By: Meagan Esler
Sometimes I don’t feel like explaining myself. Sometimes I just want to eat a pastry in public in peace, without the “diabetes police” showing up and giving me their two cents. When that happens, I can usually handle it without my blood pressure rising. I politely explain to these well-meaning people that I’m perfectly in control of my diabetes and that as long as I count the carbohydrates and take my shot, I can eat anything I please. Occasionally though, I find myself getting irritated and angry. I get tired of defending myself all the time.
For the most part, I eat pretty healthily. I limit fat, calories, carbohydrates, and overly processed items, and I eat high fiber foods and a rainbow of veggies, fruits, and protein. But I enjoy treating myself after my hard work on the treadmill and the weight-training machine. It helps me when I work out to know that somewhere in my future, a gloriously decorated confection awaits. I don’t feel that I should have to eat it in private. I shouldn’t feel guilty about eating what I want as long as I’m careful about my blood sugars.
Last year during the holidays, I was actually slapped on the hand for eating a candy cane by a woman volunteering at my work. I was munching away in cheerful holiday peppermint bliss and answering a work-related question when she literally slapped my hand and said “Shame on you! You’re a diabetic.” My cheeks burned as I told her that I was allowed to eat what I wished as long as I counted the carbohydrates and took my insulin injection. I also informed her that if my blood sugar went low, she would see me downing sugar to correct it so that I didn’t end up unconscious and hospitalized. I know she didn’t understand, but it isn’t right to assume, and it is certainly not okay to slap a person with diabetes.
During another incident at work, I was discouraged from attending our ice cream social because the coworker coordinating it saw a magazine article I wrote about taking control of my diabetes. While discussing the decorations, she declared “I’m sure I won’t see you there because I know all about your diabetes and the fact that you shouldn’t eat ice cream.” Even after I explained, she went on to say that her father had been “the same type of diabetic,” and she knew it wasn’t “good” for me. The joy of the ice cream social was gone for me. I helped with the decorations and stayed away from the event, too emotionally deflated to explain to the diabetes patrol on staff that yes, I can eat that.
I literally started wondering if I was correct in thinking that I was allowed to eat the occasional sugary treat. After all, so many people were badgering me about my dietary choices. Had I become too easygoing about my beloved dessert allowances? I believe that if you are unhappy with your diet plan, it’s important to talk to your doctor. So I talked to my diabetes educator, and she put my mind at ease. She told me I could eat a candy bar every day if I chose, as long as we planned for it. Though I didn’t plan on eating candy every day, I felt better and more justified than ever about not letting others exclude me from anything because of my diabetes.
I try not to overreact when well-meaning individuals give their opinions of my food choices because each person I educate means one less member of the diabetes police force and a happier, guilt-free life for all of us.