Friday, June 11, 2010

Type 2 Diabetes: A Disease, Not a Choice

Amy Tenderich of the blog Diabetes Mine featured an interview yesterday with John Anderson, who raced with Team Type 2 in last year's Race Across America ("John Anderson: Proving Type 2 Diabetics Can Be Athletes, Too").  I found his story is inspiring on many levels, but what I think brought it to the attention of many is not merely that he has type 2 diabetes and is an endurance athlete (*gasp!* ;-), but that he was an athlete before his diagnosis (*double gasp!*).  This sure doesn't fit the media stereotype of type 2 diabetes being the disease of "fat, lazy" people.  (And don't get me started on the stereotype of "fat" people as "lazy."  Grrrrr.)

But, oh yes, I bought into the type 2 stereotype initially.  Then I encountered Jenny Ruhl's excellently researched article, "You Did NOT Eat Your Way to Diabetes".  Wow, talk about an eye-opener!  I think it helped, turning the shame and guilt into anger--both at the stereotype and the disease.  I embarked on trying to be as opposite as possible, striving to find my inner athlete, to shake the stereotype.  Only to find later, after some longtime school friends found out I completed my first sprint tri, that my being "opposite" was just another, that's-so-Pubsgal, way of my being "me" all along.  The "me" that had been adrift in a hyperglycemic fog all those years.

I think the thing that one reason why lifestyle is addressed as a cause, is that for many people, taking good care of one's body can help delay or prevent diabetes symptoms and complications.  For me, properly taking care of my type 2 diabetes through nourishing my body with types of foods (and amounts of foods) that keep my blood sugar levels low and steady, exercising regularly, and taking medication (metformin in my case) helped me to become more energetic (even before the fat loss) and to lose much of the extra body fat I'd been carrying.  These things won't change my genetic makeup, or enable me to regrow beta cells in my pancreas.  You can do all the right things and still have to adjust treatment as your body changes over time.  But maybe doing the right things will delay or prevent complications of this disease.   

So, good luck to all of the teams--especially Team JDRF, Team Type 1, and Team Type 2--in this year's Race Across America!  (Teams start this bike race from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD tomorrow, so it's not too late to follow them!)

P.S. [Later on] - Of course, now I'm laughing to myself about getting all riled up here.  Especially since all 8 or so of you who read this blog have heard me rant about all this before.  But maybe the "Race Across America" is news to some of all y'all.

P.P.S. - And speaking of great athletes, Team Shrinking Jeans did it!!!  Woo hoo!!!  Congrats to them all on their completion of the San Diego Rock & Roll Half-Marathon and for raising $43,725.65 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society!  THANK YOU!!!


debby said...

Hey Pubsgal, good rant! And you educated me too. I have a tendency to think still (and I should know better) that you can prevent or 'change' diabetes just by eating right. Thanks for being such a diabetes advocate and inspiration.

p.s. they still had my dad's walker at that nursery. Thanks so much for the phone number. I told her I would pick it up on our meet-up day.

Angela said...

It's all part of the general public's perception that any of this is a choice. That food can't be an addiction like alcohol or drugs. That only overweight people have high cholesterol and heart attacks.

I loved your rant and I think it's important to keep getting messages like this out there.

Hugs darling!

Brooke said...

thanks for the great link. jay's got a family history of both obesity and diebetes (on different sides though) and i'm always concerned that he's going to eat his way to diabetes. funny how a little misinformation can change your whole perspective

Kat said...

Great post and rant! This is an important message.

Anonymous said...

Loved this post Pubsgal! I can't tell you how many people are still clueless about the disease.

Mostly some thought by my eating a few too many Suzy-Q's in my day made me diabetic.

Then others who say "it must stink not to have cake, cookies or sugar anymore!"

Sagan said...

Very interesting research and articles!

I think that type 2 diabetes is at an INCREASED risk if we make poor lifestyle choices, just the same as any disease, but it is not necessarily wholly dependent on that.

(That being said, I don't claim to be an expert on the subject! Just my thoughts. Now I want to learn more about it!).

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