Body image plays a huge role in how successful and fulfilled our lives are. Some people feel that they are too small, others feel that they are too big. It could be anything from the way your hair lies to the way you walk. Almost everyone has something about their bodies that makes them self-conscious.

For me, during my fragile teenage years there were many things that I would have liked to be different about my body. The biggest dig to my own body image though was my diabetes. Diabetes isn’t often visible to others so it seems strange looking back that that was the biggest issue I had. But it was. It made me so different from everyone else and I felt that they were always judging me. Of course when you are a teenager you feel like everyone is judging you anyway. But people often shy away from things they don’t understand, and there were very few people I knew that even knew what diabetes was let alone understood what I was going through.

Even on into my adult years I was always worried about what people would think when they found out I had diabetes. I always felt that I should be a smaller size and more fit because of the diet and lifestyle I was supposed to live in order to care for my diabetes. There is so much misunderstanding about diabetes and what actually causes both type 1 and type 2. I was worried that people would think that my diabetes was caused by being heavier as a child, which is a complete myth, but that doesn’t stop people from believing it.

Diabetes is a personal disease, as each individual person needs a slightly different management plan to maintain good control. I have also learned that everyone has a different view of their own diabetes and how the world sees them with the disease. This perspective, in turn, effects their diabetes management and their body image.

Recently a group of diabetes ambassadors from Australia shared their thoughts about body image and diabetes. They share varying points of view despite all having diabetes, some type 1 and some type 2. Interestingly, I found while reading about their experiences that there were issues from all corners of the body image spectrum. Some had a problem with anorexia while others had a problem with binge eating because of the diet restrictions.

However, what is most important is that each of the ambassadors worked through their body image struggles and are now happy with who they are.

It is normal to feel self-conscious about your diabetes, especially when newly diagnosed. It is new and affects everything you do. But it is important to not let your diabetes management get in the way of how you see yourself. All aspects of a healthy lifestyle need to be emphasized in diabetes management, not just weight loss or diet restrictions.

There are also things that you should be doing to stay healthy, beyond the diet limitations. Here are just a few tips that will help address all sides of a healthy lifestyle and help you keep a positive body image.

  1. Appreciate what your body can do. It is easy to feel that your body is broken somehow because you have diabetes. But remember that when cared for properly diabetes can’t stop you from doing anything you want to do.

  2. Educate those around you. Help your friends and family understand what diabetes is and that it doesn’t make you different from anyone else. You will feel more comfortable with yourself and others if you know that they are there to support you.

  3. Diabetes is not all about dieting and weight loss. In order to successfully manage your diabetes it is important to eat healthy meals that include foods from all areas of the food pyramid. It is also important to eat enough. Don’t overdo it, but make sure you are eating regularly so that your body can regulate itself as much as possible. An all-around healthy lifestyle should be the goal.

There are many more things that you can do to successfully manage your diabetes and increase positive body image. Living with diabetes can be hard, but it doesn’t have to change who you are or how you see yourself. Start today by evaluating your own perspective of your body, and if you find any negative thoughts, make the necessary changes so that you can find the most success in your life, your diabetes, and your body.

To learn more about body image and diabetes:

Diabetes Doesn’t Own Me: Julia’s Story
Diabetic Dieting: An Easier Approach to Eating Well
Food and Diabetes Simplified