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Live with Scott: Adam Brown from diaTribe talks about his popular diabetes book

9/25/2018 by Scott Johnson

Live with Scott: Adam Brown from diaTribe talks about his popular diabetes book

Did you see Adam's recent announcement? Catch up with Scott and Adam in this episode of "Live with Scott!" and get up to speed on the exciting news!

Did you see Adam's recent announcement? Catch up with Scott and Adam in this episode of "Live with Scott!" and get up to speed on the exciting news!

Bright Spots & Landmines has been very successful since launching, and today I catch up with Adam to learn about a fun and exciting update! Join the short conversation (15-20 min) below get in on the news.


In this week's episode, Scott and Adam cover:

  • What is diaTribe all about?
  • Where did the idea for Bright Spots & Landmines come from?
  • How is it different from other diabetes books?
  • What advice does Adam have for writing?
  • How has the book been received so far?
  • Bright Spots & Landmines is now available as an audiobook!
  • How can people learn more?

Video Transcript

Scott: Alright, hey replay viewers. Thanks for watching. I'm so glad you're here. Stick around if you'd like to learn about a quick and easy way to boost your diabetes management skills. Feel free to skip the first few minutes of the intro and welcoming as we get going here. And while we're getting started, I'd love to know where you're joining from today. Can you drop a quick hello in the comments and let me know where you're watching from? That also lets me know that our audio and video feed is working for you. Super important there, right? 

Scott: Alright, today's episode is sponsored by the mySugr Bundle, get unlimited strips, automatic supply refills, and personalized support. Learn more at My name is Scott Johnson; I've been with mySugr for a bit over five years, and I've lived with diabetes for almost 40 years now. And in that time I've come to appreciate anything that helps me do a little bit better without so much work. Can you relate to that? Give me a thumbs up if so. 

Scott: And that's great because our guest today has a big announcement that I think you'll enjoy. Hang tight, he'll join us in just a minute here. Now before we get started, I'd like to tell you a little bit more about the show and ask for a couple of small favors. "Live with Scott!" will air every Wednesday at noon eastern time, 9:00 a.m. pacific time.

Scott: Each episode will run for about 15 to 20 minutes. And I'm going to cover topics of interest to you, connect you with fun guests, bring you updates from around the diabetes space, and we'll also dedicate some episodes to Q&A and answer questions that you send in. The episodes are live, like today, but they'll also be recorded, so you don't have to worry about missing anything. My aim is to keep them short and sweet because I know how busy you are. 

Scott: And with that in mind, I really appreciate you joining us today. We have a really special guest on the show to help us kick-off Live with Scott's inaugural season, and I'll introduce him in just a second here, but first, the favors that I mentioned. If we cover anything that resonates with you, please show some love with those hearts and like buttons. I'd really appreciate that. And second, if you know anyone that might find this helpful, please share this with them. 

Scott: Alright, are you ready to meet our special guest? Again for those just tuning in, I'm Scott Johnson, with mySugr, and joining me today is Adam Brown. Let me switch the camera feed here and get Adam on board with us. Adam Brown is the senior editor and columnist at diaTribe, head of diabetes technology and digital health at Close Concerns, and author of an amazing book, called Bright Spots & Landmines. Thanks for joining us today, Adam. I'm thrilled to have you on the show. 

Adam: Scott, thanks for having me. It's always an honor. 

Scott: Yeah, well this is gonna be a lot of fun. To kick things off, can you tell everyone a little more about diaTribe and your work there? 

Adam: Absolutely, so diaTribe is a non-profit based in San Francisco, and we care about helping people with diabetes and pre-diabetes do as well as possible. And the main way that we do that is by publishing, which comes out about once a week with new articles, things happening in the world of diabetes, research. We go to conferences all over the world. New products that we test out and learn about.

Adam: And then I write a column where I share tips and tricks and things that I'm finding useful in my own diabetes. So most people know us as doing and because of our non-profit, we're able to not have ads on the site, we have a great clinical advisory board that reviews everything and makes sure it's really medically sound. And we also do things like advocating at the FDA for new drugs and devices that we think are important and working on the Beyond A1C movement. And then connecting people through events that we do at conferences all over the world. So we have a lot of things going on, but ultimately we come to work every day trying to help people with diabetes do better. 

Scott: Yeah, I love that, and diaTribe has been a big part of my life with diabetes, for as long as I can remember. I'm a big fan and supporter, so thank you all for the team and all the work that you do there. We really appreciate that. Today we're gonna be talking about your book, Bright Spots and Landmines, which has been a great success, has a whopping 4.8-star rating, with over 300 reviews on Amazon alone. Can you tell us a little bit about where it came from and what inspired you to create it?

Adam: Yeah, so I've been writing a column on diaTribe called Adam's Corner since 2013, and in that column, the original idea was just to share things that I was finding helpful. So it tended to be food and mindset and exercise and a little bit on sleep, and a few years ago, my boss and the founder of diaTribe, Kelly Close, said hey, you should think about compiling all your tips and tricks into a single book, a single guide that you can hand to someone and say here's my toolkit for living well with diabetes. And I said to Kelly, well that's a terrible idea because there are a million diabetes books, and what could I possibly add? And I already write every day about diabetes, so writing a book doesn't sound like a great idea. But anyone that knows Kelly, knows that she's an amazingly persistent and persuasive and also brilliant, and so I relented finally. 

Adam: And, you know, tried to compile it all into what I thought would be the most actionable, helpful, useful diabetes guide that I could think of. And my goal was to write a book that I could hand to anyone with diabetes and say, you will get at least one valuable tool out of this book. So what was cool is that we self-published it at diaTribe, so it's available as a free PDF. You just have to enter an email. And then it's $5.78 on Amazon, which is the lowest possible price that we can charge. And it's been awesome just to hear, you know, I share my food and mindset and exercise and sleep tips and tricks, and then there's questioning guides in the book to help people identify what works for them and what doesn't? And it's been an incredible ride. 

Adam: We've had over 75 thousand copies sold or downloaded since the book came out, and we get emails every day from people who are like, wow I never realized this trick, that eating this type of food for breakfast could help me. Or I've lost 20 pounds, or I've dropped my A1C by this much, so it's really, really cool to get the message out there. I'm also really cognizant that in the US alone, nearly four thousand people are diagnosed with diabetes every day so there's just so many people that I think are just coping with a diagnosis every day and could use a little, you know, all the years of experience that we've tried to bundle in this book. 

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. And right from the start, you mention that there are so many books about diabetes out there already, and we've talked about this project and successful project before, you wanted Bright Spots and Landmines to be different than everything else out there. You mentioned that a little bit in your, in the last things that you talked about, but let's go a little bit deeper into that, right? I think we've all picked up diabetes books, and maybe we've read them, but the information hasn't stuck with us, or whatever the case is. You had a very intentional purpose, you wanted to be different with Bright Spots & Landmines. 

Adam: Yeah, absolutely. So I think a lot of diabetes books are written by health care providers who are amazing at what they do and do a wonderful job, but sometimes that leaves out the stories of someone with diabetes, and the things they cope with and the challenges and struggles. And so I think that was one piece of it, is I wanted to share my story and my toolkit, as someone, here's what it was like being diagnosed, and also here's how I cope with really challenging days when things don't seem to go right. Another was that a lot of books are very focused on the here's how diabetes works, insulin and blood sugar and how they interact, and the pathogenesis of diabetes, and the pancreas and all that, and there's zero, zero of that in the book. It's all focused on what I sort of consider the four pillars of diabetes independent of medication, which are food, and mindset and exercise and sleep. And so what foods do I eat that keep my blood sugar in range, and which ones seem to drive it crazy. How can I eat more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff. Ideally, making that as easy and automatic as possible. 

Adam: You mentioned at the outset, you know I want to do better, and also do less work, and I think that's a kind of guiding theme throughout the entire book. And then you actually never see diabetes books focused on those four categories, so I wanted to kind of bundle those into one guide where people could have a really big toolbox that they could pull tips and tricks from. And then the last one was just introducing this framework of Bright Spots and Landmines, which I think some people find really helpful. And it's this idea that Bright Spots are the things that we're doing well, the things that work, that we should try to replicate. Which is pretty much the opposite of what most of us do in diabetes automatically, which is what are the things I'm screwing up that I should do less of? 

Adam: And I guess that I sort of argue in this book, that if you had to pick between the two, Bright Spots are really, really useful and more uplifting and motivating than what I call the diabetes landmines, the mistakes and screw-ups. Diabetes landmines are useful too, but what I've found is I tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. Like overeating to correct my low blood sugars. Like, we all do that. And so when I talk about diabetes landmines, I talk about, one, identifying them, and then two, developing a plan of attack. Like I know I'm going to face this diabetes landmine, how can I not step on it today. Or if I do step on it, how can I recover quickly? And so that's kind of the framework of the book, but I think even if the food and mindset and exercise and sleep tips, you know, people figured those out, or they're not finding them useful, I think this framework of bright spots, and focusing on that, is very helpful for a lot of people too.

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. I think for me, anyways, diabetes management is mostly about keeping my head on straight. And I think you framework about bright spots and landmines goes a long way towards that. And it's been very helpful for me. I wanna ask a quick writing question for you, right? 

Adam: Yeah. 

Scott: So you've done a lot of writing in the past, but this was your first book. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? 

Adam: Oh gosh, you always wonder if you give some bit of advice to your past self, does that affect your trajectory moving forward, in like a weird back to the future way, you know I think one of the things I've found helpful lately, is reading a lot of long-form journalism, so I actually started subscribing to the New Yorker, and every piece in the New Yorker is just so beautifully written, and you know, taking, telling a story from start to end in a very long form way is a really big challenge, and something that's very difficult, and so I guess I would say try to read more long-form journalism.

Adam: And then the other thing that I really like, I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I use this app called Libby that lets me, it lets you take out books from your library for free. So you check them out with your library card, and so I can just rip through audiobooks really, really quickly, because there's so much dead time in the day, like walking places, and being on buses and commuting and stuff, and so I'm actually able to read a lot more than I used to just by doing that, and so I think those two things would be really helpful. And there are a couple of writing books that I've found really helpful, one is called On Writing Well, it's about writing nonfiction and it's just absolutely spectacular. 

Scott: Yeah, that's a book that's in my favorites as well and I actually try to read that once a year, or once every other year. 

Adam: Nice. 

Scott: I always pick something up from it. You mentioned in the introduction bit, a little bit about how Bright Spots & Landmines has done well so far. Can you tell us a little bit more about the reach and success stories that you've heard from people, and sort of, did you ever imagine reaching this many people? And actually if I know you at all, your mind is set on many, many more people, which we'll get to that in a moment, 

Adam: Yeah. 

Scott: but how has it gone so far? 

Adam: Yeah, well I would say it's totally exceeded my expectations. I mean you, it's as you know Scott, when you write something very personal about yourself and about living with diabetes and you put it out into the world, it's pretty scary. And I think it's especially easy on the internet nowadays to get very polarized feedback. It's a scary process, and I had no clue what people would think, but it's totally blown away our expectations. And as I said, there are 75 thousand plus copies out there now. It's been really cool. My email address is in the book, and so I'm really glad I did that because I get emails from people who, you know, have amazing stories. You know, they drop their, one person dropped their A1C from 14 to 6 after reading it. I mean that's one example, but those examples are not infrequent, or people that have lost weight. And I think the most interesting ones have been people who've had diabetes for 50 years or more, I actually heard from one endocrinologist who's had diabetes 72 years. 

Scott: Wow. 

Adam: So he was diagnosed in World War two with type one diabetes, and I got, he typed out a letter and mailed it to me, and said everything in the book resonates with me and confirms my experience, and I mean, when I haven't had diabetes for even 20 years, and so hearing from people who are real veterans, like yourself and people with 50 plus years, just makes me so happy that we kind of did this right. And yeah, so the feedback's really cool. And if I'm ever having a down day, I'll just go read a few Amazon reviews from the book, and it reminds me like, wow, something that we wrote really is helping people and that's why we come to work here every day. 

Scott: Yeah, that's really amazing and fun and inspiring. Congratulations on all of that. And that actually leads us into, you have a very fun announcement about the book and some recent improvements that will help get it into even more people's hands and heads and ears, right? 

Adam: Yeah, so we're just announcing the audiobook version of Bright Spots and Landmines. And it's funny because I thought that I could just record this at home, and so I like set up a little home studio and tried to record it. And it was so difficult to like get it right. So we actually found an amazing audiobook studio near San Diego, and I flew down and recorded the book in person for two days. And because it was such a personal book, we felt like I needed to read it. And so it's available, we also decided to make it available for free, so there's a free PDF version of the book, there's also now a free audiobook version.

And part of the reason for that is we weren't allowed to set the audiobook pricing, and I felt like 10 bucks was, you know for the audiobook, was still a lot to ask of people. So it's available free at We've also put it up on YouTube. And one of the things that I did to make it a little easier to consume is the audio is overlaid in the free version with slides along the way, so people, one for each bright spot and one for each landmine, so people can kind of like follow along. I also threw some of the images from the book in, so it's a little bit more interactive than just audio alone. 

Scott: I love that.

Adam: Yeah, I think it's been pretty cool. We're just announcing it this week, so if people prefer to consume things in audio they can get it for free, or they can get it on Audible and iTunes and Amazon and all that. 

Scott: That's amazing. I'm actually really excited about that. I'm much like you, I really enjoy audiobooks. It's such a useful way to consume great content, while you're also doing other things. I'm really excited about that and can't wait to listen to it again, and I'm especially excited to hear that you did the narration. That's amazing, amazing, I love it. As a special thanks to everyone watching, I would actually like to offer a nice giveaway. So mySugr is happy to buy 10 copies to give away of the paperback book. And it's a great place to start. I also encourage people to grab the audiobook and have the PDF available on whatever devices they carry around. But it's also, it's a nice thing to have a beautiful paperback book available. And I'm gonna put Adam on the spot a little bit and say that we can probably arrange to get these 10 copies autographed. 

Adam: Yep. 

Scott: And that would be an amazing thing. 

Adam: Yep. 

Scott: Folks, if you're interested in winning one of the copies of Bright Spots and Landmines by Adam Brown leave a comment below sharing a bright spot that you have found in your life with diabetes. We will leave the contest open until next week's episode, which will be next Wednesday morning, 9:00 a.m. Pacific, noon Eastern, and at that time I'll randomly select 10 people from the comments to send an amazing autographed copy of Bright Spots and Landmines. 

Adam: Amazing, thank you, Scott. 

Scott: Thank you, Adam, for coming on and telling us about Bright Spots and Landmines. I'm so excited and it's an honor to have you on to open up the "Live with Scott!" show at mySugr. I'm super excited about that, it's gonna be a lot of fun. One more quick sponsorship message before we wrap things up. Again this episode is sponsored by the mySugr bundle. Get unlimited strips, automatic supply refill, and personalized support. Learn more at Adam, if people are interested in learning a little bit more about Bright Spots & Landmines, where's the best place for them to go? 

Adam: They can go to h, which is where the PDF is located and people can pop in an email and get the PDF. Obviously on Amazon is also a good place to learn about it. So, yeah. 

Scott: Wonderful. Alright well, thank you so much for joining us today, Adam. 

Adam: Thanks for having me. 

Scott: Thank you everyone there for watching. Please share this with your friends, give us a like on Facebook, and don't forget to turn on those notifications so you don't miss any upcoming episodes of the show. Thanks again, and I'll see you next time.

Scott Johnson

Almost famous for being a Diet Coke fanatic, Scott is the Patient Success Manager, North America for mySugr and has lived well with diabetes for over forty years. He's an active pioneer in the diabetes social media space and along with his work at mySugr, he manages his award-winning blog, when time allows.

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