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When it Comes to Diabetes, Don’t Assume! ASK.

Recently, I was at a workplace related social event, and I was surprised when I was not treated like everyone else: the event consisted in a small exercise highlighting discrimination (ironically), and it used small packets of candies which were given away to participants at the end. I was simply not given a packet because, since I have diabetes, surely I would not want some. Normally, these are little social events for which I plan ahead. I allot my carbohydrates to allow myself for any treats I might want. If there’s something I don’t want, I might take it home for my husband. I was a bit annoyed when I was skipped… There is nothing more offensive to me than when a person without diabetes takes it upon themselves to parent me and my diabetes-related choices.

People like this… who, in their own little hearts are well meaning, but who annoy the living daylights out of us, are known as The Diabetes Police. They see themselves as these heroes in a cape, ready to help guard us away from temptation, or the things they think we don’t need. They may not really see right away how the unsolicited policing of another grown adult’s behavior is not just intrusive but also disrespectful. While we speak to these folks, we must try to hold back our anger, and remember many of them love us and mean well. With this in mind, if you are someone without diabetes, here are some etiquette guidelines for when you are interacting with us:

  • DON’T make my decisions for me: I realize some folks get upset when they get offered tempting foods… but there is seriously nothing more frustrating to me than when someone decides what I can and cannot eat, and won’t even bother to offer me any. People with diabetes can make their own dietary choices, and they don’t depend on someone else’s ideas of what they think we can or cannot eat.
  • DO ask me if I have dietary restrictions: If you’re planning an event, and aren’t sure if I can eat something, why not ask?
  • DON’T police my food choices in front of others: As a grown up, it is up to me to make my best food choices, for better or for worse. If you would not like someone to police your weight in public, or your own bad food choices, please do not police someone else’s food choices in public, diabetes or not. Also, don’t assume my food choices are bad based on your OWN ideas.
  • DO respect a person with diabetes’ privacy: It’s not your job to keep people informed that Nancy or Bob has diabetes and to not let them eat x or y. A person with diabetes struggles with making life changes, just like anyone else. Some people take good care of themselves, some may be just starting out with their care, and some may be in denial or in burnout. Wherever they are, you are no their court appointed care taker. Mind your own business.
  • DON’T assume I can’t do the job: A few years ago, I had a coworker who was a semi-retired nurse, and she was denying me daily tasks because ‘since you have diabetes, you shouldn’t be doing that.’ She never consulted me, she just assumed. Do not make our decisions for us, especially if we are NOT under your direct care. A person with diabetes, with reasonable accommodations, can do a job just as well as anyone else
  • DO ask what about a person’s needs: If you aren’t sure what a person with diabetes will need, or if it something is a challenge, then just ask! Don’t assume.

Singling out a person with type 2 diabetes is rude and discriminatory (and sometimes, outright illegal). Taking care of diabetes is sometimes challenging, time consuming and even exhausting. DO ask questions about someone’s challenges or their needs… never make assumptions, or take it upon yourself to make choices for a person with diabetes.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.