It Happened to Me: I Got Diabetes Type 2

And I wasn't even Southern, old, or eating deep-fried butter with abandon.
Publish date:
January 26, 2012
healthy, weight, diabetes, paula deen

The other week, when my doctor told me bluntly, "You're not going to like this, but you should be taking a diabetes drug and a statin," she was correct.

I didn't like that one bit. And it's exactly why I skipped an appointment over two years ago and didn't return. At least this time I wasn't hearing anything that surprised me.

When I was told four years ago at 35 that I was diabetic, it was a jolt, though definitely not a clichéd wake up call. Yeah, I might talk about pork belly or fried chicken more than the average person -- I'm a food blogger, and not an obnoxious one, I swear -- but I also eat plenty of vegetables and work out regularly. Then again, I figured diabetes would catch up with me eventually , but you know, when I was old, old, like my dad when he was diagnosed closer to age 50 (OK, that seemed ancient when I was a teen).

Little did I know that six days after my recent doctor's visit, the whole world would become an expert on the disease. Did you know that you can cure insulin resistance by simply getting your lard ass off the couch and take a break from shoving deep-fried Twinkies in your face? (Deep-fried Cadbury Eggs are way better than crispy Hostess treats, by the way.)

Who I haven't a peep from is anyone who actually has diabetes, and type 2, the one for poor, fat, lazy people, not the good one you're born with. I guess no one wants to cop to an obviously self-inflicted disease that only mouth-breathing blobs who probably live alone (in red states, of course) with obese pets that don't even love them, get.

Up until Paula Deen, the only face of diabetes, or rather, diabeetus, was walrusy Wilford Brimley. Not exactly a role model for non-elderly women -- or for them either.

The first funeral I ever attended was for an uncle who I barely knew a thing about other than that he was buried with stubble, wearing a T-shirt and a baseball cap, and was always doing something called dialysis.

In college, my aunt, at least as the story goes, was told to get her foot amputated because diabetes-related circulation problems had rendered it gangrenous. She did not, and she died shortly thereafter. I've always found this story funny in its absurdity, more like a fable or a pioneer tale than something that actually occurred in suburban California in the late 20th century.

My dad also made light of diabetes, chuckling while giving himself stomach injections of insulin before a trip to a neighborhood Chinese joint (the awesome kind with combo menus and cocktail lounges). He was taken off life support at 61.

The evils of shilling an expensive diabetes drug after years of crafting highly caloric food for TV audiences aside, I don't know how everyone got their pancreases to stop producing insulin properly, and since I don't, it's not my place to give half-baked advice or heap scorn. I can only speak for myself, and that cause would be shitty genes and an extra 20 pounds that hangs around even when I pry my bloated carcass off the couch and stop stuffing bacon-wrapped turduckens down my gullet.

My feelings are mixed. It thrills me that the Internet has evolved into a place where young fatshionistas get praised, women of all shapes can bare their stomachs shamelessly, and plus-sized models are celebrated (yes, even if plus-sized models are just tall, well-proportioned, regular-sized women).

And I love the tenets of Health at Every Size. I go nuts when people equate thinness with fit and fat with at death's door. Despite the common myth, being a fatso or eating shitloads of sugar does not give you diabetes.

But for me, my weight does cause problems, and it makes me feel like a failure -- or at the very least, a traitor. I don't want to be the bad fat person who ruins it for everyone else fighting to be treated like a human being instead of a pile of problematic flesh.

Most days I'm fine with the size I am. I try not to lose sleep over clothing that no longer fits or ways to whittle down to an aesthetically pleasing size to strangers.

No, I can't wear couture or shop at boutiques that sell drop crotch skinny jeans, but I still have a lot of options. When I wore an 18, I used to have a trade-off fantasy (everyone does this, right?) where if I could eat anything I wanted and not have to worry about it, in exchange I would always be a size 14 and never smaller. (I also used to pray that I'd grow one inch so I'd make it to 5'8", minimum model height, so I could meet John Taylor from Duran Duran and he'd fall in love with me. I got my height wish, but the rest never gelled.) Huge to many; pretty reasonable me.

I'm there now, and unfortunately it's still not good enough. No amount of self-esteem will fix a medical condition. For the time being -- sadly, this could change as I age -- 15 pounds is roughly the difference between controlling my diabetes with diet and exercise and taking medicine for the rest of my life.

That's pretty minor in the scheme of things -- and yet it isn't. I can eliminate sugar, bread, rice, potatoes, fruit, and alcohol for two months and meet that goal, as I did (well, not the alcohol part) four years ago when I lost 25 pounds and fixed all the ills in the world, or at least my blood sugar woes.

But as anyone who has dieted, which is to say every female on the planet, knows, all or nothing approaches are not sustainable unless you're a cyborg. If you peeked at my blog on any given day, you might get the impression that I eat out a ton and am crazy indulgent (I am obsessed with chain restaurants, sure) but that's because I don't write about the majority of my meals made at home, involving boring-as-hell chicken breasts (yes, hippies, I'm probably giving myself diabetes by eating factory farmed meat) salads, and Greek yogurt (Fage only -- accept no substitutes!).

I don't believe in all-or-nothing approaches, so there is no way that I will ever turn into a food-is-fuel born again who drops 50 pounds and starts running marathons and measures every ounce of lean protein they consume. I would rather die, and I might mean that literally.

And yet getting the fries instead of a side salad one week, an extra glass of wine, ok, two, with dinner, eating a whole dessert instead sharing a few bites from another's, a pork fat-slicked trip to Spain, caving to the occasional Bagel Friday in the office, and four years later you're almost back where you started. That third of a pound per month creep will have you back in the doctor's office being told that you need to take metformin, the oral medication that's one step away from insulin, and if you object you're a "difficult patient."

I'm big on personal responsibility and low on drugging people up unnecessarily, so I'm sticking with occasional food splurges and frequent gym visits as long as I can, even if it doesn't bring me to a magical BMI.

Maybe I'll get it under control. Maybe I'll have to take meds eventually. As long as my feet haven't rotted off, I might even tweet about Never Ending Pasta Bowls, and there's nothing clueless or irresponsible about it.