One of the most annoying comments to hear when you have diabetes is, “Are you sure you’re allowed to eat that?” Besides the fact that it’s just plain annoying to hear someone question your food choices, it reveals a common misconception about diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that develops when the body stops producing insulin, meaning your body can’t process the sugar in your blood so blood sugar levels go dangerously low and high. It is treated by carefully tracking your blood sugar levels and injecting insulin to keep levels in a healthy range. People with type 1 diabetes need to monitor the nutrition content of their food, so they know how much insulin to take, and may opt to avoid certain foods that make their blood sugar levels harder to manage. But, technically, there is nothing you “can’t” eat.
In type 2 diabetes, your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or resists the insulin that is produced. This leads to blood sugar levels that are too high, and can also sometimes dip too low. It is caused by a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors and can be managed with diet, exercise and medication. While people with type 2 diabetes usually treat their condition in part by eating less refined sugar and processed carbohydrates, again, there is nothing you physically cannot eat.
And it’s not just people with diabetes who hear this frustrating comment. People with food allergies and gastrointestinal conditions like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease may have their food choices questioned by friends and family who know they have a chronic illness but don’t quite understand how various foods impact it.
When someone questions your food choices, it can be hard to think of something to say in return. Of course, you’re not required to say anything at all, and if you feel more comfortable just ignoring the comment, that’s OK. But others may want to let the other person know their comment wasn’t appropriate. We asked our Mighty community to share their favorite “comeback” to people who ask, “Are you sure you can eat that?” Perhaps this list will give you a few responses to keep in your back pocket for the next time you hear this comment.
Here’s what our Mighty community said:
- “Easy. ‘Oh I’m sorry, I missed the part when you went back to college to become an accredited practicing dietitian or gastroenterologist. Must be the brain fog.'” — Kate M.
- “‘Are you sure it’s your business? But yes, I can eat this. [Takes a big ol’ bite and smiles.] See how easy that was!'” — Mindy L.
- “Well, nobody can predict the future… but I’ll give this my best effort and let you know how it goes down!” — Christina V.
- “Yes, sit there quietly and watch.” — Nancy A.
- “Is this your [fill in the blank with questioned food item]? No? OK, then mind your own beeswax! *take a bite* *pretend it’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten but actually enjoy it less because they are probably right*” — Amy P.
- “I can eat anything. It’s a matter of the good outweighing the consequence… some things are worth it!” — Erin P.
- “Oh, eating it is the easy part (why would you ask that?). Digestion, on the other hand, is something else entirely and that’s going to be a fun adventure.’ *giant smile* Said sarcastically of course.” — Tiffany B.
- “I don’t remember asking your opinion.” — Bob C.
- “I always respond with, ‘Well, we’ll see now, won’t we?'” — Judy W.
- “Nothing said, just given the ‘mom’ glare.” — Kim B.
- “I regret nothing!’ and take a big dramatic bite out of it.” — Gemma C.
- “My mouth and teeth work so I imagine I can eat it.” — Shayla F.
- “If I’m already having problems regardless, then I am going to eat what I want. Thanks.” — Alexandra M.
- “My husband, a diabetic: ‘Yeah it’s only gonna melt my insides, I’ll be fine.'” — Brianna D.
- “Sorry, I’m almost sure I didn’t order a side plate of your opinion.” — Finn C.
- “Are you sure you should question the diabetic on managing diabetes?” Kimberley F.
- “Well, I’ve been feeding myself since I was a child, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it under control.” — Christina L.
- “Are you sure you can ask that?”— Maddy M.
- “I say ‘Yeah sure… I open my mouth and stuff it in, easy!'” — Louise H.
- “I’m all grown up now and know what I can and cannot do.” — Vicki G.
- “Maybe not all in one bite, but I have this fork and knife to help with that. Are you sure you should be speaking?” — LeAnn S.
- “Are you sure you want to ask me that?!” — Ln M.
- “I’d ask them why they ask, as in, “Have you heard something about this food that makes it special, or especially bad for anyone to eat? I’m diabetic, not a child.'” — Donald W.
- “Why? Is there poison in it?” — Lori C.
- “I dunno, let’s watch and see.” — Jennifer F.
- “‘No.’ And then watch the confusion.” — Jape Y.
If a witty comeback isn’t your style and you’d rather explain exactly why it’s OK for you to eat certain foods, “Are you sure you can eat that?” comments can be a good opportunity to educate someone about your health condition. Christel Oerum wrote in an essay on The Mighty that in these situations, her go-to answer is, “That’s a common misconception” followed by an explanation about diabetes. She wrote:
This is probably the answer I use most often. It’s the “Let me teach you about diabetes answer,” and it will immediately be followed by a short lecture on why people living with diabetes can eat as they please.
Given the lecture component, it does require that I have at least five minutes to explain more about diabetes, and the different ways people living with diabetes can manage their blood sugar levels.
My goal is always that people walk away from the conversation with a better understanding of what diabetes is, the different types of diabetes, and the different approaches to diabetes management. What I always hope to achieve is to kill off at least one or two misconceptions about diabetes.
What’s your favorite way to respond to people who question your food choices? Share in the comments below.