I recently read a story on NPR.org about an obese woman and her struggles to lose weight. Apparently, she was quite thin and active up through high school but began to gain weight in her 20’s until she found herself topping out at 300 lbs. Now she finds that, no matter what she tries, she’s unable to take the weight off. The title of the story is “One Woman's Struggle to Shed Weight, And Shame” and you can read it/listen to it yourself at: NPR story
Did you catch the word shame in the title? She and too many other adults in this country are ashamed of how they look and have to deal with untold insults and humiliations on a day-to-day basis. I was, in fact, appalled at the horrible, rude comments that some of the people left after the article. I again saw a lot of, “all you have to do is….” “I don’t feel sorry for her at all. She did this to herself.” “Obese people are nothing but a bunch of lazy, good for nothing dolts.” It left me feeling sad and frustrated. Is there no compassion in this world?
When I was at my mom’s apartment this last weekend she was watching a show about a morbidly obese woman who weighed 800 lbs.! She was going to have gastric bypass surgery. It was appalling and sad. (I have NO idea why Mom watches that stuff. Maybe it makes her feel better knowing that someone else is worse off than she is.) This woman’s story apparently prompted other morbidly obese people to ask to be rescued from their homes so that they could get help too; rescued from their homes since the walls needed to be torn down because they no longer fit through the doorways. The media is fond of sensationalizing these stories so it’s no wonder that many Americans are angry about the obesity problem and rise in type 2 diabetes in our country. Not all type 2 diabetics are obese and yet when the media talks about the obesity epidemic it is quite often linked to the diabetes epidemic, ergo: diabetics are obese and therefore idiots for doing this to themselves, lazy and not worthy of compassion.
Obese is such an ugly word. It means very fat or overweight; corpulent. Corpulent is large of body. Portly. Stout. You can read and hear so much in the media these days about obesity and how it is adding to the numbers of people who are diagnosed with diabetes, type 2 but you rarely hear the more personal stories; the stories of how these people got where they are and what a struggle it is to overcome their weight issues.
What determines who is obese? The Body Mass Index, or BMI, is used to determine a healthy weight, overweight or obesity. The formula used is weight divided by height squared = BMI. A BMI over 25 is considered overweight, a BMI over 30 is considered obese. A medical diagnosis generally also takes into account factors such as age and sex. AARP has an online calculator at: BMI calculator. This calculator doesn’t consider age, fitness or gender but it can give you a good idea of where you stand.
But these are just numbers and don’t take into consideration a person’s frame of mind or circumstances at home. These things tell us WHAT determines that a person is obese but doesn’t touch on WHY. Eating is such a personal thing. Everyone has to eat to stay alive but many people eat for other reasons as well. We’ve all heard of stress eating or comfort eating. Eating to socialize and eating because we’re bored. Yes, I believe that the fast food industry and other processed foods have done a lot to make our country fat but there has to be some light shed on the mental side of eating. People who find themselves weighing 300-800 lbs. didn’t get there overnight and they certainly didn’t do this to themselves on purpose. We aren’t paying attention to what we’re doing!!
Now let’s talk about the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. There has recently been yet another uproar in the diabetic community about how the media sends out misleading and incorrect information about diabetes. Too many type 1 adults and children have to deal with people who don’t understand that type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with what they eat or how healthy they are. Type 1 diabetics didn’t “do this to themselves”. Type 1 is an auto-immune disease. Type 2, on the other hand, is a condition that can be brought on by inactivity and too much weight. I can see why PWD, type 1 hate being compared with those of us with type 2. The general public just doesn’t get it.
So here’s why I’m not feeling the love. I am a person with diabetes, type 2. I am not obese. I am an overweight woman who is working very hard to lose weight and exercise more so that I can control my condition. I try very hard not to blame myself for developing this disease and yet I’m confronted on all sides by information that says that PWD, type 2 are fat and lazy. That we did this to ourselves. That all we have to do is eat less and move more. That we can reverse this if we just don’t eat ice cream. No wonder many type 2s are reluctant to divulge that they are diabetic! I know that PWD, type 1 can empathize with type 2s. We face many of the same struggles but we aren’t really in the same club, are we? Sometimes I feel like type 1’s would rather that we just go away. I know that there are many who wish there were different names for our disease types so they can stop being compared to us. I get it, I do. The media vilifies us and type 1’s want some space…..I’m just not feeling the love.