Is it really all that radical an idea to suggest that there is no one size fits all when it comes to people with diabetes and what they choose to eat? Surely any reasonably minded person would say that no one should be forced to follow a specific diet, in much the same way as no one should be told which diabetes tech they must use.
But in the last couple of weeks, and after a couple of different incidents, I’m realising that reasonable doesn’t play into the attitudes of many people when it comes to what can only be termed as diet wars. I don’t bait anyone with tweets about food. I really don’t. I’ve no interest in defending what I eat. It’s my business and mine alone.
My position is very clear on this, but I’ll state it again. I genuinely believe that people with diabetes should be able to eat the way they want. I also believe that it is incredibly privileged to get all preachy about what people should be eating when there is a lot that goes into how that decision is made. For some people, that decision is made for them in a lot of ways. It’s pretty ridiculous – and showing just how out of touch you are – to demand someone eat specific foods if they live in a food desert, can’t afford whatever they are being told to eat or if those foods are not culturally considered.
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But let’s, just for a moment, pretend that we are living in some utopia, and everyone has access to, and can afford to buy, whatever food they choose to eat. We’ve taken out the factors that may make it difficult to afford and access the widest, freshest, healthiest variety of foods. Let’s now add to that and say that everyone is fully informed and has a high level of understanding about the different types of diets and earing plans available. This is as level a playing field as we can get.
Guess what? People will still make different choices and decide what works for them.
And that’s because there is no one way that works for every single person. That’s the bottom line. I think that’s a balanced starting point – understanding that not everyone is the same, not everyone wants to eat the same, and different things work for different people. That’s the way I think.
I want to make this position clear, because what comes next is perhaps not quite so generous.
After some pretty boring encounters in the online diet space, (I say boring, because haven’t we done this all before?), I decided to do something that I shouldn’t really do. But jet lag, too many long-haul flights on WIFI-enabled planes and, well, some sort of desire for self-sabotage, made me do a bit of a deep dive into the some of the people offering the more aggressive and downright nasty comments.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that the comments came from people who are very vocal about following a low carb diet because isn’t that where these comments usually come from? In my experience, the only people who have been critical of comments I’ve made online about food are those who are deep into the low carb community. I am not in any way tarring all those who eat low carb with the same brush. Of course I’m not. But there are ratbags in that community (as there are in all communities) who seem to take pleasure in seeking out and coming at those who have decided to eat a certain way, or comment about food in a certain way. And come at them they do. It gets personal, nasty, and downright horrid.
It is one thing to suggest people eat in a certain way. It’s another thing to refer to someone’s weight and fat shame them. A reply to one of my tweets that dared suggest that people with diabetes eat how they want, included a reference to ‘an obese nurse’. That tweet was followed by another low carb advocate (a physician) naming and adding a video of a diabetes educator and asking if she was the nurse. In what situation is this kind of behaviour okay?
Who are these people? I skimmed through the feeds of some of the people who commented on it being their low carb way or the high (but obviously not high carb) way, and it was unsettling. There was a lot of anti-vax sentiment. Along with anti-mask sentiments. One of two of them had an unhealthy obsession with Anthony Fauci, and wishing something terrible would happen to him. The Aussies in the mix had the same pre-occupation with Dan Andrews. I want to be clear – not everyone had these pretty extreme views, but a significant number did. It does the low carb movement no favours when so many of its members hold these types of views. It makes it easier to dismiss the whole community as being ‘cookers’ or anti-science, and I actually don’t believe that to be the case.
There are people who regularly comment on my posts and share balanced experiences about eating low carb and why it works for them. I always, always welcome discussions like this. It’s a great opportunity for me to learn, and I have adopted some of what folks like this have shared into my own diabetes management. I have also come to understand the frustration among some low-carbers because they feel that keto is not readily highlighted as an option and how many of them have been met with resistance by their HCPs when they’ve said they want to eat low carb.
But you know who else has been met with resistance? People using DIY automated insulin delivery systems. In fact, some people using a DIY system have been told what they are doing is dangerous and have consequently been ‘sacked’ by their HCP. But I am yet to see a single person from the #WeAreNotWaiting community shame anyone who has decided to not use a DIY system. Or ‘tech shame’ them. Or tell parents of kids not using a DIY system that they are the reason their kid will develop diabetes-related complications.
I’ll break this down again, by saying that I think low carb is a great option for people with diabetes. But it’s just that – an option. I know and see people with diabetes absolutely thriving, sharing in range A1cs and high percentage time in range each and every day on low carb, high carb, moderate carb and moderate-to-low carb (that’s generally where I fit in), vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, keto, Mediterranean, and every single other diet you can imagine.
I have a really simple wish and that is for people who are doing low carb do be left to do that in peace, and at the same time, they afford others the same respect and courtesy. It’s really not that radical an idea at all!
Want more on this topic? Here’s heaps I prepared (i.e. wrote) earlier.
The one where I was fat shamed after a TV interview.
The one where a fundraiser for kids in under-resourced countries was almost cancelled because of Easter eggs. (Still makes no sense!)
The one where a bloke hijacked an online discussion about menopause by demanding I explain why I don’t advocate low carb.
The one that was a plea for respecting choice.
The one that was in response to the storm after a chocolate cake recipe was shared.
The one where I shared the start of my own experiences of eating low(er) carb. And a follow up post.