Sugar tax: a bit of a sticky point – by Helen Whitehouse

Big news recently is the sugar tax – and forgive me for saying this, but I find it a bit of a sticky point.

Sugar is the big thing that everyone has decided is causing the health problems of the nation. Never mind the fact that five, ten years ago, we completely blamed fat, and now foods like avocados are universally acknowledged as super.

Now, you can barely pick up a paper or magazine without seeing features on what you should be eating instead of sugar, health gurus telling you how to give it up, front page splashes on the obesity crisis… and I agree; the problem is, we don’t have a solid knowledge of a healthy, balanced diet, and that is a problem.

What bothers me in particular about this round of health crisis mania is the absolute stigma it loads onto anyone suffering with diabetes. Everyone wants to weigh in and talk about how obesity causes ‘diabetes’, but why are these healthcare professionals, writers and experts never mentioning that they mean Type 2?

All diabetics know that Type 1 isn’t caused by weight, diet, eating too much sugar as a child… and an unhealthy lifestyle can be one of many contributing factors that cause Type 2.

So why do I feel like every time I eat lunch in front of a new person and get out my injector pen/blood testing kit/ needles, I have to explain that I have Type 1; it’s different type to Type 2, no, I didn’t get it because I was an overweight 11 year old. It chips away a bit of my self esteem, which I have battled so hard to get, every time I have to mention it.

And why? It’s a condition that so many people suffer from, yet there is a distinct lack of education surrounding it, meaning that it falls to sufferers to explain themselves (or at least, feel like they have to). For example, not too long ago, I declined a sugary snack at work, having just worked out my carbohydrate count and insulin dose for dinner time. Not wanting to upset it, I explained why.

“Helen, diabetes at your age?! Not good!” an esteemed and intelligent colleague quipped back.

Rather than explain that I got diabetes age 11, I have Type 1 which usually develops when you are a child or a young adult, no nothing to do with my health, weight etc, I just sat there feeling sad, angry and slightly humiliated.

Diabetes is a strange condition to have as a teenager. Controlling blood sugars combined with hormones often means that teenage sufferers have fluctuating weight, and studies have shown that sufferers have lower self esteem. Personally, having worked to lose weight, improve my diet and lead a healthy life style, it feels like a massive kick in the teeth when someone says: “oh, so you must be fat then yeah?”

Why, when we can barely go a day without some sensationalist headline about obesity or diabetes splashed across the front pages of the nationals, can someone not stand up and talk about the different types of diabetes and give people a bit of education? It would be one less load to bear for sufferers out there.

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