Have a Donut with Your Donation to the American Diabetes Association

Just before I turned 14, in the middle of my eighth grade school year, my father, brother, and I left Houston and moved to NYC.  We moved into a sublet on 108th Street and Riverside Drive.  In contrast to sunny Houston, NYC was gray.  Our building was dreary, and the wind off the river was so bitter it stung my face.  But that was all tolerable because it was above ground.   The most shocking hardship I faced in NYC was the subway ride to my school, Friends Seminary, on East 16th Street.  The underground world was different – especially when we changed trains in Times Square.  The stench of urine was so overpowering I had to hold my breath.  And there was no escape from the devotees of L. Ron Hubbard, and their aggressive attempts to sell me copies of Dianetics

Every ride to and from school felt like the journey in The Way Back.  The one respite after a crowded subway ride home from school with my face stuck in the armpits of the passengers around me was a little shop called Happy Donuts down the street from my building.  After we exited the subway station, my brother and I made a daily stop at Happy Donuts, and carried our treats home in a little white paper bag so we could eat them while we played Nintendo.  (Looking back with the eyes of a mother, I can’t imagine allowing my sons to eat donuts every day nor can I imagine letting them eat them on the couch while playing a video game: crumbs and sticky fingers!  My father, though, never told us not to buy donuts.  I suppose he was just relieved we made it home.  And, hey, the donuts were Happy and I wasn’t.  Maybe he thought some of the donuts’ joy would rub off on me.) 

The point of this story, I suppose, is to tell you that I am a big fan of donuts.  But I have diabetes, so I don’t eat them.  Now, I’d like to ask you to refrain from telling me that people with diabetes can eat anything they want.  Sure, we can.  But the consequences of donut-eating in a diabetic are harsh.  It’s an almost guaranteed blood sugar disaster.  Everyone with diabetes knows how difficult it is to bolus for a combination of sugar, wheat flour, and fat.  But apparently the organizations and companies that represent people with diabetes and produce products for us, haven’t yet wrapped their brains around a very simple concept: junk food screws us over. Every. Single. Time. 

I’m really not the type to throw out conspiracy theories.  Really not.  But when I attended a Dexcom party in Chicago a few days ago (which I was told by unofficial sources was a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association (ADA)) and saw the biggest donut spread in the history of the world, my first thought was: Are they fucking kidding me?  My second thought was: these guys are making sure they profit off our diabetes.  How many blood glucose test strips will I use while I try to cover my donut?  How badly will I wish I had a continuous glucose monitor while I’m pricking my finger every ten minutes to see the donut damage? 

I wish I’d taken a picture of the make-your-own-donut spread.  There was a long, long table with naked glazed donuts and beside them all sorts of add-ons, like chocolate syrup, sprinkles, etc.  It was tortuous to be so close to those drool-worthy donuts.   But never mind that it was insensitive to put a donut spread in front of diabetics.  Where are your PR people, Dexcom?  All you smart people taking care of diabetics – don’t you realize that serving donuts at a party to raise money for the American Diabetes Association – or any other diabetes-related organization – is like having a smoking party to raise money for lung cancer patients?  It’s begging for ridicule.  You’re giving the Onion free headlines.

So, at the party I had a little chat with an ADA person.  “What’s with the donuts?” I asked. He shrugged, looked a bit embarrassed and told me it was an “after party” and “ a dessert party.”

Quick facts for the party planners: Diabetes doesn’t go away after dinner.  And while the ADA suggests 45-60 grams of carb per meal is about right for most people (I disagree), a donut with toppings would likely run  somewhere between 50-80 grams of carb.

But what’s really at stake here is not one party, one carb count, or one day of highs and lows, but rather, it’s the message you’re sending.  In a country with soaring levels of diabetes and obesity, when you serve donuts, you’re saying, “We don’t care.”  When you set piles of donuts out to tempt those of us who can’t secrete insulin, you’re not cool, you’re cruel. 

You can’t work in diabetes and ignore the food issue.  It’s true that having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t have dessert.  But dessert can be dark chocolate covered almonds, small truffles, cherries, berries with cream, bite-sized sweets.  There are many options that aren’t over-the-top.  And it’s also okay to tell people – loudly and clearly – that one of the best ways to keep blood glucose levels in range is to avoid eating things like donuts.  In fact, I’d argue that it’s part of your job.  

Comments (9)

  1. Deborah at

    Unbelievable! 
    I’m amazed by co-workers’ unwillingness to understand that bringing doughnuts into the workplace does none of us a favor, diabetic or not.  Ditto for pop, pizza & cookies–all of which is standard-issue at the college where I work. For the secretaries and administrators that order the refreshments, however, these are the cheap & easy options for a crowd. 

  2. Thanks for sharing this Jessica! I’ve noticed this a lot as well and I always comment on the stupidity of it to the organizers. I’m putting quick tips together in a new book to help people with diabetes to overcome these temptations. Here’s a sample. Imagine those donuts pre-chewed and spit back out onto the plate. That should curb the craving! I’d like to print some of this post in my book. If that’s okay, please shoot me a quick email. tim@timshurr.com  Thanks!

  3. Lynn at

    Those look pretty nasty to me.  Hopefully those who feel tempted to nasty, fake food can shift the way they feel about donuts.  Donuts actually used to be real food 25+ years ago.  They were made of real flour, real sugar and real oils.  Nowadays they are made from gluten-infested pseudo “wheat”, genetically modified high fructose corn syrup, and genetically modified soybean oils…not to mention the other “partially hydrogenated oils” and all the other chemicals and crap.  If people really knew all the ingredients and where they came from, not to mention what they do to people’s health (digestive disorders, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc.), they might someday change their minds about putting Franken”foods” in their bodies.  I call this stuff “Fat People Food” and “Sick People Food” because you don’t see any healthy, thin, beautiful people eating stuff like this.  Most celebrities don’t even touch this kind of poison because they wouldn’t look the way they do or be able to work in their field if they ate this crap.  So hopefully, as ichy as this post is, hopefully it will raise some awareness so people will take better care of themselves and honor themselves and their bodies.  :O)

  4. James Ron
    James Ron at

    Jessica, 
    This is an unbelievable story. Dexcom PR division, if you are reading this, shame on you. This has got to be one of the least sensitive things you could do. My son has a Dexcom monitor, and we love it. But that’s your tech people. Clearly, your PR people are idiots.  

  5. Jdanda at

    Yes this was awful. Let me tell you a story…
    My daughter is 15 and she has been type one for 3 years now. She is a freshman in high school. She is a letter winner is cross country not because of her team but because of herself. She ran at state this past fall and came in 56th place out of almost 800 girls. She also is in track. She earned another letter as well. The day of the sectionals (this is where if you are good enough you go to state) she boarded the bus with all her team mates. She ate lunch just before boarding. Was running a little high because of stress from the meet. But she would do a correction and life would go on. But WAIT!!! Some kid brought on the bus 2 dozen sugar glazed donuts… Well they all ate them (dedication to the sport there)…including my daughter. She sat next to her best friends and this boy who took her to prom. Well, she took NO insulin and just figured like teens do that she will be ok. Well it did not work out that way. An hour before her event I told her to test her self and she was almost 500!!!! I almost had a heart attack. Well she did a full correction on the spot plus extra. Well between the stress of the meet, me being pissed and her guilt her sugar an hour later only came down a little. So truth be told if her coaches were paying attention there would have been no donuts on the bus, because real athletes do not eat them and her friends would have stepped up and told her not to or at least made sure she took her insulin. So that is behind us now.. And for the record she ran awful no happy ending on this story…..

  6. Mary Dexter at

    The ADA does this all the time.  It’s about fund-raising, not diabetes.  Most of the staff I’ve met know nothing about diabetes, just how to get paid for raising money.  The donuts are doubly hypocritical because they also push the diabesity myth: that diabetes is caused by overeating, ignoring genetic, metabolic, and autoimmune factors, and the fact that many diabetics are thin while many who weigh more will never become diabetic. 

  7. katy at

    It seems like doughnuts used to be a genuine (rare) treat, and now they’re everywhere, all of the time. Same goes from shrimp cocktail! But that, at least, doesn’t have the carbs issue.

  8. Karen at

    It’s appalling, but from what I’ve learned over the past year, not really surprising.  When my son was diagnosed T1D a year ago at 3, we changed all our diets as much as we could to try and reduce inflammation producing foods, processed carbs, and most grains.  Our endocrinologist and nutritionist tried to tell us that my son should be getting around 170 – 200 grams of carbs a day.  And he wasn’t even 40 lbs. yet.  They came down on us for going “low carb” even though he was still getting 120-150 grams a day on average (and still a bit high in my opinion).  They of course gave us the tag line, “just give him more insulin.”  There’s so much compelling research about how American’s typical awful diet is the real trigger for these diseases that have become near-epidemic in the past 30-40 years.  But yet doctors refuse to even look at that because it goes against what they were taught in medical school, sometimes 30 years ago.  And food doesn’t seem to be a part of western medicine.  So it doesn’t surprise me that pharmaceutical companies and other companies that profit from diabetes aren’t really trying their hardest to push good diet and exercise as possible prevention and definitely as a way to help control both types of diabetes.

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