01 June 2010

Diabetes as a gift

It's not every day you'll hear diabetes referred to as a "gift".

But in the same sense that the dilapidated Victorian mansion inherited from a long lost spinster great aunt would be, diabetes is a gift, albeit a ducedly inconvenient and expensive gift in our current world.

How could a deadly disease be a gift you ask?

Well, look at it this way: like Great Aunt Mae's mansion, you inherited diabetes from your ancestors.

Like the mansion diabetes was once extremely valuable. The mansion was an expensive and possibly impressive home in its day. Today it would cost a fortune to repair and maintain -- or even to board up -- and it isn't an easy sale unless the property it's on is valuable in its own right. Diabetes, or rather insulin resistance, was once a genetic survival mechanism that allowed your ancestors to put away energy reserves in good times, rather than using all of their resources for energy, so that when hard times (in the form of winters or droughts) came, as they inevitably do, your ancestors were able to survive and probably even reproduce. Today, of course, diabetes can shorten your life, and it certainly complicates it.

This little clip (3 minutes) explains how insulin resistance causes weight gain and can, in today's relatively luxurious conditions, eventually lead to diabetes.

Go ahead, have a look. I'll wait.

OK, make sense?

Now, remember those "greedy" fat cells that don't let fat back out of cells easily? That would be the genetic equivalent of the ants. (Remember the ants and grasshopper?) Your fat cells aren't just greedy, they're laying up food for the winter.

The problem is, we seldom have the kind of "winter" they're waiting for, and so we continue to build up insulin resistance over many years and eventually we develop diabetes. (I would disagree that "we aren't born wit greedy fat cells -- I tink some of us are born, at least, with fat cells tat are inclined that way.)

So why do I spend so much time drawing this analogy for you? Well, the medical establishment and the press have spent so much energy demonizing fat and diabetes that most people's first reaction to the diagnoses is guilt that they've done something wrong.

I don't think that's a productive reaction. Diabetes is a is a very tough disease to control when your NOT standing on one foot kicking yourself in the butt over it. It's nearly impossible if you think you deserve it.

There is *NO* "deserve" about diabetes. You don't deserve it, and you haven't done anything wrong if you develop it. Diabetes is a degenerative disease that is largely genetic. You can postpone it by eating right and getting lots of exercise, but if it's in the cards, you can only prevent it by dying before it manifests. True. The medical establishment has demonized diabetes largely because they have demonized fat, and early diabetes (insulin resistance) results in weight gain. But thin people who eat well get diabetes sometimes, too.

Yes, you can probably speed up its appearance by eating too much simple carbohydrate, by not getting adequate exercise, or by surviving too much stress, so if you can avoid those things it's a good idea -- but they'd be healthier choices whether you are vulnerable to diabetes or not.

Please, please, please don't play the blame game about diabetes. You may be on your way to diabetes, but it is in no way your fault. A perfect diet and an Olympian workout schedule would promise you nothing more than a neglected life. Eat as well as you can given your circumstance and get as much exercise as you can fit in without becoming exhausted or neglecting your life. Keep stress low, and keep an eye on your blood sugar -- if certain foods give you trouble, replace them with something else and if your blood sugar starts to read over 130 regularly, see your doctor to get treated. It's not a club anyone wants to join, but it's not the end of the world.

Oh, and diabetes can be a gift in an other way, too. It's an excellent excuse to learn to eat well and to take the time to take care of yourself. That's good for everybody!


  1. Very well said! Diabetes is rampant in my husband's family so living a lifestyle that puts off the diabetes for as long as possible is very much part of our family conversation on a regular basis...and yes that includes learning how to eat healthier than any of us were taught.

  2. Love this post!! Almost like it was written for me!! ;)


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