There are over 29 million Americans living with diabetes in 2016. While managing their condition is challenging enough, many individuals also have to deal with the stigmas surrounding diabetes. Most people mean well, but this doesn’t spare diabetics from the occasional awkward or insensitive question. Below we will discuss four things you should never say to someone with diabetes and why.
“SHOULD YOU BE EATING THAT?”
Questions like this, including “can you have that?”, “but what about sugar?”, etc., can be uncomfortable for diabetics who are already hyper-aware of what they consume. People with diabetes need to think about what they eat for every meal and snack in order to manage their blood sugar. Typically, if you see someone with diabetes having a “treat” such as ice cream or a cookie, they have already planned and factored this item into their day. He/she could also be suffering from low blood sugar and need to eat to remain conscious and healthy. While a well-balanced diet is encouraged for better management of diabetes, remember there is no “diabetes diet” and as long as an individual makes smart choices there is nothing wrong with the occasional splurge.
“WHY DIDN’T YOU TAKE BETTER CARE OF YOURSELF?”
Not only is the question presumptuous, it is also quite offensive. People with Type 1 diabetes develop the condition when their body does not produce insulin as it should. For these individuals, there is nothing they could have done to prevent their condition. Those with Type 2 diabetes are often mistakenly labeled as lazy and unhealthy, and people assume only obese or overweight individuals can get it. This is false. Researchers still aren’t 100% sure what causes Type 2 diabetes. While lifestyle factors can put certain individuals at greater risk, excess weight and poor diet are not the only contributors, and someone who appears as the pinnacle of health is not necessarily in the clear.
“YOU DON’T LOOK LIKE YOU HAVE DIABETES”
While this could be meant as a compliment, it only furthers the spread of stereotypes associated with diabetes. As we mentioned above, there is no specific “look” for diabetes. People with Type 1 diabetes look no different than anyone else, and all people with Type 2 diabetes are not obese or overweight. It is never safe to assume that because someone is fit and in shape they do not have diabetes, or reversely that because someone is heavy they must have diabetes. If someone informs you they are diabetic, try to avoid comments like this and consider an alternative response – such as asking them how they are managing with the condition.
“MY GRANDMA HAD DIABETES. SHE HAD XYZ COMPLICATION”
Diabetics are very well aware of the potential complications their disease could bring. They do not need you to remind them. Knowing someone firsthand who has had diabetes and associated complications can be helpful for you in understanding the seriousness of the condition, and we encourage you to inform yourself by listening to their stories. But try to keep these stories to yourself. Not only have advances in diabetes care greatly reduced complication rates, but also increased awareness of healthy diabetes management. Provide your friend or loved one with positive support, not negative reminders of “what-ifs”.
If you or someone you know could benefit from the specialized care at Palm Beach Diabetes and Endocrine Specialists, P.A., please call 561-406-9477. Our dedicated diabetes experts are pioneering the fight against diabetes and other endocrine disorders through patient education, goal-setting, and individual involvement in personalized treatment programs.