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People Centre’d on Diabetes: Negative stereotypes of diabetes persist

I know around this time of year, many of you are sick and tired of the endless shopping commercials telling us how to create the perfect holiday experience or purchase the perfect gift. Well, I’m a bit of a Christmas freak, so I am totally enjoying the commercials. I actually can’t wait to see the next episode of those Target commercials with the kids and the dog on a magical journey.

But there are some ads that I have grown weary of this year — those never-ending commercials for medications that treat Type 2 diabetes. Have you ever seen anything more depressing than these commercials? Remember the poor woman who is eating a plate of salad at her mother’s weekly family dinner as all the other foods are passed under her nose? Or the woman with the paper house and husband? Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that we are making scientific advances to deal with this chronic illness that affects millions of Americans. But, in an effort to bring wisdom and hope through these ads, the pharmaceutical companies have instead perpetuated negative stereotypes for the masses to consume.

To the average viewer, with no knowledge of how we can successfully manage Type 2 diabetes, you might conclude that all people who fight this disease are morbidly obese, depressed and think only about their next meal. And for those living with the disease, you could think that your life is useless and pathetic, so why bother?

Not all people fighting diabetes are overweight, despite what the commercials portray (yes, obesity is a risk factor that can lead to Type 2 diabetes). And not everyone with diabetes is sitting around feeling sorry for themselves (although some days are tough). But many have taken the “bull by the horns” and are determined to live their lives to the fullest. Are there limitations and restrictions? Yes. Must there be lifestyle changes? Yes — some moderate and some significant. But can they be happy and healthy with a normal life? Yes, yes, yes!

I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes years ago. And with the wisdom of an excellent medical team, the support of family and friends and some personal changes in my life, I have been able to manage my glucose levels and not cause further damage to my body.

I have learned to live differently and I am striving to be content with those modifications. (No, I can’t drink a liter of cola anymore, but who should?) I must eat my meals on time, be consistent with my medications and doctor appointments, and move my body more. Knowing when to rest and how to remove stressors from my life are also critical parts of this new life. These are things we all need to address to be healthier.

This disease has taught me that there has to a constant re-evaluation of what is really important in our daily lives. Yet even with all that, I plan to adhere to the words of author Louise Hay: “I choose to make the rest of my life, the best of my life.”

So pay attention to the good information in those commercials about Type 2 diabetes and laugh at the rest. Enjoy your holidays!

Lydia Abdullah is a long-standing resident of State College and is a member of People Centre’d on Diabetes. To learn more, visit www.diabetestakeiton.com.

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