Girl Talk with the GAC Ladies
Welcome to “Girl Talk,” a column where you can ask these ladies living with type 1 diabetes what it’s like as a woman, because we all need advice sometimes, even if we don’t always know where to go for it. Beyond Type 1 plans to explore issues of body image, dating and the general ups and downs of living with a chronic illness.
Here, the ladies of the Beyond Type 1 Global Ambassador Council will answer your questions about type 1 diabetes (T1D). Have a question? Email email@example.com.
What is one tip you’d give to your younger self about body confidence + T1D? What helps you stay confident now?
Jillian: Find a supportive group of girls to surround yourself with. Find girls that lift you up, not compete with you. I’m not saying you will go through life feeling 100 percent confident all the time, but the key is to surround yourself with positivity and a circle that will help you grow… What truly helped me become more confident in my body as a type 1 female was seeing other girls rock their pumps + continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) on social media and out-and-about in my town! Seeing all these inspiring and beautiful girls has helped me build so much confidence over the years. And type 1 girls not only helped me with my confidence, but also with cool site placements! I once went from hiding my “gadgets” to showing the world: I am type 1 female strong.
Michelle A: Know that you don’t have to hide yourself away, and that you are judging yourself 20 times harder than any of your peers are judging you. They’re too busy worrying about themselves! I like to think of my marks and scars as battle wounds. Instead of hating them, they become a reminder of how much I’ve gotten through.
Stephanie: I would tell my younger self to actually meet with a nutritionist. Having T1D means that medical insurance often covers nutritional consultations as preventive care, and it was not until I was a young adult attempting distance running for the first time that I took the nutrition consultation seriously. Not all food is created equal in the way it affects the body, and the professional help to find what works best for me has made a world of difference… I also want people with T1D not to feel pressure to visibly put it on display. When I was on the Beyond Type Run team, I started using CGM and pump sites that were visible, like on my arms. Some people find this empowering; some people do not. I think with the way diabetes is presented on social media, people can feel like “making the invisible visible” is a qualifier for advocacy, but nobody should feel like they have to show off devices and sites if that isn’t their preference. I was proud to show my sites on certain occasions, but I honestly prefer to keep them under my clothing. They don’t fall off when there’s an extra layer of protection, and I feel more confident when I feel like I am in control of my T1D narrative rather than letting the devices speak for me. Whatever makes you feel good is the right thing to do!
Mary: One tip is to remember that not everything you see on social media, in magazines, ads, etc. is real. Sometimes our bodies do look different—with scars and bruises and machines hanging off of us—but that is what makes us beautiful and strong. Just because the models in ads don’t usually have CGMs (although it’s starting to happen more, woohoo!) doesn’t mean yours are bad or you are not beautiful because of them. My CGM is hands down the best tool in my diabetes kit, and my pump has allowed me to have better control, so I am confident wearing those knowing that I am taking care of myself. My running in particular makes me love myself with every single step. My body has run two marathons, so who cares if I have a double chin when I run?! My body can do wonderful, powerful things (well, except for the non-working pancreas part) and that makes me proud and confident.
When do you feel most insecure in your body? When do you feel most confident?
Lauren: I recently have been dealing with some bad red marks on my hip/booty area from pump sites. It’s really frustrating because they are the more visible effects of type 1 diabetes and even though I do my best to “love” them, I still feel the insecurity pop up from time to time. I think I feel most confident when I’m having a string of days without numbers over 200. I’m like, heck yes! Without a doubt, working out helps me become more confident in my body as a type 1! I know it’s a combination of the endorphins, feeling good in my clothes, and just noticing myself getting stronger over time. It’s something that’s in my control and I love knowing that what I get out of it is based on the work I put in.
Sierra: I think when people make comments about my devices, my natural reaction is to shrink down for a second and want to hide. That’s okay. It always happens for a millisecond. However, I have learned to scold myself and immediately turn the conversation around to make it a positive one. Recently, someone asked about my Dexcom in a condescending voice that made me feel like they thought I was a freak. Instead of snapping back or crawling into a hole for the rest of my life, I got excited and said, “OMG, it is so cool. Let me explain to you what it does.” I am minoring in biomedical engineering, so I love to nerd out about diabetes technology, and most people I explain a Dexcom to end up being mind-blown about this technology they had no idea existed. The times where I am most confident though are definitely when I am around other friends with diabetes who know exactly why everything is on my body, and don’t cringe when I pull out needles once in a while. Find yourself a diabestie to hang out with when no amount of hyping yourself is helping to cope with other peoples’ judgement.
Apoorva: When I have a low blood sugar, it feels like it’s going to suck me in! It feels like the diabetes monster will trap me and gulp me down. It’s the most sinking feeling and I feel helpless! I overeat to correct that low and the crazy roller coaster blood sugars make me so insecure of my existence! It’s like, Why am I even doing this? I know we all go through those phases and it’s best to share with your other T1D friends so you can fight the diabetes monster together with smart strategies! I feel confident when I catch a unicorn (-100mg/dl) on my blood sugar meter! It’s like, Woah, I just won the jackpot! It’s an extra smile to keep going with the day when you see your sugars are right in range.
Michelle L: Wearing my medical devices out in the open and rocking them makes me feel confident! When people ask me about my devices, I feel so good knowing that I am raising awareness about T1D and helping to normalize medical equipment! Don’t be ashamed of your T1D battle wounds. Having scars and devices doesn’t make you weak or unattractive, it shows how strong you are. I feel the most insecure when I’m at a pool or beach and I can see/hear people pointing and talking about my devices. I would much rather them come up and ask, rather than blatantly talk about me. I feel most confident when I am with people who understand what devices I’m wearing, and don’t treat me differently because of them.