Thursday, February 2, 2017

Question Corner: How do I handle the food police?

Dear Question Corner:  I was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and when I go out to eat with family, they ask “should you be eating that?”, or sometimes say, "You can't eat that!". I have been meeting with my Diabetes Educator and am making healthy, well balanced meals based on what I’ve learned.  How do I let my friends and family understand that I know what I’m doing and am bothered by their questions and comments?

-       Questioning New Patient

Dear Questioning New Patient,

Unfortunately, what you describe is a common experience for people living with diabetes.  These questions and comments can come across as judgmental and nagging, and sometimes come at the worst possible time--when you're about to enjoy your food.  Initially you may feel angry, embarrassed, or annoyed.  While this is completely understandable, take a deep breath and recognize that their comments are coming from a place of concern and that they also come from a lack of understanding of what diabetes is and how foods can impact diabetes.  When people comment on what you're eating, you can use this as an opportunity to educate them about diabetes and the role that medication, food, and blood glucose monitoring play in your day to day management.

Of course, it can be exhausting to always have to explain your food choices, so it is also a good idea to set boundaries.  You can tell people that you're happy to answer their questions, but not when you're in the midst of eating and not while you're in a group setting.  Also, let your family members know that questions are fine, but comments about what you should and should not be doing are not helpful.  Find what is most comfortable for you and communicate this to your family.  If you are struggling with taking medications regularly, eating healthy, or other aspects of diabetes care, discuss with your family ways that they can be supportive.  With time and education, you will find that your family can be understanding and supportive in your experience with diabetes.  

This post was written by Camilla Levister, NP, CDE, a Certified Adult Nurse Practitioner and Certified Diabetes Educator who has experience as an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor trainer.  Ms. Levister is a co-investigator for several research studies in diabetes taking place at the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center.