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Not So Grrrrrrrreat!

The games we play.  Not grrrrrreat.Sometimes I come across odd bits of news.  And often, these news bits have to do with diabetes.  Last year, it was this newsflash about Santa Claus being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and how he ho-ho-ho's his way back to good health.  Today, I stumbled upon a write-up about the unfortunate death of Tony the Tiger ... from type 2 diabetes complications.

Now I'm all about a laugh.  Laughter is part of my genetic make-up (we have very giggly DNA) and I think that poking fun is one of my methods for dealing with difficult situations.  There's LOL Diabetes, for crying out loud.  I get the jokes.  Often, I'm making them. 

But this crap about fictional characters being diagnosed with diabetes makes me less than amused. People spend plenty of time raising awareness.  Diabetes, either type 1 or type 2, is serious stuff and the consequences of not actively managing it can be devastating.  Pointing the finger at Santa's jolly belly or Tony's sugar habit might bring more attention to diabetes, but it's not the right kind of attention.  This sort of stuff makes diabetes the butt of jokes.  Would you point your finger and laugh at someone who is dealing with cancer?  Of course you wouldn't.  So why would people think it's okay to mock someone who has diabetes?  Because they assume a diabetic caused their own disease?  Explain that to my mother and father, who dealt with my diagnosis when I was a little girl.

"Kerri, those jokes are aimed at people with type 2 diabetes.  Geez, don't you know that?"

No, I don't.  And how does that make it right?  Regardless of the types of diabetes, the complications caused by uncontrolled blood sugars are essentially the same.  And besides, most people don't know the difference between type 1 and type 2.  Most people don't know there are even different types to begin with.  Jokes are aimed at "diabetes" in general, and I fall into that broad category.  Even if they do recognize the difference, does anyone with diabetes deserve to have the guilt, shame, or blame placed on them?  Jokes aimed at them?  Is it easy because the jokers assume the diabetic is also overweight?  That is a horrendous excuse.  How is "fatism" still an acceptable prejudice?  

I watched Super Size Me the other night.  During one part of the documentary, someone pointedly mentioned that "diabetes will cut 17 - 27 years off your life."  The factoid crept into the part of my brain that fears diabetes-related complications.  Yes, I can take every precaution to keep my A1C as tight as possible and do everything I can do avoid complications, but people don't realize that my life is already complicated by this disease. 

Adding the burden of "guilt" or "shame" doesn't help. 

How about more diabetes education that actually educates, instead of mocks?  That would be grrrrreat.

Comments

I found this reaction to the "Santa's fat" comments awesome: http://kateharding.net/2007/12/06/open-for-discussion-santas-too-fat/

(I dugg it, btw - come on, make it popular)

I can't agree with you more, Kerri. I am so frustrated by blanket statements about "diabetes" and all of the blaming that goes on with this disease. Grrrr, indeed. :)

Preach on Kerri!

"Those jokes are aimed at people with type 2 diabetes. Geez, don't you know that?" That statement is all too familiar, and it makes me want to punch people (although I never would). If you want to categorize me under that "diabetes" umbrella I don't want to hear those kind of jokes. Grr!

I completely agree with you, and it is easy to take those things personally.

I watched "Little People, Big World" (a show about a couple with dwarfism leading very normal lives) last night. In this episode the father, Matt, found out he had type 2 diabetes. When he told his family, he said (and I'm paraphrasing here) "I'm type 2, thankfully...type 1 is the bad kind." Being type 1, it almost hurt my feelings in a weird way. In my opinion, there IS NO WORSE DIABETES. All diabetes is serious, and complicated and fustrating, but the fact that I have to take insulin shots, does not me my disease WORSE.

Sorry, it might have bothered me even more than I originally thought. It's just that, people will see that on national TV AND BELIEVE IT! Frustrating.

I thought that piece was a great bit of satire, actually.

The statements made about advertising within are true.

Sorry to offend, and all the best with your health and otherwise.

It's scary to think that people make light of diabetes. That they either blame the person, or act like it's not a big deal. This many years into diabetes it easy to let stuff roll off my back and chalk it up to ignorance, but I like the fact that you bring the absurdity back to my mind. Diabetes is a serious disease. We might live a shorter life because of it. And the daily grind of diabetes effects so much of our lives.
I really wish someone would do a reality show based on diabetes. Heck, they do them based on everything else, right? Why not follow a few diabetes (all types) around for a year and let people get an inside view of the lovely lives we lead?

Doug - I hope you don't feel attacked. Believe me, I understand satire and I'm constantly poking fun at things and making satirical comments myself. So no, you didn't offend me.

Tony the Tiger was just a jumping-off point for a bigger discussion. The bit about Tony is just another example of diabetes in mainstream media being a bit mocked. It's not you as a person, it's not specifically the people who wrote about Santa with type 2, but it's those perceptions as a whole that could use some re-education.

This is totally another reason that there's so much shame attached to type 2, and by association, type 1. It does stink.
And it's really stupid to give fictional or mythological beings any disease.

Amen sista.

I don't have diabetes, but I know where you are coming from. Having dealt with my asthma for so long I get offended when I see the nerdy asthmatics on TV shows using their inhaler when they are scared, upset etc.

While I think educating the public about diabetes, asthma, MS, and the like is important, I think the people coming up with these ideas need to take the patients dealing with the conditions everyday feeling's into account.

I feel like you may have taken this post out of context.

'Tony' is a metaphor of the advertising strategies of processed cereal manufacturers.

It hard to dispute that Kellogg’s may contribute to the obesity epidemic by marketing crappy food directly to children (with cartoons for example).

Kellogg’s even tried to position Tony as “a coach and mentor who helped kids train for sporting events.”

Tony “dies” of type 2 diabetes - e.g. Kellogg’s marketing team “kills him off” - in response to a public outcry and “threats of a lawsuit from parents and nutrition advocacy groups who believe cereal is contributing to childhood obesity.”

I actually make my living in the medical trade, I’m managing editor of the Medtech Sentinel - a publication focused on medical technology, and quite often, diabetes.

Kellogg's isn't to blame.. They aren't the ones buying the food. It's the PARENTS. Children can be taught that just because a fictional (cartoon) tiger thinks Frosted Flakes is "grrrreat" it's still not healthy. Mine know this.. It only took me telling them so and showing them how much sugar was in the cereal.

This supposed threat lawsuit is ludicrous. Parents are the ones who decide what to put on their table! If they feel cereal is contributing to obesity, they should stop buying it for their kids.

Funny, I was thinking about something on similar lines today (I am about to start a blog...just still trying to think of a name)...the docs are stumped about whether I am MODY, LADA, Honeymoon Type I or even Type II and are running a gazillion tests on me. Someone how one label makes me feel less guilty than another. Despite, my having taken biochemistry and physiology, despite that I know better...I have been struggling with shame and my own stereotypes of the disease (But I am too young, too old, not fat, maybe I didn't exercise enough this last year or two, maybe I am too much of a chocolaholic,...). These very public jokes definitely don't help those of those that are struggling and living with diabetes.

Sorry Doug -

I don't find it very funny either. Especially since it seems to imply that someone can develop diabetes (either type) from poor eating habits alone.

preach on, sista.

preach on.

i spent the day battling down a 354 mg/dl morning bloodsugar despite not having eaten any breakfast at all and going to bed in range. It took 4 hours! I feel so sad that people play the blame game so readily with diabetics.

I'm all for laughs, but that rubbed me the wrong way, too.

I agree with your comments. The complication factor is always inside my brain, which helps motivate me to manage the best I can. Unfortunately there are times when those thoughts and fears can overwhelm you. It is unfortunate that most people are unaware of how it affects us every day in every way. This ignorance can trigger my overactive fear and make me angry. Then I realize that I'm in control of my diabetes, educated about it and the uneducated people look like idiots to us.

The entire debate and the satire is a commentary on how ignorant the American public is about these diseases (type 1 and type 2 are NOT the same disease) and their respective etiologies. But I agree with you, Kerri, in that this was supposed to be funny but instead makes light of a serious disease and helps perpetuate stereotypes and myths that are already so widespread.

Kerri, You did such a great job voicing what so many Type 1 Parents feel that I posted a link on the Children With Diabetes forum.

http://forums.childrenwithdiabetes.com/showthread.php?t=9826

We have so many conversations that revolve around this very subject. Thank you for putting our voice to your words.

Grreaat post, Kerri. I couldn't agree with you more.

While the article may have been a touch insensitive, it was meant to malign food companies who market sugary cereals to children.

Everyone is acting as if I am completely ignorant and poking fun at diabetics.

Scott -

I understand the difference(s) between Type 1 and Type 2 - and I realize there are predispositions to both.

I can say with a great deal of certainty that insulin resistance is aggravated by obesity (and physical inactivity).

Tracie -

Ideologically, I agree with your stance, and I think public advocacy groups would lose a lawsuit against the cereal manufacturers.

That said, ignorance is a powerful force - among many parents and children - bad food choices are the norm in our culture.

A thorough read of Doug's post would have garnered better understanding upon everyone's part and left fewer individuals feeling violated.

Just as Sesame Street's Cookie Monster learned to have cookies as a "sometimes food" and became a mindful eater, so do other cartoon mascots in order to prevent lawsuits and abide by the current 2005 dietary guidelines.

No one is saying that "a lifetime of poor food choices" CAUSED T2DM. In fact, Doug doesn't even say this; a proper read-through of his sentence indicates that a lifetime of poor food choices brought on Tony's heart attack. (If you are confused about this, then see how "heart attack" would be the subject, while BOTH a lifetime of poor food choices and T2DM are predicates). He made no correlation BETWEEN a lifetime of poor food choices and T2DM. Unfortunately, with untreated T2DM, a heart attack is one of the complications that can result, as everyone knows. Gorging on Frosted Flakes cereal for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks is a sure way to become obese, leading to a heart attack. This is certainly feasible, since myriad studies, including the large Framingham Heart Study, finds a strong link between overweight/obesity and risk for heart failure. THIS is the message health educators are trying to present to the next generation-- a generation surrounded by obscene excesses of processed foods and dangerous advertising to children.

Diabetes, both T1DM and T2DM, are debilitating conditions and I defer to those with the disease in these matters.

But instead of devoting time attacking "the good guys," like Doug (whom I felt was certainly NOT mocking those with T2DM and was just stating known facts about advertising strategies of the marketers), we should focus our energy upon the actual food industry, itself-- one that subsidizes grains and corn to manufacture processed foods high in refined sugars and trans-fat versus subsidizing fruits and vegetables.

Lame marketing idea, Kellogg...back to school. To 'kill off' any cartoon character is bad taste, in my view, but to piss off a whole segment of the population who actually suffer from a disease in doing so is even more misguided. We and our families endure enough comments about how we somehow 'caused' our own disease--I would argue that even smokers aren't ridiculed as openly as diabetics. I could fill a page with dumb milk- and cereal-related statements from my own past to give Kellogg just one small example of why this was such a poorly constructed marketing strategy.

If you're gonna sell cereal, sell it--don't stoop to fake obituaries. Why do these hipster marketing types always think death and disability is ripe for poking fun at? Sheesh!

You know Fred Flintstone used to promote cigarettes. Why don't they say he has lung cancer and is dying?

not so funny.

I agree 100% Kerri. Especially because Tony died!

It makes me sick.

@Marissa. Please don't patronize us by telling us to thoroughly read the article Kerri brought our attention to. I'm sure that the majority of people that are commenting here, or on Doug's site have read it. And please don't pull random quotes from his article either as facts in his defense. Perhaps Doug's title should have stated that he died from a heart attack, rather then of "diabetic complications". Or maybe perhaps that Kellogg's merely fired him for broadcasting a message they no longer believe in. Or did I not thoroughly read the title of his post?

We get his point that most cereals and their advertising are not in the best interest of the general population.

It's interesting that Doug chose heart attack as well, as that is what ended Martin Provensen's life early. Oh and the voice of Tony the Tiger died from prostate cancer. Guess "bad luck" just runs in Tony's family.

There's a lot of ranting and raving here today...yikes!

As a diabetic, I agree with Kerri. And if word of Tony the Tiger "dying" gets to little kids instead of industry PR types, then those kids might just associate diabetes with certain death.

Every food company is watching their backs these days. They have to stop marketing sugary snacks to kids. They are trying to show us how great they are by taking trans fats out of everything they make, but sometimes they add fats that are even worse!

But honestly...those of us with diabetes have enough to worry about. I wish companies would stop ONLY touting the negative effects of diabetes, and would help people LIVE with the disease. Diabetes is definitely manageable, and for some people, tightly controlled.

So, you snarky media types, we don't want anyone looking at us and thinking, immediately, of death. Geez.

Dave - I apologize for having offended you or anyone else. The piece was meant to elucidate advertising practices I view as repugnant.

Its clear why anyone living with diabetes might view it as humorless. The article was not meant to belittle (or spread misinformation).

Hannah - some of my more substantive contributions to the diabetes space can be found here: http://www.onemedplace.com/blog/index.php?s=diabetes

I find it amusing that the association of Type 2 diabetes and poor food choices is what's being played upon here by killing off Tony the Tiger, when if the article had been more realistic, Tony's father, grandfather, and aunt also had type 2 diabetes. We know both types 1 and 2 are heritable, but the genetic association of type 2 is much stronger.

The diseases are different, I have sympathy for sufferers of both. The article was trying to make a point, but unfortunately missed the boat on both types of diabetes.

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