Dr. Phil on Type 2 diabetes: I should have talked about it before

Dr. Phil McGraw is known for doling out advice on mental health on his talk show, but now the daytime host is also focusing on physical health with his new campaign about managing Type 2 diabetes.

Though the TV personality has struggled with Type 2 diabetes for more than two decades, he only recently decided to open up and talk in-depth about his personal experience living with the disease.

Why did you decide to partner with AstraZeneca to talk about Type 2 diabetes?

This is a real passion project for me. We’re talking about Type 2 diabetes and that was something I was diagnosed with over 25 years ago, and so I’ve been managing this disease for a long, long time. This is one of those diseases that has a real stigma to it because people judge that population as being lazy and out of shape and not taking care of themselves. When you talk to that population, they struggle with feeling judged, so I welcome the opportunity to deal with all of that.

Tell me about how it’s been for you to live with Type 2 diabetes.

A lot of people didn’t know what was going on with me. There are 28 million people in America that are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and another 86 million that are estimated to be at risk. That number is probably way low. I was one of those people that didn’t know I had it.

When I went to the doctor, it was because I was really having trouble losing weight no matter what I did, and I was having huge fluctuations in energy. They said you have Type 2 diabetes and your blood sugar is really out of control. I was not at all happy to be told I had a disease, but on the other hand, I was glad to finally have an answer.

What is the project you’re working on to raise awareness about Type 2 diabetes?

AstraZeneca was really interested in working with me to talk about dealing with how to manage diabetes because I deal with the psychological aspects of it. The disease is not curable and it’s not going away, so I’m going to focus on what now? What do you do with it now? They were completely willing and interested to say, “Let’s be responsible corporate citizens and help people understand how to manage this,” so we did this really exciting campaign called the On It campaign. It lives on OnItMovement.com, and I have put together six steps that I think cut across managing the disease for all Type 2 diabetes.

The six steps are very doable. You don’t have to be rich or have every resource at your fingertips. The first is what I talked about before: Move forward and get past the shame and judgment about Type 2 diabetes because it’s not your fault. Get educated and understand what this disease is all about. There’s lots more info on the website.

You’re known for covering health on your show. Why did you wait until now to talk more openly about your struggle with diabetes?

I’ve talked about it before, but I never focused on it. Frankly, I should have. I never put together and organized a plan or call to action for people. I should have. I just wasn’t putting enough emphasis on it, but I am now and I’m glad that I am.

You have an app, Doctor on Demand. How do people use it?

It’s a telemedicine app. It’s something that allows you to use your smartphone, laptop or desktop to get information with a board-certified physician, usually with the wait time of under 45 seconds. You don’t have to sit in a waiting room where everybody’s sick — if you weren’t sick, you’ll get sick before you leave — and it’s been an amazing, disruptive force in medicine. It’s a highly efficient way to get healthcare and I suspect the more you accessible you make healthcare, the more you’ll see a dent in these 86 million people who are at risk for diabetes.