I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Sanofi to write about the realities of diabetes as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own.
I didn’t grow up with the best relationship with food, and without much of an education surrounding good nutrition.
I grew up in the 80s and 90s when the fat free revolution was taking place which replaced fat with sugar. Diet sodas with chemical sweeteners were what I was allowed, and I was told to watch fat grams instead of sugar intake or calories. The concept of perimeter shopping was so foreign to me until I was an adult, and I never really did love eating my veggies.
I started dieting from a young age and when I was 14, I started eating only bell peppers and a small, microwaveable cup of black bean soup that only contained 3 grams of fat. I would push food around on my plate at dinner and then dump whatever was left in the trash can. I usually skipped breakfast and relied heavily on my diet of bell peppers and black bean soup to sustain me. For dessert, I would eat a handful of Ex-Lax. About 3 months into my freshman year of high school I had gone from a size 12 jean to a size 8, and 145lbs to 127lbs. Not a drastic weight loss by any means, but it happened pretty quickly and I was PUUUMPED. I could finally stand to look at myself in the mirror, I finally felt worthy of being looked at, and I finally had some confidence.
I’ll never forget going shopping for my dress for the Snow Ball that year.
I went to our town’s lone fancy dress store, The Plum Tree and found a gorgeous, gold, lace, mini dress that I couldn’t wait to wear. I fit into a size 5. When I checked out that evening, the owner of the Plum Tree told me I looked sick and that she knew I was doing something to lose weight but she didn’t know what. Then she told me she was going to tell my parents if I didn’t come clean. I denied everything and told her I was just eating better. I’m not sure if she believed me or not, but as far as I’m aware, she never told anyone. I wound up taking that dress back and buying another one that was long and more suited for a winter formal, and one that showed off my protruding hip and collarbones a little better. I was dang proud of those things.
My mom eventually found me out and I went back to eating regular food.
I made my high school’s dance team that year which I hadn’t done the year before (I assumed because I was fat), and right after try outs, I got super sick with a lung infection that wound up requiring steroids. The weight all came back with a vengeance. I hovered around 145lbs all of high school, despite my attempts at only eating once a day or limiting my fat intake. And I never, ever felt beautiful or worthy of attention. Every time I had an opportunity I talked about how fat I was so that it was never an elephant in the room.
It’s a habit that stuck.
I don’t know if it was an effect of my upbringing and eating habits or an actual genetic issue that I never was going to escape, but when I was 26, I found out I had insulin resistance and my doctor put me on a drug that regulates blood sugar. I have been on and off of that drug for the last 13 years and every time I come off of it, I gain fat like crazy.
I’ve realized in the past few months how important it is for me to manage my blood sugars, my diet, and all the ways we are kind or unkind to my body. I haven’t always been good at practicing what I preach, but I’m getting better.
I was 100% one of the many who do not manage their health well and the implications of that are scary to me now.
Diabetes is not a disease to be played with, and Type 2 Diabetes affects millions of people across the globe. 1 in 3 people in the United States of America (88 million!) have pre-diabetes and more than 84% of them don’t even know they have it.
I cannot tell you how important it is for you to advocate for your health now and always. There are several courses of treatment for Diabetes that you can discuss with your healthcare provider and there is no one right answer. YOUR right answer looks different than another patient’s which is why it’s so important to have a healthcare provider you trust and who understands diabetes. Keeping blood glucose levels within their normal limits allows people with diabetes to live long and healthy lives. Simple lifestyle changes including education, support groups, medical nutrition therapy, regular exercise, and counseling programs can help maintain blood glucose levels, and sometimes the addition of new therapies and medications can aid in a healthy life even further.
My hope is that this pandemic has helped people realize how important their physical and mental health really is.
I know it has for me. It has really awakened me to the fact that I am the most important factor in my own health and only I can control what happens to me. Taking the reins on my own health has been incredibly empowering, you really should try it sometime.
Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input.
The survey, which includes additional education on this topic, will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with diabetes and your care team, which will help us develop future educational initiatives. Once you’ve completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will be used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize and to send a follow-up survey as part of this same initiative.