his A1C under control these days, but if there were one culinary delight he would give into if he could, what would that be? He didn’t think twice. “A whole bunch of poppy-seed koloches,” he confesses. “They are a pastry from Central Texas, where I’m from. I would probably eat way too many of those if my blood sugar level didn’t matter.”

For more information about Dexcom, go to