Many people in our society, if they know anything about type two diabetes at all, are under the impression that it is the direct result of obesity, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. This view is promulgated by people who want to sell books about "reversing" diabetes and those concerned with public health who hope to scare those most at risk into changing their ways.
I'm not a doctor or a scientist, but my understanding is that type two is believed to result from a combination of lifestyle, genetics, and other factors not yet understood. Obesity is certainly a major risk factor, but it's neither a necessary precondition nor a guarantee: many type twos are not obese and never have been, and many many obese people do not have type two.
While type twos feel the effects of the misunderstandings, type ones are also affected. Many people know little or nothing about type one and mistakenly carry over their (mis)understanding of type two, when in fact lifestyle bears NO role in the development of type one. This can result in type one PWDs being harshly and unfairly judged.
Diabetics in Society
People with diabetes, like essentially everybody else, participate in society. We have friends, family, coworkers, waiters, fellow bus-riders, neighbors, and garbagemen. And very few of us are above being affected what these people think of us. For people living with a dangerous and frustrating condition like insulin-dependent diabetes, I can understand it being frustrating (okay, enraging) to have the people around us express the notion that not only is the disease our fault but that we could cure ourselves by getting off our lazy butts.
A Credibility Problem
I admire the many different ways in which PWDs I know advocate. I've sort of struggled to find my role in this: I'm not a fundraiser, and the notion of calling on congressmen makes me feel faint. For right now, my small efforts involve trying to offer a bit of support for others and to maintain this type two blog in the hopes that I'm reaching at least a few who are helped.
In many ways, I would really like to be a voice in helping diabetics of all types, as well as people in the society as a whole, understand the roots of type two diabetes. But I can't keep but feeling that I'm a very poor person to be front-and-center on this issue. As many members of the online community know, at the time of my diagnosis I was an overweight, non-exercising, poorly-eating, sedentary-job-holding, sleep-apnea'ed embodiment of the stereotype we all struggle with. (Alas, this is still too close to the truth, though I have made changes.) Thus, it seems to me that I have a real credibility problem: I'm sort of in the position of the little boy with the slingshot yelling that he didn't break the window -- it may be entirely true, but who's he going to convince?. If someone who didn't like what I had to say on this issue accused me of just making excuses for myself, how could I respond? That's not what the science indicates right now, but maybe it's the truth.
My own experience
I myself haven't had to deal much with the misconceptions about type two. The people in my non-virtual life either know better, don't know I'm diabetic, don't much care, or are too polite to point fingers. I have had a few (a VERY few, I'd like to stress) painful experiences online. I read a comment on somebody else's blog from a type one who expressed very bitter resentment against type twos. Another comment on another blog was from a type two who'd been able to diet-and-exercise himself off of medication and was quite confident that any type two who "took their lifestyle responsibilities seriously" could do the same. Another time a community member tweeted resentment towards "fat diabetics" in quite graphic terms. This comment left me feeling hurt and angry, but also feeling hamstrung - I understand (in part, anyway) where the comment was coming from, and anything I could think of to say might be seen as whining self-justification.
I, too, wish the public understood the differences between the types of diabetes. I, too, wish that Oprah and Dr. Oz hadn't muddied the waters. But I hold out little hope: we live in a complicated society, people lead busy lives, and not everybody gets good exposure to correct information about diabetes. In the meantime, the best most of us can do is to try to be reasonably well-informed ourselves and to take advantage of the opportunities we have to educate.