Meet a new group and online destination called The Sugarless Society that features snazzy, low-cost diabetes jewelry and other gear, along with recipe sharing and a growing peer support component for women with diabetes.
It’s the creation of Lexie Peterson, a type 1 diabetes (T1D) advocate who some may know from social media as the Divabetic Instagrammer.
Diagnosed as a child in the early 2000s, this 25-year-old is originally from Texas but now lives in Georgia, where her husband is stationed in the U.S. Army. She created the online business to help make an impact, directly contributing to an international nonprofit group that provides medicine and essential supplies to kids and teens with T1D in Africa.
We talked with Lexie by phone recently to learn her backstory about finding the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) and forming The Sugarless Society as a way to connect a more diverse group of people who have diabetes. See our Q&A with her below.
(We’re also thrilled that Lexie has offered an exclusive giveaway for DiabetesMine readers, so be sure to check that out at the bottom of this article.)
Q: What is The Sugarless Society?
A: This is a place of community, where I have affordable medical ID bracelets and some other diabetes and non-diabetes jewelry. I also have a group online and some recipe sharing, and I hope this is a place that people can connect and find community. All of the accent bracelets range from $10 to $15 and the diabetic bracelets are $30 or $35.
Can you share your own diabetes story?
Yes. I was 10 years old and had a lot of the common symptoms of T1D: frequent urination, very thirsty, always tired, my hair was thin, and I was very bony. Looking back, it looked like malnutrition.
My mom took me to the doctor to have me tested for what she thought was a bladder infection because of my urinating so much. Then they saw I had ketones and my blood sugar was 327 mg/dL. My primary care doctor told my mom to rush me to the ER and not feed me anything else until I got to the hospital.
It was very new for my entire family because no one is diabetic. We have some elderly members of the family who are borderline type 2 diabetes, but no one has had type 1 diabetes. It’s crazy because my mom is a nurse, and she told me recently that diabetes was the one thing she was the most uninterested in during nursing school. And then she ended up with a child who has diabetes.
What was it like for you growing up with T1D?
I feel it was both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I was able to experience a good amount of my early childhood without diabetes, being able to eat whatever I wanted without needing to take insulin or check blood sugars. But at the same time, once you have that and it’s taken away, you realize what you’re missing out on. That’s a double-edged sword. It started changing for me in college, about 3 or 4 years ago.
What changed during your college years?
I started sharing more about my diabetes, and lot of my friends noticed that. I hadn’t really felt the need to talk about it, as it was just something for me to deal with. I decided I was going to start speaking about diabetes more. If something happened and no one knew I had diabetes, that could be a very bad situation.
So I started speaking about it at school and around my friends, as well as online in 2018 the year after graduating from college. I changed my whole focus, renaming myself “The Divabetic” and that became my primary focus. That’s when I learned there was an entire community of diabetics online. I was kind of late to the game there, but it was amazing to find that community.
How did you discover the DOC?
I have no idea how I actually stumbled into the online community, but think it was related to hashtags. I started sharing my experience and would use diabetes-related hashtags under my post, and other people with diabetes would find my posts and start commenting.
It was really by accident, in trying to show all of my friends at that time what diabetes life was like. My Instagram then was mostly my sorority sisters and personal friends from college and high school, so this was me trying to generally educate them. Then it turned into this community-finding experience, where I saw
How did you start your focus on diabetes jewelry?
After I started speaking about my diabetes, I had a friend ask me about medical bracelets after she saw a commercial. I explained to her that I had one but hated it because it was ugly and I’d always lose it. Once I got to high school, my parents weren’t forcing me to wear it anymore, so I hadn’t worn one since.
I always carry an emergency kit, but not a medical ID. Still, that got me looking online at medical IDs. I found some that were pretty expensive and weren’t as appealing to me, and so I figured out how I wanted to make something that I’d like. I ended up designing one and sent it to some other diabetics to get their opinions, and it turned out they wanted one also. I decided that maybe I could turn this into something. That’s how the bracelet side of my business started.
How did you start producing the bracelets?
I went to my local store and got a gold bracelet kit with the beads, string, chain, and little hearts with a little heart charm saying “diabetic” on it. I ordered one of those on Amazon and was so excited, but it broke within a week, after getting snagged on something and breaking. That was disappointing, and made me think about trying to find someone who could make these bracelets the right way.
I drew out a design and found a few different manufacturers online, reaching out to ask questions for my ideal bracelet. We exchanged sketches and renderings, about what type of materials to use that wouldn’t rust — and most important, about what would keep the cost affordable.
And what about the attire and gear?
We also have shirts with fun phrases like “High AF” in big letters on top and then “without insulin” in smaller letters below. The idea behind that is to have people look at it, and ask the question. You might have someone see the first larger part and wonder why you’re wearing that, and then you can educate them.
Or another one with a high-heel pump and an insulin pump, where they might ask what that “other” pump is all about. It’s more for raising awareness than anything, but also attractive and fun.
How did you choose your brand name?
It was called Leauxmed Boutique at first because it was fancy and stood for low-cost medical bracelets. But no one really understood how to say it, so I thought maybe it’d be better to have a different name that makes more sense. So recently I rebranded it to The Sugarless Society. Although it sounds like “sugarless,” the “less” is italicized because most people assume that we can’t eat sugar but in reality, we can eat sugar. We just tend to eat less than the average person.
Are your profits donated to the cause?
Yes. I really wanted to do something that made an impact, to find something where I could see where my contribution was going directly. I stumbled upon the Sonia Nabeta Foundation, which has diabetes camps and campaigns in Africa. They supply medicine and medical supplies to diabetics age 18 and younger. It’s a smaller organization and that’s what drew me to them. I contacted them and worked to contribute directly so I can see how this money from my bracelets actually helps these kids get supplies, insulin, and education.
It really makes me feel good that I’m making an impact on both sides — giving people something that’s attractive and necessary while also helping give people lifesaving medicine and supplies.
Has community been a big part of this, too?
Yes. I wanted more than a framework for selling my bracelets and diabetes medical IDs. In 2019, I was going to a gala in Atlanta and posted on my Instagram that I was going to be in town. About six women contacted me, about getting together because they didn’t know any others with diabetes locally. In my mind, I was thinking how all of these women live in the same city but don’t know each other and felt that I’m the only person with T1D they know and can relate to.
So I held a brunch to get these women together, and it was so cool to be there and see this materialize. We had a 3-hour meetup and just talked. It was an amazing natural dialogue, especially with how much I learned versus going to talk with my doctor — about marriage, future pregnancy, moving to a new place, insurance changes, and so on. That’s what inspired me to rebrand and change to a more community-focused, online site so hopefully we can start getting together in person in different areas.
You’ve also started sharing recipes?
Yes, I have a kitchen page. Personally I’m not someone who can just pick out items and throw them together into a fabulous, five-course meal. I actually have to look up recipes and do research. I came across The Dashing Dish online — who I credit for some of the recipes on my site — that has a lot of low carb and keto options.
What I really was looking for was a community hub, for diabetics to be able to share different recipes with each other. It might be spaghetti made with different ingredients, to make it more diabetic-friendly. I am interested in having almost like a diabetes library of recipes, that you could search and share with others in the community. Instagram has a lot of people from the diabetes community with food blogs, so it’d be great for people to share their recipes and link to those blogs. It’s also important to have diversity in that, because people eat different foods and cook things in different ways. Having options is important.
So diversity and inclusivity are a big part of your mission?
In this day and age we’re in, with everything going on with social injustice, it seems like we’ve taken steps back. But honestly, I think that because of everything going on in the world right now, it’s causing people to have these conversations. That’s a really good thing. We’re talking more about being inclusive and diverse, not just racially but body types and genders. It’s all very necessary to have our diabetes community involved in that and to have that representation.
Speaking of meetups, didn’t you just recently move to another state?
A: Yes, my husband is in the U.S. Army. We were in Texas, and I was in commercial property management there, but we just got stationed in Georgia. Now I’m doing bookkeeping and accounting for a company here, while still managing a rental property.
I’m OK with being away from family, but everything’s different with the pandemic. I know there’s a world out there to explore, but we just can’t explore it right now. That makes moving more difficult.
Interested in winning a free bracelet or one of The Sugarless Society’s non-diabetes offerings of your choice? Here’s how to enter:
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “DM-Sugarless.” You can also ping us on Twitter or our Facebook page using the same code word. (For shipping purposes, we must limit the giveaway to those with mailing addresses within the United States.)
- You have until Friday, August 14, 2020, at 5 p.m. PST — to enter.
- The winner will be chosen using Random.org.
- We’ll announce the winner on Monday, August 17, 2020, via social media, so please be sure to keep tabs on your email, Facebook, and Twitter messages, as that’s how we will contact our winner. (If the winner doesn’t respond within a week, we’ll select an alternate.)
Once chosen, we’ll update this post with the winner’s name. Thanks to Lexie Peterson for making this possible. Good luck to all our wonderful D-Friends!
Congrats to Alisha Boyd, selected by Random.org as the winner for this giveaway!