Type 1/Type 2 Conversations: Talking about Weight

Conversations BannerI first metKate Cornell in early 2013 when I began listening to the podcast archives of DSMA Live.  Her February 2012 interview introduced me to a woman who knew an incredible amount about diabetes and was well-spoken and passionate.  As I began to follow her blog, SWEET SUCCESS: MY LIFE WITH TYPE 2 DIABETES, and read her comments around the diabetes online community (DOC), I found myself thinking that her opinions mirrored many of my own thoughts about diabetes and life in general. The fact that I have Type 1 diabetes and Kate has Type 2 diabetes just didnt seem to make any difference.

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Kate and I recently came up with the idea of collaborating on a series of four blogposts in which we will initiate a dialogue on issues that affect people in the diabetes community.  We expect to learn a lot from each other and we hope that our Type 1/Type 2 Conversations will lead to more communication and mutual respect between people with all types of diabetes.

Laddie_Head SquareLaddie:  For the first Type 1/Type 2 conversation, I figured that I wouldn’t shy away from a difficult topic:  Weight.  Weight is the elephant in the room in most discussions and arguments between people with Type 1 diabetes and those with Type 2.  Weight is synonymous with blame, guilt, and ignorance.

Many people with Type 1 diabetes are thin and some of us were almost skeletal when we received our diabetes diagnosis.  When you have Type 1, it is easy to associate being thin with “Not My Fault.”  If you become comfortable in this thought process, the next logical step is to become comfortable with the stereotype of Overweight = Type 2 = Their Fault.

A long time ago I learned to stay out of the Type 1/Type 2 wars and keep my mouth shut.  That doesn’t mean that I didn’t believe a lot of the stereotypes.  I’m not going to be virtuous now and say that I have totally seen the light.  No, I’m going to say that I just dont know.

In recent years I have read a lot of research that indicates that Type 1 and Type 2 are just different manifestations of inflammation and autoimmunity gone astray.  Maybe just a flip of the coin made me Type 1 instead of Type 2.  I have a friend who was diagnosed with Type 2 several years ago.  She has always struggled with her weight.  She and her husband go on the same diet.  He loses twenty pounds and she loses one.  She wonders whether the abnormalities of metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes are responsible for her weight problems, not the result of her weight problems.  She might be right.

I am very thankful that except for an occasional extra five or ten pounds, I have never struggled with being overweight.  In my many years participating in the DOC, I have learned to be less judgmental and I have gained more understanding of the issues that those with the “other kind” of diabetes face.  In the last two years I have gained 5 pounds that I have been trying to lose.  I’ve had no success.  Do I think that it would be easy to lose 50 pounds or 100 pounds.  No way.  I can’t even lose 5 pounds.

Many people with Type 2 diabetes struggle with weight.  Many people without diabetes struggle with weight.  Many people with Type 1 diabetes struggle with weight.  When I read the definition of weight in my dictionary app, I only see that weight can be measured in things like mass, thickness, gravity, and load.  I don’t see judgment.  I don’t see criticism.  I don’t see blame.  We can learn something from that.

Kate_photo_RKate:  The subject of weight and diabetes is certainly a good place to start our conversations. Laddie hasn’t shied away from what is usually a very controversial subject.  Our society is obsessed with weight: how to lose it, how to remain pencil thin and blaming those who carry too much.

I have struggled with excess weight for most of my adult life.  I was a thin child and teenager.  I married at 20 and once I began having children, the weight just crept up.  I always thought it was because of the pregnancies and my inability to take off the “baby weight”.  Whatever the reason, it was difficult to lose.  Fast forward to my diagnosis of type 2 diabetes at age 50 and cue the guilt.  It doesn’t matter that I’ve spouted, quite often, about how our type 2 dxs aren’t our fault; the guilt is still there.  “If I had just lost weight earlier.” “If I’d just worked a little harder.”  It’s easy to blame ourselves.  Here’s the thing: diabetes, regardless of type, is NOT the patient’s fault!  Yes, those of us with type 2 are often overweight or obese, but so are millions of other people and they don’t have diabetes.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that when the media is waving the fat shaming in our face.

I was diagnosed nine years ago this summer.  I have educated myself and made some significant changes to my diet and lifestyle.  (That doesn’t mean I’m always perfect.  Far from it.)  I did manage to lose some weight early on, but things have changed in the last year. Even though I now eat very few processed carbs and more veggies; even though I exercise for 30 minutes nearly every day, I am gaining weight.  It could be due to a myriad of hormone issues: thyroid, female, insulin…but in the end it doesn’t matter what Weight_2the reason is for my inability to take the weight off.  I’m trying as hard as I can and it won’t budge.  Is that my fault?  I don’t think so.

Many people with type 1 are weary of being told that “if you lost a bit of weight you could probably get rid of your diabetes.”  Guess what, so are those of us with type 2.  The myths that revolve around diabetes and too much sugar, too little exercise, too many pounds are just that – myths.  No matter what the diabetes type, none of us did this to ourselves.  None of us asked for this disease.  Quite a few of us, with diabetes and without, could benefit from losing weight, so why does society and the media vilify those with type 2 diabetes for needing to lose pounds?

Yes, I used to love to eat pizza.  Yes, I used to take a donut from the box in the break room at work.  Yes, I ate fast food and processed foods.  Yes, I used to eat bread.  Yes, I bought into the travesty that was the Food Pyramid.  Yes, I have type 2 diabetes.  Other than the diagnosis, how am I much different than the majority of Americans?

Laddie_Head SquareLaddie:  I have learned enough about Type 2 diabetes not to blame the individual.  I don’t think that there is a magic formula to becoming overweight and I certainly don’t think that being thin is a virtue, although popular media often tries to convince us otherwise.  I do know that when I gain unwanted pounds, I feel sluggish, frustrated, and full of guilt for my perceived weakness.

I blame society for much of the increase in average weight of our population.  Many people, unfortunately including a lot of children, lead a much less active life than did their parents and grandparents at the same age.  Too much TV and video game time has turned many of us into couch potatoes.  Many children live in environments where it is not safe to walk to school or play outside unsupervised.

Bad food is everywhere and often is less expensive than quality food.  I believe that carbs are wonderfully delicious and highly addictive.  More than once I have admitted to being incapable of eating carbs in moderation.  No chocolate chip cookies is easier for me that just one chocolate chip cookie.  No chocolate-covered donuts is easier for me than just one chocolate-covered donut.  No potato chips is easier than just one.  Also we are starting to see studies that indicate that the ubiquitous low fat heart-healthy diet is in fact responsible for making us heavier and less healthy.

As Kate mentions, there are many people who are overweight but don’t have Type 2 diabetes.  Weight is one trigger for Type 2 and we need more knowledge about the other triggers.  We read statistics on the huge increase in the number of people with Type 2 and the increasingly younger ages at which it is showing up.  But interestingly enough, the incidence of Type 1 is also increasing.  There is a lot of bad stuff going on in our environment.  Let’s dedicate ourselves to looking for answers rather than slinging blame on those who need our respect and support.

Kate_photo_RKate:  Laddie and I are on the same page when it comes to unhealthy carbs being addictive.  I am also someone who is better off having none rather than a “reasonable portion”.  It’s difficult to deny yourself things that are soooo good, but it’s important that we remember to put our health first and fleeting pleasure second, at least the majority of the time.

I believe that our society puts too much focus on weight and not enough focus on health.  As someone who has thought about weight my entire adult life I feel that it would be easier to make healthy changes if we were told that our diet needed to change for health reasons and stop focusing on losing weight.  Being told that you need to lose weight when it’s obviously something that doesn’t come easily is daunting, at best.  Being told that certain foods are bad for your health might make it easier to give them up.  I’m constantly reading on reputable websites (and the blasted media) that “if people with type 2 would lose a few pounds, their diabetes would be easier to control (or worse, go away!)”.  I would rather hear that we need to stop eating unhealthy foods and be told to begin a healthier lifestyle.  If we did that then the weight loss should naturally follow.  So many “diabetes-friendly recipes” (I abhor that term) continue to focus on carbs rather than weaning us from things that cause our blood sugars to spike.  There is also a movement in the medical community toward thinking that maybe the diabetes is to blame for the weight gain and not the other way around, in people with type 2.  Dr. Peter Attia’s TedTalks video outlines that very topic quite well.

In the end, everyone, regardless of diabetes dx, would benefit from a healthier lifestyle.  Everyone would profit from less focus on weight.  I’d love to see less finger-pointing and more camaraderie and understanding.  A united diabetes front will do more good for all and possibly begin to swing the tide back to more understanding of our diseases.

Laddie_Head SquareLaddie:  Kate and I covered a lot of ground in our first Type 1/Type 2 Conversation.  Weight is not always easy to talk about, but we managed to share our thoughts and hopefully learn a thing or two from each other.

I believe that we shouldn’t shy away from difficult topics in the diabetes online community.  At the same time we need to work to be respectful and supportive of each other.  If I ever write anything insensitive, hurtful, or just plain wrong, I hope that Kate or someone else in the DOC will call me on it.  Just be nice about it and I promise that I will learn from you.  And I will apologize.  And I will be a better person for it.

Kate has chosen the topic for our second Type 1/Type 2 Conversation which will be published next Tuesday, July 15.  Rumor is that it contains some fishing photos…. I hope you’ll join us.

Stay Tuned

Laddie_Head SquareStarting next Tuesday, July 8, Kate Cornell of Sweet Success: My Life with Type 2 Diabetes and I will be publishing a series of collaborative blogposts titled Type 1/Type 2 Conversations.  Each week we will select a topic related to diabetes and share our views in a back-and-forth discussion.  Because I have Type 1 diabetes and Kate has Type 2 diabetes, we expect that we may agree on many things and at the same time run into a few areas where we have completely different experiences and viewpoints.

The aim of these conversations is not to come to a consensus on a given topic or decide who is right and who is wrong.  Our purpose is to communicate and talk about these issues.  Both Kate and I believe that a strong diabetes community needs to reflect the voices of people with all types of diabetes and all experiences with diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, LADA, parents, and so on.  We do not have to be the same in order to respect and support each other.  In fact we are stronger because of our diversity.  So let’s talk to each other and let’s learn from each other.

The first topic that we are tackling is often a difficult one in the diabetes world.  Please join us next Tuesday as we talk about Weight.

Conversations_Final

Blogger Meet-up in Flagstaff

Laddie_Head SquareLast week I had dinner with three fabulous women. All of them have diabetes and all are well-known bloggers in the DOC. It was invigorating, it was fun, and it was truly an honor to spend time with these women.

We mentioned one guy a few times during dinner. No, none of us had a grilled cheese sandwich, but I bet you know whom I’m talking about. Yeah, it’s Scott Johnson. What does Scott have to do with this dinner? He is absolutely the reason that this meet-up occurred.

A little history here. I’ve been active in the Diabetes Online Community for about ten years. I’ve participated in message boards and read numerous blogs with various anonymous screen names such as Lathump or Casabby. In late 2011, I emailed Scott responding to an invitation he had made to help people in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area get connected with other folks with diabetes. In typical Scott fashion, he replied warmly and generously with the contact information for several groups. I met Scott in the spring of 2012 at a Type 1 meet-up at the Edina Panera Bread and felt like I’d known him forever.

Somehow meeting Scott brought the DOC to life for me. I saw him at a couple of other diabetes events and occasionally we emailed back and forth. I don’t remember how DSMA entered our relationship, but in January 2013 I emailed Scott that my aim for the winter was to listen to the entire archives of DSMA Live of which Scott was one of the hosts. DSMA Live was (and is) is treasure trove of diabetes stories and mid-winter I “met” Kate Cornell. Kate has Type 2 diabetes and blogs at Sweet Success: My Life with Type 2 Diabetes. Listening to the November 2012 interview, I was very impressed by Kate who seemed so composed and so knowledgeable. I started following her blog and filed it in the back of my mind that I wanted to meet her some day. More than once I would read something that Kate wrote and think that “Wow, this woman really knows her stuff and she says things that I might say”.

As the winter of 2013 progressed, I learned about DSMA Twitter Chat on Wednesday evenings. Twitter was a complete unknown to me, but I bravely indicated to Scott that I might try it out. Kerri at Six Until Me had previously published a post outlining the basics of Twitter and I followed her instructions and signed up. At my inaugural Twitter Chat, the first person who welcomed me and gave me the confidence to continue, was @JennMamaBear. I followed Jenn and was daily impressed with her photographs and Twitter skills. I followed her blog Sweet Zoo and also starting playing Words with Friends with her.

When I learned that Jenn was from Utah, I mentioned the idea of a meet-up in Flagstaff and indicated that I had always wanted to meet Kate. Jenn immediately jumped on board and said that she knew someone on Twitter from Flagstaff and her name was Jewels. Although I did not realize that Jewels was from northern Arizona, I “knew” her because of a November 2013 interview on the DSMA ‘Rents show. Jewels has Type 1 diabetes and blogs at SheSugar. One of her daughters also has Type 1 and Celiac disease, so her blog is an incredible resource for information on living a healthy life with both conditions. It is much more than a recipe source, but the low-carb gluten-free recipe that she recently featured for Crispy Cauliflower Crust Pizza is high on my list to try.

To make a long story short, these Scott Johnson-, DSMA-, and DOC-connections led to a dinner meet-up of four diabetes bloggers in Flagstaff, Arizona. In many ways this dinner was a reflection of both the kinship and diversity of the Diabetes Online Community. Despite our instant connection to each other and our thoroughly entertaining evening, our stories are really quite different.

Bloggers_Flagstaff

Kate was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes nine years ago. She is an independent sort and with no “diabetes team” in 2005 to teach her what she needed to know, she searched the internet to learn everything that she could about diabetes. She combines oral meds with low-carb eating to keep her diabetes ducks in a row and is currently involved in a frustrating battle to convince her doctor to let her begin using insulin.

Jewels was diagnosed with Type 1 as a child and has the unique experience of being a Type 1 who is parenting a child with diabetes and celiac. She is a nurse, freelance writer, and health consultant who embraces a gluten-free lifestyle for her family. She is a Stanford Medicine X ePatient scholar and JDRF volunteer who balances her advocacy work with a crazy-active life spent biking, running, skiing, and participating in yoga.

Jenn has been living with diabetes for almost ten years. Her diabetes story is the ubiquitous tale of being misdiagnosed as Type 2 for six frustrating years before finally getting the correct Type 1 label in 2010. She is an animal lover who manages to make room for her husband and daughter in a house ruled by cats. She works full-time, is active in her church, is a JDRF advocate, and is a fun and enthusiastic travel companion.

A Type 2, a Type 1 diagnosed as a child and parenting a T1, a Type 1 initially diagnosed as a T2, and a Type 1 diagnosed as a young adult. That’s a lot of diabetes mojo at one dinner table.

Jenn and I went to the red rock country of Sedona on Wednesday. We marveled at the beautiful scenery while hiking (18,484 steps and 8.33 miles per my Fitbit), visiting local landmarks, and wandering through unique shops. Never far from the DOC, I had to take a photo of Jenn by the sign of the frog-themed Mexican restaurant where we had a delicious lunch. She needed to send it to Tina who knows of Jenn’s hatred of frogs and always sends her frog photos. Of course I “know” Tina from her September 2013 DSMA ‘Rents interview….

Sedona_Boynton

This blogpost is littered with links to many people in the DOC and once again illustrates how the diabetes community is an interwoven fabric of relationships and stories. Because I have provided photos, everything I have written is the absolute truth. That’s another bit of DOC/DSMA lore as Cherise pronounced last October after my NYC brunch with Alecia of SurfaceFine: “If there’s no photo, it didn’t happen.”

So yes, Cherise, this time there are photos and yes, it really happened.

The Great Divide in the DOC

Abby with Abby Crown_no backgroundI’m Abby the Black Lab and it has been a while since I have written a blog post.  Lately I have been utterly distressed by a great divide that I see in the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) and I think it is time to bring this to the attention of my readers.  You probably think I’m going to start talking about the Type 1 versus Type 2 wars that periodically surface on the Internet.  Are you kidding?  My subject is not nearly as trite as that.

No, it’s the dog people versus the cat people.  The canines versus the felines.  The lovable, loyal, goofy, tail-wagging dogs versus the slinky, aloof, meowing and menacing kitty cats.

The cat aficionados have long been led by Kerri from Six Until Me whose cat Siah is a media star who poses in laundry baskets and attempts to dominate the DOC as an “internet celeb-kitty.”  The dog people are more decentralized in their leadership.  Canines have conceded Twitter to the cats, but think that we rule Facebook.  The blogosphere is probably a toss-up, but my opinion is that dogs are truly superior in their contribution to their PWDs (people with diabetes).  Duchess is a diabetes service dog who daily keeps her owner Tarra safe.  Meri’s boys are protected from the abyss of low blood sugars by Lawton the Yellow Lab.  All human hearts have melted seeing photos of Kim’s corgi watching over the new baby “Rabbit.”  Black labs like Riley owned by Mike Hoskins insist that their owners exercise by taking them for daily walks.

Cats meanwhile are tiptoeing across keyboards and writing meaningless blog posts with the tag line “zxzxzxdjjj.”  Pissed-off and non-sleeping kitties are considered newsworthy.  Oh yeah, Chris of @iam_spartacus fame has some feisty looking cats and @KarenBittrSweet claims to have the world’s cutest cat.  Videos of Grumpy Cat are ubiquitous, but if I want to see grumpy, I can look at my owner Laddie when her meter says 286.

Fortunately the DOC universe of cats and dogs has recently been in a state of equilibrium with only a few ripples of discord.  The dog people tried to sneak one under the rug in Twitter and Facebook with the purchase of a Scottish Terrier named Bella by Cherise.  Someone needs to tell Bella that if she wants to become an icon in the DOC Canine Hall of Fame, she should learn to walk on a leash.  Also tell her that if she’s going to be a supporter of people with diabetes, lancet devices should not be on the menu.  The cat people have lost some heroes as Kerri and Pancreassasin mourn their beloved friends who have gone to the scratching post in the sky. (RIP Prussia July/2013 and Pancreassasin 2week kitty August/2013).

But the calm has been shattered!  Earlier this month the cat people added a new Abby_Loopy2superhero to their roster in the guise of a young child named Birdie.  Smiles and cute Batman Princess costumes are not adequate to camouflage the chaotic schemes of this young and seemingly innocent feline-loving child.  With no attempts to disguise her evil intent, this child suggested that the family cat Siah was lonely and needed a friend called…. Loopy.

The Loopy hullabaloo has not been all.  Another scandal has been exposed in the DOC and I, Abby, a supporter of all people with diabetes, have been accused of consorting with the enemy.  A photo of a certain black lab being nuzzled by a gray feline has been splashed across the headlines.  I confess.  I am guilty.  I like cats and cats like me.

Abby Headlines

Every year I put “Kitten” at the top of my Christmas list.  Unfortunately my owner Laddie is allergic to cats, so no personal kitty is in my future.  I am extremely fortunate that when Laddie travels, I get to go to Linda’s house and visit my friend Nikki.  Nikki is a shy cat, but I have learned to approach her slowly and lay my head down acknowledging that cats are supreme.  She rewards me with purrs and caresses of her head against mine.  It is a magical glimpse of heaven for a lucky black dog who is showered with love by a beautiful princess gray cat.

My romance with Nikki has some important lessons for everyone.  Although you seemingly-civilized people with Type 1 diabetes sometimes argue with those who have Type 2 diabetes, you pancreatically-challenged doofuses should remember that you are stronger together than apart.  Diabetes in all of its evil forms is the enemy and you should join hands and conquer it together.

More importantly, we dogs and cats should toss aside our petty differences and stop the harassing hisses and barks.  With a united army of canines and felines, we can fight a cosmic battle against our common enemy.   A enemy who taunts and teases us in our own yards and through our own windows.  An adversary who seems to think that dominance is achieved through water-skiing videos.  We have seen the enemy and the enemy is……..SQUIRRELS!

Abby Crown Against Squirrels