Until recently, I have been lucky. My family was always respectful and supportive when it came to my diabetes. I’ve had Type 1 diabetes since the age of 18 and this summer, as I turn the big 4-0, it will mark 22 years of life with diabetes. After my diagnosis, my mom became determined to make sure I could eat good foods. Before we even knew what I’d be allowed to eat she was researching recipes and making things that would be more diabetes friendly. Once we discovered carb counting, family parties became easier, and I was able to partake in more “regular” foods by taking the appropriate amount of insulin with my meals to keep my blood sugars level.
At our family parties, no one judged me if I’d have some pizza or a slice of cake. There were no dirty looks, offensive comments or horrified gasps. They were lovely, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Then my little brother brought home his new wife.
During our first meeting on Christmas day, she found out about my diabetes and at our second family get-together she had advice for me. It was Easter, and she had made a beef fried rice dish and was talking about how much better it would be for my glucose than the other items on my plate (potato salad, gluten-free bread, and ham) because she used brown rice. I was worried because I can’t have gluten and thought she might have put soy sauce in it (which is a potential problem on a gluten-free diet). I thanked her for her kindness and hoped that she didn’t think I was rude for not putting it on my plate with all the other things already on it. I knew she meant well, and it was overall a nice gesture to think of me when making her dish.
Dessert time came, and my mom sliced a thin slice of a gluten-free chocolate cake and handed it to me. I was touched that she’d gone out of her way to get all these gluten free options for the party so that I could feel included. I said I’d be okay with just a half a piece of the cake, but she insisted I could enjoy the whole piece. I was cornered pretty quickly by my new sister-in-law. She asked if I was still diabetic. When I said yes, her eyes lowered onto my cake plate and she said in a worried voice, “Ohhhhhh.” I responded by explaining that I don’t eat like this all the time, it was a holiday celebration. Anyone with diabetes can enjoy a treat from time to time! I was hurt and didn’t know how to respond. She told me she enjoys a protein shake with an avocado, protein powder and Splenda every day. I didn’t know how to respond. Houston, we have a problem.
I remind myself that she meant well. She barely knew me and was actually concerned for my health. Still, I ended up sad and feeling bad. I threw away my gluten-free bread and half the piece of cake because I didn’t feel like eating after that conversation. When I told my husband that evening about the incident, he got riled up and said emphatically, “There will be no food shaming at family parties!” I know he understands the judgment and misinformation that goes along with my diabetes and he promised to help me explain to her if it comes up next time we get together. This whole incident makes me even more thankful for my family. All along they have made me feel normal. They never shamed me and made me feel like there was something wrong with me. We should all be so blessed.