Of all the efforts you’ll undertake on your prediabetes journey, explaining your diet—and, as an extension explaining your diagnosis and prediabetes itself—is one of the most persistent. You’ll need stamina for this public relations marathon, so don’t forget to eat your protein! I’m not kidding.
Even though its common these days to be on some kind of diet—’paleo, keto, vegetarian, vegan,’ etc.—there is no verbal shorthand for eating ‘prediabetic.’ This is surprising given the prevalence of (pre)diabetes. For some reason there’s a huge disconnect between the massive number of prediabetics and the public’s awareness of the dietary implications of the disease. Unlike “gluten-free,” which has been successfully demanded by consumers and branded into the public’s imagination, “prediabetic” largely remains a mystery.
This has to change. For the moment, though, people who offer or prepare food may not know what you mean by “high blood sugar” and/or “sugar-free, low-carb.” Even after you clarify, you may end up with something super sugary on your plate. I admit, I didn’t know much about sugar and carbs myself before my prediabetes diagnosis, only that diabetes was a disease that could result in diabetic shock (which, I recently learned, my great grandfather died of). I’m embarrassed about my previous lack of knowledge—especially since I had one grandmother with type 2 and my father is prediabetic (he never told me, and he’s a doctor!) I also admit that on a few occasions when I’ve been unable to get the concept of prediabetes across in a context in which it mattered, I’ve used the D word (diabetic) because people associate that with risk and so it gets their attention.
Still, there will always be well-intentioned people that just don’t get it. Many people are preoccupied with the eating habits of others and ask questions, but then don’t remember the answers unless it’s something that affects them personally. Or they may confuse diseases. After years of telling an inquisitive friend about my diet, she still gifts me sugar-filled treats—always assuring me they are low-fat and gluten-free. Such instances can serve as teachable moments but in the hard-to-crack cases (such as my friend), it’s sometimes better to simply smile and say thank you.
In addition, you’ll encounter plenty of critics on your journey. They’ll do everything from downplay your concerns to make fun of your ‘pickiness’ or your ‘paranoia’ as you eat more healthfully. In general, I’ve found such criticism inversely proportional to the lifestyle changes the critics themselves seek to make: it’s easier for them to dismiss your hard work than to give up sugar, lose a few pounds and exercise.
Not long ago, I’d hear my family and friends talk about their diets—especially in California, where everyone seems to part of a food trend—and I’d say, “In Europe, we eat in moderation and enjoy our food.” Well, I’ve have had to eat my words (luckily, they are carb-free)! Although this mindset makes sense philosophically, in reality I’ve become equally conscientious. In doing so, I’ve also become more empathic. I’m sure you will too. However, we can’t always expect empathy in return. So choose your public relations battles wisely.