Discussing the guilt and stigma that often accompanies type 2 diabetes, television personality Dr. Phil announced a new initiative to increase awareness of, and improve treatment for, the condition he’s had for more than 25 years.
“People tend to stereotype people with type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Phil McGraw said in a conference call with journalists announcing the ON IT Movement. “They think it’s only for people who are out of shape or overweight. But that’s not true. It’s not just a lazy, slovenly sort of thing. For some people, like me, it’s genetic. For others it’s age. If people are educated, then we’ll overcome these stereotypes.”
Dr. Phil is partnering with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in launching the campaign that seeks to educate the public about type 2 diabetes and “empower adults living with type 2 diabetes to make a personal commitment to living a healthier life.”
Dr. Phil, 65, is not a medical doctor, but has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. His syndicated television show Dr. Phil, is seen by upward of four million viewers each day. Dr. Phil said that by sharing his own story about living with type 2 diabetes for more than 25 years he hoped to raise awareness about the condition with his viewers, and beyond.
“I don’t consider myself a celebrity,” Dr. Phil said. “I certainly don’t put myself in a different category than other type 2 diabetics. And, I don’t lend my name to anything without a lot of forethought. My name is my brand. It’s the name of my show. And, while I haven’t kept my diabetes a secret, I’m stepping up talking about it to help change the narrative about type 2 diabetes.”
Dr. Phil said there are many psychological barriers that hinder type 2 diabetics from taking better care of themselves, or seeking better treatment for their condition. One of those barriers includes guilt from the perception that lifestyle choices may have contributed to the condition.
“I work out,” said Dr. Phil, who attended college on a football scholarship and who plays tennis and scuba dives regularly. “I’m no minnow, but I’m in good shape. I’m the only member of my family who is not morbidly obese.”
When he was one of the more than 300 million people worldwide to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Dr. Phil said he was relieved to hear it was a manageable condition. “Right then,” he said, “I dove into finding out how to manage it. I hope I can help others do the same thing. That way when they’re diagnosed I don’t want them to go, ‘Oh no.’ I want them to say ‘We have a to do list,’ and then get to doing the things on that list.”
“Type 2 diabetes can cause under-appreciated psychological challenges for patients in addition to its better-recognized physical impact,” according to Dr. Pamela Kushner, MD, FAAFP, clinical professor of family medicine at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, who is working on the ON IT campaign. “In my decades of experience treating patients with type 2 diabetes, I have seen how overcoming these daily challenges can help patients reach their treatment goals and live healthier lives.”
To address these stressors, and help type 2 diabetics gain a measure of control over their condition, the ON IT campaign advised six steps. According to a news release from AstraZeneca, the steps include:
- Move forward. Tackle your type 2 diabetes head on – no more guilt, no more being overwhelmed.
- Get educated. Understand more about type 2 diabetes so you’ll be armed with the know-how to fight back more effectively.
- Build a team. Pull together a team – your doctor, your spouse, your kids, a trainer at a gym or your buddies at work – and lead it.
- Replace bad habits. Think about which aspects of your lifestyle need to change, and one by one, replace the bad habits with good habits.
- Make a plan. Have goals and create a plan to get you to those goals.
- Stick to it. Join the ON IT Movement to learn more about tools that can help you stick to your plan – whether it’s finding healthy recipes, getting ideas for exercising or learning how to change your everyday habits.
Specifically, Dr. Phil advises each type 2 diabetic to be at the center of the team they put together to manage their diabetes.
“The patient is the most important member of your treatment team,” he said. “Your doctor is your co-captain, but as the patient you have to be proactive.” He said one example of being proactive was going to doctor’s appointments with a list of questions written out so the discussion is more focused on specific care options.
Moving forward, Dr. Phil said his show would feature a program about the ON IT movement in the fall. Additionally, Dr. Phil said he was going to Washington, DC to meet with legislators to educate them about type 2 diabetes.
“I think we need to make noise and educate people,” Dr. Phil said. “We need to keep a spotlight on this, and I think I can help with this program.”