Is there any question that irritates a person with diabetes more than, “can you eat that?” Bridget McNulty unpacks it in this month’s column.
Can you eat that?
The weekend before I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I went away with my boyfriend’s family for the weekend. His brother had Type 1 diabetes, and I didn’t know him very well. When the dessert was passed around – a giant bowl full of sugar-dusted strawberries, I asked, “Can you eat that?”
He shot me an evil look and said, “Yes.”
I felt guilty about that question for years, because of course as soon as I was living with diabetes I knew how infuriating it was to be questioned about my food choices.
The most annoying question
But why is it the most annoying question? What is it about this one particular question that drives us so mad? I think it’s because of the assumption that we haven’t thought through the food decision we are about to make. And as anyone with diabetes will tell you, we are always far more aware of every food decision than anyone else in the room.
Or perhaps it’s because of the undercurrent of food police that it brings with it: are you allowed eating that? Should you eat that? I know some people with diabetes who are defiant in the face of this question, others who will carefully explain their choices, and others – like my now-brother-in-law – who just say, “Yes.”
A new take on, “can you eat that?”
Recently I was at a friend’s very fancy birthday dinner party with a lot of people I didn’t know. My sensor was on display, and I kept checking my blood sugar and injecting, because it was a three-course meal. A few people asked about how it worked, and I gave a brief explanation but didn’t go into too much detail. Then the dessert came out: malva pudding with cream and strawberries.
It’s not my favourite and if there had been loads of strawberries, I would have just eaten those. But it surprised me that two separate people immediately asked me, “can you eat that?”
What surprised me even more was that it didn’t bother me. Not in the slightest. Because I could tell that the reason they were asking was simple curiosity. The same way I might ask a gluten-intolerant friend what they could or couldn’t eat. They weren’t judging me, or trying to police me, or anything like that. They just wanted to know if this was an option that was open to me.
It made me think… Maybe that’s all the question is ever about? Curiosity about life with diabetes, and how it affects what we choose to eat, or not… Maybe we’ve been giving it extra weight when really it’s quite a simple question. Imagine that!
What do you think?
Do you agree? Disagree? Have a story to share? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook!
What to read next?
Let’s talk about diabetes and food: Diabetes and food. Is there a subject more likely to start people arguing?
Let’s talk about diabetes-friendly meals at South African restaurants: That was the question one of our community members asked.
Let’s talk about being the partner of someone with diabetes: We had the most wonderful Facebook Live session about being the partner of someone with diabetes, and wanted to share it with you.