The first time I wrote “Five Things Never to Say to a Diabetic,” I thought it was a one-time thing. After five dumb things people say, they run out of dumb things to say. Oh, how I wish that had been true. Alas, it was not. So, five more things never to say to a diabetic.
1. “You shouldn’t say you are diabetic. You have diabetes.” Yes, it’s popular right now not to be “identified by” your disease. But deciding that is the option of the person with the disease. Not you. Even if you are also diabetic. I am a diabetic because in many ways, it does identify me: no drinking, no desserts, no birthday cake. And I’m fine with it. But it is an important part of how I think, eat and behave.
Reply: “Thanks for pointing that out.” While I believe that setting people straight is a good idea, I do not believe that I can change everyone’s mind about their opinion. Choose your battles.
2. “You can’t stick to that diet all the time. It’s not healthy.” This is a switchback message. The speaker is not ready to accept that you have changed, and wants the old behavior back. That remark is not about you, it’s about the speaker. The speaker also doesn’t know what is or is not healthy.
Reply: Smile, then, “I’m pretty healthy, so I think I’ll stick with it.”
Reply: “Just enough to have the perfect BMI if I were three inches taller.” The topic will then switch to the irrelevance of BMI, and you will be off the hook.
4. “So now that you’ve lost the weight, you aren’t diabetic any more, right?” In our culture, we like to be rewarded for hard work. So if you dieted, well, then, your diabetes must be gone. Whew, they don’t have to worry about that anymore. If you continue to be diabetic, you must have made bad choices.
Reply: “I will be diabetic the rest of my life.” It’s hard for some people to hear the truth, but sometimes it’s the best thing to tell them.
5. “So you eat Paleo, right?” People like categories, and they like to label. Once they know which diet you are on, they can try to compare or get you to switch to theirs.
Reply: “What diet are you on?” Most people who want to label your diet also want to talk about theirs. It’s a lot easier to talk to people about their diets because they will not like yours.
Diabetes is a tricky disease that is different for everyone. Each person has a private way to deal with their particular requirements. It’s a thin line between being curious and being intrusive. Your best bet is not to offer advice unless you are the physician for the diabetic. Offer support. That’s always the right thing to say.
—Quinn McDonald occasionally runs out of patience.