Dr. Gary McClain is a therapist, patient advocate and educator who works primarily with individuals facing chronic medical conditions to help them cope with the emotional side of their illness. In this series, Dr. Gary answers questions from the Diabetic Connect community about how to cope with the mental and emotional challenges of diabetes.
Do you have a question for Dr. Gary? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I need to improve my A1C and I know eating better is a big part of that. But my husband and kids complain if they have to eat what I eat or if I don’t buy the junk food they love. I don’t have time to cook separate meals for me and them, and having junk food in the house means I’m more likely to cheat. How do I talk to my family about this?
Staying the course on your diabetic self-care journey can be challenging enough without your family members setting up roadblocks to maintaining a healthy diet. And it sounds like your family members see your diabetic diet as a roadblock to eating the foods they enjoy. This is an example of how, when one household member is diagnosed with diabetes, everybody shares the diagnosis. So, how do we break the impasse?
For starters, some “patient” education is needed from you, which will hopefully be followed by some cooperation, and patience, from everyone else. I recommend calling a family meeting. You might start it out with something like, “Okay guys, here’s the deal.” Sit down and explain what it means to be diabetic, why you have to eat within specific guidelines, and what can happen if you don’t. It might also help to talk about how not taking care of yourself can impact your daily life, and their lives as well.
Let them know how you feel as a wife and mother when they complain and don’t cooperate. But also meet the resistance be telling them you understand how they feel. After all, who doesn’t like junk food?
Explain that you can’t do this without their help. And enlist them to be on your team, with the first action item being a family brainstorm on how you can work together. When family members feel like they are part of the solution – and the decision process – they might be more likely to cooperate. Think teamwork!
It might take more than one of these conversations to bring the point home, along with some teachable moments in which you remind them of why some compromise on food choices is needed. Help them to help you.
You may also have to set some limits, including making healthier meals that you can all enjoy together. After all, the diabetic diet is a healthy diet, which could benefit everybody. To that end, you might want to try some of the great recipes here on Diabetic Connect. You might also need to take that extra time to make sure you prepare healthy food for yourself when they insist on indulging. You’re worth the extra time! Realistically, you may also need to work on setting limits with yourself when the junk food is especially hard to resist. Stay focused on where you have the most control: maintaining your self-care regimen and feeling great!
My boss has made rude and uneducated comments about my weight and diabetes, even joking that I raise the office healthcare expenses for everyone or telling me I shouldn’t eat certain things in front of coworkers. I don’t want to lose my job, but I don’t feel like I can let this continue. How do I address this with him?
I felt really sad when I read your question. Nobody should be treated the way your boss is treating you. That’s just plain cruel. But as you said so well, this is the way he behaves and you need your job. So let’s start there.
First, I will assume you work in a small office and not in a large corporation with clear guidelines around harassment and an HR department to intervene for you.
Based on that assumption, here are some ideas:
You described your boss as uneducated. That was a certainly a kind way to put it. So he may benefit from some education. If you haven’t done this already, you might pull him aside and have a talk with him. Let him know how hurtful it is when he makes fun of you, that you are doing the best you can and working hard to be the best employee possible. You might also let him know what you have to do to manage your diabetes.
Gently but firmly request that he not ridicule you. In a non-confrontational manner, inform him that if he has a problem with your performance, or wants to make a request, then you will be happy to have that discussion. But that you are not there to be made fun of.
You might also want to consider responding more assertively during the times when he makes rude comments. You could say something like, “It’s really hurtful when you talk to me that way. I am a hard worker. Is this really necessary?” Or even, “Let’s just be professional, okay?” And if he makes comments about what you are eating, respond with something like, “Thanks for the advice. I will certainly keep that in mind.” Either way, when you call the other person out, or don’t respond in the usual manner, you take the fun out of bad behavior. That’s how it works with bullies. Keep in mind that you may need to do this a few times for him to get the idea.
By the way, if he speaks to you this way in front of other employees, you might privately ask them not to respond. Nothing like a united front.
Now, if you are in a company that has an HR department, this might also be a conversation to have with an HR representative. Workplace bullying should not be tolerated, and isn’t in most companies.
Take good care of yourself! There are no guarantees that your boss will change his behavior, at least not any time soon. So get lots of support from the important people in your life.