When you have diabetes it is likely that you have had to make some lifestyle changes, especially in the departments of diet and physical activity. Unless you are a recluse, the modifications you make in your life have implications for your family and friends.
People who are close to us have a certain conception of who we are, and our relationships with them often follow specific patterns. For many of us, social activities revolve around food-based activities. Altering our usual patterns can alter these relationships, sometimes in unintended negative ways.
For example: you traditionally went out to dinner every Friday evening with a close friend and split an order of egg rolls and Kung Pao chicken at your favorite Chinese restaurant. Now you are evading her invitations for fear of the effect on your blood glucose, and your friend may be feeling that you don’t value her company, or don’t approve of her dietary choices. This can cause tension in the relationship. Sometimes carefully explaining why you are making different choices and inviting the other person to try them with you can prevent bad feelings from developing.
Most often family and friends are eager to help the person with diabetes, but sometimes they don’t know the best way to do that. Instead of being supportive, they can turn into the “diabetes police”. Every bite of what they consider forbidden foods is scrutinized and followed by either a moue of dismay or volubly challenged with a disdainful, “You shouldn’t be eating that!” Your response to these admonitions is key to turning the anxious sergeant-at-arms into a helpful companion.
Inappropriate “coaching” may simply be a result of ignorance and fear. A lot of the misinformation floating around about diabetes is very scary. If you are comfortable, tell your friends a bit about diabetes and how it is treated. Show gratitude for their concern and offer them alternative ways that they can help you to manage your diabetes.
Accompanying you to your physician or educator appointments can be very helpful for close family members to improve their understanding of what is happening to you and give them the assurance that you are in control of the situation and don’t need a nanny. You can also turn someone’s concern into an opportunity to make the whole family healthier. Offering to cook a tasty, diabetes-friendly meal that would appeal to everyone demonstrates that eating well doesn’t have to be boring or off-putting. Suggest an outing that includes heavy doses of physical activity that gets everyone moving.
The more family and friends understand about your situation and feel confident in your ability to self-manage, the more you can count on them when you need their help.