Reality television shows have been around since the early 2000s, kicking off with fan faves like Survivor, Big Brother and American Idol. The popularity of reality television has soared over the past 19 years, bringing us just about everything you could imagine, including Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Top Chef, Shark Tank, Dirty Jobs, Dancing With the Stars, Duck Dynasty and The Voice. Let’s not forget the Real Housewives franchise. When it comes to reality shows, there’s just about something for everyone. Love ’em or hate ’em, they hold a certain appeal and fascination (as much as we hate to admit it). And let’s face it — sometimes there’s nothing else on TV to watch.
It makes perfect sense, then, for a reality TV show to come along about people with diabetes (PWD). While Reversed is not the first medically-oriented reality show (I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant and Untold Stories of the E.R. are a couple of shows that have made it big), no reality show has solely focused on diabetes. Lo and behold, it’s here! Reversed is the first reality TV show to feature people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The first season of Reversed launched in 2017 on the Discovery Life Channel; season 2 is soon to follow. And why not? There are more 30 million Americans living with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Another 84 million Americans have prediabetes. It makes good sense, then, to use a reality show format as a platform to highlight and educate about diabetes.
The story of Reversed
Reversed is the brain child of Charles Mattocks, a nephew of the late Bob Marley, and an actor, TV personality, chef and fierce advocate for people with diabetes. He was featured in the film The Summer of Ben Tyler, and has made appearances on CNN, The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America and the Today show, doing segments as “The Poor Chef” that focused on putting together healthful meals on a budget. Mattocks is no stranger to diabetes. He was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2011 at the age of 38. As many PWD do when first diagnosed, he became frustrated with the lack of answers to so many questions, and was dismayed at how little PWD know about managing their condition. Mattocks began to use media as a way to reach the masses, and in 2017, Reversed was launched.
The show chronicles the journey of five people with diabetes: Roger; his wife, Lisa; Jerome; Margie; and Rev, who are all staying at the Milbrooks Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. While it sounds like they’re on some exotic vacation, their time at the resort is anything but a vacation. Every day, the show’s participants interact with physicians, a nurse diabetes educator, a dietitian, an exercise specialist and a psychologist. They practice yoga and meditation, learn about healthful eating, share in group discussions, and receive guidance on their diabetes regimens. The participants also come face to face with some of the harsher realities of managing diabetes, including dealing with low blood sugars, falling because of neuropathy and Charcot foot, pain from a recent leg amputation, and vision difficulty due to retinopathy.
Not surprisingly, the participants also deal with the trials and tribulations of spending 10 days with each other as well as the team of specialists who are there to be supportive and educate (but not sugar-coat their situations). As a married couple, Roger and Lisa have a few tense moments, and Jerome doesn’t hide his disdain for Rev, as he candidly states that “Rev is only here for vacation.” And even the experts bump up against some pitfalls, as well.
While the title of the show (Reversed) has raised more than a few eyebrows in the diabetes community, the real intent of the name is stressed repeatedly by Mattocks during the show. One of the goals is to help the participants reduce their diabetes medications and, if possible, wean them off their meds (for those with Type 2 diabetes). But the aim isn’t to actually reverse their diabetes; rather it’s, as Mattock puts it, to “reverse their lives” and focus on hope and a better future for each and every one of them. In addition, the intent is to send Roger, Lisa, Margie, Jerome and Rev home with a plan in place and a new, more positive outlook on managing their diabetes.
If you have diabetes or have a loved with who has diabetes, Reversed is a reality show worth watching. You may not agree with everything that is recommended on this show, but you may have a different outlook and perhaps a better understanding of diabetes after watching. Most of all, you might find that you agree: diabetes is manageable, hope is always there, and reversing your course toward a healthier life is doable.
Interested in checking out Reversed? Watch two full episodes below! And to learn more about the show, visit the official Reversed website.
Want to learn more about Charles Mattocks and his efforts to raise diabetes awareness and improve the lives of those living with the condition? Read “Charles Mattocks: Type 2 Diabetes and Healthy Eating” and “Holiday Recipes from Top Chefs,” then try Charles’ Ackee and Salt Fish recipe.