To whom it may concern:
This article is a missive for ALL those who use their public position, power and audience in public and the media to use words like “diabetes” and “diabetic” as pejoratives–while spreading catchy memes, rife with misinformation that ultimately make it harder for us actually LIVING with diabetes to be healthy. Feeding the stereotype that we are in some way to blame–whether through diet or laziness–is not only insulting and wrong, it’s dangerous. It bolsters barriers to healthcare that are built on the idea that ‘they can just exercise more and not need the medication’.
I wish I could have written this open letter earlier when all the noise was going around on Twitter. Instead I’ve been grinding my teeth all day at my job–and so anyone who is sensitive to a few expletives, please take note before reading further that I chose not to sensor my thoughts too heavily in this post. You see, I write on nights and weekends when I’m not working my real job–a job that I am lucky to have because it provides me with health insurance that I need to stay alive because I live with diabetes. I can’t just run more–or eat better. I actually lived an entire year where I climbed every single day consecutively to test this theory–but that is another story.
I am writing to you as someone who has worked their whole adult life in fitness and health education and once I am done with this exercise in futility, I am going to step away from my desk and spend my remaining minutes of daylight running. It’s hard to pay for the medications that I need to live life as an athlete with diabetes–and misinformation about my condition is, in part, responsible for that problem. So let’s start with this: sugar doesn’t cause diabetes. I’m not defending sugar in this piece, mind you, I am defending the character of millions of people like myself who live with BOTH types of diabetes.
You see, part of the difficulty of being healthy is overcoming the stereotypes about people with diabetes–that’s a big part of why insurance is a pain in the ass to get and why there is a lack of urgency for supporting diabetes research in the public. It’s because people and companies like yours use the challenge of our medical condition as marketing–as a catch all dirty word that sends the message loud and clear that “We got diabetes and it’s our own damn fault”. That is the misinformation that I struggle to correct every f-ing day of my life. I have about 1800 followers on Twitter, and that’s including the bots and spam accounts, but I use every bit of my digital reach to make sure there is support and awareness of the reality of life with diabetes and that we can still live a good life and be healthy.
Then I see people like you, blasting out the exact opposite message to the world, to your 250 some thousand followers who will further carry the “It’s your own damn fault” message out, far and wide, reinforcing the terms ‘diabetes’ as dirty, guilty, shameful words. I am including this image which I recognize is not from Crossfit but it’s recent and relevant and helps illustrate the attitude that is so unhealthy. Granted the guy who posted it is named “Avocado”, but it got over 50k “likes” on Facebook, so I think it’s worth noting, at least in passing.
You want to know something? I UNDERSTAND the point of your little meme(s) was to say that sugar sucks and is bad for us. It’s bad for me with diabetes and it’s bad for you without diabetes. I agree with that! I eat 100% plant based whole foods only because I refuse to accept that strength and good health are not mutually exclusive to life with diabetes. That’s ZERO refined sugars. Can’t you send the message of eating healthy and being fit without slagging off millions of people who have had the misfortune of shitty genetics? I don’t have a billion twitter followers like you, but I manage to balance this approach working off hours. Maybe that’s why I don’t have the audience on social media. What I say and do is pretty niche–which is ok, I can live with that because I am not interested in just making 140 character generalizations about groups of people. I am trying to help create better resources for people like me who won’t give up their right to good health because our parents (God love them) had a few bad genes.
I want the world to be healthy. I want everyone to be fit and eat better. I do NOT want that to happen at the expense of public education about diabetes because that undermines our ability to get medication and drive research forward. When the public is misinformed, innocent people are marginalized and suffer. Innocent people face a harder and harder battle to gain the tools they need to care for their disease and actually come into the fold of health conscious athletes that you claim to represent.
I am an athlete. I am a climber. I live with diabetes. I didn’t ask for this condition and I didn’t eat too much sugar. If having a big audience requires you to feed stereotypes instead of challenging them, I guess I will have to accept that as the difference between us and take my contentment from knowing that I am making an impact on my remote and minuscule tip of the tip of the iceberg.
These statements are 100% my own opinion and in no way reflect the position of my employers. Just so we are all clear…