Developing a Healthy Body Image with Diabetes

Kerri Sparling Health Guide
  • Beauty benchmarks seem to be measured in what size pants you fit into and what designer hand bag you have draped over your rail-thin arm.


    This is the biggest bunch of crap I have ever heard. In my life.


    There's a lot of body image problems in our society. (Feel free to file that under "No Kidding.") Women are shown almost-unattainable media images and are encouraged - expected? - to achieve that look. As a girl with type 1 diabetes and part of a family of curvier people, whittling my body down to that socially mandated size isn't easy ... and wasn't accomplished. Life with diabetes puts a huge emphasis on food, making me unable to eat just a raisin for lunch. Instead, I ate in accordance with the then-peaking of my insulin and tried to keep my weight, and my diabetes, under control. This was difficult at times.

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    I was never a "thin" adult. I've always had more of an athletic build than that of a runway model. As a kid, I was scrawny, but once puberty hit, my body took on womanly curves and held fast to them. I never felt shapely or feminine - instead, I felt fat. In college, I lived with six other girls and they were all teeny little things. They had thin arms and thin legs and they shared clothes with one another, but I couldn't get in on that scene because I was about two sizes bigger than all of them. If they were wearing size 4 pants, I was in an 8. I always felt a bit bigger, a bit more awkward, and very shy about my body. Despite whether or not I looked as overweight as I felt, my mind was entrenched in thoughts that were self-conscious. I was very unfair to myself, just like many other women are. It sucks to feel bad about yourself.


    Diabetes challenges my health, but it sometimes offers up a healthy perspective. It took me several years to really come to terms with the fact that my body needs to have different priorities. Going to the gym has become less about slimming down my stomach and more about improving my cardiovascular health, lowering my A1C, and reducing body fat so that I can make better use of my injected insulin. It couldn't be about fitting into a smaller dress size because it needed to be about being healthier every day.


    I'm not going to be teeny. I will not be the girl who appears to be challenged by every breeze that blows through. My body will be strong and curvy and ornamented by various medical devices, like a diabetic Christmas tree. It's taken me a long time to achieve a level of confidence in how I look and how I feel about myself. But I see myself now and realize that I don't look much different than I did in high school or in college. I just feel different. I feel like the numbers that matter aren't the ones on the scale or sewn into the tag on my skirt, but instead the ones stored in my glucose meter.


    I feel happy, and that looks better on me than any stitch of clothing I own.


Published On: November 24, 2009