In a relationship and it’s complicated

George’s recent post about peer pressure has me thinking about the diabetic’s complicated relationship with food.

In his post, George describes dealing with having food he’d rather not eat being pushed on him by a fellow diabetic. He asked us if any of us have ever been in a similar situation. I can’t remember that ever happening to me, but I wonder if I’ve been the ‘pusher’ once or twice.
If food choices were politics, I would probably be described as a moderate. I don’t heavily restrict my carbs, but I don’t eat nothing but Smarties all day long either. Being diagnosed the year I ‘officially’ became an adult meant that no one really ever told me what I could and could not eat.
Due to a mistake in the appointment schedule, my one and only appointment with the nutritionist after my diagnosis was done at the same time as a long-time diabetic who was getting a refresher because he was just starting to pump. The nutritionist repeated multiple times that we could eat whatever we wanted as long as we took the insulin to cover for it. I remember asking her incredulously if that meant that I could have a Snickers bar and a piece of cake for breakfast if I wanted to. She said it would be no more unhealthy for me than it would be for any other person. Not quite the nutritional advice I was expecting!
So if I believe I can eat “whatever I want”, why do I change my eating habits when I am with other diabetics? When I went out to dinner (and karaoke) with George’s family when I was home for a vacation, why did I say no to a refill on my bottomless fries at Red Robin? When I was at dinner with Kerri during a conference a few years ago and she replaced her baked potato with extra veggies, why did I feel compelled to do the same?
Last week I was eating in one of the cafeterias during my lunch break and I saw another diabetic walk in. Our meals come with a main course, side, and a drink. As she walked up to the table, I tried to hide my ‘side’ under my arm. This girl has never said one word to me about my food choices, so why do I feel the need to hide them from her?

Also last week, I grabbed a bite-sized Butterfinger off the desk of a coworker and heard another coworker ask (say it with me now!) if I was sure I should eat that. That same day, I mentioned on Twitter that I was making my famous banana cake. Cherise mentioned that I should bring it to Orlando in June. Why did I immediately tweet back

do you really want me to? I love making that cake but I don’t want to be the outcast who brings the SUGAR!!

Where did I get that idea?!

September 29, 2008 - diabetes365 - day 357IMG_2678December 22, 2007 - diabetes365 - day 75April 27, 2008 - diabetes365 - day 202November 11, 2007 - diabetes365 - day 34November 22, 2007 - diabetes365 - day 45May 25, 2008 - diabetes365 - day 230

So, is it peer pressure or are we just doing this to ourselves?


  • I do the same. I do it around people who I feel think they know ALL about Diabetes. People I don’t feel like explaining things to, like “it’s about carb counting, not totally eliminating certain foods”. My motto is “all things in moderation”.

    Around my sister, I am comfortable eating what I want. She doesn’t judge or give me “a look” of disapproval. But my grandparents on the other hand… I really watch it. For one, they are old and even if I tried to explain, I know they wouldn’t get it. Also, I know they have good intentions. They are looking out for me.

    At work, we usually get a cake when an employee has a birthday. A co-worker friend of mine used to say to me, as the cake was being served “oh, you can’t have any”. It used to really bug me. I would think “Maybe I don’t WANT any”! Years later, after some friendly conversations, now he just offers, knowing I know what is best for me. If I can manage it at the time and WANT some, I will have some. If not, I wont, no hard feelings.

  • Guilt is the gorilla in the room with diabetes, it seems to me. The emphasis on control suggests that I’m responsible for all consequences of my disease, and for many that translates into feeling guilty when in fact we’re just human.

    This is most acute when we’re with others who “know” what we “should” be doing. I’m working hard on ignoring them, and ignoring such feelings, since stress is as bad for diabetics as poor food choices or lack of exercise.

    What I eat is about my deal with me and has nothing to do with what others in my life think, and as long as I keep that in mind I have no problem just saying “No, thanks” or “I’d like some of that” in a way that ends discussion on the topic.

  • I thought to myself THIS MORNING, “Well at least I’ll eat better with Scott this weekend.”

    I do the same thing. I am not 100% perfect but I do try to eat better. It’s weird.

    Thanks for the sweet heavy metal karaoke picture. That was a lot of fun.

  • This is a great post – I think food is one area where humans can be somewhat “primal” in our behavior. I just mean, we don’t want people messing with our food!

    What frustrates me is when I tell friends/family I can’t (well, won’t) go out to a restaurant because the food is unhealthy. Then, the response is “you are on a crazy diet”. But, really I just eat healthy, low GI foods! Not even going for weight loss at all! It’s a “lifestyle” I say, over and over again.

    Also, I find that I eat healthiest when I have the motivation of someone else “eating healthy” with me.

  • Few things are more personal than what we choose to put in our bodies. In so many ways, we really are what we eat, so it’s never a good feeling when you feel unduly restricted in that realm.

    At the same time, we can learn a lot about food by talking with other people about their experiences. I was also told that I could eat anything as long as I took insulin to cover it. I think this is a half-truth. It is the same as telling a non-diabetic that they can eat whatever they want. Yes, it’s possible, but eating nothing but simple carbohydrates will never be the healthiest choice, for anyone. So telling someone they can eat whatever they want is, I believe, somewhat misleading. Choices about eating have consequences for everybody (diabetics and non diabetics alike), which is why we should all feel like we have the power and right to make them for ourselves, but also why there’s nothing wrong with a healthy discussion about what works and doesn’t work for you.

  • Who would’ve thought we would be having issues with peer pressure after highschool? I normally don’t do a lot od things. I try to treat myself to somethings bolus worthy once a month.

    My co-worker has a candy dish full of starburst! I love starburst. If I want one it’s there if not oh well. Usually most people I come in contact with don’t pressure me but they usually try to tell me what I can’t eat. I’m not sire which one is worse?!?

  • If anyone asks me if I should be eating something, I ask them if they remember to wear sunscreen. If they look at me funny I say “Or don’t you want anyone reminding you to do that?” It’s a nice way of saying mind your own business.

    Most don’t even know I have type 1, so I really don’t have to hear things for the most part. I don’t eat meat or drink alcohol, so sometimes I will get a why don’t you? If it’s a family thing and my mother is there she’ll say “Because she’s a health nut.” And it’s true.

  • Nothing like “Shoulding all over ourselves” and even worse…people shoulding all over you and I.

    At 57, the peer pressure thing is rarely a concern but I am peer inspired by folks who are doing things in a manner which makes them more healthy and I can see it with my own two eyes…they inspire me, especially if they wear a smile on their face…never inspired by a sourpuss.

    If you have seen my posts, I do not restrict what I eat unless I can not get a gauge on insulin needs for a specific item of food. That’s purely a history based criteria…if I’ve eaten an item 4 or 5 times and always ended up with high bg’s, I’ll most likely take something else.

    One of my first endos, as a kid patient in a hospital, allowed me to have hot chocolate with my breakfast…freaked out the dietitian but he and others over the years have told me it’s ok to have what I want providing I take the correct dosage(s) of insulin.

    Bring the ‘nana cake please Sara!

    Don’t over think it

    Don’t worry…be happy!

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