This Is Not A Contest…

189659_2508If you don’t know this by now, I’m here to tell you.

Diabetes is not a contest.

There are no grand prize winners, no consolation prizes, and no picking what’s behind Door Number 2. You can dress up in a silly costume, but a game show host will not be selecting you to jump up from your seat in the studio audience.

And yet, I see that some people with diabetes trying to make it seem that way on social media.

I belong to a number of groups on Facebook that focus on diabetes. Some groups provide wonderful articles from reputable sources while others, promoted as a place of support, are crammed full with pronouncements and requests for advice.

“What’s the highest your blood sugars have ever been?”

“What’s your lowest recorded blood sugar?”

“How much insulin do you take each day?”

These are questions that pop up frequently on my newsfeed and the answers are almost boastful.



“I take 150 units of Novolog every day…”

I’m curious as to why these people ask (and answer) these questions. Is it because they feel the need to compare themselves to others with diabetes? Are they better than others? Worse off?

Diabetes is not a contest. 

Yes, sometimes we play the “Guess my blood sugar!” game with a friend or family member. (John always wins that one in our house; I think he cheats.)

We take bets daily on which dosage will be the right amount to keep blood sugars within range. Sometimes we take a chance with our blood glucose meters.  I’ve played chicken a few times with my diabetes management, and I’ve always come out the loser. Some are diligent and still come out losers. But it’s not a contest, right?

We may try to game our disease, but there are too many slots on the roulette wheel to say for sure where that ball will land… and you know that the house always wins in the end.

And in the end, the quality of life for all of us is compromised because of a disease that doesn’t let us win, but we do get to have the play at home version as a lovely parting gift.

Diabetes is not a contest. 

There are no right answers. No buzzer at the end of the round with commercials from our sponsors.

Every individual with diabetes is different and while some may be coherent (barely) at 35 mg/dl, others may have long lapsed into unconsciousness. Those wandering upright with highs over 500 mg/dl are not to be scorned or lauded; they need help to bring their blood sugars back into range. It doesn’t matter if you take one unit or 1,000 units of insulin per day - whatever you need to keep you safe and alive is what you need.

I have never hid my A1C struggles. My current is 6.7%, up from a low of 6.3% last year. I don’t get a medal for that, just as I don’t get a medal for the A1Cs in the teens during my high school years. My A1C is a signpost and I have a choice to make every day on how I handle my blood sugars and my diabetes.

Some people with diabetes share their A1Cs in an effort to show others that they’ve been working diligently at making positive changes in their lives. These PWD talk about those positive changes, giving their take on their own struggles. I love reading these posts, because this is the reality of diabetes.

Those who, and I’m judging a little bit here, boast about how they’ve never had an A1C over 6.0% because they take care of themselves… well, I can do without the gloating. (And they seem to never give the “how” of how they keep it at 6.0%, more of a “I just follow the rules…”.)

Diabetes is not a contest. 

It’s not a reason to get incensed when an unsuspecting stranger makes a comment that blatantly shows they do not understand the nuances of the disease and its many iterations. I see these posts far too often:

“How dare they tell me that I can’t eat [insert food here]! They don’t get it at all!”

“That mother has NO idea how difficult it is to parent a child with diabetes!”

“I hate that the public thinks we all have Type 2 diabetes! I want to change the name so that they will know it’s different!”

Well, this is, as a former supervisor would say to me, “an opportunity to excel”. Turn the rage into a teaching moment. Rather than getting all indignant and stirring up others who feel like we’re misunderstood, take a moment and breathe, then say:

“Diabetes is a complex disease. There are different types and different ways to treat the disease. If you have a moment, I’d love to tell you a little bit about it, so that you can help others learn.”

And you can change the name of a disease all you want… it will still be the same disease with the same misperceptions. You’ll just spend more time hollering into the blackness about how the name is different.

Diabetes is not a contest. 

It doesn’t matter in the end what diabetes you have. There are preconceptions and misconceptions about both types from the general public and even from within the diabetes community. Have you seen these quotes before?

“That person asked me if I have the bad kind of diabetes!”

“She told me that my diabetes must be severe if I have to take shots!”

“Type 1 diabetes is far more difficult to manage than Type 2!”

“Type 2 is an obese disease. Type 1 isn’t.”

Long term, we all are hunched over from the weight of complications that pick at every part of our bodies. Our pancreases don’t work properly. All diabetes is bad. All diabetes is severe. All diabetes is difficult to manage. And guess what… both types of diabetes can be “obese” diseases.

I am living proof that you can be fat with Type 1 diabetes. I know many people who are thin as rails with Type 2.

Why are we trying to prove to ourselves and others that one type of diabetes deserves more pity or money or time or effort or public awareness?

Diabetes is not a contest.

It’s a disease.

No one wins.







  1. bennetdunlap


    No winners, that is no fun.

    It is a good point. Diabetes is no fun.

    It is not a contest.

    We all win a little if we remember that. ;)

  2. Kate Cornell

    Wonderful post. I’m at a loss to point out which part I like best, so I choose them all! Thank you for putting this so eloquently. wow.

  3. Hannah McDonald (@dorkabetic)

    This post ALL DAY LONG. We’ll still all have diabetes even if they change the name to Dysgluconomia or Pancrealaziness or whatever they can come up with. That’s one thing I’ve never quite understood-misconceptions are irritating as hell, but I try to use them to inform people of what they should really know, so as much as someone may want to complain, couldn’t they take that same emotional effort to educate other people?

  4. lifeont1


    Though, I do want to say that those “how high has your sugar/how much insulin” type questions can be seen a different way. I see it as a way for people to connect to other PWDs, just sharing commonalities.

    It frustrates me more than anything when people use those commonalities, or comparisons of the potential differences, as a way to boast about themselves though.

    Making other people feel bad isn’t cool. In any aspect of life, but especially in health.

  5. Allison Nimlos

    This is brilliant. You really hit on all the issues that I think people gloss over… I’ve seen a lot of these same conversation, and I struggle with whether or not to participate in them.

  6. Colleen

    I always remind myself that each of us is hauling around our own “sack of rocks.” I certainly know people with other diseases that I don’t know much about. Shoot, before I became a PWD, I (confession here) was a diabetes police person. And yup, Diabetes is no fun - but thank goodness we have the d-friends who live in our computers and help us out.

  7. Mike Durbin (@mydiabeticheart)

    Very well said, Christel! At the end of the day, we’re all Type Screwed!

  8. Jo Thouas

    Thank you for putting this up! I’ve blocked so many people, one in particular who is a nurse and who happens to think that HWAY IS ALWAYS THE RIGHT WAY! Smart ass, who gave me a smart ass reply for a skin problem that I had. Not funny, and not nice!

  9. Jessi

    First of all, wonderful post! Very well said, it’s not a contest. Second, an A1C of 6.7 is an amazing accomplishment! It’s hard, so hard to do that. I wish I was able to write a post how I’ve been able to keep mine as low as I have over the past year but quite honestly I don’t have a clue other than maybe I’m OCD about my numbers and corrections. That can’t be healthy in itself. So I choose not to write about it because like you said I don’t want others to feel bad.

  10. StephenS

    Thank you for this. I’m not worried about how others will perceive what I say, I’m worried that what I say (or share) will hurt someone else. Everyone living with diabetes (any type) knows that every day is different. So we need to remember that everyone’s diabetes is different, every day. You’re right… it’s not a contest.

  11. runningwithoutsugar

    I couldn’t have put it much better than what you’ve written. I used to participate in the what’s your FBG for today, or A1c for the month, or BG after dinner. But it became a contest, hence I stopped. You are right, D is not a contest. If it were, it’s one where no one wins.

  12. Tina

    Im s subscriber to the ‘if you have diabetes or care for someone with diabetes you’re my type” school of thought. I don’t discriminate between types and Im not a fan of those who do. We are all in this together (que High School Musical music). Thanks for sharing this. Im happy for those who have A1Cs within the guidelines and applaud all who do what they can to take the best care of themselves (or their loved ones) that they can.

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