In 1931, Mahatma Ghandi gave a speech during which he uttered the phrase, a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.
I think this idea is also applicable to the communities we create. Like the diabetes community. Currently swirling around our seemingly picturesque landscape of pancreas-challenged folx are some terribly nasty and scary whispers.
And, if we do not recognize and right these wrongs, I fear we will fold in on ourselves.
Our lack of insulin producing cells does not exempt us from ugly behaviour. All over social media floats examples of reckless bullying within our community. I have witnessed everything from T1s shaming T2s to horrific antisemitism and brazen racism.
As a community, we have a chance to band together and support one another in a uniquely empathetic way, regardless of our type of diabetes or our ethnicity.
Or anything else that may make us and our diabetes different, for that matter.
Yet far too often we cast those opportunities aside in favour of competition and exclusivity.
And now, across the DOC, a recent rash of shaming.
Social Media Mess
Because of social media and this new fully immersive digital age, we are conditioned to think the only acceptable physical state of existence is as a slim, fit, flawless, white, twenty-something. And this has deeply penetrated the T1D community.
It is as if those of varied body shape, ability, colour, and age hold no value at all. It is as if the variety said to be the spice of life stands to ruin the pot so the chefs have tossed it out altogether.
The real truth is the seemingly perfect folx are the minority. And many of them earn their living based largely on how they look. This isn’t wrong, they aren’t at fault. But, it is unrealistic for the expectation of replication to be put in place.
Especially if one’s life isn’t dedicated to it.
And once again, we hearken back to the notion of representation.
How we see ourselves in the world has a lot to do with IF we see ourselves in the world.
Diabetes in the media needs an overhaul.
Too many times I see perfectly flat tummies sporting CGMs. This portrayal alienates a whole group of folx, like me (who absolutely does not have a flat tummy). For the longest time I struggled to navigate placement on my abdomen because mine has stretch marks, scars, and folds. I struggled to find someone in the media (even on social media) with a body like mine.
I’m probably going to get some flack for this next bit, but fuck it – it’s my blog and this is how I feel…
A lot of insulin pumps portray usage on a singular form, like the CGMs. When it came time to pick my pump (after nearly two decades of MDI) a lot of factors played into my decision to go with Omnipod, but more than other company, their product advertisements showed a variety of folx and that meant something to me (they are not perfect, there is room for improvement everywhere).
It is no secret that earlier this year I was in Barcelona, with Omnipod. While there I spoke at an event and had some pictures taken featuring their/my insulin pump.
What’s important to note here is me. I am not a model (and neither is my husband regardless of what he says!) and I hate having my picture taken, it gives me crippling anxiety. But it is so important for me that people of all kinds are represented.
Am I white? Yes. But I am also nearing forty, heavily tattooed, and covered in vitiligo; I haven’t coloured my hair or worn make-up in over seven years (and I flat out refuse to EVER). I also live with several mental, and other chronic, illnesses. And, in this picture, I am the heaviest I had been since I weighed over 200 pounds, standing at five feet two inches, during my pregnancy eleven years ago.
Misconceptions of Health
The framework within which health and fitness have been presented is massively flawed. We are programmed to view plus-sized bodies (anything larger than a US size 6) as unhealthy and unfit.
For a reference, in the picture above I am wearing a size 10.
And because of the way the medical community has presented weight with respect to medical issues, which was then in turn adopted by society as the standards for beauty, there is a tremendous amount of fear in relation to fatness.
A philosophy that pits diabetics against each other.
This is exemplified by the many folx who are misdiagnosed T2D because of their physical appearance, especially those in the BIPOC community.
Studies do show obesity makes one more susceptible to certain medical issues, however, someone carrying more weight does not also inherently carry additional health issues.
That assumption is simply wrong.
The Double Standard
The presumption that plus-size people have room for improvement or options to be healthier is never applied to thin folx. No one casts judgement upon those thin folx as they do “larger” ones.
News flash: thin folx can and do engage in poor eating and unhealthy habits just as plus-sized folx make healthy choices and lead active lives.
It is our own doing, this good versus bad diabetes/diabetics.
Within the diabetes community has spawned a dangerous diet culture. The notion that thinness equates goodness is being constantly reinforced by what is presented within our community. Feeds/screens full of the same kind of faces and bodies day in and day out, bolstered by sales pitches and products to make us better diabetics.
Life and eating are not tests.
We need to revamp our language. Too often I see the term “cheat day” tossed around the community. As if somehow eating something that makes us feel good makes us a bad person…or bad diabetic. Social media has us under the assumption that we need to constantly and publicly explain ourselves and our actions.
Did you want a fucking doughnut? Did you eat a fucking doughnut? Was it fucking amazing? Great. Good for you! You don’t have to fucking justify it or explain yourself. You didn’t cheat. You wanted a fucking doughnut, so you ate a fucking doughnut. End. Of. Story.
These ideas of health and acceptance breed anxiety and create confusion towards food, insulin, and ultimately our well-being.
There Are No Bad Diabetics
Our community is brought together by our shared situation of broken pancreases. But that is where our similarities end and our individual dia-badassness begins. We need to focus on building each other up and avoid distractions that would see us tear each other down.
Ghandi also said, no culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.
And that applies to the diabetes community.
You are NOT a bad diabetic, if…
- you don’t eat low-carb or if you do;
- you ate that doughnut, rolled around in the sprinkle glow afterwards or if you didn’t;
- you have highs or lows;
- your HbA1c is higher than 7% or if it isn’t;
- you aren’t always in range or if you are;
- you don’t have a dia-business or if you do;
- you don’t make purchases from dia-businesses or if you do;
- your graph has peaks and valleys or if it’s a flat line;
- you don’t like exercise or if you do;
- you aren’t “in shape” or if you are;
- you take a lot of insulin or a little insulin;
- you aren’t adventurous or you are;
- you find support via certain organizations or you don’t;
- you are affiliated with certain organizations or you aren’t;
- you don’t advocate or if you do;
- you use a pump or if you do MDI;
- you wear a CGM/FGM or old school finger poke;
- you aren’t involved in the community or if you are;
- your greatest accomplishment today is keeping yourself alive working that full-time pancreas job alongside your life.
We have diabetes but more importantly we are a community people. Wonderfully diverse and fascinating folx.
Remember, the measure of our goodness comes from within us and how we treat others, and not how we approach or manage our diabetes.