Food Shaming and Diabetes

A couple of weeks ago here at Diabetes Flashpoints, we wrote about the connection between coffee and improved blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. And while coffee has been shown to provide numerous health benefits — including improved insulin sensitivity — in several studies, some people with diabetes may be thinking twice about buying coffee from a particular chain after a recent incident at a Florida store.

As reported by the local TV station Action News Jax, a man who ordered a grande white chocolate mocha at a Starbucks in St. Augustine received a startling message on the label affixed to the cup, where customer names are often printed above the drink type and time of order: “DIABETES HERE I COME.” Clearly it was meant as either a joke or a very rude warning — or both — by the employee who wrote it.


But as the man’s interview with the TV station makes clear, he didn’t find the message at all funny or amusing — in large part because he has two sisters with Type 1 diabetes. While there is no known connection between diet and Type 1 diabetes — and the message on the cup may have been hinting at Type 2 diabetes — making light of a serious health condition, or implying that he was inviting it, did not sit well with the customer.

As a Salon essay inspired by the incident notes, the fact that a Starbucks employee thought it was acceptable to mock a customer’s order shows just how brazen some people have become in their shaming of other people’s food and beverage choices. While the drink in question may not have been particularly healthy — according to the Starbucks website, it contains 400 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 60 grams of carbohydrate, most of which can be safely assumed to be sugar — the customer most certainly didn’t ask for the employee’s opinion. And once a drink has been ordered and delivered, shaming or questioning a customer’s choice only serves to make him or her feel bad — and maybe not return to that store.

What’s your take on this incident — have you ever been food-shamed in a similar manner? If so, how did you react? Have you ever received an uninvited nutrition tip that you felt was helpful and appropriate, rather than rude or condescending? Should chains like Starbucks make an effort (more politely, of course) to encourage healthier choices, such as by prominently featuring signs or posters showing lower-calorie options? Leave a comment below!