Diabetes Diagnosis Is Affecting My Body Image Acceptance

My Recent Diabetes Diagnosis Is Wreaking Havoc On My Self-Image

Diabetes doing blood glucose measurement
hsyncoban/Getty

When I was 30 weeks pregnant with my last baby, I developed gestational diabetes. Frankly, it didn’t really turn out to be a big deal. I only failed the glucose test by six points, and I was able to keep my blood sugar in the healthy range by just watching what I ate. I never got a single high reading once I knew I had GDM. My baby was born a healthy size, and she didn’t have any issues at birth related to blood sugar. I kept checking my levels for a few weeks after her birth, and my blood sugar returned to a healthy range even without a diabetic diet.

I thought that was the end of my diabetes saga.

She’s almost two now, and, well, that was not the end of it.

I recently discovered that I am one of the 50% of people that develop Type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes.

The only symptom I had was recurrent yeast infections. Knowing my history, my doctor suggested checking my A1C, and lo and behold, it was in the diabetic range.

I have PCOS, and once I developed GDM with my last pregnancy, I knew that the combination of those two conditions would probably mean I’d end up diabetic later. Both of my grandmothers were or are diabetic, and family history contributes, too. I’m also a fat person.

I’ve got a few strikes against me, and now here I am. It is what it is.

I’m still trying to wade through the emotions that come with this diabetes diagnosis.

My overwhelming feeling is relief. I’m grateful that we caught it. Now I can manage it and protect my body from the long-term effects of elevated blood sugar. That’s very good news. If we hadn’t found out, I could have ended up very, very sick. It’s been about two weeks, and with a combination of medicine, diet and increased exercise, my blood sugar has already come way down. It is almost always in a healthy range now or only barely elevated, and that’s great news. I’m responding well to the treatment; my body is going to be okay.

But the long-term of diabetes is so fucking hard to think about.

I know that for some people, weight loss alleviates some of the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes. It’s part of my prescribed plan, and I’m okay with it. I absolutely cannot stand when doctors prescribe weight loss for things that are largely unrelated to weight, but prescribing it for diabetes is sound. It’s a good idea to reduce my body weight as part of my treatment plan because that has been scientifically proven to help.

I’m just really sad because I’ve spent the last five years of my life making peace with how my body looks. I have told myself that I deserve to feel beautiful and confident independent of my size. I have even done a lot of intentional work to detach health from worth, and to advocate for people like me, who are in fat bodies and aren’t fully, blamelessly healthy.

I’ve focused on the ways my body is good, and there’s been a freedom I can’t describe.

And you know what else? There’s been weight loss. As it turns out, not restricting myself for long periods of time reduced the binging behavior that always followed a restrictive diet for me. Slowly but surely, I’ve seen my weight trend down for the last three years. Body acceptance has not led to the free-for-all weight explosion that diet culture warned me about. In fact, it’s led to the kind of moderation and control that I was always incapable of when I was stuck in a constant restrictive dieting cycle.

I could attempt to justify myself all day long.

But honestly, if you’re sitting in judgment of me because my pancreas can’t get its shit together, fuck you. I don’t owe you health or an explanation for why I deserve to “get a pass” for my diabetes. The only reason I even feel compelled to provide one is because of the bullshit I’ve had to put up with just for existing in a fat body. It’s trauma that makes me want to beg you to respect me even though my body is larger — and I’m so sick of giving into that just to try to mitigate the number of mean-spirited, dismissive, shitty comments and messages I’ll get the moment my story is out in the world.

I’m already struggling. Don’t heap more hard on my hard. That’s a dick move.

How the fuck am I supposed to maintain my commitment to body acceptance when the rest of my life requires constant vigilance about my diet and blood sugar?

How can I reject the toxic parts of diet culture that ruled my brain for so long and also count carbs, protein and fat every single time I open my mouth to eat?

I know myself. Diet culture is about to come roaring back into my psyche and turn caring for my health into a quest for thinness. It’s already started. The idea that a diabetic diet might help me lose some inches has already crept in. It’s been my silver lining, because apparently a long-term disease like diabetes needs a silver fucking lining?

What is my problem?

I want to care for my health, and I will, but I don’t want to go back to being obsessed with how my body looks.

I am already quickly sliding down that slope. And it is really fucking slippery. I’ve been searching for value in my body since I was six years old and I first realized that I was chubby. I found that value when I was in my early thirties. I just got comfortable being in my body without being on a constant restrictive diet to earth my worth, and now I have to think hard about everything I eat for the rest of my life?

Yes, I know that once we figure out what works for my body long term, I can have an occasional food with carbs or sugar without causing long-term damage. I understand that I have not received a death sentence for food-related celebration. I know all of that. Diabetes is treatable, if not curable, and Type 2 diabetes can be pretty well managed these days. I’m a rule-follower. I’ll do what needs to be done.

But how am I going to manage a disease that requires constant attention to my diet while also attempting not to loathe my body? For me, that is the bigger concern. I’m going to do what it takes to maintain my physical health, but it’s hard to imagine that I’ll never ever have any periods of complete food freedom ever again.

It’s just a lot, and I don’t have answers yet.

I hope that eventually making choices that work for my body’s new normal will be so second nature that I will feel like I have complete food freedom again. Other diabetic people have assured me that it won’t all feel so overwhelming once I get used to it. I believe them.

And my sweet baby girl is worth it. If not having her meant this would not have happened, I’d still choose her. Every time. No questions asked.

But for now, my fingers are sore from needle pricks, my mind is racing with all the things I have to keep track of while we develop my long-term treatment plan, and my heart is heavy wondering if this new diagnosis is going to send me back to a place where I can’t see that, despite all of its flaws and imperfections, my body is good.

Diabetes and all.