Tuesday 6 October 2015

#DefineDiabetes Campaign

Hi everyone,

Today's post is something I feel very strongly about and is something I've been itching to write about for a long, long time.

As you may or may not know, I'm diabetic type 1 and for those who don't know exactly what diabetes is, in a nutshell, it is when your pancreas stops working and therefore stops producing insulin which regulates your blood glucose levels.

Now there are two types of diabetes; type 1 and type 2. I have type 1 and type 1 is when you develop diabetes through no control of your own. You can't prevent it and it's NOT because you're overweight and no, you can't go on a healthy diet to stop you from having it. Diabetes type 1 occurs in people under the age of 30 (generally), has absolutely nothing to do with weight and requires multiple insulin injections per day. I have a post all about my diabetes story which you can read here if you like!

Now diabetes type 2 is a whole different story. Type 2 diabetes develops in people over the age of 30 (generally), can sometimes be prevented by leading a healthier lifestyle and can be treated by taking tablets and sometimes, it is possible to come off diabetes medication altogether whereas with type 1, there is currently no cure (although I'm sure we're getting close!). 

I just want to make clear before I continue with this post that I am in no way accusing type 2 diabetics to have brought diabetes on themselves. It is a very thin line and I am not in any way, shape or form attempting to stereotype type 2 diabetics as being "overweight" or "obese", I am only speaking from a type 1's point of view. So if you are a type 2 reading this, I would love it if you were to get involved to stop the media stereotyping all type 2's as being overweight and obese, when we know there are other reasons for a person being diagnosed with type 2. 

Here is a table below from Diabetes.co.uk which compares the two types.

Table from Diabetes.co.uk
There is the possibility that in some cases, individuals may be overweight and still be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (not that they've been diagnosed with type 1 because they're overweight - it just might happen they're overweight but has nothing to do with them being diagnosed as diabetic), and individuals diagnosed with type 2 may in fact not be overweight, just over the certain age group to categorise them as type 2. 

This post is to in no way state that all type 2 individuals are overweight, not at all. It is simply to make the general public aware that if you have type 1 diabetes, it is not caused by being overweight and it is entirely out of your control with no way to prevent it.

I am tired of watching the news, TV programmes, listening to the radio and reading articles with the majority of them NOT stating which type of diabetes they are talking about in headlines and in the body of their articles. The media has such an extraordinary influence over an individual's mind, thoughts and opinions and when a broadcaster or journalist says something along the lines of "Obesity in the UK is continuing to rise, causing an increase in diseases like diabetes..." it automatically triggers minds into thinking "Oh, so diabetes is caused by obesity... it's their own fault".

People read or hear that headline and some aren't aware that there are two types. These people will then assume diabetes is caused by being obese. Is that a nice feeling for people who have diabetes type 1? Who have had this brought on through no fault of their own? A life changing disability which involved thousands of injections per year, at least 100 blood glucose tests per week, constant hospital visits, hypo/hyperglycaemic attacks and life threatening situations on a daily basis? Again, I am not in any way saying all diabetics who have diabetes type 2 are obese or overweight, as mentioned, it could be due to their age or other circumstances and not all type 2 diabetics should be tarred with the "obesity" brush. But that's a different story for a type 2 to discuss!

Here's an example of a Daily Mail article on the 15th July 2015 which talks about both types of diabetes further on in the article. It is also a rare article I've came across which defines both types, explaining how diabetes type 1 cannot be prevented and has nothing to do with weight. This is great - at least they have defined the two, explained how they're different, but wait... if you were to read the article's title, what would you honestly think?

Daily Mail
Diabetes? Which type? Throw in the word 'obesity' a few words after the word 'diabetes' and you've got an automatic link between the two.


This one might be my favourite, posted by the Daily Mail on the 31st July:


What about this one by The Market Business?

The Market Business

This article goes on to discuss how they are referring to type 2 diabetes, yet fail to stick that all important "type 2" in the heading.

Huffington Post - Title
Huffington Post - Body text

"...and other obesity-related problems" Really?

The Guardian
"Being overweight is associated with increases in the risk of...diabetes". Diabetes type 2, you mean? 

One of the only media influencers who ensures they correct anyone they interview or any news headline they read which only states "diabetes" is Philip Schofield. Philip Schofield has family members who have diabetes type 1 and so he understands the frustration when people generalise diabetes, not explaining the different types and how each type has differences.

So, I apologise for this super long post but I wanted to really try and make this change, and this change being to change the way in which diabetes is represented in the media. Yes, diabetes costs the NHS a very heavy amount of money, but without the medication, type 1 diabetics would not be able to survive and it is not fair we are being made to feel guilty for something we cannot prevent. 

This is one of the reasons why I feel so strongly about the media defining which type of diabetes they are referring to: If a child/teen who has type 1 diabetes is in school, and another child/teen thinks it's caused by them being obese, think of the bullying that child might suffer through no fault of their own, all for the sake of a news channel, journalist or presenter being clearer on what type diabetes they are talking about.

As part of my #TakeBackWhatsYours campaign, I'm adding another dimension. This dimension will use the hashtag #DefineDiabetes and I would really love it if everyone could tweet using this hashtag, getting the word out there about the campaign or how they also feel frustrated at news channels, journalists, presenters and other media influencers who need to be clearer on the type of diabetes they are talking about in order to let the public know that there are two types which have extremely significant differences.

Here is what fellow diabetic type 1, Emily Barker had to say about the media stereotyping diabetes:

'It is so essential that the media differentiates between the different types of diabetes, although they share the same name they are caused and treated by many different things. As a type 1 diabetic I honestly say that the media has a big impact on society and saying that diabetes is caused by obesity generalises the idea of diabetes and doesn't give people the chance or influence to learn about it and it's many forms. Because of this many Type 1 diabetics are suffering a negative impact from what's being said in the media, such as nasty name calling and rude comments and assumptions that aren't true that aren't helping the type 1 diabetic with their illness mentally. This has to change.'

Thank you for reading this super long post! Please let me know if you would like to get involved in #DefineDiabetes! I'd love to put your quotes in this post about your feelings towards diabetes type 1 being stereotyped.

Chloe :) 

Get in touch! 

Email: ChloesConcept@gmail.com / TakeBackWhatsYours@gmail.com


  1. This was a really interesting post - especially as part of my medical teaching today was on the dangers of making assumptions about diabetes based on age/ weight! Admittedly I've never really given much thought to the way the media uses the term 'diabetes' - but I think that comes from the fact that I know the difference so usually assume that headlines about preventing diabetes/ links with obesity etc. are in relation to type two. But now that you've pointed it out, it's certainly something I'll take more notice of. Using the term 'diabetes' in a generalised way isn't really good enough - especially as it could technically refer to 'diabetes insipidus' which is a whole other diagnosis!! Thanks for a really thought provoking post :)
    Jennifer x
    Ginevrella | Lifestyle Blog

    1. Hey Jenny!

      Thank you for your detailed comment! I'm really glad it had the impact I was hoping for when writing this post. I'm really glad that non-diabetics can understand the frustration of it, not just diabetics so thank you for pointing that out :). You're right, using the term "diabetes" as a generalisation isn't good enough due to the reasons you pointed out - I think the media need to understand and differentiate between the different types!

      Thank you again, I really appreciate it! :)
      Chloe x