Big family gatherings can bring out both the best and the worst in us. Our family members seem to have doctorate-level expertise in pushing our buttons—even when they’re not trying.
The little comments or suggestions that sometimes lead to nuclear fallout are often well-meant. People with diabetes have to tread on extra-thin ice between graciously responding to well-meant comments, and establishing boundaries by making it clear that comments are no longer welcome (lest someone get dropped from the Christmas-card list).
So when is it okay for someone to ask you about your diabetes management? We’ve prepared a handy guide to share with your friends (if you dare) going over eight common scenarios when people don’t know whether to say something, or keep their mouth shut. See you if agree!
1. What about when I see my diabetes friend going in for dessert?
Make sure to offer them whipped cream if they’re going for pumpkin pie! While people with diabetes do have to think extra about what they eat, how much, and when, they can eat desserts. A person with diabetes will need to plan for a dessert because they generally are high in carbohydrates, and if they plan wrong, they’ll pay the price more so than anyone else. But there’s no better way to ruin a long-anticipated favorite dessert than by having someone lift an eyebrow at you as if you were a naughty child.
In short, if you see someone going for a dessert, be happy for them! They may not allow themselves to indulge very often.
2. Should I tell my friend which foods are “diabetes-friendly”?
Again, unless someone has a food allergy, any food can be diabetes friendly so long as it’s been planned for. If you have nutritional information available for your meal, that can certainly be helpful, but calling someone out by saying, “Hey Janice! This pie is sugar-free!” is embarrassing. If you want to provide information about your meal, do so quietly and tactfully, or better yet, before the meal.
Another pro-tip: If someone says they can’t or shouldn’t eat something, don’t contradict them by saying it’s sugar/gluten/dairy free. Respect what someone chooses to put, or not put, on their own plate.
3. Should I remind them to check their blood sugar?
It depends on how well you know the person and if you’ve been part of their diabetes support system before. If the person is a competent adult that’s never asked you for help in this area, then it’s best to stay quiet. If you’re close to the person and you know they forget to check, a friendly reminder may be welcome—especially if you don’t send them to the bathroom to use their meter.
Important note: If someone seems off, ill, or out of it, then you should remind them to check their blood sugar. If someone is low, their judgement may be impaired and a reminder could help them act before things get dangerous.
4. What if I’m concerned about their weight?
Holidays are not the time to have a conversation about someone’s weight. If you are legitimately concerned that someone is making self-destructive choices, you may need to step in and talk to them. But this should be done only if you are a close friend or family member, and it should be done in private and not on a holiday.
And be sure to check your own biases—is this person seriously hurting their health, or are they just not as slim as you think they should be? Everyone’s body type is different, and someone who looks like they need to lose a few may actually be healthier than a thin person.
“NEXT” for scenarios 5-8
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.