How to deal with people who think they know it all about diabetes

I don’t know if I’m alone in my thinking on this but I know diabetes to be SO different from person to person not only in treatment but more importantly in diet and what foods either work or don’t work for some diabetics. And I am so shocked every time someone without diabetes makes a comment full of judgement like “my brother who has diabetes doesn’t drink alcohol” or “my aunt doesn’t eat bananas” or whatever it is and now because I’m having one of those things they look at me as if I’m completely ignorant and don’t care about the wellbeing and control of my diabetes. And if I ever explain how different this difficult and complex disease is from diabetic to diabetic they think I’m either lying or just don’t care. It gets me so upset and angry. If anyone else understands me in this, how do you deal with the non diabetic know it alls about a disease they actually know nothing about?


I think that these prejudices are even greater within the healthcare community. I have heard paramedics and nurses say some shockingly ignorant things. I also think that its a strong, emotional topic for women because lots of women have raised children and are used to making all their meal plans based on some intuitive understanding about what is ‘healthy’ to eat. So, nutrition gets all wrapped up in their view of themselves as a ‘good’ mother.

I try to steer clear of nutrition discussions entirely. People can get surprisingly impassioned during discussions of what one ‘should’ and ‘should not’ eat. I believe it is tied into the false assumption that they can exercise control over their own mortality. People who propose this as a topic of conversation (nutrition), sometimes exhibit real fear/panic when challenged on any of their nutritional assumptions. That’s why I think there are some super intense, deep emotions hidden behind the topic. If they ■■■■ you off, I would go ahead and challenge them and you will learn how to play with those intense emotions and they will freak out. You will feel better. I decided its kinda mean to challenge them because if they feel like they need to believe that they have level of control, then they need it - on an emotional level. I will only do it if they aggressively cross a line into dictating what I should eat, thereby making it socially uncomfortable/difficult for me to care for myself in the way that I judge best.

But, we can’t all know everything about everything. I try to remember how ignorant I am about other chronic illnesses.

I’m a strong believer that if people try to exercise undue control over you, its best to say something directly. I might, playfully, say, “I’m in charge of what I eat, when I sleep, and when I go to the bathroom because I’m an adult and I’m an American,” then just give them a big, genuine smile. You can always send them this video of recent study results. Cell Magazine study video

Note: when I was younger, this drove me batty.


I love that video! I’ve saved it on phone, will definitely send it out to someone who pushes me on this topic next time.
And I understand where you coming from saying there is also other chronic diseases out there that we may know nothing about, but when I’m in that situation I apply what I’ve been through and I rather politely ask innocent questions to understand rather than to judge, like people have done to me. Thank you so much for your response, it was great to read!


I just throw out “oh really and how long have you been diabetic?” …long pause and dumb looks follow. If they try to bring in the typical follow of “but I know a diabetic”. Then counter with “well when you have had diabetes for 40 years, come talk to me.” Their done at that point.


This is all a bit hypothetical for me, since no one has ever made those types of statements in my presence. Obviously from other posts, this is not the case for everyone.

First, I would try to stay emotionally detached. You are not the target. The next diabetic this individual meets eating a banana will likely get the same spiel. Second, I try to avoid mental combat with unarmed people! Yes, I could probably bury them with facts about the disease, but it would likely fall on deaf ears. Rather, I would start asking them questions to find out how much they really know. Asking questions is much less threatening than trying to refute a statement with facts.

“So, your grandma avoids bananas in her diabetic diet. I was unaware that bananas were a particular problem other than needing to be counted in your diet. Tell me more. Are there other foods she avoids? What is her basis for deciding the foods she excludes? Perhaps I’ve been missing something — are there some books or other references I could use to understand this better? Could I talk to your grandmother or find out who her doctor is? I really do want to learn as much about diabetes as I can.”

Note that I am not challenging his/her statement. And I am leaving open the possibility that this person could be right. You and I know that’s highly unlikely, but I’d rather have them discover for themselves how shallow their depth of knowledge is. Let the person trip over their own feet rather than trying to do it for them.

Public policy depends so much on an educated public. We are the educators; we have to be. Winning the argument is a hollow victory unless we can change minds.

And finally, have fun! How could someone so clearly uneducated affect my self worth and knowledge that I am doing the right thing?


:smile: haha that’s a good response, short and sweet!

I don’t think I could handle entertaining questions to prove someone’s ignorance, but you make a good point :+1:t2:

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Wow @mohe0001 … that is a fantastic video! And I’m not surprised at all that we are all so different, including the bacteria in our guts, that give us all such different responses to food!

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had that information now though? Just think how great it would be if we could each have personalized diets.

I almost said something to a coworker that I knew had db. he was drinking 3 chocolate milks and doughnuts
but liked the guy and didn’t want to offend him . that was 4 month’s ago didn’t know I was diabetic myself
till I had to have blood work for surgery 1 mouth later. talk to him about db and he was helpful . he has been
db for about 30 years was dx in 20’s and is now in 50’s. he said the dx he got din’t bother him that much.
Myself I am devastated by dx never new it could effect so much of your body . but back to point I get annoyed
the most when they tell about a relative who lost a leg or tell me it’s no big deal. I knew almost nothing about
db. before dx. now my heart goes out to anyone who has this.

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The communication style you suggest is well-calibrated to educate without offending. I would like to easily use this style but my mind is often impaired emotionally with reacting to the person’s ignorance and especially if I detect righteous judgment. Is there a book you can recommend that helps instill the mindset to incorporate this communication style? I see your suggestion as effective, wise and kind.


@nats1 the more you learn, the better prepared you are, diabetes really is such a complex disease and even though it is an all consuming disease, we can’t help what we’re given in life so don’t let it get you down, the more you know the easier it is to deal with and manage - but one of the biggest things that still fascinates me is how different everyone’s diabetes is, for some it’s easy and for some it takes a lot more work, not because they necessarily doing anything wrong but exactly like the video that @mohe0001 posted above, every one’s body is different. This website has been a huge encouragement and learning tool for me which is great to have!

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The worst situation is when you encounter doctors or hospitals which don’t understand anything about your specific case of diabetes but insist on imposing their inaccurate ideas on you anyway. In a hospital this can be extremely dangerous, since the staff think they own you and try to force unhealthy or even lethal regimens on you. One ‘doctor’ in a hospital decided that because my blood sugar values had been low the previous day, he would order that I have breakfast with no insulin. Then, according to this future Nobel Prize winner, we would check the blood sugar at lunch to see if I needed any insulin then. I had to explain to him the basics of type 1 diabetes which he seemed slowly to comprehend, and finally managed to reverse this nonsense, but what if I had not been able to convince him?


You are the gatekeeper of your own health.

There are a ton of good ideas and even more bad ideas out there.

Ultimately the only one who should be deciding what to accept and what to reject is yourself.


Actually, we do sort of have personalised diets, some diabetics can eat foods that I cannot, so I avoid them and any other food that spikes me and does not bother other people. So we each tailor our own diet to suit our bodies and to keep our meters happy.

I get this a lot because I wear all my diabetes equipment on my belt and Dexcom is sometimes on my arm, so I get asked a lot. And my answer is always, everyone’s diabetes is different and what works or doesn’t work for one, might not work for the next person. And than I say how long I’ve been doing this and everything is good, so it works for me. Yes, I hear the cinnamon stories (I love cinnamon & still have diabetes), and eating only …(whatever food you want to put in there) and you can be cured. I’ve heard it all and have realized, there are just some people you can educate no some you might be able to. But after all these years, I don’t sweat it and only worry about what might work for me. Hang in there and all you can do is try with a smile on your face.


Funny I saw this. I am participating in a study of the crowdsourcing application described in the video. I can tell you that it is a pain in the butt to use, and they have yet to turn on the insulin predictions. I have two more weeks until the study is complete. I have to say it is not as easy as it looks. But then nothing ever is.


It’s for this reason that I NEVER tell anyone I have diabetes unless they are a health care provider or there is some other reason that they need know.

I don’t feel like defending my actions or my food choices to anyone. EVER!


LOL, I win by letting them know that I will beat them senseless if they don’t give me cake. Most people who try to control what you eat have control issues and need to be stopped. Only a small percentage are motivated by actual honest intentions. One can tell the difference. Happy song about jerks


@Seydlitz yes! I have had that same experience too! Or they decide that because I’m in hospital for an operation or whatever the reason is and my body is under stress they always want to cut out my basal insulin completely and cut my fast acting insulin below half, it’s the most insane thing, I always have big debates about this with doctors cause I’m well aware how stresses on the body effect sugar levels but I can never cope with such a drastic change of cutting out basal or fast acting insulins, it always ends up badly yet doctors (who have never personally dealt with diabetes) always think that just because they are a doctor that they know more and with diabetes. I always feel like we are our own biggest contributor to how to deal with diabetes cause we have the first hand experience of what it does to us, but anyways this is a whole other topic! :blush: But thank you for including it!


@Pastelpainter Exactly right, the unfortunate part which brought up my post, is that a lot of people don’t understand that and they think it’s one set way straight across the board for everyone.