When you have diabetes, any better is BETTER. A book by Chuck Eichten.
February 5, 2013 at 9:00 am
Less bad. More better.
THE BOOK OF BETTER, written and illustrated by Nike Design Director Chuck Eichten is a delightfully spirited and insightful book for those with—and those people who live with others who have —Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Chuck is a Type 1 diabetic who has worked his entire life to find balance while living with the disease. This book shares his personal discoveries and inspiring perspective with a twist of wit. He has learned a lot from his experience with the disease over time and this book shares what he has learned with the hopes that others can find inspiration and perspective so they can make their lives BETTER while living with the disease. Most articles about diabetes are written by people who have studied the disease but not lived it. They don’t grasp the psychology of the disease the way the people who have it do. Like Chuck Eichten. When you read THE BOOK OF BETTER, you’ll be more informed, empowered and optimistic about your future with diabetes than ever.
Learn from the idiot.
The message that permeates the narrative is the fact that any bit BETTER counts. The book’s recurring call to “Learn from the Idiot” is Chuck’s irreverent way of sharing with us the wisdom of his experiences so that we won’t have to go through some of the same challenges he experienced. A shining example of living BETTER is his adoption of the insulin pump as a way of monitoring and controlling sugars more effectively. Historically, insulin injections before eating was the common solution to controlling sugar levels. This solution creates glycemic peaks and valleys and requires a lot of insulin injections over the course of a year. The insulin pump is BETTER because it more closely mimics the natural processes in the body by secreting insulin slowly all the time which levels out the peaks and valleys making sugar levels more consistent. Other new and exciting advances revealed in the book will undoubtedly transform the way we manage diabetes for the BETTER.
The future looks BETTER. Help us spread the word.
The book’s design is a visual treat loaded with illustrations and graphical text making every page a tantalizing reading experience (the liberal use of yellow bespeaks the optimistic spirit behind the writing). Rich with humorous paradoxes and analogies, the book comprehensively examines all the important points about diabetes like the most effective insulin delivery systems, the good and bad things about having diabetes (yes, there are some good things), how to control high or low blood sugar, how to live an active lifestyle and the best way to manage your diet. Acknowledging some of wisdom and advice—even if it’s just a little—is definitely a good thing. We invite you to please order the book and share this article through any of the social media links provided. We believe that your friends or family that have diabetes will enjoy it, and hopefully it will help make their life a little BETTER.
Question 1: Is this your first book? Will there be more?
This is my first book. And yes, I am sure there will be more. I really like to write. It forces me to think. It is easy for me to assume I have really well-considered positions on things until I start writing about them. Then I realize that my brain is really just a grab-bag of random thoughts, and to make them sound coherent on the page I am going to have to apply some really critical thought. I probably shouldn’t be allowed to say anything until I have written it down and then re-written it a few times.
So it is good for me to write, I’ve learned.
I’ll continue to write about diabetes, because it is so mysterious. The general consensus is that diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Caused by the body attacking itself. And the incidence of diabetes, and other autoimmune conditions, appears to be increasing. Why would that be? How intriguing.
I’ve found I enjoy talking to smart people about complicated things, try to understand what they are saying, and then write about the complicated stuff in an uncomplicated way. I think it works because I am not a very complicated thinker.
Question 2: Many people have diabetes. Hardly anyone writes a book. What was your motivation?
Well, I have had Type I for over 30 years, and through a lot of luck and hard work, I’ve remained very healthy. At the same time I’ve made a lot of really idiotic mistakes. It occurred to me that through all that, I’ve learned a lot about living with diabetes, maybe even a few things that could help someone else. There is no sense in making the idiot mistakes yourself if you can learn from mine.
In summary my motivation was to let people with diabetes, and the people who love them, know: THERE REALLY ARE WAYS TO MAKE THIS DIABETES THING WORK BETTER. SIMPLE WAYS. REALLY.
They’re not easy. But most things worth doing aren’t easy. Most things worth doing take some effort. So that was my motivation, really, to let people know they could make it OK.
I’d love it too, if I could make someone laugh a little. While reading a book about diabetes. That is one of my goals too. No one gets to laugh about diabetes very much.
Question 3: You are a design professional, how does that influence the way you created the book?
I thought maybe I could create a unique voice, through design and illustration and my highly unsophisticated writing style, that might encourage someone to reconsider their diabetes. Maybe, if I talked about diabetes in a different, perhaps more interesting way, I could inspire someone to find a better way to manage their condition. Most stuff designed for people with diabetes looks, well, for me, it looks painful, but maybe a better word is antiseptic.
It took me FOREVER to write and draw and design The Book of Better. Normally, in book publishing, the design and illustration is not handled by the author. Publishers have their own experts to do that. But I convinced my publishers, Random House and Harper Collins Canada, to let me do the whole thing. They were great about it, but really once they said yes I was kinda freaked out. The longest document I had ever written or designed before The 250+ page Book was maybe a letter with many run-on sentences.
So I really didn’t know what I was doing. I had to figure it out as I went. First I tried doing the words separate from the design and illustrations. That failed because, as a designer you know, each of those elements influences and changes the other, sometimes dramatically. So finally I decided to design and write and draw simultaneously. It was great fun to have all that control. But it was really slow. First, because I am a slow writer, second, because I never liked anything until I had done it over at least three times. Or six times.
But gradually I developed a rhythm, clumsy as it was, and managed to finish the book on time. I really loved the entire process.
Question 4: How has your life changed since publishing your book?
I am vastly wealthy now, beyond even my wildest imagination, and adored by the vast, book-reading public. It is what typically happens when you write a book about diabetes. People go nuts.
So all that, and I have a little more free time because writing a book is an incredible amount of work. Work spent just sitting in a room, staring at a screen. That’s how books get written—you commit to writing, researching, and in my case drawing and designing, until the book is done.
Questions 5: Favorite book or source of information about diabetes?
I have read many good books on diabetes, but another means of support and education, as I mentioned, is the diabetes online community. It is amazing. These people are so connected, and so dedicated and knowledgeable. Some a little quirky too, but generally they just want to understand and they want to make it Better.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Diabetesdaily.com (Great diabetes news site)
Tudiabetes.org (The Diabetes Hands organization is terrific. Very dedicated folks.)
Diabetesmine.com (One of the earliest online diabetes voices.)
childrenwithdiabetes.com (Active online community but also develops outstanding diabetes events around the country focused on kids and families.)
About Chuck Eichten
Chuck Eichten is a creative director at Nike, Inc. He leads the Department of Nike Archives design team, tasked with gathering and presenting the stories of Nike’s heritage. He has spoken to a range of audiences about diabetes, including at the Diabetes Association National conferences in the United States and Canada.
About Boyd Tveit
This review was written by Boyd Tveit. Boyd has been a Creative Director at Liquid for the last seven years. At Liquid, Boyd leads creative teams working on integrated branding programs where graphic, environmental and digital platforms converge to create total branded experiences for B2B and retail clients such as Jeep and Budweiser, as well as technology giants like Intel and LSI. Boyd has been living with diabetes since 2006, which is one of the reasons he wanted to help spread the word about Chuck’s book.