One question I often get asked when first informing a parent that their child or teen has diabetes is "what can he/she eat"?
I happen to know people who love, love, love eating rice cakes. Blech! I try very hard not to share my disgust for those little pieces of cardboard disguised as food. It's not for me to say. Just like my rice cake loving friend, I get to choose what I love to eat.
Most people instinctively equate diabetes with food and the things we eat. Blaming diabetes itself on food and eating habits is often the first thought that comes to mind in persons dealing with a diagnosis of either major diabetes type and at all ages too. It's not as simple as that, however.
My answer is straightforward. A child or person with diabetes can eat many if not all the same things they did before they were diagnosed. Period.
Amounts and types of foods chosen will demand more time and attention of course. And some "foods" can pack a larger glucose 'punch' than others and should be minimized or consumed under controlled circumstances. Knowledge is power regarding food makeup and its potential effects on blood sugar trends. That understanding is part of a good Sugar Surfer's toolbox.
I also advise new patients and parents that free advice about food (and diabetes in general) will be offered by many well meaning people in their social networks. Family, friends, colleagues, and even casual acquaintances are prone to make a suggestion or observation about what persons with diabetes can or can't do or eat. Even commercial advertising passively tells us what we should and shouldn't be eating. I advise them to just smile politely and then come ask us for a more complete explanation.
This brings me to my point. We have all been guilty at one time or another of food shaming another person or group of persons. I've been guilty of this for sure.
Comments like "oh, so you can eat that?", "I didn't know that was on your diet", "I would gain 5 pounds if I ate that"!, are the knife-like comments that we may hear from the most trusted members of our inner circles. Ouch!
Social media has taken food shaming and diabetes to a new level. It's incredibly easy to comment online about an image or post when food and diabetes are involved.
It's ironic. We openly display one our most private of personal habits to others every day: what we choose to eat. Many of us may avoid any eyebrow raising comments by eating what we want behind closed doors, out of sight of judgmental eyes. It spares us a big hassle and hurtful feelings. Avoidance works, but is that right?
Sometimes I wish the diabetes food police were just the non-D people. It might be easier for me to teach them that meal plans can and should be individualized and that under most circumstances no foods are forbidden.
But some of our most ardent food critics are each other! Diabetes insiders. I agree that how and what I eat is one of many Sugar Surfing tactics I've written about and taught at workshops. But my choices are mine and mine alone. I don't advocate any specific meal plan or nutritional philosophy.
"Sugar Surfing is a method of decision making which allows me to manage just about any food combination possible. It's driven by the power of choice. That's empowering."
Diabetes food shaming of others stems from misdirected enthusiasm for ones own choices or beliefs. It's disempowering. Listening, encouraging and supporting can quickly morph into judging, preaching, and criticizing.
Disordered eating or individuals struggling with eating disorders are not what I'm discussing here. But exposure to constant food shaming is known to give rise to these conditions.
Whatever eating strategies I prefer to use might be not work well (or even be detested) by others. Commenting to or about someone you might not know well that their meal strategy is hurtful to them or their child crosses a line we must collectively avoid and protect.
For a long time I've posted practical examples of how I Sugar Surf when eating common foods that many adults and kids might enjoy. Some readers might have believed I work for the hamburger, fried chicken, or sugar industry lobbies. I don't. I speak on behalf of no group or corporation. I just respect choice. My little public experiments are not meant to promote unhealthy eating either. They started because on occasion I like to treat myself to a less healthy but delicious slice of life. I also want to dispel the myth that some foods cannot be tamed. Nonsense! I can tame any food and that translates to a feeling of empowerment and mastery over my diabetes.
Sadly, food proselytizing will never go away. I'm bombarded by daily online ads promoting food-based solutions for every possible health disorder I might suffer from. Some are very science based whereas others are pure marketing hype and pseudoscience.
As a surf community we must confront diabetes food shaming for what it truly is: a form of #diabullying. Informing is one thing. Shaming others for their choices or saying there is just "one way to do things" is inherently wrong and frankly...offensive.
Please share a story about when you were last food shamed and how you dealt with it. Did someone you know, medical providers included, share a quasi-condescending comment about the food on your or your d-child's plate?
I understand that personal avoidance is a common response to this form of bullying. But why should we have to put up with this craziness? Many of us are just too polite to get into a verbal harangue in face to face situations. But I do know some persons who will hold their ground in person. I respect courage.
And many food bullies will unleash their inner thoughts online later. After all, our inner demons are less restrained when our hands come into contact with a keyboard. I look forward to reading your experiences!