Us folks with diabetes are warriors. We battle every day to make sure we stay alive, and our bodies show the wear and tear of this war. But just like other scars, there is a reason to be proud of these battle wounds: they show how hard we have fought to thrive with diabetes. When Kat Reed and Tara Layman reached out to me to say “We want to show people that Type 1 bodies living with diabetes are diverse, beautiful, capable, and embraced,” I could not have agreed more.
And then she told me these bodies would be nekkid.
Yes – nude. Kat Reed, a healthcare professional and Tara Layman are both Type 1s who wanted to showcase the bravery and courage it takes to thrive with Type 1 in a way that had never been seen. They decided to create a calendar of tasteful – and poignant – photographs of fellow Type 1s in the buff as a way to celebrate our bodies. Their goal – to show how beautiful and capable we are as people with diabetes – is brilliantly portrayed in their 2015 T1D Exposed Calendar. 12 months of brave, beautiful, and bare Type 1s saying that their body, and all its scars, sites, calluses and bumps is amazing. Because they are thriving with T1D, and not afraid to show it! I’m honored to have Kat and Tara interviewed on the blog here today. Check out the gorgeous “teaser” portraits below! And for the full Monty, get your own 2015 calendar here.
Let’s cut to the chase: a calendar can be done clothed, showcasing pumps or CGMs. Why go naked? How does this change the statement you are making?
Years ago, Tara was working on her thesis portrait project of people living with diabetes. Kat joked about using a nude diabetes calendar to raise money. We kept joking about it. Then we started actually talking about it. Then we started to think about how powerful it could be to show all the ways diabetes affects the body and how people living with type one have to embrace the many gadgets and changes to manage it. It’s difficult to have diabetes and not have some sort of body issues. Your life revolves around balancing food, insulin, exercise and many other factors. Bodies develop bruises and scar tissue from thousands of injections, pump sites, and continuous glucose monitors. Fingers callous from years of blood glucose checking. Diabetes can also inspire people to take better care of themselves in incredible ways. People may decide to be more active or eat healthier as they become more in tune with their bodies. Regardless of the challenges, people living with T1D have able, working bodies. Gratitude is another side effect of type one; without the discovery and availability of insulin, none of the bodies featured in this calendar would have survived long after diagnosis. After we saw the empowering potential that this project could have for the T1D community, we were hooked. This project is not just a fundraiser, it’s about body acceptance and promoting awareness and understanding life with type one. It’s about loving yourself and appreciating the extra years of life we have been given via access to insulin and technology. With clothes on, we can cover up the parts of us that have been touched by diabetes. One of our participants, Marit, shared she feels like “diabetes is such an ‘invisible’ disease, and as diabetics, our bodies go through so much.” We love this chance to visibly celebrate what our bodies do for us every day along with the technology and changes that make our lives possible.
How did you select your models? And did you have to convince them to take it off or were they game?
First we reached out to friends that have heard us talk about it the last few years… “Remember that hilarious idea for a nude diabetes fundraising calendar we had? I think we are going to do it…” It seemed a lot of people were skeptical at first, and there were people that wanted to participate, but said they felt too embarrassed or scared, which is completely understandable. It’s a very personal choice, and even some people that willingly chose to participate had a difficult time actually shedding their clothes and shedding the shame when it was time to get in front of the camera. We feel so grateful to the participants that were brave enough to share themselves with us and the T1D community this first year. Now that the project is a bit more established, and people know they can take it seriously, we’ve already received lots of inquiries about how to be a part of 2016’s calendar!
Kat, you are a healthcare professional with Type 1 and Tara is a photographer living with Type 1. Outside of the calendar, have your professions been shaped by living with diabetes? In what way has having diabetes influenced your work?
Tara: Aside from the hours of every day that I think about my health, diabetes has given me a sense of mortality. A sense of live exactly how you want to be living right in this moment. That influences my photography in the way that this moment is fleeting and I can capture it with a photograph. I can freeze a moment in time and create something that it essentially immortal. Diabetes reminds me of how we have this one life and that we should embrace the chances we are given every day.
You mentioned that our bodies tell the story of our journey with diabetes. What was one model’s mark on their body that told you a story that stuck with you?
One of our participants shared that she battled with an eating disorder for years, and not until a very high A1C shocked her did she realize to what degree it was affecting her health. In her words, “I was making myself sick, and that needed to change because I wasn’t willing to risk my health any longer for a flat chest and thigh gap. This particular subject (body image/acceptance with T1D) is very close to my heart, and really why I jumped at the chance to be a part of the project. This isn’t to say I don’t have days where things feel uncomfortable. But that’s all it is, and the discomfort will pass, especially because I have an amazing support system. I’ve found a lot of love and power in just owning what’s here and what’s real about me. I stopped pining over perfection and found something better– happiness in my health, which is something I’m so grateful for now. The most important thing that diabetes has taught me is that THIS body is a really great body to be in, and I am more than happy to flash a little booty so that feeling may reach someone else.”
What’s the single biggest stereotype that you think people believe about living with Type 1 diabetes?
That we caused it. This autoimmune disease cannot be prevented. You cannot get type 1 from eating too much sugar. Type 1 affects all shapes, sizes, gender, and ethnicities.
If people with diabetes only take away one message from your calendar, what would you want that to be?
You get one wild and precious life. You get one body. Regardless of any changes you may experience from diabetes or any other chronic illness, embrace this life and be good to yourself.
Thank you Tara and Kat – please support their project by visiting http://www.T1DExposed.org and getting your very own 2015 calendar!