Diabetes Self-Management Blog

What do you do with advice from ignorant people who think they know more about diabetes than you do? When people tell you could be cured if you tried out some idea they read on a Web site, how do you respond?

A blogger named Dave Davis on the social networking site TuDiabetes wrote,

More and more friends and family e-mail me, text me, call me, or even post directly to my Facebook wall telling me that I can cure my Type 2 diabetes if I go vegan, or start ingesting “living essential oils,” or take this vitamin or that herb. Do you ever get sick of this? How do you deal with these people nicely?

He got hundreds of comments. Some said the most upsetting examples were people who told them “If you just exercised more,” or “If you took care of yourself better,” or perhaps used a particular diet or exercise machine, they would be “cured.” Type 1s as well as 2s reported receiving such unhelpful advice.

I’m certainly familiar with the problem of people telling me stuff about my illness that I already know. With multiple sclerosis, stories appear in the media every month about new research. People usually bring the news to my attention. Why don’t I try this, they ask, or that other thing that sounds so exciting in the press release?

I know they only do it because they care about me, and I used to thank them for thinking of me. Now I don’t thank them so much. I always wonder what makes them think I am not aware of developments in my own condition. Probably, they’re just reacting to their own anxiety and want to feel they are doing something to help. But it’s still annoying.

People with Type 2 diabetes have told me that they get tired of people telling them to exercise more, or lose weight, or whatever they think you should do, without offering any actual help. Doctors and other health professionals can show the same frustrating ignorance, especially when it comes to weight loss. “Lose weight? How, exactly, do you want me to do that? Do you think I haven’t tried?”

My question is how do you deal with such unwanted advice from friends or relatives? What about from people who don’t care about you, but just want to show off their knowledge or put you down? How about from professionals?

It’s important to remember that not all advice is bad. And you never know when one particular piece might turn out extremely valuable. I try to keep an open mind, but I believe that if something new really works, I’ll find out about it pretty soon.

I learned about bitter melon and about vinegar from readers of this site. There’s only a little bit of science on them, but what there is seems to confirm their value. Both seem to work for most people who try them, and I’ve had lots of letters from people thanking me for recommending them.

I’m sure many other people wouldn’t try them because they’re “just weird” or because their doctor doesn’t know about them. If a friend of theirs read our blog and told them about bitter melon, say, they would probably consider it stupid, unwanted advice.

So advice is complicated. It can be good or bad. Still, some of it is clearly more annoying than helpful. Do you get unwanted advice sometimes? What do you do about it, especially if you want to keep the person who gave it as a friend?

Maybe it would help if they asked your permission before advising, like, “I learned something about diabetes the other day. Would you like to hear it?” Or would you rather they just kept it to themselves?

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