You might not believe this, but I really don’t like talking about my type 2 diabetes. Maybe it’s because part of my job as a health writer has involved writing about my condition for many years, and I’ve learned to save my insights and observations for the page. All I know is that when people want to talk about my diabetes, I tend to shy away.
Or maybe it’s something else. When people learn I have the disease – mostly when I avoid certain items on the menu or at a dinner party – they turn into enablers, and not in a good way. “You’re sure you won’t eat another piece of my delicious homemade whatever?” they want to know. “A slice of (fill in the blank) won’t make your blood sugar go up.” Or, “My (sister, brother, mother, father) never watched his diet and he did just fine.”
As a mother of two sons, I get the need to feed others, to watch them enjoy what you’ve made or brought to the table. But as a person with type 2, it gets wearing to hear people, many of whom do not truly understand the disease, assure me that I don’t know what’s right for my body and my good health.
After dealing with this for so many, many years, I’ve also become aware that sometimes, my eating habits – mostly low-carb, no meat, lots of vegetables, and some fruit – actually annoy others. “I’d love to see you enjoy a slice of pizza,” someone recently said as I dug into a perfectly delicious Greek salad at an Italian restaurant.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you’re always depriving yourself,” this person said, sliding an unwanted slice onto my plate.
I have to admit this is a head-scratcher. Why is it that everyone else at the table gets to enjoy what they want to order without comment, and I don’t?
The same holds true for desserts. I like to bake, and if I bring a pie or cake, I’m often greeted with the phrase, almost word for word. “It’s so sad that you make these delicious things and you can’t serve them to yourself.”
First of all, that isn’t true. I do eat dessert on occasion. I usually plan for it and try not to go overboard when I do. But when I try to explain all of that: balancing my food intake for the day, making sure my blood sugars are in range, maybe taking an extra walk after I indulge, people’s eyes glaze over. They aren’t really interested in All That. What they want is for me to conform and eat as they do.
This isn’t an insignificant point. Family traditions – macaroni and cheese at Thanksgiving, chocolates on Valentine’s Day, beach fries on vacation – can be minefields. It’s almost that by staying on your plan, you’re offending everyone else.
The next time any of this happens to you, and it will, unless everyone you meet is on board with type 2, I have a suggestion. If you can ask for anything, don’t ask for an extra portion of whatever they want to dump on your plate. Instead, ask for a little understanding and empathy. Tell them you understand that the world of food is a delicious place, but at the moment, you need to crave something else.
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