A few days ago, I stumbled across this article that really spoke to me (even if it did fall short of acknowledging that these outcomes are equally likely to affect people with type 2 diabetes). It was equally refreshing to see photos of real people with diabetes rather than the usual cringeworthy stock photos, one of whom was even sporting a t:slim.
The point that really hit home for me was that people with diabetes are often seen to lack control or ability to properly care for ourselves. Food police, which are an unfortunate reality of living with diabetes, are quick to judge when they see you reaching for that donut at morning tea.
I’ll go as far as to suggest that very few interactions around food have supported me, as a person living with diabetes. Things like being asked at the dinner table what my levels have been like, if I have to be ‘careful,’ or even being told that certain food choices are ‘not good for diabetes.’ Bonus points if you can say it nice and loudly and turn it into a punchline.
In the diabetes community, we are passionate about so many different ways of eating. Sadly, we’re not very good at embracing all of these different ways. I think this is really hurtful, especially for the newly diagnosed who may feel that there is only one right way of eating. Unfortunately, many in the community add to the stigma around food by demonising some ways of eating at the expense of pushing others.
There is so much stigma around food when you live with diabetes. Conversations around diabetes and food have always been ill-timed, demoralising and left me feeling small. Coming off of National Diabetes Week, it definitely takes a toll on your mental health.
I know I’m not supposed to care about what other people think, but the overarching feeling is that others don’t think I’m taking care of myself. Language Matters. The words we use, and the attitudes we convey – they become reality. That in turn leaves me feeling like I’m not taking good care of myself.
I continually find it frustrating that so many of my peers only seem to acknowledge that I’m living with diabetes when it’s dessert time. Food police do a terrible injustice to the realities of living with diabetes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. They’re ignorant to the fact that living with diabetes stretches a lot further than the dessert table. It’s a life of blood glucose monitoring, insulin administration, decision making, carefully planned activities and mental burden. So much mental burden.
I’m not actively looking for a pat on the back, but living with diabetes is largely invisible to the people without diabetes in my life. When the people around me don’t often get to see all of the aspects that there are to living with diabetes, it gets lonely. It genuinely is nice to be engaged in real conversations around diabetes from people without diabetes, because it gives me that little bit of acknowledgement. I feel that little bit less invisible.
So, talk to me about my diabetes. I’m always happy to help spread a bit of awareness.
But know that it is never okay to comment on the food choices of another person – diabetes or not.