Diabetes Forecast

How Can I Handle the “Food Police” at Holiday Get-Togethers?

Susan Guzman, PhD, responds

There is a lot of flexibility and individuality in how people manage their diabetes today, including choices about food. Unfortunately, many well-intentioned people have outdated or incorrect information about how a person with diabetes is “supposed” to eat.

What to Know

Hearing comments such as “Should you be eating that?” can make people with diabetes feel frustrated, angry, isolated, and less likely to make diabetes-friendly choices. Here are some tips for successfully navigating the challenges of the “food police.”

  1. Know when to speak up. Decide when it’s worth the hassle of responding to others who have commented on your eating or any other aspect of your diabetes management. Some factors to consider: your relationship with the person, how likely he or she is to change, and whether you want to spend your holiday time explaining diabetes care.
  2. Choose your response. While you may want to tell the food police to mind their own business, choose a response that can help educate and keep the peace. An appropriate response will differ based on the person. For example, you might choose to educate your coworker about how modern diabetes management allows for occasional splurges. But you may decide to change the subject when faced with comments from your grandmother (while reminding yourself that she cares about you but has outdated knowledge and is unlikely to change).
  3. Be ready. Putting some forethought into what you would like to say can help things go smoother. What do you want people to know and what would you like them to do differently? For example, you might say, “I appreciate your concern for my health. You may not know that no foods are off limits for people with diabetes. I can have sweets for a special treat. I have planned ahead for this party, so you don’t need to worry!”

Find Out More

Check out the Behavioral Diabetes Institute’s “Diabetes Etiquette for Those Who Don’t Have Diabetes” card (at bit.ly/etiquettecard) for ways you can help others understand how to be more supportive of your diabetes and for ideas about starting a conversation with people who are policing your choices.


Holiday gatherings can cause the food police to come out in full force. Know when you would like to speak up and have ready a response that considers your needs and helps others better understand why comments about your eating are not helpful.



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