Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Letter To Reader's Digest.

[Read part two here: http://www.textingmypancreas.com/2011/04/second-letter-to-readers-digest-you.html]

Dear Editor(s) of Reader's Digest magazine,

Your publication has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

A Reader's Digest could always be found in the pocket of the driver's door in my mom's car. She'd read while she waited for my brother or I to burst out of the doors at school, when a piano lesson or soccer practice went longer than planned, or during any other stolen moments of the day. She found encouragement, humor, and relatable experiences in the stories you've told.

As I was growing up, my mom would dog-ear the pages with the stories she wanted me to read. Lessons she'd want me to learn. Chuckles she'd want me to have. Now as an adult, RD still provides those things for me.

Your magazine was a trusted source of information during my childhood and beyond (I'm a current subscriber), and I know that many of your loyal readers must feel the same way.

That's why I'm writing you now. Because, dear Reader's Digest, you've gotten something completely wrong. And that trust has been broken.

Sidenote: aren't these people a little bit old for piggy-back rides?

You see, diabetes is a part of my life too. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child in 1986, back when glucose meters were bigger than Kanye West's ego and the coolest way to carry your insulin and syringes around was in a fanny pack. I've spent the last 25 years of my life living with an illness that is very recognizable, yet so frequently misunderstood.

People don't always understand that yes, I can eat that; yes, it hurts every time; and no, the type of diabetes I have can't be controlled alone by diet, exercise, cinnamon, willpower, prayer, or a lucky penny thrown into a well. Many people don't even know that there's more than one type of diabetes. Type 1 is an auto-immune disease, which means that right now, there's no "reversing" it. Keeping my blood sugars "stable", as you phrased it, does not reverse what my immune system is doing to the insulin-producing cells in my pancreas. Increased exercise and different food choices won't "cure" me.

People don't always understand that just because living with diabetes doesn't look difficult, doesn't mean that it's easy to manage. It's far, far from easy. And it's not going away until we find a cure for it - a real, biological cure.

So here's where you come in, Reader's Digest. Because from all appearances, you've really messed up.

There is no cure for diabetes. Let me say that again: there is no cure for diabetes. Not for type 1; not for type 2; not for any type. (Your failure to specify what type of diabetes you are addressing is also troubling. One can assume you mean the more commonly occurring type 2, which makes up about 90% of the diabetes population, but how will the general public know that?) While the symptoms of type 2 diabetes may be "reversed", the disease itself doesn't go away. Tightened glycemic control may ward off complications, but the insulin resistance that defines type 2 remains. For life. There's no reversing that, currently.

There is an entire community (online and off) of people whose lives have been touched by diabetes. We spend a great deal of our time and passion living in spite of, and advocating for, diabetes. Living with it is hard enough - now imagine having to do that AND live with all of the misconceptions that get thrown around.

Sadly, Reader's Digest, you've thrown another one into the pile. And you've riled us up, a bit.

For all of your loyal readers - the ones that regard RD as a trusted source of information - I have to say, you've let them down. Diabetes, in any form, is not reversible. Manageable? Absolutely. Controllable? Mostly. But "reversible"? No.

People trust you to bring them credible information. People will take what you print to be the truth; to be indisputable facts, because they're "in print". People will make assumptions about me, and about every person living with diabetes, based on what they learn from publications such as yours.

Words are important. I wish you had picked better ones.

Kim Vlasnik
A person living with type 1 diabetes since 1986
And rocking it, I might add

P.S. I'll be keeping a running tally at the bottom of this post of responses you should be reading about this, Reader's Digest. Keep checking back - I'll continue to update this list.

* * * * *

For anyone who wants to write Reader's Digest directly regarding this upcoming diabetes issue, here is their contact information (taken from page 8 of the May issue):

Letters to the Editor:  letters@readersdigest.com
                                React, Reader's Digest
                                PO Box 6100 
                                Harlan, Iowa  51593-1600
                                "Include your full name, address, email, and daytime 
                                phone number."

I have emailed them a shortened version of what I said here, and also included a link to this post.

* * * * *

Posts in the DOC (diabetes online community) you should read about this issue:


  1. Great letter Kim!

    I need to get on this too, as I told Jess I have to find the CALM me before I start writing!

    Thanks for letting us all know about this.

  2. go, kim, go! thanks for the inspiration, friend!

  3. Well said!! RT'ing and passing along to all Diabetes Advocates.

  4. well done, Kim..I hope they actually pay attention. I could happen, MTV and the JDRF are examples...

  5. Wow, Kim. You nailed it.
    Piggy backing or desert to reverse my 'betes? Desert, any day.

    If it were that easy, World, the online community would not come out full force when the media Gets It Wrong. Educate yourself. Get It Right.

  6. Well said, Kim. With RD's huge readership it is appalling how the misconceptions and ignorance will be perpetuated. The poor kids and adults with T1 will be harangued incessantly by "experts" who read it in Readers Digest. :(

  7. Fantastic letter, Kim. Every word was perfect. I hope they give some feedback!

  8. Very well written. I will be waiting to see if they respond. You go girl!

  9. Thanks for letting us all know about this. And for including my post on the list. I just hope we can have an impact on this.

  10. Beautifully written and oh, so true! Together we can all make a difference.

  11. I couldn't have said it better myself.

  12. WOW!!! I am so proud that you stood up and wrote something!!!!! great job!!


  13. we also added this post to our blog for our readers!

  14. Great letter Kim!

    Best wishes from London

  15. Way to go, Kim! This is like déjà vu all over again for me...I've had this conversation countless times, most recently on another blog post about health. It's incredibly frustrating to try and explain to people that everything they "know" about diabetes is incorrect. I posted this exchange on my blog if you're interested in reading it!

  16. Well said Kim! I don't think I could have found the right words for my frustration. Thanks for being a great part of our "D community"

  17. This kind of crap pisses me right the eff off. I've sent my letter, and posted on my blog too. What's really getting to me is the economic part this plays - unsuspecting people by this drivel raising RD's profit, and how many people won't donate to JDRF because if those lazy diabetics would just follow the right advice, they'd be fine! ARGH!

  18. Awesome letter!!! What really gets me is the damage done by things like this. d is hard enough without fighting ignorance, too! Great job! And you so totally rock it!!

  19. Thank you Kim! I know Readers Digest publishes stories like this to help their readers, but unfortunately this type of story just reinforces outdated information and misinformation about all forms of diabetes.

    It shocks me that Readers Digest does such a poor job of fact checking what they publish.

  20. The willingness of Type 1's to advocate on behalf of Type 2's is awesome and welcome. However, I'd like to see Type 2's get in there and advocate for themselves -- they are the ones that KNOW what it is to live with Type 2, and the extreme dedication, restraint in eating habits, and hard physical labor necessary to put Type 2 into remission. And then it can always come back as they age, because Type 2 tends to be progressive no matter what they do.
    I strongly agree that when an article is written about diabetes, the title should specify Type 1 or Type 2, because while diet and exercise are relevant to everyone, it's not going to put Type 1 into remission, and it miseducates the public. You can't blame people for making ignorant comments when they have no good source of information!

  21. GREAT post Kim!
    Thanks so much for giving us all the heads up!
    Little ripples make big waves, and I've already started splashing!

  22. Great job, Kim. Check out the post over on my blog.

  23. Excellent job Kim! Well written and researched. Our 13yr old son was diagnosed with Type 1 last year and the most frustrating thing we hear is that we "gave" him diabetes.

  24. Kim-

    I'm an 18 year old high schooler who has had type 1 for 7 years tomorrow. I've been pegged as the diabetic girl. Which means every nutrition class, health class, and just about every diabetes statistic (for type 2) is something that has to do with me (the girl with diabetes in the back of the class). I'm 5'3" and 130 lbs but some how I have the type of diabetes that means your unhealthy, overweight, or old. Anyway your letter made me smile and remember I'm not the only singled out type 1 in the world and I just wanted to say thank you for that.

  25. Rachael Black, RN, BSNApril 5, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    Thank you for responding in such a knowledgable way. My daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 when she was 9, and I have lost track of the times that I have explained the difference to family, friends, and casual aquaintances. I am an RN and regularly use my daughter's example of all that you can cope with and adjust to with my patients who are undergoing major health changes. I know that there is many, many of us who are looking for the day when a cure for Type 1 is found. I am very disappointed with RD if they go forward with such an inaccurate and misleading article, as it has been a part of my life since I was a young child.

  26. Thank you, Kim! You nailed it.

  27. Wow..what a great letter Kim. I will make a point of writing one also. I just want to tell you that the name of your blog is my favorite and it is ALWAYS in my head as I am out in the world with my son administering insulin via his pump remote..I am happy to have found you in the DOC!

  28. I have a beautiful friend (MY Cindy) that is diabetic. She struggles with it and I am sure it is very difficult. I can not even imagine having to deal with what she has to, to remain okay. Thank you for writing this letter to RD for all of the "MY Cindys" out there. You do rock!

  29. You can actually BUY a "Reverse Diabetes" hardcover book http://www.amazon.com/Reverse-Diabetes-Readers-Digest-Association/dp/1606529919

  30. My ten year old daughter excitedly read this headline allowed to her 7yr old T1D sister. I was so frustrated at the lack of forethought. It was devastating to watch their faces drop, in the grocery store line up explaining that they were referring to the 'other' diabetes... type 2. "So there's still no cure for type one Mama?" she looks up to me desperately tears spilling from her big brown eyes. My heart shattered right then... again. I'm so tired of saying "one day soon"


  31. Thank you Kim. My son is 4 and was diagnosed at 2. I hope I'm ready for what's ahead.

  32. Hi Kim. I happened to stumble on this page when I googled the Rd Reverse Diabetes and am so glad that I did. Last Thursday my son who was born with a congenital heart defect and has asthma was diagnosed with insulin resistance. I would like to add, just for the record, that my son was always a skinny kid and after he had open heart surgery in Dec. he suddenly started putting on weight scary fast. It took me months for the doctors to believe that watching portion sizes and making him exercise were not helping the weight. My son is not diabetic because he was fat. He's fat because he's diabetic. We do not have our referral to an endocrinologist yet so currently we don't know why or even what to do other than "put him on a diabetic diet" as the pediatrician said with almost no instructions. So, currently, I am looking to reputable sources to help me along the way. As I was standing in the check out line at the grocery store waiting to pay for all the fresh fruits and veggies and other diabetic friendly foods that I could find for him, imagine my sheer thrill at finding a little magazine called Reverse Diabetes written by Reader's Digest. Now, that should help me right? I'm new at this but let me tell you, there is no way that I would feed anyone who is a diabetic let alone my sweet little boy the "Chocolate Snacking Cake" found on page 89. Granted, it makes 36 servings but it's ingredients list flour, a cup of sugar, 1/2 c light brown sugar, 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, and 1 T confectioner's sugar. Maybe I'm wrong here but I am wondering how any diabetic, regardless of type, could eat that. They falsely advertised and their recipes seem far from diabetic friendly!

  33. Well said!

    And re that piggyback ride---totally looks like handsome grandpa/grandma heads photoshopped onto younger bodies. Creeeepy.


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