Can You Eat That? And Other Dumb Comments About Diabetes

Have you heard these phrases before?

“But you don’t look like a diabetic” (and what exactly would a diabetic look LIKE??)

“Can you eat that?” (well can YOU, or more to the point SHOULD you?)

“Oh you must have the bad diabetes” (Is there a GOOD kind???)

“Oh you are being very naughty having that cake/biscuit/chocolate/treat” (what would YOU know?)

“If you just ate better and lost weight your diabetes would go away” ( I WISH)……

And one of THE dumbest things I have ever seen on social media, is the use of the #diabetes for all sorts of hilarity such as #sugarrush #diabetes when people consume large plates of cakes, as if to say “I am headed for diabetes now” like it was a joke…well it is NO joke. You know that, I know that. All the people who are suffering day in day out, losing sleep, feeling sad, filled with worry about their future, exhausted and scared. I would love to get those people using hashtag diabetes for their fun and show them a week or so in our shoes. Or even better, the shoes of a parent of a young child living with type 1 diabetes, who sits up at night to make sure their child will wake in the morning, who has to chase them to eat when they are naturally ignoring food as a busy toddler, filled with anxiety about their blood glucose levels and desperate for a cure before their child develops one of the horrible complications of diabetes.

Yes diabetes is no joke.

These are all genuine comments above, that people with diabetes get from those without diabetes, time and time again. You would think with all the media attention on diabetes, that people would know better. But herein lies the problem, the media is often misinformed, uninformed and just downright wrong, when it comes to diabetes, and no wonder.

We used to have it sorted, there was Insulin Dependent Diabetes or IDDM and Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes or NIDDM. So you either were on insulin (the REALLY BAD diabetes) or you weren’t (the diabetes that was all your own fault and happened to old people), well that is what the general consensus was, even though we know better.

We also now know that diabetes is much more complex. We have type 1 and type 2, but we also have gestational (arguably just the start of type 2 diabetes in some women and the natural insulin resistance of pregnancy in others); type 1.5 or LADA which is an autoimmune form of type 1 diabetes in adults, and a range of other less common forms and reasons for the pancreas going on the blink.

We also know that age is no barrier in deciding which type you have – kids are sadly getting type 2 and adults can get type 1. Further, all forms of diabetes are on the increase, suggesting that environment has a part to play in all forms – not just type 2.

People working in diabetes get confused and people living with diabetes are confused, so no wonder the media and general person in the street do not understand diabetes in all its forms. Education is vital and something we as people living with diabetes, can offer to the world.

Guilt is not helpful so don’t accept it when offered – you know what is ok to do in your own life and you can choose to live and to manage your diabetes however you wish. It is something we can do, advocate for ourselves and each other.

So next time someone asks “Can you eat that?” – instead of getting angry or defensive, say “well yes actually people with diabetes can eat anything you know” and give them some information – tell them “you never know” they  may end up as one of those diabetic statistics themselves one day –  as after all diabetes (surprise surprise) is not choosy in who it decides to visit….

Have you had misinformed comments directed at you about your diabetes and how did you handle it?

Helen xx



  1. Jennifer Roberts on June 30, 2012 at 10:12 am

    thank god been a diabetic since 16 years old now 45, and at such a vulnerable age still feel bad when people say if you look after yourself this type one, would never have happened to you, your single mum just didn’t look after your nutritional needs!
    those things I realise now are their problem! but people still feel like you shouldn’t have lollies even before they know you are diabetic! was at doctors the when pregnant and after waiting for 40 Minuits went hypo ate a lolly the admin told me you shouldn’t eat those you will just put extra weight on! embarressed and red faced said if you want to pick me up off floor and call a doctor when I pass out and deprive my baby of nutrients just because, then tell the doctor I am a diabetic! are you a diabetic teacher???? no apology ohh was all she said! grrr!
    for years have struggled with mental issue the failure to regulate blood sugars that rise fro lots of unexplained stresses and notably just before my period where insulin need rises then first day of period lots of hypos come by then long acting insulin too high for the day but not regular period made life difficult.
    also the mental unwell feeling after hypos sometimes just is enough to send me into melt down! thankyou for this infomation It makes life easier to understand thanks

    • Helen Edwards on June 30, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      thanks for your honest comments Jennifer – it can be so hard to live with diabetes and when you feel alone it is even worse. Sharing how we feel and think about life with diabetes makes it clear we are not alone and that is so important. Thanks again for sharing 🙂

  2. Bridgett on November 15, 2013 at 11:53 am

    In the first week after my diagnosis, I had one of my mother’s dear friends (whose husband is type 2) say to me ‘well you can’t be surprised you got it, I mean look at how fat you are’. These kinds of comments, along with ‘you shouldn’t eat that, you’re diabetic’ from family members, and also well-meaning friends ‘outing’ me to people at dinner, can all really add to the feeling of being judged and blamed. It’s difficult enough feeling as though you did something to contribute to it yourself (especially as there is no genetic history of type 1 in my family), without feeling as though you ‘didn’t try hard enough’ not to get it or not to manage it. I find that this guilt increases with the onset of complications. I do try to just inform people rather than get angry at them, but sometimes the ignorance is frustrating and astounding. People are a lot more understanding now than they used to be, thank goodness. All we can do is our best at any given time.

    • Bridgett on November 15, 2013 at 11:56 am

      Then there’s the ‘you shouldn’t be having hypos if you managed better’ (I love that one at the change of season or ‘once a month’…not). Yep, ok I’ll just tell my hormones and the weather to stop messing around with me shall I? It’ll listen, I’m sure 😛

  3. Recycled_Interiors on December 2, 2015 at 7:27 am

    @Bridgett that is so terrible…and typical..we must make changes to the way diabetes is talked about and seen

  4. Recycled_Interiors on December 2, 2015 at 7:27 am

    @Bridgett yes!!