A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Georgie Peters when I was visiting Australia. This woman is a force – a combination of positivity and raw honesty, writing about her lived experience with type 1 diabetes. She’s written here before and today she’s visiting SixUntilMe to talk about her latest social movement of combining body positivity and diabetes. (And her life motto? I’m all for it.)
Kerri: Georgie, I’ve been following you and your diabetes journey for years now, but would you mind bringing SixUntilMe readers up to speed about you, your diagnosis, and how you live your diabetes life?
Georgie Peters: For sure! I’m 26 years old, an Australian high school teacher based in Melbourne but currently living in Paris. I’ve had diabetes since 2010 – I was diagnosed when I was 18, so have been navigating young adulthood and all it’s ridiculousness with diabetes along for the ride. I’ve been active in the online and Australian diabetes community for a while, trying my best to advocate and help out any way that I can. I’m extremely passionate about mental health within our community, and what we can do in order to make living with diabetes a little bit easier. Specifically, disordered eating and eating disorders in PWDs – it’s rife but never talked about! I spend a lot of time trying to erase the stigma and get people and HCPs talking.
Kerri: What is Body Posi Betes and what brought this project about for you?
GP: Body Posi Betes came out of me discovering the body positive community on the Internet…and then promptly discovering there was nothing in this space for people with diabetes! Although we live in the same diet culture obsessed society as everybody else, we face a lot of challenges that others don’t. We have to count our food, there is a weight stigma attached to our condition, and the amount of fat phobia and body shaming amongst both PWDs and HCPs is out of control. I just wanted to inject some positivity into the conversation.
Body Posi Betes is basically a social media project to combat the illusion that people with diabetes need to conform to a certain perfect stereotype of a “diabetic”. If you search body positive diabetes on google, all you get are poorly written articles asking “is body positivity to blame for the rise in diabetes?” We need to get dialogue happening that helps people to feel positive about their bodies, and show that all bodies are worthy of respect. In our community, too often those who fall out of the ideal feel as though they are failing at their diabetes. We know there’s no such thing!
Kerri: “BPB aims to dismantle this often unrealistic, accusative, and fat-phobic diabetes space one post and discussion at a time, including the dialogue around complications.” I love, love this part of your mission statement. Can you give some examples of the discussions you’ve had, or are hoping to have with the DOC?
GP: Yes! So within the DOC, there’s a lot of shame attached to people that struggle with their diabetes, or who have a body that doesn’t conform to the “good diabetic” stereotype. I’ll break this down into two parts.
So there’s a lot of unrealistic expectations around diabetes, that those of us who have been in the DOC for some time can shake off, but newbies can get sucked in. People are keen to share their 5.5s/100s but not so keen to talk about that day where their sugars looked like a roller coaster! The reality of diabetes is that life goes on around us, and that every day (and every approach) is different. That’s one of the messages I’ve been spreading – that diabetes can be hard and complicated, and that you’re not a bad person if you struggle with it sometimes!
There’s also a ubiquitous stigma around weight in our community – I would argue more so than in general society. So often in diabetes groups and discussions people that live in larger bodies are justifying their size by throwing out a1cs or lamenting that they’re trying to hardest to lose weight. BPB is trying to spread the message that ALL bodies are good bodies – it is ok to inhabit a larger body and have diabetes!! The only thing we have in common is an autoimmune condition, so why expect everyone to conform to the same body standard? As a plus size women, I’ve encountered weight based discrimination in my healthcare and within the community – and I know it’s not just me, many plus size people understand the . There’s nothing wrong with inhabiting a large body and having diabetes, and without respecting and accepting ourselves, we are more likely to have adverse health outcomes because we don’t feel empowered to advocate for ourselves. There are studies being done currently that discuss the impact of weight stigma on mental and physical health, and i want to make this information more accessible to those who need it most.
Kerri: Also, props for this part, too: “We’re worthy of respect, regardless of our weight or hbA1c. Shame gets you nowhere. Support, positivity, and celebration get you a hell of a lot further.” Have you seen a lot of discussions about shame, and how will your work help flip that narrative?
GP: When talking to PWDs, there will always be a tale of encountering shame about their diabetes. It will come from a friend, a HCP, a family member, or another PWD! The theme that ties them all together is that being shamed about their diabetes didn’t do anything but make that person feel bad about themselves and sometimes end up in harmful behaviours – and what are we gaining with that?! So much more is achieved (including positive health outcomes!!) with positivity and support. I want my work to educate and inform people, and expose them to ideas and movements that they may not have been aware of. For example, the Health At Every Size approach is something that could be very beneficial for the diabetes community, but is something that many PWDs are unaware of. I hope that by providing a bit of accessible information and alternative attitudes, we can start to flip the negative and shameful approach that is unfortunately prevalent in many PWDs experience.
Kerri: How can folks reading here get involved?
GP: Folllow and share!! This will work only if I have the support of the fantastic DOC. You can find me on Instagram @bodyposibetes and Facebook. I also would love you to get talking about it with the people around you / is there a post that struck a chord with you and you want to discuss over a coffee? How we learn, grow, and empower ourselves as PWDs is those organic discussions around our experiences. Connect and share people!
Kerri: Anything else you’d like to add?
GP: My motto for this project (and for life to be honest…) is “Do no harm, but take no shit.” I’m aiming to make our space a safer and more inclusive one whilst tackling misconceptions – let’s take no more of diabetes’ bullshit, we do it enough already!