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What not to say to a T1D at Christmas!

  • 4 min read


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Whether meeting up in person or via zoom calls, Christmas is usually our most sociable time of the year and inevitably they’ll be questions asked of T1s about their diabetes. I’ve thought about some of these and how I’ve answered them in the past, or wish I had, and hope these can help you if you’re drawn into a conversation about your condition.

I bought you this especially because it said suitable for diabetics.

Mr Simms Sweet Shope, image of front of shop.

Products specifically marketed as ‘suitable for diabetics’ have been formulated on the basis of being marketed to those with diabetes who it’s assumed cannot eat sugar, categorising all ‘diabetics’ as type 2. This also plays to the mistaken belief that that those with diabetes ate too many sweet foods.

In July 2016 a change in UK/EU food regulation meant that manufacturers should no longer label food as ‘diabetic’ or ‘suitable for diabetics’ as this implied that it was better for people with diabetes than other foods. Diabetic foods are often priced at a premium too. However, such foods rarely offered any health benefits to those with diabetes and in fact can adversely affect blood glucose and have an unfortunate laxative effect.

If you receive a gift that’s labelled ‘suitable for diabetics’ then obviously you’ll need to thank the giver for their thought but politely inform them that people with diabetes (type 1 or 2) don’t need to eat special diabetic food. Any food is suitable for people with diabetes in sensible moderation. Otherwise, you may find that your auntie, or whoever, keeps sending the same year on year.

Can you eat that?

Image of Christmas party food.

The most common misconception of all I think is that others will assume that a person with diabetes can’t eat certain woods such as chocolate, biscuits, sweets, deserts or anything sweet-related for that matter.

Again, it’s usually down to not understanding the difference between type 1 and 2 diabetes but you’ll also probably find that the person doesn’t understand the role that glucose plays in the body’s function and will suggest insulin when you’re low!

You may to choose to inform the questioner that having type 1 diabetes doesn’t prevent you from eating certain foods or drinks, but that you need to calculate the carbohydrate content and input insulin to account for this. And of course there are times when we’re low that we actively need sweets, or another food or drink with a high sugar content.

So, yes you can tuck into those chocs.

What’s that on your arm?

Photo of Theresa May wearing Libre sensor CGM on upper arm being greeted by Donald Trump.

For those not familiar with med-tech, seeing a circular piece of plastic attached can provoke consternation. Many wearers will have a story about what their sensor has been mistaken for and we’ve collated a top 10 list of these, see below. More playful T1s have been known to use these to joke about the automation on their arm.

Mistaken for a FreeStyle Libre sensor:

  1. Prisoner tag
  2. Nicotine patch
  3. Alien abduction tracker/Homing signal to mother ship
  4. Shop (clothing) security tag
  5. Bottle top
  6. Contraception implant
  7. Bathroom plug
  8. Spider or creature crawling up arm
  9. Wi-Fi hotspot
  10. Charging point

Have any of these happened to you?

You can’t inject here!

Model Roxy Horner injecting insulin in public, at a restaurant.

‘I hope you’re not going to inject in public’ is a common complaint heard by type 1s. This may be at the table in a restaurant or pub or any other public premises.

Some people and even your family members may expect you to ‘disappear’ to the nearest toilets when you need to inject insulin. But, you shouldn’t feel compelled to do so and the truth is that public conveniences will be unhygienic and are wholly unsuitable for doing this essential function.

Other people may be squeamish or uncomfortable with you injecting in front of them, but it is possible to be fairly discreet and above all remember that it is as essential to you as water!

Is your diabetes better? I’ve read that they’ve cured diabetes.

Image of book with claim to Cure Type 1 Diabetes.

Unfortunately, it's not true! It's a headline quite frequently seen but, for type 1s it's quite simple - there is no cure and insulin is needed every single day. There is no magic herb, spice or any other fix that can replace the body's need for insulin.

You may also need to inform a family member or friend that it's nothing to do with diet and exercise although like everyone else these do have an effect on your health. But, giving up sugar itself, or any other diet that's unbalanced is not the cure for type 1 diabetes!

Much of the problem with comments like this comes from not understanding the differences between type 1 and 2 diabetes and this could be an opportunity to educate and raise awareness about the different types and how these are treated differently.

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Love My Libre is not associated or affiliated with Dexcom, Abbott or FreeStyle Libre. Content here and on our website does not constitute medical advice or replace the relationship between you and healthcare professionals nor the advice you receive from them.

The author of this blog has type 1 diabetes and uses the FreeStyle Libre 2 which is provided on NHS prescription.

FreeStyle Libre is a registered trademark of Abbott Diabetes Care Inc.

Dexcom and Dexcom G6 are registered trademarks of Dexcom Inc.

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