I had brunch a few weeks ago with friends and acquaintances, all of whom have diabetes. As always happens, we talked exclusively about diabetes throughout the whole meal, both as it affects us personally and the bigger picture as its affecting the world. I might add, I love it: I love having the rare opportunity to talk diabetes with fellow PWDs.
Having just read Allison Blass's post, "Have a Little Respect" on DiabetesMine, I was reminded of a very similar tenor to our conversation - a lot of understated judgement on what we each choose to eat. When something in our conversation prompted me to say that my A1Cs have been in the 5's these last few years, I was immediately peppered with curious and critical remarks, "How do you do that?" "I've never heard of a type 1 who can do that!" "You must have lows all the time!" "Well, I'm not going to give up foods I like and I don't think you should have to!" "That's riva, she really restricts herself."
It is interesting, isn't it, one, how we tend to be so judgmental and two, that it's typically around food. We don't tend to get caught up in whether someone else is exercising or making sure their prescriptions are refilled.
The short of it is what I eat works for me and fulfills my goals - to be as healthy as possible as long as possible - and I've weaned myself off white carbs, butter and overly sweet and fatty foods over so many years so that I don't miss them, and on occasion when I taste them, I don't like them. But I don't expect anyone else to do as I do.
One of the participants at that lunch has long had trouble with the fact that I am so disciplined around my eating. I have explained many times that getting diabetes 37 years ago when there were no meters, my blood sugars the first dozen years were always high and I got some mild complications. Now, having the tools to keep my blood sugars near normal range, it's important to me to do that to delay or prevent further complications. Maintaining a low carb, low fat diet is not a hardship for me, and I do eat occasional sweets and fried foods. Yet, all my friend seems to see is what she thinks is self-deprivation and she seems to unconsciously translate that into my seeing myself as better than her. Nothing could be further from the truth.
So why do we judge others? Is it that it seems to validate our own choices? Is it due to our basic insecurity and so we put others down to lift ourselves up? Is it that we feel special in some way to know better or do better? And why do we feel permission to do it around our diabetes? Would you tell an obese person dining with you that they have a hell of a nerve eating that piece of cake?
Our personal choices and preferences are just that: Don't dictate to others. If pizza is not your cup of tea, eat what is. If we are our brothers' and sisters' keeper to help when asked are we not also our PWDs' keeper in keeping our mouths closed when not?
Letting others be where they are if they're not asking for our sage advice is an education we may all benefit from. Respect the differences as Allison says.