Hosting a Guest with Diabetes This Holiday?
Woohoo! Have you found yourself saying, “I’m hosting a holiday party and my partner/sibling/in-law/cousin/grandparent/grown child/friend who has diabetes is coming. What can I do to be an awesome host?”
We all know you’re well-intended with your questions, advice, or interest on the matter, but no guest wants to be the party-pooper, stick-in-the-mud, or hot-topic of conversation just because they have diabetes. There are ways to accommodate your guest that allow them to best care for themselves without feeling like a burden.
Here are ways to make things easier and a little more awesome:
1 – Don’t expect all holiday cheer
No day is a “day off.” Diabetes is a full-time 24/7 job and a holiday is just like any other day for chronic disease management. Unfortunately, holidays that tend to center around food can be particularly tough for someone whose management routine is most heavily affected by food. So be patient if we seem a little frustrated or down—we’re managing a lot.
2 – Be flexible
Type 1 diabetes impacts everything from eating to exercise, and tight plans can make things tense. Blood sugar fluctuates and your guest’s plans might need to too. Ensuring your guest knows that you are a safe person to come to with requests will help a ton. We’re often scared or self-conscious to ask for what we need.
3 – Advocate for self-care
Let your guest take care of themselves however they need to. If your guest needs to take a fast walk or sit down and drink some juice, let them. Your personal feelings on the matter, don’t matter. How you expected the day to go, or your desire to partake in a different activity at a different pace is less important than your guest’s health. Give them the freedom to make the choices that are best for them. You are welcome to ask if you can join them in that activity, but don’t suggest they do it differently. They know what is best for them.
4 – Don’t provide unsolicited advice
“That has too much sugar” or “Can you eat that?” can actually feel offensive. Your guest knows when and what they can and should eat much better than you do; questioning them implies they don’t and can make them feel othered.
5 – Don’t suggest food choices
Offering specific food to your guest or questioning their food choices can create weird tension. If you are serving a meal or dessert, let everyone make their own plate and don’t question why your guest did or didn’t choose to eat something. Refraining from questioning or offering lets your guest make judgement-free choices about their bodies and their health.
6 – Don’t peek at blood sugars
Unless your guest shares, their blood sugar is not your information even if they are close family.
7 – Refrain from judgmental language
If your guest brings up their blood sugar level, avoid referring to it as “good” or “bad.” Blood sugar levels aren’t inherently bad or good, they’re just information from which to make a decision about eating, exercise, insulin dosing, sleep, stress management, etc. Labeling health numbers as “good” or “bad” can make your guest feel like they are doing a bad job caring for themselves. Blood sugars are low and high.
8 – Skip the sugar-free dishes
Oftentimes, sugar-free dishes mean well, but they tend to have the same amount of carbs and taste less awesome. They also tend to be loaded with other ingredients like artificial sugars, which can wreak havoc on everyone’s digestive system, or counteract the lack of sugar by loading up on salt or fat.
There are plenty of foods inherently low in carbs that everyone can enjoy without alienating your guest into an obligation with the “sugar-free” label. Green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, meats and cheeses are easy low-carb foods to have as part of any party. They are healthy for everyone, and it will let your guest enjoy treats no matter their blood sugar.
The main takeaway?
Treat your guest just like any other guest, with compassion and no expectations. Don’t talk about diabetes unless they bring it up, and let that person take the reins if they need to step away for some self-care. It will make the gathering so much easier for everyone! Read The Friends & Family Guide to Type 1 Diabetes for more helpful tips!