Here are 5 things to never say to a diabetic, and how to avoid being that patronising person.
1. ‘You need to stop eating sugar/carbs’
Don’t try and be the carb police, carbohydrates are vital for everyone including those living with diabetes.
People seem to get confused between types of diabetes, and how they are managed. Decreasing the amount of carbs and changing the type of carbs is more important. However, cutting out this food group will be detrimental and will likely not change sugar management.
Positive changes can be swapping to brown and wholegrain carb sources, and ensuring the plate is balanced with carbs, fats, protein and veggies.
So, please don’t be that person, this is not how diabetes works and cutting out carbs will not reverse it.
2. ‘Did you used to be fat‘
Being overweight is associated with the onset of type 2 diabetes, however it is not the only cause. Age, ethnicity, diet quality and activity are also major factors.
Furthermore, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, it is not caused by being overweight. Perfectly healthy individuals can get type 1 due to immune dysfunction.
We need to move away from associating the word ‘fat’ with diabetes. There is a link with some types of diabetes, but it creates a negative stigma around the disease. This is unhelpful for people living with type 1, as well as people trying to manage and reverse pre-diabetes and type 2.
3. ‘All you have to do is inject some insulin right?’
Some people like to believe managing diabetes is that simple. Taking insulin can be difficult in the first place, from people having to move past fears of needles, painful injection sights and pumps going wrong (to name a few).
But what really makes this statement ridiculous is the amount of factors that impact how much insulin you need. There are quite literally hundreds of factors that impact blood glucose, and how much insulin is needed. Everything impacts your sugars, and every diabetic taking insulin has to consider each and every thing when deciding on a dose.
Sometimes the dose we calculate can be completely wrong when most days it would be perfect. That is because we cannot know everything that is going on in the body all the time, for example minor infections or hormonal fluctuations.
This statement is more than an oversimplification, it is an insult. Feel free to ask about insulin/ diabetes management, but never insinuate it is an easy task.
4. ‘Are you supposed to be eating that’
Simply, never question what anyone is eating. People who barely know me (or anything about living with diabetes) say this, and it can be an incredibly damaging statement.
It is none of your business and it is patronising. We can eat pretty much anything we want with the right prep.
So please, never say this, you are only making yourself look stupid. Perhaps a better way to approach this is to ask how we might adjust our insulin etc. But if you barely know the person, I wouldn’t say anything at all.
5. ‘That’s the disease where you lose your legs and eye sight right?’
Some reading this will be shocked at this statement, but people say this all the time… Of course it is insensitive, everyone living with diabetes is aware of the potential complications. We don’t need to be reminded of such possibilities.
We also need to take this back to diabetes education. Having a diagnosis does not mean that it will lead to severe complications. Many people living with diabetes (regardless of the type) may get some degree of complication, for example background retinopathy is extremely common even if you have very well controlled diabetes. Living with diabetes is not a sentence to an unhealthy life.
This is also not a great way to start a conversation around diabetes, people living with diabetes can have a lot of anxiety around complications (which is normal). It is vital to know about the potential life changing consequences, but it should never be the only focus.
We can absolutely do anything with the correct support and resources. The focus should always be how to support each person individually, and maximising time in range.
One other point I’d like to make is that people living with diabetes do not want to constantly answer questions about it. Many of us are open and will talk about it, but if you are constantly bringing it up it can get annoying. Always ask appropriate questions so you can learn, but know when to stop and move on There is so much more to people than the disease they are may be living with.
Thank you for reading Never say these 5 things to diabetics, I hope you found this useful! be sure to subscribe and follow me on Instagram!
If you liked this post, be sure to check out Dealing with annoying questions about diabetes and Confused about ‘types’ of diabetes? Here is your diabetes 101