CrossFit recently tweeted an "open diabetes" ad linking the disease to poor diet
Stefany Shaheen: There are many causes and types of diabetes; Crossfit and its CEO should apologize
Editor’s Note: Stefany Shaheen is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Good Measures, a Boston-based company providing registered dietitian services for the 21st century by combining clinical expertise with patented technology to help people better manage their health. Her new book, “Elle & Coach,” will be released August 25.
The CEO of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, owes those living with diabetes an apology after his company tweeted a quote June 29 attributed to him – “Make sure you pour some out for your dead homies” – along with a photo of Coca-Cola’s trademark bottle ad and the caption “open diabetes.”
Glassman’s suggestion that people living with diabetes bring the disease upon themselves by consuming too much sugar or drinking too much soda is simply irresponsible. One high-profile person who lives with the disease, singer and Type 1 diabetes advocate Nick Jonas, agreed and called Glassman out in tweets of his own.
In a statement to ABC News, Glassman fired back at Jonas, insisting that CrossFit’s initial controversial tweet was only in reference to Type 2 diabetes (the rest of his comments, according to an article on the ABC News website, were “so aggressive, it was not suitable to print”). But Glassman’s initial tweet and lack of regret suggest a lack of complete understanding and pose many problems.
For starters, there are many forms of diabetes. Diabetes mellitus is a classification that includes Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as well as gestational diabetes, which is triggered by pregnancy. Not to mention neonatal diabetes and maturity onset diabetes in young people.
My friend Meredith Shevitz and I know all too well how hard life can be thanks to Type 1 diabetes. Seven years ago, my daughter Elle was diagnosed with Type 1, and every day since her diagnosis she has had to take insulin to survive. Elle gives herself eight to 10 shots of insulin a day and tests her blood sugar by pricking her finger with a needle eight to 10 times every day. She must take medication in order to eat.
Every day. Every meal. Every snack. Every time she plays in the snow or goes swimming or dances. All of the time.
As for Meredith, she was diagnosed with Type 1 just as she was starting her senior year of high school. She started to feel extremely sick and quickly lost 20 pounds. She could barely carry her backpack up the stairs to get to class. She says she will never forget her first night in the ER as she cried uncontrollably while nurses gave her shots of insulin. It was the only time she ever saw her dad cry.
Elle and Meredith did not eat or drink their way to diabetes. In fact, Elle often reminds people what her doctor explained to her – that she could have eaten an entire birthday cake for breakfast every day, and it wouldn’t have caused her diagnosis.
This is because Type 1 is an autoimmune disease with no known cause. People who are living with Type 1 become unable to produce insulin when their immune systems attack the insulin-producing cells in their bodies. Needless to say, there is no way to prevent Type 1 diabetes, and there is no cure.
Perhaps even more astonishing than CrossFit’s and Glassman’s failure to clearly distinguish the different types of diabetes is their apparent disregard for people who are struggling with the disease – or any disease.
It is appalling that anyone would shame a group of people based on a disease that they live with every day. The causes of Type 2 diabetes are complex, and nobody should be blamed, insulted or ridiculed. What’s next? Making fun of people with cancer?
It was inspiring to see the diabetes community come together this week to combat and address CrossFit’s and Glassman’s hurtful message. My family is particularly grateful to Jonas, who along with countless others called for sensitivity and better education.
We will continue to stand together and work to raise public awareness about the challenges that come with a life that includes, but is not defined by, diabetes.
Glassman, you now have a job to do – and it starts with an apology.