Unsolicited Diabetes Advice: Think Before You Share


Unsolicited diabetes advice has a bad reputation. But it’s not all bad. Most of the time, I enjoy the random guidance people share with me. I appreciate the attention. Some of the advice makes me shrug. Meh. Only a few very special shared bits make me cringe and/or seethe.

If you are a friend or family member who provides TLC in the form of spontaneously delivered diabetes advice, thank you! That is so nice! Unfortunately, not all of it arrives in the loving, friendly form you intended.


(share this kind of advice liberally):

EXAMPLE: You post a recipe for low carb rhubarb crisp to my Facebook wall.

YOUR INTENTION IS SOMETHING LIKE: Here is a recipe I think you might enjoy.

BUT THERE’S ALSO THIS UNINTENTIONAL BONUS MEANING: You know I care about food and enjoy cooking. And you like me! When your recipe involves ingredients that I imagine make me special (rhubarb, anchovies, broccoli rabe), I like your tip even more. A recipe wrapped in a hug. Yay!

EXAMPLE: You mail me a clipping about the bionic pancreas from Time magazine.

YOUR INTENTION IS SOMETHING LIKE: This is some cheerful news for you and your kind.

BUT THERE’S ALSO THIS UNINTENTIONAL BONUS MEANING: When you share an article like this with me, it means my family is on your mind. I don’t care how outdated the news is. I am grateful that you care. Additionally, it is cute that you actually clip articles out of magazines with scissors. I love that.

EXAMPLE: You share a link to a web site selling Type 1 diabetes related items like temporary tattoos.

YOUR INTENTION IS SOMETHING LIKE: Look at this product I think you might want to buy.

BUT THERE’S ALSO THIS UNINTENTIONAL BONUS MEANING: You care about me! And if it’s something cool (metallic gold Spibelt), or useful (a bag with lots of pockets), or both (the aforementioned tattoos), I love knowing about these things. Fun! I appreciate the time it took for you to make the connection between the product and me, and if I get your tip when I am sleep-deprived, I’ll probably even buy it!


(proceed with caution):

EXAMPLE: You share a coupon for a session with an integrative nutrition counselor.

YOUR INTENTION IS SOMETHING LIKE: Check out this diabetes-improving method I think you should employ.

BUT THERE’S ALSO THIS UNINTENTIONAL BONUS MEANING: It’s complicated but true that eating different things can make diabetes better or worse, but my belief in hot water with lemon juice, grated ginger, and coconut oil is my business. I can only take this variety of advice when I actively seek it. When it shows up unsolicited, I feel insulted and criticized and also like you think I am dumb and that makes me think you are dumb.

EXAMPLE: You tell me all about your Aunt Trudy.

YOUR INTENTION IS SOMETHING LIKE: I, like you, know the wrath of diabetes.

BUT THERE’S ALSO THIS UNINTENTIONAL BONUS MEANING: When you share your raw feelings about the amputations, comas, and blindness of your aunt with diabetes, I feel sad with you. I do. I am not being facetious. But I can’t tell if you’re presenting this information to enlighten me or if you need someone to listen because you are in pain. Do you think I need to hear your story for my own good? I don’t think I do. While I am connected to diabetes and do love you, I also kind of want you to shut up.


(never, ever, ever do this):

EXAMPLE: You share a news story about a child dying from hypoglycemia.

YOUR INTENTION IS SOMETHING LIKE: I know how bad diabetes is and I feel afraid on your behalf.

BUT THERE’S ALSO THIS UNINTENTIONAL BONUS MEANING: People generally know to not share scary news. There is an exception to this guideline: occasionally people with diabetes share scary d-stories. This is within the realm of their jurisdiction, and means something more akin to “please notice how scared I am, are you scared too?” than “look how bad your life is.” But when a person without diabetes shares this kind of story, it feels like they mean I am so glad I am not you.


EXAMPLE: You offer to sell me a product that you believe could halt a disease process.

YOUR INTENTION IS SOMETHING LIKE: I’m magnanimously sharing my health message; the fact that I am selling something in order to make a profit is secondary.

BUT THERE’S ALSO THIS UNINTENTIONAL BONUS MEANING: This has happened to me three times. One person was selling protein shake mixes; another, organic vitamins; and the third, natural household cleaning products. It is already embarrassing that you’ve joined a multi-level marketing company and want me to host a “party” to sell your products. The situation is made more dreadful by your health message. I am a vulnerable and easy target. And since you are a salesperson and a friend, I might find myself agreeing that the floor cleaner I use deserves at least a small slice of the diabetes-blame pie, while the floor cleaner I can buy exclusively through your business is a safer choice. Later on, I will feel sick that you used my illness to sell me floor cleaner. But I too am magnanimous. In fact, I would like to share with you some expired Dexcom sensors. If you apply them to just the right spot, they might make you less of an asshole.

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7 years ago

I’ve just had yet another mushroom tea peddler come knocking at my Facebook door. He’s T2, so he knows all about my T1.

Liz Avery
Liz Avery
7 years ago

Good article!
My red light involves my siblings. I have had Type I for 49 years and am the oldest of 5. I am the only one with diabetes. My family gets together multiple times a year, and while I have more flexibility since I got a pump, they all think I am faking when I say I need to eat. Spontaneity and diabetes aren’t always compatible.
Thanks for letting me vent.

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