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Well, sure, we do want people to ask questions and try to learn more about type 1 diabetes. The problem is when those questions are rather offensive or perpetuate offensive stereotypes.
Instead, we encourage those curious minds without type 1 diabetes to ask a more open-ended thoughtful question: “I don’t know much about type 1 diabetes — what is one thing you’d like me to know?”
Here are seven things people have said or asked those of us with T1D at T1D Exchange…that we really wish they wouldn’t:
“Wow, you need shots every time you eat? That’s bad.”
Why it’s a problem: For starters, it inaccurately shames the person with T1D as though they have failed because they need insulin at every meal. Of course, this statement stems from ignorance — not understanding that the human body requires insulin with every meal and every hour in between in order to maintain safe blood sugar levels.
While we’re on the topic, we’ve gotta stop scolding people with type 2 diabetes for needing insulin sometimes, too. Type 2 diabetes is a gradually progressive disease — which means that many people will produce less and less insulin over time. Inevitably, this means they may need insulin therapy in order to manage safe blood sugar levels. Taking insulin every day isn’t fun. If you know someone with type 2 diabetes who takes insulin, give them a high-five — managing a type of this disease requires a big ol’ dose of daily courage.
“Why are you carrying a garage door opener?”
Umm, nope. That’s hilarious! Look more closely, please!
“But you’re not, like, that fat.”
First of all, it’s just not cool to make comments like this about any person’s body. Ever.
This comment also perpetuates the very false idea that any type of diabetes is caused by being overweight or obese. Type 1 diabetes, of course, has nothing to do with one’s body weight, but weight gain is also not the cause of type 2 diabetes.
In fact, only about 40% of people with type 2 diabetes can put their condition in remission with weight loss.
While body weight can be a component in the development of type 2 diabetes, it’s truly more complicated than this — and no one deserves to be shamed for their weight.
“Wow, are you gonna get your legs amputated?”
Well, it is a potential complication for any person with any type of diabetes — but we all hope to hugely reduce our risk of severe complications by doing our best to manage our blood sugars. Not everyone with diabetes has access to the medications, technology, education, and health care support they need in order to prevent severe infections and amputations.
Regardless, this question is about as thoughtful as asking a person recently diagnosed with breast cancer if they are going to have a double mastectomy. You don’t say things like this out loud.
“Let’s go get salads because you can’t have Chipotle.”
People with T1D can eat any food that does not contain poison. We need to take insulin for almost everything we eat. Grandma’s homemade oatmeal requires just as much insulin as a small bag of Sour Patch Kids! A banana requires just as much insulin as a small ice cream cone! When you eat, your body produces insulin for the meal. When I eat, I give myself insulin for the meal.
“This tastes like diabetes.”
There is no food that causes diabetes. Any type. Any amount. Nope.
“I made some sugar-free cookies so you’d have something to nibble on.”
First, please don’t — unless we specifically asked you to. Second, most sugar-free alternatives lead to gnarly stomach issues and taste icky. Third, desserts baked with sugar-free alternatives often contain the same amount of carbs as regular-sugar versions.
As long as it hasn’t been baked with poison, we can eat it. We might avoid certain foods because we personally feel the “carbs aren’t worth it”, but we can actually eat any darn food we please.
We appreciate the opportunity to teach more people about T1D! But we ask you to consider how that question feels to the recipient. Thoughtful and respectful curiosity is a win-win for everyone!
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