You guys know that when I was first diagnosed with my chronic illness, Type 2 diabetes, last year, I was absolutely devastated. I thought that I had done everything wrong. I thought that I had ruined my health and my body and my life. I was hard on myself, and I blamed myself to no end for it. But as I’ve adjusted to this over the past year, there are 6 myths that I’ve heard over and over, and I want to get them out of the way because I’m sick of hearing them, and they cause people to misunderstand the hell out of diabetes.
I also do have to note: this is not medical advice. This is what I’ve personally observed as a diabetic. I am not a doctor or medical professional, and my thoughts shouldn’t be taken as such.
“Wow, you have diabetes? All you really have to do is stop eating sugar you know. That’s the cause of it.”
29 million people in the United States alone have Diabetes, but in general, there’s a lot of disagreement and confusion about what actually causes it.
The first thing to know is that there are two types of Diabetes, Type 1 (T1) and Type 2 (T2). These are caused by different things. Type 1 Diabetes is caused when your pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin at all, so you must inject it, or take it through a pump daily to live. Type 1 Diabetics are insulin deficient. Type 2 Diabetes (that’s me), is when your body doesn’t use insulin you produce efficiently. Some of that can be attributed to being overweight or having a high body fat percentage. Some of it can also be attributed to diet and genetics. Even when you change your diet, and control your diabetes, you still have it, it’s just managed.
People think that diabetes, specifically Type-2 is what they’re thinking of, is “caused” by eating too much sugar, but it’s not. Carbohydrates in general are not the best thing for a diabetic diet because your body is a bit broken, and since you’re not producing insulin, or your body isn’t using insulin efficiently, you’re not getting rid of the glucose in your blood, or keeping your blood glucose stable. Carbohydrates are what causes your glucose to spike – it includes grains, starchy veggies, and yes, sugar, but none of those things are the cause. It comes down to how your body produces and uses insulin.
“Oh no, that’s REALLY bad – I’ve heard you can get your foot cut off!”
That’s honestly the last thing I want to hear, and while it could happen, diabetes, both T1 and T2 is all about managing the chronic illness as best as you can. There are a host of complications that come along with this illness, Diabetic Ketoacidosis, Low Blood Sugar moments, High Blood Sugar moments, an Increased risk for heart attack and stroke, vision problems, the list goes on and on.
The key to living a long, healthy life with this illness is the self-care at the utmost level. Take your insulin on time and in the right doses, take your medication appropriately, exercise, watch your diet, make sure that you’re hydrating, count your carbs, test your blood sugar and constantly adjust. Overall, be a good steward of your body. Diabetes can be highly managed, and your body will feel like normal – you just have to do a few extra things to get there. If you take care, you’ll be able to overall decrease the risk of a lot of the complications you hear about.
“I know someone who reversed their diabetes by just taking these supplements.”
Nope. They didn’t reverse it – they began to manage it. Supplements don’t work. There is no easy way out. Watch your carbs, work out, and watch yourself. Please don’t let someone talk you into supplements.
“Oh just eat this _______, you can have one, it will be fine.”
Sometimes people forget that diabetics can’t really go on spontaneous eating sprees. Whether I’m going out to lunch or planning a date night with Bryan, I’m extremely conscious careful to choose what I want to eat beforehand, so I can adjust my insulin doses and take the right amount. I know whether I’ll have 1 or two beers. I know whether I’ll enjoy dessert or not at the end of a meal. I know If I’ve got to take one bun off of my burger so I can enjoy a few fries. It’s always a give and take. So, it’s hard for me to go forth into the world unplanned. So no, I can’t just have one random cookie or a random meal. It won’t be fine. Planning is key to managing. You need your blueprint. My blueprint is my meal plan in Evernote, pre-packing my lunches knowing what I’ll have for breakfast, snacks and dinner, and logging my meals into My Fitness Pal, so I can count my macros.
“Did you see “What The Health?” Diabetes is caused by eating too much chicken, fish, and red meat. Animal Protein is terrible for your diabetes.”
Yes, I saw What The Health, and here’s what I think. Nothing is bad for you in excess. Fat is good for your body when you don’t overdo it. Protein, which we’ve been told is the building block of life can be bad for you if you have too much of it. Even water can be bad for you if you overdo it. Know your macros, and stick to those. Our bodies aren’t meant for excess. Removing animal protein can’t hurt you, and a plant-based diet perfectly healthy. Eat plants if you want. Eat meat if you want. That’s that.
“Type 1 diabetes is way worse than Type 2.”
Absolutely not. They’re both bad in different ways. They are both manageable, neither of them has a cure, and both are grossly misunderstood. Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics both go through very similar motions. There are differences in the cause, and sometimes the way they’re treated, but one is not worse than the other.
“You got diabetes because you’re lazy.”
This the biggest myth of them all. Whether you’re a T1 or T2 diabetic, there’s nothing lazy about this illness. There’s planning every meal, there’s injecting your insulin daily (I use pens, so I do it 2-3 times per day in shot form). There’s keeping track of all of your prescriptions, making sure you can take certain cold meds. There’s making sure you exercise, talking to the PCP, and the Endo. Constantly checking your feet. Being cautious of what nail salons you go to. Drinking enough water. Dealing with multiple needles a day. Watching your blood pressure and your eyes. It’s forcing yourself to make it through the day even when you feel beat down, and tired. Being in tune with your entire body every single minute of every single day.
Diabetics are the least lazy people there are. We are constantly working to keep our bodies running, but we also have a life outside of the many things we may have to check off of the list each day. We are taking care at every turn to make sure we survive from day to day.
Diabetes and diabetics are misunderstood, and it will be that way for a long time. There will always be a joke, or a meme or a jab at people who are diabetic. There might always be a stigma, and a knee-jerk reaction when people find out your diabetic. In some ways, there will always be shame, or the feeling that people are judging you for your choices. One day, I think that will change, but until then I’m glad to have done my little part to explain some of the myths I’ve seen as I’ve dealt with this over the last year.
If you’re diabetic, what do you do to educate people about the illness?