Last August, I went to my yearly check-up and used my doctor's fancy body composition device that determines skeletal muscle mass, body fat index, and other measures. After examining the results and my blood tests, my doctor looked at me and said, "You need to lose about 14 pounds, cut out all added sugars, and come back for a repeat blood test in 6 months. You have hyperglycemia." Translation? I'm pre-diabetic.

If you know me, you know that my diet mainly consists of vegetables, quinoa, and chickpeas. Although I'm slightly addicted to ice cream, I've always had a healthy lifestyle of eating well and exercising regularly. Unfortunately, regardless of my habits, genetics have blessed me with an inability to properly breakdown glucose – also known as insulin resistance. Regardless of a change my diet, I'm at high risk to develop type 2 diabetes.

You might imagine my frustration a month ago when I read an article called, 6 Simple Steps To Avoid Diabetes, According to a Diabetes Doctor. Almost immediately, I was furious. The article minimizes diabetes as a disease, calling it "easily avoidable" and "a pain to deal with.” Having diabetes is not just a pain, it completely alters the way you think, live, and act. 

Diabetes increases your risk of blindness, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. It affects at least 29 million Americans, 8.1 million of whom are undiagnosed. It is much more than just a pain. With that said, here are my responses to the author's six "simple" steps:

1. Doctors appointments are essential in order to assess diabetes risk factors.

It's important to note that there's a huge difference between diabetes type 1 (inability to produce insulin, requires injections) and type 2 (inability to break down glucose). I fully agree that is necessary to recognize risk factors. However, many Americans are unable to do so because they don't see a doctor. The CDC reports that only 53% of Americans see a physician every year, and likely, an even smaller percentage receives blood tests to check fasting glucose levels (an indicator of insulin resistance).

Even if patients do become aware that they are at risk, many may not be educated on nutrition, or know the proper way to lose weight if they are pre-diabetic.

2. Assessing family history can be impossible.

cake, cream, ice, ice cream, chocolate
Meredith Davin

I'm grateful that my family history of diabetes has been recorded throughout the years so that I am fully aware of the risks. However, there's no test akin to the Alzheimer’s e4 gene to tell you if you are pre-disposed to diabetes.

The assumption that all people can "just ask mom or dad" overlooks the fact that millions of Americans are simple unable to do this. There are countless reasons why someone may not have access to family history – if you don’t have healthcare, if you are the oldest one living in your family, or if you were adopted – to name a few.

3. Avoiding processed foods is a privileged lifestyle.

I recently read this article on how much $5 can buy you at fast food restaurants. Spoiler alert: it'll get you thousands of calories worth of food. At Whole Foods, $5 will get you one bottle of coconut water.

Not only is health food expensive, but also often unavailable. Over 23 million Americans live in low-income areas over a mile away from supermarket – a.k.a. food deserts. They're forced to eat at fast food restaurants or convenience stores, which are stocked full of processed, low-nutrient foods.

4. Eating healthy requires time and resources.

As a college student, I can personally attest that meal prepping takes a lot of time. Because of this, Americans eat about 1/3 of their meals outside the home. Unless you're carefully perusing the nutritional information, it's easy to overeat when you're not at home.

Additionally, there’s a lot of bogus information on the internet about what actually constitutes a healthy diet. Many people prescribe to fad diets they found online, instead of meeting with a registered dietitian (someone who has an advanced degree in dietetics) to develop a personalized balanced, moderate, varied, and adequate diet.

5. Scales and BMI do not measure body composition. 

Sarah Strong

My best friend was pole vaulter in college, and jokes that her Body Mass Index (BMI) would tell her she's obese. This is completely false (as she's quite thin) because BMI is not an appropriate way to measure body composition. It does't account for percentages of skeletal muscle mass or body fat because it only takes into account body weight per unit of height.

Although bathroom scales or BMI could give you an (extremely) rough idea of your health, they won't accurately track your progress or your body's make up.

6. Exercising regularly has a high short-term opportunity cost.

I can personally attest that while working my 8 to 5 job this summer, I struggled to exercise even a few times a week. You don't have to tell me twice about the physical, social, psychological, and neuro-protective benefits of exercise (I took an entire class on the subject), but the opportunity cost of exercising seemed high in the short term. When I got home from work every day, I was much more inclined to make dinner or watch Netflix. Try adding children, a significant other, and more life responsibilities? I can't even imagine.


sweet, milk, dairy product
Katie Walsh

So what do all these issues point to? Bottom line, our food and healthcare systems are broken. Diabetes is a national, social issue – not just a personal, individual one. And it is surely not "easily preventable." No matter how hard you try, you may still develop diabetes.

Our country is overweight, undernourished, and undereducated about nutrition and long-term health. Companies buy out researchers to hide the effects of sugar – which, turns out, is terrible for you – and lie about the benefits of fats. The government subsidizes $25 million per year for farm businesses, instead of working to combat food insecurity or educate our children on how to build a balanced lifestyle.

As an individual, no matter where you live, you can aim to limit your sugar intake, because simple carbs (glucose) are broken down quickly and stored as excess fat. As an American citizen, you can stop disease/body shaming those who are overweight, and look for ways to improve the health of your local community.

beer, water
Meredith Davin

If you, too, personally struggle with hyperglycemia or pre-diabetes, make some small changes to start. If you aren’t active, try to take 5 to 10 minutes a day to go for a walk or get on your feet. Keep record of your progress, and affirm yourself every day. Most importantly, surround yourself with friends who can keep you accountable and will encourage you to be your best self.