Five Things Never to Say to a Diabetic

Note: Congratulations to Deborah Weber, who won the book. And thanks to all of you for your great ideas of what to do with the flash cards.  Now to decide which ones to try.. . .

When in full snark mode combined with teacher mode, I make lists of things not to say. I’ve done one for funerals and one for writers, and now it’s time to stand up for diabetics.

drug_development_cost_diabetes_prevalenceWith the zeal of a new convert to a strange religion, I’ve decided not to hide and pretend I’m on a fad diet. Fueled by the acceptance of fads but the fear of disease, our culture accepts almost any diet as a brave attempt at carving out a slim line from a hunk of fat. . . except for diabetics. We, it seems, are fat because we chose to be. Here are five things diabetics do not want to hear you say:

1. “Is it Type 1 or Type 2?” Unless you have just discovered the cure for one of them, there is no reason to ask. What in the world do you need that information for? To decide if they got a bad genetic download? (Type 1) Or if it is “your own fault”? (Type 2). See? You just want to judge. Don’t.

2. “You know, there’s this great new cure I just heard about. . .” Most diabetics have a doctor or a dietician. If you have a new cure, call the American Diabetes Association, or Diabetes is a complicated hormonal and endocrinological disease, and whatever you read online that starts “one weird old way. . .” or “why your doctor doesn’t want you to know about. . .” is not the answer.

The same advice goes for asking if we can’t just eat gluten-free or paleo. Here’s the answer: No. Diabetics aren’t allergic to gluten, it’s all carbs they have to watch out for. Gluten sensitives can eat rice. diabetics can’t.  So glad you love your paleo diet. Please don’t try to foist is on me.

3. “You can’t stay on that diet all the time. You have to treat yourself.” Most diabetics have learned to “treat themselves” in ways that don’t involve food. What you are doing is indicating that you are unhappy with the change your friend went through”, and you are giving a “switchback” message. “I liked the old you better.” Diabetics liked the old diet, too, but it’s killing them.  That remark is not far from telling an alcoholic that “one drink won’t hurt.” Take the cue from the diabetic. They know more about their disease than you do.

4. “Can’t you just eat one dessert and then take more medication?” Is there an M.D. after your name? No? Then stop giving medical advice. The medication your diabetic friend is on depends on a diet to make it work. Insulin is not the “morning after” pill, it’s a way to balance what the body no longer produces. Messing with it leads to blindness, kidney failure, and amputation. Ready to give up a kidney?

5. “Just how much weight have you lost?” is not as charming as it sounds. Instead, say, “You look great!” –it’s a phrase that doesn’t seem to have any strings attached.

Bonus #6: “I could never jab myself like you have to.” Lucky you don’t have to then. And no heroin jokes, either. I’ve heard them all. And no, you may not look at or use my test kit.

Quinn McDonald has noticed that the test strip container is just large enough to hold some darning needles, or a pencil sharpener. How convenient.