Millions of people with both types of diabetes who take insulin are well-controlled, complication-free, and living long, healthy, and productive lives. Instead, the main person with diabetes-related complications they chose to showcase was a heart-wrenching, double amputee, dialysis patient with type 1 diabetes who was manipulated to bring the viewing audience to tears. While I'll agree that many people end up with complications, it is certainly not inevitable. I personally interviewed over 55 people with both types of diabetes and shared their secrets to living well in 50 Secrets of the Longest Living People with Diabetes in 2007. Why didn't Oprah choose to showcase any of these individuals? Scare tactics like Oprah used seldom work well in getting people to change their lifestyle habits long term.
Finally, why didn't Oprah choose to invite a single diabetes expert—an endocrinologist, a certified diabetes educator, or even a dietitian—on her show to talk about how to best manage diabetes? I know through the diabetes grapevine that the people working on the show's content did speak to a few diabetes professionals, but not a single one was on the show. I'm sorry to speak badly of Dr. Oz if you love him, but he is not a diabetes expert. Not only did he make numerous, almost unforgivable and false statements about diabetes and its care, but he and fitness guru Bob Greene also focused obsessively on sugar and other "white" foods while failing to mention that French fries and other carbs that Americans consume by the ton raise blood sugars and contribute to weight gain as much as, or more so than, sugar consumption.
At least Bob Greene did tell the patients he was making walk on treadmills that their 30 minutes of daily exercise was "non-negotiable." Unfortunately, Dr. Ian Smith just kept telling older African-American ladies from the same church in Ohio that they were "ticking time bombs."
Oprah even showcased her former chef who apparently lost 85 pounds in less than a year after his diabetes diagnosis like the contestants on "The Biggest Loser" and reversed his diabetes symptoms—commendable, but hardly the best way to go about achieving lasting weight loss and not realistic for most people with diabetes who can expect about a 20-pound weight loss in six months. People really needed to hear how it's important to focus on the lifestyle changes that naturally result in weight loss instead of on weight loss itself, which is seldom maintained without that focus. Her viewers walked away with the impression that it was time to go on yet another diet to lose inches from their waistline.
Oprah may have raised diabetes awareness some, for which we all are grateful, but she missed a wonderful educational opportunity and instead propagated many myths about diabetes (too numerous to list here) that were outdated or abandoned as incorrect by diabetes health care professionals years ago. Perhaps we can convince her to do a follow-up show that will increase awareness, but not set back diabetes care at the same time?
To sign up for 5 free healthy living reports via e-mail, log on to Lifelong Exercise Institute, especially to get the report on 10 easy core exercises you can do at home. If you need tips for getting started on an exercise program, I recommend The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan. For people with any type of diabetes who are more active, read Diabetic Athlete's Handbook.
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NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
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