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Biggest Loser - Big FAIL

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I love the show The Biggest Loser.

I love watching the contestants and their journeys.  I love watching them transform their bodies and their lives.  I love watching the hell they go through in the gym!  And Sweets likes to watch it, too.

I think it's a good show for her to watch.  We talk about how hard the contestants work and the importance making good food choices.  She likes watching them do the challenges.

Sure, I've gotten aggravated before with the way they ALWAYS refer to type 2 diabetes as just diabetes.  It made me... not really angry but... irritated that one season the contestants wore the Dexcom Seven Plus CGM system.  Cool -- but what about all those people who need it not for weight loss but to stay alive?  I don't know... something about it just didn't sit right with me.

Overall, I love this show.  I watch every week!

But this week.... Oy.

Sweets and I were watching the beginning of the show tonight as she was getting ready for bed.  This week's theme was facing your biggest fear.  And this season they have kids on the show.  One of the kids had been diagnosed with pre diabetes. And she said that her biggest fear was sitting in a doctor's office and being told she has diabetes.

Sweets gave me a funny look.  She said, "She's afraid of diabetes?  I'm not afraid of diabetes."

I smiled.

That's the right attitude, kiddo.  You got this.

And had it ended there....

But it didn't.

Something was said about how diabetes can be prevented through diet and exercise.

Sweets turned and looked at me with this face of confusion.  It was a mix of "say what?" and "well that just is not true".

I immediately clarified that they were talking about type 2 diabetes and not type 1.  I reassured her that nothing could have prevented her diabetes.  No amount of exercise or healthy food could have prevented it or could make it go away.  I explained how in type 2 the pancreas stops working slowly and in type 1 her body attacked itself and it happened much more quickly and there was no going back.  There was some discussion of pumps and shots and when and how.

She was satisfied.  She bopped off to bed and all was right in her world.

But I kept watching.  And it just got worse.

The segment with the girl came on.  They had her go talk with her school counselor who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as an adult.  She talked about how she had to take her pills and test her blood sugar a few times a day and give herself a shot each night.  And she gave herself a shot.  And she talked about how angry she was that she had this disease and how hard it was and how it had changed her life.

I'm not really sure what all she said.  All I could hear was the blood rushing to my head.

For some reason, it really upset me.  And I was not expecting that.

Now, let me just say... diabetes sucks.  Type 1, Type 2, LADA... all of it.  It IS hard.  It DOES change your life.  I know that not everyone with Type 2 gets it because of a poor diet and lack of exercise.  Sometimes genetics takes the choice away.

But in that moment....

Anger.  Frustration.

I don't know if I wanted to yell or scream or cry.

I wanted to shout... "Oh POOR YOU.  You give yourself ONE shot a day.  You take PILLS.  You test like what? Three, four times a day?  CRY ME A RIVER, LADY! CRY ME A RIVER, BIGGEST LOSER!"

(Side note.... so I've been posting about how I'm coming to terms with this disease and how I don't exactly hate it anymore and see the good more than the bad....  That's all true.  And so is the fact that there are still days.... when I don't.  When I've had enough.  When I'm still angry and sad and overwhelmed.  Hey, what can I say?  I'm just being real.  It's a process.)

I just flew all over me.

The "reality" of diabetes that they are showing.

Well, guess what?  THAT is not our reality.  It might be similar.  But that just scratches the surface.

MY reality is having to hold my three year old down FIVE times a day because she needed FIVE shots a day.  A screaming, crying toddler begging her parents not to hurt her.

MY reality is counting every carbohydrate that my child has put into her mouth for the past FOUR YEARS.

MY reality is that no matter what I do, I can't control this disease.  And when I don't get it right - SHE is the one who suffers.

MY reality is the constant nagging fear that this disease is going take her life.

HER reality is the countless tiny black spots on her fingers from the countless blood sugar tests.

HER reality is wearing a medical device 24 hours a day.

HER reality is needles.  Not pills.

OUR reality is that we did NOTHING to bring this on.  There was nothing we could do to prevent it.  There is nothing that will make it go away.  It's that it's not ME with this disease... it's my CHILD.  The one person who I just want to protect.  It my job to protect.  And I can't.

I just wanted to scream at the tv...  You keep saying diabetes this and diabetes that.  Do you even know that there are two types?  Would it kill you to make a distinction? You keep saying that it's going to kill you.  You can control it with diet and exercise.  Change your ways before it's too late.  Here's your warning... don't become this lady who has to give herself one shot a day.

Well guess what, Biggest Loser?  THAT is not my diabetes reality.

All I want is for you to at least acknowledge the difference.

Do we want children or adults to get diabetes because of poor diet and lack of exercise?  Of course not.  It's a problem.  I know that.  And I'm not saying type 1 is worse than type 2.  It's not that.  That's not the point.

The point is this...

I have a seven year old little girl.  She is the bravest person I know.  She told me tonight that her biggest fear is shots.  And yet she gets shots.  All the time.  Just Friday she had a shot.  And then on Saturday she had another needle inserted into her body to leave a small wire that would read her glucose levels.  And then on Sunday she had yet another needle inserted into her body when she changed her insulin pump.  She has had more shots in her the past four years than most people have in their entire lives.  Probably a few times over.

This little girl deals with the highs and lows and frustrations and complications of this disease every single day.  There is no end in sight.  She did NOTHING to cause this disease.  She was only three.  Nothing could have stopped it.

She's used to hospitals and blood tests.  She used to doctor appointments.  She used to feeling different than the other kids.

This little girl who looked at me tonight and said, "I'm not afraid of diabetes".  Watching that lady give herself a shot didn't scare her.  She's seen worse.  She's woken up from a low blood sugar induced seizure looking at paramedics.  She's lost time from lows.  She's been in the hospital with high blood sugar and ketones.  She been really, really sick.  She's fallen off the balance beam at gymnastics and had to leave school because her blood sugar is too high.  And have I mentioned all the needles?

She's not afraid of diabetes.  She doesn't remember a life without it.

As a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes,  I just want you to "get" that.



  1. Me too! I love Biggest Loser and watch it faithfully, but am frustrated by the same thing. I also have a daughter with Type 1. She's 26 now and was diagnosed when she was 17. We were so blessed not to have to deal with it when she was young, and hasn't had to go through many of the things your daughter has. She does have an insulin pump. Hopefully some day she can get a CGM, but right now she has crummy insurance and it costs so much just to maintain the pump.
    Anyway - great post - thanks for getting that out there!

  2. Ugh, my husband and I watch the show but maybe we should skip this week's episode.

    Sometimes I think that Type 1 would be easier to control with poorer diet and exercise. Eating frozen packaged meals already carb counted and sitting on the couch all day sounds alot easier to dose insulin for than measuring food, weighing food, cooking real food, playing soccer, riding bikes, etc. Now, I know which one is better in the long run, but chasing lows all night with a healthy eating active 8 yr old is exhausting.

    1. It's funny you mention the frozen packaged food. When I was first dx'd I lived off of frozen food & soup for the first 6 months. After that I learned "real" food was okay.

    2. We lived on McDonald's for awhile. She would eat it so there was no fighting over eating and the carb counts were right there on the packages. Super unhealthy but knowing the carbs was such a comfort.

    3. oh my gosh, such a good point. let's sit around all day with some 100-calorie packs of artificially flavored chocolate cookies and KFC.

    4. Oh we lived on grilled chicken and frozen veggies for a while. No mixed up food- too hard to carb count!! And I gotta say, for all the grief McD's gets for being unhealthy, they are the best at putting their nutrition info out there if you want it.

  3. I totally agree! I watch that show too and was so frustrated last night. I mean couldn't they take a few seconds to clarify Type TWO diabetes???? They just perpetuated the myth that I'm a lazy ignorant parent who didn't feed her daughter appropriately and sat her in front of the TV until she got diabetes. Thanks Biggest Loser!

  4. YES YES YES Hallie. "Get that" is right! People don't "get it" We even have family members who have been around Vince from the day he was born who still don't "get it" and understand all that Diabetes entails. All of the what if I go low, high, or run out of this or that. All of the worrying and constant 24/7 and I mean 24/7 even when your asleep care that goes into it. People don't get it and I think the main reason it makes "us Type 1's" mad is because unlike other diseases that people think they know about, diabetes has TWO different, very different types and people are just ignorant to how different they are. So THAT is why is usually say Juvenile Diabetes because my poor husband and your sweetie did not get it from food!! Ahh GREAT post honey!

  5. I think it's important to remember that we all have different perspectives in life. My experiences are different than yours which are different than someone else's. One shot might not be a big deal to you, but it's a big deal to the millions of people who have pre-diabetes and have a chance to prevent it. It's a big deal to a 12-year-old. It doesn't matter than it's only one and not five. It's still an injection. It's still a health risk. It's still something that she probably thought would never happen to her because she's *12*.

    I'm sure some people with AIDS look at us and wonder what we're crying and moaning about. It's all about perspective. You can't invalidate someone's emotions without inviting someone to invalidate your own.

    1. I think a lot of the frustration comes from the things having the same name but not being the same. I don't think *anyone* with Type 1 thinks they have The Worst Problem The World Has Ever Seen.

  6. I just want you to know that I felt exactly the same way when we (me and my T1 11yo daughter) were watching it). Drives me crazy that they can't just say..."Type 2 diabetes" when they refer to it...especially when dealing with children...or anyone for that matter.

  7. Amen! It would simply be such a blessing if they would distinguish between the 2 types. After all, they keep saying they want to "educate America."

  8. I would like to share at least a portion of your blog on my facebook. I would give you full credit stating that "this is from another type 1 mom blog "the princess and the pump"...please read" You put into words what I want to say....with your permission only, of course.

    Teressa Hays and Type 1 momma

    1. Sure! Just post the link to the blog post - Thanks so much - I'm glad you liked the post! (I assume you like it... if you didn't like it, please don't post it to yell at me!!!)

  9. I saw this episode and, like you, was really irked by the way "diabetes" was presented. I am so tired of all "diabetes" being lumped together. T1D isn't some rare illness and it represents a significant portion of all with diabetes. In addition to classic T1 and T2, there is LADA, MODY, T1B, and gestational diabetes. Each is a distinct form of the disease with its own etiology and characteristics. I am so tired of the media simplifying things and just lumping all "diabetes" together. I am also sick and tired of the presentation of any form of diabetes like it's some dreaded horrible illness. When I heard the woman on the show talking about how horrible it was to give herself ONE shot a day, I just laughed. Before going back on the pump a couple of years ago, there were days I took 8-10 shots in an attempt to maintain some sort of decent control of my type 1 diabetes. I check my bloodsugar upwards of 14 times per day and change my pump site every 3 days (faithfully). I am not unique and am just doing what every other T1 diabetic does to STAY ALIVE. Ugh. I am so with you on this.

  10. Thank you so much for this. My kids and I watched the Lindsay/Norma the Guidance Counselor portion of the episode 3-4 times, until we got tired of laughing at it and then I started to feel angry.

    And what was with the way Norma poked her thumb with no lancing device? Was it to add to the drama/trauma by having a super-visible needle?

  11. I totally laughed my head off at this episode. I don't know why I was watching in his first place. I've been giving myself six shots (five shots of humalog and one shot of Lantus)for the past five years. I prick my finger six to seven times a day just to make sure everything is going correctly. Not to mention the carb counting (just to get the insulin doses correct)and portioning of food (when I would really just like to gorge), in addition to the regular doctor's appointment (praying that my A1C is good just so I don't get any looks of disappointment).
    I am a Type 1 Diabetic and unlike a Type 2 I LITERALLY have to stand in place of an internal organ.
    The irony is that I was a teenager when I was diagnosed. I was healthy. I was active. I was weaned on wholesome foods. Yet and still I got it.
    Yes, it is time to get the public educated on Type 1 Diabetes. MAYBE if they stopped judging as all as obese and apathetic maybe we would find a cure that much faster.
    Once, when I was going low in my office I poured some pixie sticks into my mouth. One of my co-workers (who was unaware of my condition) laughed and said, "Dude, you are just asking for Diabetes."
    That is how stupid most people are in terms of Type 1.


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