Wednesday, January 7, 2015

An open letter to Jamie Oliver.

Sometimes we don’t know we’ve done something hurtful until someone shines a light on it.

(Hold on…let me find a flashlight…)

Generally, when something hurtful is presented, one likes to lash back with hurtful words. Tit for tat as the saying goes.  And although I’m tempted to go there, someone I love reminds me daily to, “always assume the best in people.”  So in the spirit of fairness, I'm going to go ahead and assume you just don’t know…

I assume you just don’t know that posing in front of a huge Coke bottle that says “DIABETES” is hurtful to those that have Diabetes.

I assume that you did it as a caution to others not to overindulge in sugar because it is detrimental to the systems in our bodies.  Over indulgence can cause obesity.  And I assume that you think obesity automatically means diabetes…

That last assumption—my assumption that your assumption is that obesity automatically means diabetes—well, that's where the hurt comes in, because that is misinformation.

I assume you didn’t know that.

Obesity does not automatically mean diabetes.

Many people are obese and do not have diabetes.

Many people are thin and do have diabetes.

Coke, Twinkies and Pie do not diabetes make.

According to WHO, about 35% of the world’s population is overweight and of that 35%, about 11% is obese.

According to the IDF, about 7% of the worlds population has diabetes.

Insinuating that being overweight automatically means diabetes is misleading. 

The truth is, diabetes is a complicated disease.  Sometimes, a lot of times, people get it because of their genetics.  Sometimes people get it because they had gestational diabetes during pregnancy which predisposes them to Type 2 when they get older.  Sometimes people get it because they have autoimmune issues.  Sometimes people get it because they have other things going on with their body, like cancer.  And yes, sometimes people get it because they haven’t taken good care of their body.

But as long as we define diabetes as “SUGAR” or “FATNESS” we assign shame with the disease.  Once that is established, people hide their condition…and neglect happens. And we all know neglect is never ever (ever!) a good thing.

This is what’s happening, Jamie.  Today, people have walked into their doctor’s offices and been diagnosed with Diabetes.  Their doctors have told them it is all their fault, and in turn sent their patients away telling them to fix it or else (insert a terrible number of threats here.)  Saying diabetes is their fault is just the same as telling a depressed person it is their fault.  “Why don’t you just leave and be happy?”  Is the very same as “Why don’t you just leave and lose weight.” 

Instead doctors should say, “Let me help you.  Let me help you find peer support. Diet can be a factor, but there are many others.  Let me help you find the tools to succeed.  I’ll give you meds on my end, you do the work on your end and we’ll meet back here in a month to discuss the progress.  We can get you healthy together!”

Instead.  “You’re fat.  You are sickening.  Your feet are going to fall off if you don’t lose weight.” (Doctor’s may not say this outright, but let me tell you…a lot of times that is what patients hear.)

Standing in front of a Coke can and calling it Diabetes with a smug look on your face is degrading.  You are humiliating those that have Diabetes.  And for why?  To encourage people to get healthy? 

Scare tactics do not encourage.  Ever.

Scare tactics do not motivate.  Ever.



I know your heart is in the right place.  I know you are on a mission to help.  But what you’ve done isn’t help, in fact, it can only be defined as mean.

My son saw your picture.  He is 17.  He has Type 1 Diabetes, also known to the world as just “diabetes.”  His is autoimmune, but that is beside the point.  You gave him the message that his diabetes is caused by too much sugar. 

His friends saw that picture and you also gave them the message that his diabetes is caused by too much sugar. 

It isn’t.

And even if he did have Type 2 Diabetes, the statistics show that sugar isn’t always the cause.  Because 35% of the world’s population is overweight, and only 7% of the world’s population has diabetes.  (And some of that 7% population is thin.)

There are so many factors to Diabetes it isn’t fair to put a blanket “FAT” definition behind it.  It’s flat out misinformation.

I’m assuming good intentions, but the truth is…your picture is hurtful.

Instead of pointing fingers, let’s help.  Let’s encourage.  Let’s lead.

And please watch this:

I wholeheartedly agree--excess sugar isn't good for our bodies.  It for sure can be part of the story, but it FOR SURE isn't the entire story.  Your picture infers that a lot of Coke leads to Diabetes. We can't pretend we have the answers when we don't.  And as Peter says, "What if some our most fundamental ideas about obesity are just wrong? I can't afford the luxury of arrogance anymore, let alone the arrogance of certainty."

The more you know…


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