My husband has been living with diabetes for over twenty years. I still vividly remember the day the diagnosis came. As a dietitian working in the diabetes field, it seemed unimaginable that I missed key red flags like increased thirst, weight loss and fatigue. Funny, at the time I chalked most symptoms up to being a new parent and caring for our infant son.
As he began his diabetes journey, well-intentioned friends and family offered “knowledge” and recommendations. I never knew there were so many diabetes experts in the world! Although he was appreciative and comforted that he was not going through this alone, it also added to the anxiety of learning to live in a new way.
I have discovered that to truly provide support (and not nag), I need to focus on the following strategies:
As much as I would like to tell my husband what he “should or shouldn’t eat,” it is not my job. I am not the food police. His body is living with diabetes, not mine. He must navigate the course (even if that means making mistakes).
Learn “To Be”
We can all benefit from a different viewpoint at times to make decisions. If invited, I will suggest tips to help improve lifestyle habits. Otherwise, I provide support just by being there.
Stay Out of the Numbers Game
Monitoring blood sugar is a great tool to see the effect of foods consumed or exercise performed. The goal is to collect data and then make decisions. How would it help to make him feel “bad” because he experienced an elevated number? Numbers do not define the person!
Do As I Say, and I Will Too
It is well known that adopting a healthy lifestyle can improve living with diabetes. If I have thoughts or advice on eating better or exercising more, I must also follow my own words. How would it appear if I kept cookies hidden away (or worse yet in plain sight) and expected my husband not to indulge?
Living with diabetes can be extremely challenging at times. Occasionally, I know managing diabetes is a challenge for my husband. I have learned to recognize these times and show a little extra love, humor, and compassion.