I’m no fan of CrossFit creator and CEO Greg Glassman, and yet I find myself defending him. I guess since I’m choosing Greg’s side over that of one of the Jonas brothers makes it easier.

Glassman used the official CrossFit Twitter account to post the a bottle of coke with “open diabetes” next to it. Then hell broke lose. Granted, the text Glassman used to accompany the image was his usual inflammatory and insensitive bullshit:
dead homies

But the outrage that followed is a prime example of how sometimes people are just looking for a reason to be pissed off about stuff. Singer Nick Jonas was among the irritated:

Nick jonas 1

nick jonas 2

A few hundred other people were equally pissed, asserting that such an image is offensive to those with type 1 diabetes. This is where my head starts to shake.

Yes, there is a distinct difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The first is an autoimmune disorder, the second is often a result of lifestyle, sometimes coupled with genetics and race. When I wrote about how exercise is the most effective treatment for type 2 diabetes for my Chicago Tribune column, I made sure that I always referred to the condition under discussion as “type 2 diabetes.” That’s because I had 1,200 words to work with, and it was an investigative piece where it was important to make the distinction.

Most people who know anything at all about diabetes understand that there are two types, and that drinking lots of Coke or other sugared drinks only contributes to the development of one of them.

I guess if I had type 1 diabetes I might be a little miffed if people were implying I got it because of my lifestyle rather than it being an autoimmune disorder that lifestyle has no bearing on. But let’s look at the bigger picture here. All we have with this Coke image is a generalization of the word “diabetes” to imply type 2 diabetes, and it’s doing so in order to make an important point.

Coke has a massive marketing budget and pushes its sugar water via every method government regulation will allow. Sugar sweetened beverages are a major contributor to obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes – this is undeniable. And so, there is great value to society by combating Coke’s relentless marketing with the harsh realities about how Coke does not in fact add life. There was the “real bears” video I mentioned in my Tribune column a few years back, and more recently another video sung to an old Coke jingle, but with disturbing new lyrics.

The “open diabetes” image is simply another public service campaign to warn against the dangers of drinking lots sugary soda by creating a parody of Coke’s message of “open happiness.”

But what happens if you decide that you want to take political correctness to the extreme? What happens to the effectiveness of this campaign when you change the caption to “open type 2 diabetes”?

The ad loses its oomph is what happens. It goes from being a powerful message to counter the “open happiness” misinformation to just … lame. Sorry, people with type 1 diabetes that were offended, but you need to untwist your knickers for the greater good. No one is saying your lifestyle caused your type 1 diabetes; the ad is only failing to distinguish something that a lot of people already know for the sake of driving home an important public health point. I won’t support significantly watering down the message because a few people might get pissy. The reality is that when people face real discrimination, like what can and does happen to those with type 1 diabetes, they can develop a tendency to see it everywhere, no matter how benign, because they’ve become sensitized to it.

It is important to distinguish that it wasn’t people with diabetes getting attacked with this image; it was Coke that was the target. Yes, not everyone who drinks Coke gets type 2 diabetes. Yes, there are people who have type 2 diabetes who never drink sugared sodas. And yes, Coke definitely deserves to be targeted for their contributing to obesity and type 2 diabetes, especially since the company so hypocritically proclaims that they are trying to help battle obesity. People are getting pissy over the wrong thing.

Speaking of getting pissy, it didn’t stop there.

This silly article at Everyday Health jumped on the shaming bandwagon. Nick Jonas and a few hundred others shamed Glassman for allegedly shaming those with type 1 diabetes, and then EH shamed Jonas for allegedly shaming those with type 2 diabetes.

I’ve already shamed those like Jonas who shamed Glassman who didn’t really shame those with type 1 diabetes, and now I’m going to shame EH for shaming Jonas who didn’t actually shame those with type 2 diabetes.

There is no shame if you couldn’t follow all of that.

Everyday Health said Jonas and others should feel shame for their tweets against Glassman and CrossFit because they imply that development of type 2 diabetes is related to lifestyle. Well, I got some news for you, EH … TYPE 2 DIABETES DAMN WELL IS RELATED TO LIFESTYLE!

As I wrote in my last post, the obesigenic environment that creates sedentary lifestyles and massive ingestion of unhealthy calories is largely to blame for the obesity epidemic. The environment practically compels people to live unhealthy lifestyles. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that type 2 diabetes is largely a disease of lifestyle. People who don’t have obesity, exercise regularly and consume a healthy diet are far less likely to get it.

The author of the Everyday Health piece said that blaming sugar oversimplifies a very complex disease, and that we shouldn’t be blaming lifestyle, because there are a variety of risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, which she covered here:

risk factors

Yeah, about that. Four of those six risk factors are significantly influenced by lifestyle.

In other words, everyone in this whole story acted like a jackass.

Glassman was a jackass for the commentary he provided along with the tweet (but not for sharing the image). Jonas and the other ultra-sensitive defenders of those with type 1 diabetes who were just looking to be pissed off about something were jackasses for their corresponding Twitter rage, and the Everyday Health author along with the others who were the ultra-sensitive defenders of those with type 2 diabetes are jackasses as well for jumping into the fray with their own manufactured rage.

It is important to remember that despite their differing causes, it’s not okay to shame those with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. So for the purposes of battling the marketing of sugar water I think we can let the fact that the words “type 2” were left off the image slide, especially since their absence makes that message much more effective. Nevertheless, jackasses abound, and with all the silly infighting they’re missing the most important point in all of this:

Stop drinking so much Coke.

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James S. Fell is an internationally syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind, published by Random House Canada. He also interviews celebrities about their fitness stories for the Los Angeles Times, and is head fitness columnist for AskMen.com and a regular contributor to Men’s Health.