More Than a Number

More Than A Number

Erin M Akers


By the time I was fourteen I had been living with diabetes for five years, and in those five years I had learned one thing: I was a number. My blood glucose number determined if I got a lecture or praise from the only doctor I had ever truly known. My weight number determined the response I would receive from my nutritionist, with her judgement of me as a number coming out as facial expressions of disapproval, making me feel like that number was more important than the journey I had taken to get to it. Five of the most formative years of my life taught me that I was nothing but a number, and in every case, the lower, the better.

At 12 years old I refused to eat a bagel because I was terrified it would make me go blind. I couldn’t trust food, I couldn’t trust my diabetes, and the resulting fear pervaded and led to either not eating carbohydrates at all – severe restriction – or eating all the carbohydrates – severe binging. It’s no wonder that women with type 1 diabetes are 2.4 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than their peers without diabetes.

We need to change our diabetes education, from diagnosis and beyond, to encourage us to think and talk about diabetes control and measurement with a focus on more than just the numbers. We need to actively and aggressively consider quality of life, our personal goals, and the collection of intangibles that makes us a person with diabetes, rather than just diabetes itself.

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