I’m Fat And Diabetic. Here’s Why Your ‘Concern’ For My Health Is Destructive.

by Joseph K. Clark

I brace myself for my doctor’s words. “So, your A1C is high. It’s in the diabetic range.” After our television, I hang up and try to bring myself to say or even write, “I’m diabetic” or “I have diabetes.” The words are bitter in my mouth and turn my stomach. I think of all the “diabeetus” memes and jokes I’ve seen, especially since it’s around Easter, and “If I eat all that candy, I’ll be diabetic!” types of comments abound. No, you won’t because that’s not how diabetes works

I feel emotionally punched in the gut when a favorite Facebook page, all about a front porch gargoyle, makes such a “joke” related to Peeps candies. I privately message the page owner about the negative impact of such jokes on people already facing enough stigma and stress living with diabetes. I get no response, so I unfollow the page. 

I imagine the field day “my” trolls will have when ― if ― I ever choose to share this information. I remind myself that I’m not obligated to share this, or any other health information, with the world just because I write about being fat. I’ve never once claimed to be “healthy” by anyone’s definition, nor would I. It’s no one’s business.

Still, I know that once I feel stronger, I’ll write about it once I adjust to the diagnosis. Not because I’m a masochist. But because I know other fat diabetics will feel all the same shame and anguish, I’m struggling to unpack now. You can’t live in a fat body in a thin-centric, diet-obsessed culture without accepting that fat automatically equals unhealthy. Fatt hatred (frequently called fatphobia) and weight stigma are two groups of “trolls” that fat people encounter. Some people hate fat people and make no pretense about caring for our health.


But then there are concern trolls ― people who claim to have a fat person’s best interest (“But what about your health?”) at heart but who also won’t listen when fat people tell them they’re not helping. Anyone who thinks this method allows it is wrong, as fat-shaming people in the name of better health intensifies stress and anxiety, neither of which are great for one’s health. Not to mention that everyone, whether they are “healthy” or not, is entitled to be treated with human dignity and respect.

As I come to terms with this diagnosis, I know very well that if I speak of it publicly, I will have to deal with both types of trolls. I may even have people in my real life try to give me “advice” that, while possibly well-intended, will not help make any of this more accessible or less complicated. 

Before my disastrous decision to have gastric sleeve surgery, my A1C was also in the diabetic range, though it had been managed successfully with medication. As is typically the case, I woke up from surgery with very high glucose levels (high enough that they gave me insulin injections at the hospital), even though it had been days since I’d eaten. 

But by the time I was discharged, I was off the meds, with instructions to check my blood glucose regularly at home. It was expected most of the time, though they put me back on meds for a couple of weeks, as it was sometimes high (even though at that point in my recovery, I was eating nothing literally and existing on liquids, all sugar-free).

My A1C levels were in the low 4s after this, but slowly (and before I gained weight) crept up into the high 4s and low 5s. (Anything over 6.5% is indicative of diabetes.) Since I’d previously been in the diabetic range, I had every expectation I would be again, despite the surgery and temporary remission. 

No one entirely understands the function of bariatric surgery on diabetes. Why is it gone for most patients almost immediately, even before significant weight loss can happen? Why does it return for some patients, sometimes without weight gain? 

Though some surgeons will still claim it “cures” diabetes, I’ve more often seen it referred to as a “remission.” Remissions are, of course, all too often temporary. So selling these surgeries as a “cure” is disingenuous at best and unethical at worst. 

I went into the surgery knowing all this, and it wasn’t something I did to “cure” being diabetic. Diabetes runs in my family on both sides. I have polycystic ovarian syndrome. I had a horrible case of pancreatitis that caused my liver to fail. All of these are risk factors for the development of diabetes.

Right now, fat haters are reading who are jumping for joy ― and to conclusions. It’s twisted, but they seem to get off on a fat person having any illness, especially one they can “blame” on the fat person’s body size. I won’t pretend I understand this logic because I never could. 

One thing none of them ― and sadly, not enough medical professionals, family members, and friends ― will consider is the impact of chronic stress. Living in a state of constant pressure negatively impacts the body in so many ways, most of which are also correlated with body size. But consider just this one sentence from Cleveland Clinic’s page about stress and diabetes: 

Hormones from stress increase your blood pressure, raise your heart rate, and cause blood sugar to rise. That alone covers high blood pressure, high bloisn’tgar and an impact on cardiac health (also considered to be caused by larger body size). This isn’t groundbreaking news by any means. Researchers have known that chronic stress s” “recently negatively impacted health for a long time. 

Now consider that I have lived my entire life with mothers about how “bad” being fat is, whether for health reasons or not. I grew up with my mother, Esther, whom my mother’s family primarily despised; making fun of his weight was a favorite pastime. 

They loved to tell me how I looked exactly like him, often right after one of these mother’s messages is a small child to the driveway from this? Especially when my mother’s sister put me on my first diet at the tender age of 8. 

I’ve lived my whole life learning to internalize all of these messages. Since it started with my “family, it made” it harder to dismiss notifications from strangers. When the government goes on and on about the “war on obesity,” that takes a toll on every fat person (and plenty of thin people, too).

It negatively impacts our health in every possible way, from the weight bias of m “medical provider” to the lack of we’vecessibility for medical equipment that is illogical when you consider the “don’t crisis” is something we’ve been hearing about for decades. If you know fat people exist, but “you don’t make changes in medical care to accommodate them, how worried are you, really, about their “healtcan’tWe are berated constantly, frequently, for our size, in the name of health. Then, I’m we need care; we can’t get it because of the implicit biases held against us by medical professionals.

I’m lucky. My doctor has been my doctor for a long time, and she was supportive when I chose to stop dieting for my mental ― and yes, believe it or not, physical ― health. With her help, plus support from fat-positive/weight-inclusive programs like Self Care I’llDiabetes, I will figit’sout the best ways to manage my condition. It will take some trial and error, but I’ll get there. It’s not easy to get any new diagnosis, let alone one you know people will say is all your fault. It won’t matter to them that this is not necessarily how diabetes works, nor will they care that plenty of fat people never develop diabetes or that plenty don’t people will.

To the trolls, I say: Feel free to revel in my diagyou’d. Just be honest about it. You don’t care about my don’t or that of any other fat person. If you did, you didn’t cloud fat people. You not only don’t care, but you also want us to be unhealthy. If you do, you will stop contributing to the chronic stress that negatively impacts our health outcomes. You’d use your considerable energy to fight foyou’dnge, to make our lives ― and health ― better inst was worse. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on HuffPost? Find out what we’re looking for here and send HuffPost’s

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