November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and there are a lot of myths about diabetes. FN decided to knock a few of these myths down in the hopes that we can help build up some support for our athletes who are not just going the distance in their sport- but doing so with the added challenge of diabetes.
Myth: You’re diabetic? No chocolate for you!
Fact: If you just ran 20 miles with your bestie and you want to reward yourselves with chocolate, but are worried because she’s diabetic, get ready to share that chocolate bounty. Diabetics follow the same meal plan that is recommended for everyone- low in fat, with moderate amounts of salt and sugar, and meals based on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, according to the American Diabetes Association. Sweets are not off limits and should be treated the same way everyone is supposed to treat sweets- as a special treat and used with moderation.
Myth: SUGAR is the cause
Fact: That’s way too simple of an answer. There are two types of diabetes- Type 1 (genetics and unknown factors trigger the onset) and Type 2 (genetics and lifestyle factors contribute to the onset). The ADA does recommend that people limit their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages to decrease their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Most diabetic athletes are extremely aware of their nutrition and are very informed about their disease—so please do your homework before telling them what causes their diabetes, or get ready to get schooled.
Myth: Diabetes will sideline you
Fact: Exercise is an integral part of diabetes management for both Type 1 and Type 2. Exercise is an effective way to manage your blood sugar levels. It also helps prevent some of the chronic health problems associated with diabetes. And diabetes will not prevent you from doing anything. As a matter of fact, you can still be an amazing athlete and manage your diabetes- it just takes diligent nutrition tracking, and means a bit more organization on the part of the athlete to prevent blood sugars from dipping too low. For normal athletes, that results in bonking, and for diabetics, that can result in hypo or hyperglycemia—a problem they do their best to avoid.
Myth: People with diabetes do not have an active, healthy lifestyle
Fact: Whatever your mental picture is of someone with diabetes, toss it. The fact is, diabetes can affect anyone, and causes more deaths from complications each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Because of the nature of the two types of diabetes, it truly can be anyone- your neighbor, aunt, child, or friend, or that guy out there doing intervals on the track and kicking your butt. Not only can active people be diabetic, but once a person is diagnosed with diabetes, exercise and physical activity become an important part of managing their diabetes. And don’t just assume all overweight people will become diabetic- according to the ADA, the majority of overweight people will never develop Type 2 Diabetes and many people who do have Type 2 Diabetes are at a normal weight or are only moderately overweight.
Myth: Diabetics should exercise to lose weight
FACT: We already dismantled part of this myth above: not all people with Type 2 Diabetes are overweight. But exercise actually does do something really important for diabetics. Engaging in physical activity allows your cells to become more sensitive to insulin (making the insulin more efficient) and helps your cells remove glucose from your bloodstream. The American Diabetes Association goes into a lot more detail on this subject, but just like with all athletes, exercise is not just about weight loss.
Interested in learning more or finding a way to become involved with Diabetes Awareness? Check out the American Diabetes Association website. And if you are an athlete with diabetes, feel free to sound off in the comments- what are the myths that drive you crazy?