10 More Things Not to Say to a Person With Diabetes

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+4Pin on Pinterest309

Just when you thought it was safe to start talking to people with diabetes, here it is: a new collection of statements that have been known to make people with diabetes cringe, twitch, and fume. (See here for the first list.)

 There's a good kind of diabetes?

10. “You must have the bad kind.”


Here’s a comment that many people with insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors, or other tools of the Type 1 diabetes trade hear from people who think there’s actually such a thing as “good diabetes.” Let’s be clear: all types and varieties of diabetes are scary and expensive and stressful and time-consuming. But if you hear of a new kind of diabetes that’s easy and cool and that I might be able to convert to, do let me know.

9. “I could never do that to myself.”


I understand that most people who speak these words mean it as a compliment. Diabetes management – especially the needles and the bleeding – can seem like an insurmountable task from the outside (and, frankly, from the inside, too). But the alternative to the pokes and the blood and the food measurement is death. It’s not that we can do this to ourselves (or to our children, for parents of Type 1 kids), it’s that we have to.

8. “But you’re not fat.”


Thank you so much for the keen evaluation of my overall well-being based on modern society’s perceptions of weight and health issues! Two things, though: a) One’s weight is not a sole determining factor in the development of any sort of diabetes. There are genetic and other environmental factors to consider, and there are roughly a bajillion people who have diabetes and do not look like what you think people with diabetes look like. We’re a varied lot. And b) Type 1 diabetes has even less to do with weight than Type 2 diabetes does. But neither of those points really matter when the overall issue is that my weight’s none of your business.

7. “The pump takes care of everything, right?”


Oh, I wish so much that this were true, and I don’t blame people for thinking it. Sadly, it’s still a dream. Insulin pumps are such amazing pieces of technology, and they help make life with diabetes much easier for so many people – especially when they’re paired with continuous glucose monitors. But expecting my pump to manage my blood sugar is like expecting my Mazda 3 to drive me up the Eastern seaboard of the United States. The pump is a tool, and I have to tell it just what to do in order to get where I need to be. Fingers crossed for the bionic pancreas, right?

6. “You must have eaten a lot of sugar when you were a kid.”


I’ll admit, I did have a vicious elementary school addiction to banana Runts, but that doesn’t have anything to do with my diagnosis. As discussed in item #8, Type 1 diabetes isn’t at all influenced by diet. It’s an autoimmune disorder, like multiple sclerosis, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis – and there’s no direct connection between those diseases and banana Runts, either.

5. “If you eat better and exercise more, you’ll get better.”

 If exercise cured diabetes I'd have a bicycle surgically attached to my butt

On some level, this is true. A healthy diet and regular exercise would probably make everyone better, to some extent. But it won’t cure any kind of diabetes. Folks who claim to have cured their Type 2 diabetes by losing weight and exercising – or by following a very low-carbohydrate diet – still have diabetes, they’re just beating it into submission. So yes, we can get better. But we can never make diabetes go away.


4. “I got you some sugar-free candy!”

 Thanks! I’ll see you in a week and a half, when I emerge from the bathroom.


3. “I’m so hungry I could pass out.”


I have to admit that I feel a little solidarity with anyone who utters this sentiment in my presence. We know this person probably won’t pass out from hunger, but I always get the urge to exclaim “Isn’t it horrible? Don’t you feel awful? What if this happened to you multiple times per week – out of nowhere? In business meetings and while you’re asleep! And what if you had to restrain yourself from eating entire boxes of Lucky Charms when you felt this way?”


2. “I know all about diabetes! My cat has it!”


Absolutely no sarcasm intended: thank you for your empathy. But my own anecdotal research has shown that feline diabetes may be the one and only type of “good diabetes.” What I mean to say is that human diabetes is complex and varied and emotionally draining, and cats mostly just get neck injections and special food and they still get to sleep all day. (And no one asks them if they got it because they’re fat.)


1. “They’ll have a cure in five years.”

they'll have a cure for diabetes in five years

I first heard this doozy in 1990, right after I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. And in the 24 years since then, this proclamation has likely been made to thousands of kids and parents. It’s intended as hopeful, but it still causes a lot of heartbreak and resentment among people who’ve been waiting for decades, all while diabetic lab mice get cured by the hundreds. And if you’re reading this, we’re still waiting.

Jacquie Paul WojcikJacquie Wojcik has lived with Type 1 diabetes since 1990. She works as an advertising copywriter in Jacksonville, Florida, where she lives with her husband, toddler, and assorted pets. Jacquie writes the blog Typical Type 1.  You can follow her on Twitter @badpancreas.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+4Pin on Pinterest309

Comments (29)

  1. Mama Bavaria at

    How about this one: “Be glad your son has Type 1, because Type 2 is so much more difficult to control because of the ups and downs !”

  2. Sarah D at

    My personal favourite: “Your child is actually he got diabetes when he was so young because he’ll never remember not having it and won’t really know any different.”

  3. Sarah D at

    Meant to say “your child is acutally lucky he got diabetes….”

  4. Kirk at

    Spot on, Jacquie.  I was diagnosed in 1983 and was told a cure would be discovered in 10 years.  The pump has been a blessing for me the last 10 years, but I harbor resentment for the declaration my doctor made after being newly diagnosed. 

  5. Sara at

    haha heard everyone, my favorite is #8 though. Glad im not fat but i get this everytime i order diet soda Me: and a diet coke please (so i dont have to bolus) Them: *chuckles* why diet? Me: Ohh im diabetic Them: ….wait, but you’re not fat  

  6. Regina Erickson at

    Back in the 80s I met a young woman who’d been hearing the “cure in 5 years” since she was a kid in the 70s. She said it made her not bother to take care of herself, because for the first decade or so she believed it. 

  7. Laura Kenny at

    Awe that last one made me sad, I was diagnosed 11 years in September. I was 10 when they told me, “We will find a cure soon.” On my fifth anniversary I broke down crying with the realization that even though that statement was a hopeful one, “soon” to a 10 year old is a month. 

    Also “Is diabetes contagious.” was my favorite one growing up. It was especially hard to explain, since I was diagnosed with type 1 almost a year after one of my close friends was. (when we met neither of us were diabetic.) So yeah hard to explain to other kids that diabetes was indeed not contagious.

  8. Megan at

    “Can you eat that?” I am fully able to decide what I eat – I’m even allowed to go to the grocery store by myself! Why should I have to explain that my blood sugar is low – again, and that I need to eat something that acts fast (and I’ve used up all my gel). Furthermore, why should I explain that I’m just craving junk food. Sure, I’ll use extra insulin and exercise, but sometimes I want my cake and to eat it too. FYI, junk food is bad for you too – can I peer over your shoulder and comment (preferably in a crowd of people)?

  9. Salvatore at

    It’s a shame there should be a cure but there’s too much money to be made on the treatment of this disease, and not much to be made on curing it. 

  10. Jess at

    How about: “you’re an adult, what are you doing wih type 1!?”

  11. Christy at

    Or the one I head a lot when my son was first diagnosed.  “Don’t worry! He will grow out of it!!” Yeah, okah…

  12. NAS at

    thanks Jacqui, the deep breaths and patience we have to go through for these stupid remarks, the best ones are when someone tells you their loved one has diabetes and they manage them, when you ask T1 or T2, they have no idea and they have no idea what the treatment is despite the fact they are administering it for them…. scary stuff

  13. Linda Nassif at

    Mama Bavaria, you have got to be kidding with your comment on comparing Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. It is obvious you need a lot more education on Diabetes. Ignorance is bliss is all I can say to you!

  14. Amanda M. at

    Linda Nassif, Mama Bavaria was stating a comment that has been said to her about her child, not her view. Note the parenthesis. Last night I got a great comment that I really didn’t know how to respond to. I usually clip my pump to my waistband but my shirt was tight so I hooked it to my jean pocket. A friend of the family came and freaked out pointing and saying “you have your pump out!!” I had to walk away from that one. My mothers friends always freak out also when I’m bolusing. “Are you ok?! What’s wrong?!” “I’m giving myself insulin….?” 

  15. tippytoes at

    As for the “cure in five years” meme, i first heard that 53 years ago, when my T1 was diagnosed.
    Still waiting.

  16. Beth at

    When my daughter was diagnosed Type 1, they asked if we knew what it was…we said we had a cat who was diabetic. Too funny!

    My daughter dances and wears a pump.  She HATES when she’s at a big dance thing and gets asked a 100 times what the pump is.  We made up a story of how she uses it to communicate with the alien ship that brought her here. I don’t think she’s ever used this story but it helps her cope with the dumb questions. Now she laughs in her head each time she is asked!

  17. Joe at

    As a T2, I hear all the time that if I dieted and lost weight,  my Diabetes would be cured.  And I always call bullshite on those responses.  Also hear that if I have a Gastric bypass it will cure it also.  Again BULLSHITE!

  18. Carolina B. at

    My favourite: “You CAN’T eat this!”
    I think I’m able to choose what I should or should not eat, thank you very much… 

  19. Audrey at

    Out of the mouth of babes, my 8 year olds “boyfriend” recently asked his mum “if you marry someone with Diabetes, do you get Diabetes too?”.  Oh how young minds work 😉

  20. Sandy at

    Thanks for the education!  In spite of knowing a few people with diabetes, I was woefully ignorant.  While I like to think I’ve been sympathetic and supportive, I fear my ignorance may have caused me to offend or hurt someone even though I didn’t intend that at all.  I’ll be much more thoughtful from now on, thanks to both articles and the many comments.  I’m slowly coming to terms with being told I’m “pre-diabetic,” so I’m seeking out as much knowledge – both anecdotal and factual – as I can.

  21. LAB at

    What I love about the pump is that the F&I guy at a car dealership where I bought a car was forced into wearing one because his job hindered him from eating schedulously and properly.  The pump should never have to be used like that.  I feel for all you out there because even with the proliferation of diabetes, those who do not deal with it are woefully ignorant about the whole disease.  I am a T1 and got that diagnosis over the age of 50.  My dad got a diagnosis of T2 when he was in his 40s.  We grew up with the “diabetic diet” ala the 1960s.  My mother did wonders and our dinners were always delightful.  Surprising what a little education and imaginatino can do!

  22. Thomas at

    My favorite was a fast-food coworker who kept making ridiculous comments on my diet. I had been diagnosed less than a year and she would say things like “you shouldn’t have that ketchup… it’s worse than a pound of sugar!” Finally i said, “Let’s make a deal… you can critique my diet when you quit smoking while being pregnant!” Harsh, I know… and she didn’t appreciate it… but it worked. And we were still friends, which is always a plus. 🙂

  23. d at

    Having gastric bypass done does not always mean you will have better blood sugar control. I had it done with the same advice and instead am very, very brittle. I’m told it’s because when I eat the food gets to my intestines faster so my blood sugar spikes (sometimes so high my meter can’t read it) then when I take insulin my blood sugar drops really fast (sometimes so low my meter can’t read it). Trouble is before you have the surgery no one knows if your resulting weight loss will help control your blood sugar or if the changes to your digestive system will make you brittle.

  24. Corinne at

    My 12 year old son’s favourite comment is when he needs to eat candy to treat a low and his friends say, “you get to eat candy at school! You are SO LUCKY to have diabetes. I know they are just kids but my son does NOT feel lucky to have diabetes!! 

  25. Judy at

    I was diagnosed with “bad” diabetes in 1964. Was told there would be a cure within five years. Ha!

  26. Cass at

    Also told about the cure within 5 years… 20 years ago today!



    Also had a strange addiction to banana runts in my primary school days…

    Maybe we’re onto something here??

  27. Carrie Roettger at

    My husband just told me the most outrageously clueless thing I’ve ever heard about T1D. He works at a company that does work for lawyers and one day a lawyer was in the shop talking about how a friend of his had just been diagnosed with T2. My husband said he was sorry and that his wife has T1. The lawyer said to him “You should be careful, that’s an STD and you don’t want to catch it.” I really thought that in 20 years with diabetes I’d heard everything but I guess that ignorance knows no bounds.

  28. Beanstock at

    Huh. Back in 1972, when I was diagnosed, they promised a cure in 3 years. I guess things are a little more realistic now, eh? Have to wait five years for that cure instead of three…

  29. John Schroeder at

    The most terrifying of ignorant comments, “Don’t worry, if you ever pass out I will give you your shot!”

Add a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *