Confessions of a Bad Diabetic


I just read a study that says it’s OK for diabetics to do their shots through their shirts, or through their jeans, or bathing suits or any fabric. Way back in 1997 five researchers studied 50 diabetics who practiced this “rogue” method of insulin delivery and concluded that, “It is safe and convenient to inject insulin through clothing.”

“Hells yeah!” is what I said to myself upon discovering this bit of research. I’ve been doing shots through my shirt for decades. I don’t do it as a form of rebellion against The Diabetic Man, or as an empty flaunting of the rules. I do it for convenience and because when you’re on a crowded train, in a restaurant, or running the 18th mile of the Boston Marathon, rolling up your sleeve or lifting your shirt and jamming a needle into your arm or your stomach is not just bad form, it’s fairly well off-putting for anyone near you.  So, when the occasion arose, I would surreptitiously take out my syringe and bam! no one was the wiser.

The study was a relief. All the years that I engaged in this practice I felt guilty that I was doing a bad diabetic thing. What was worse was a friend would see me do my shot through my shirt and wonder about whether I was a good, or a bad, diabetic. In fact, the only times I’m ever chastised for the diabetic shortcuts I take, or the other “rogue” practices I engage in, is by a non-diabetics expressing shock—shock!—at my various behaviors.

The other day after making a shocking—shocking!—discovery in my kitchen my girlfriend gave me a short speech about the health dangers of Froot Loops. Now, I like my Froot Loops. And Cocoa Puffs. And don’t even get me started on Lucky Charms and Coco Krispees. I explained that yes, I do eat the Froot Loops. But, I do it once in a while, as a treat. I do not, for instance have half a box of Froot Loops for dinner. (All right, there was that one time …) I also told her that I calculate carbs and take the requisite insulin to counteract the effects of the aforementioned Froot Loops. She seemed, if not reassured, at least comforted that I appear to know what I’m doing.

And I do know what I am doing! Until, that is, the beer. In the insightful words of my friend, Michael Reed, “I like beer.” Calculating insulin regarding beer can be tricky because 1) it’s a rolling ingestion that you don’t exactly plan to the gram beforehand, B) the effects of carbs in alcohol on blood sugar are not as straightforward as calculating pure carbs, 4) the counting of the actual numbers becomes, um, intimidating at some point past 1 a.m.

But, when I transgress I do not panic. I just sit back and wait for those studies that conclude it is safe and convenient for diabetics to eat Froot Loops and drink beer.

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8 years ago

Love your blog. You are an inspiration to my son who suffers with diabetes as well. Keep up the great work educating people about diabetes.

Mike Lawson
8 years ago

I also inject through clothing when it’s convenient.  The study you mention helped validate me as well…but then I started thinking of how needles have changed since the late 90s.  These things are TINY compared to what they used to be.  I wish there was some more recent data on this.

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