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Visit to Grocery Store Leads to Whole Rant

Jan Chait

May 13, 2009

Most of the time, I’m a fairly laid-back person. So it was really out of character for me to lose my temper with a bakery person at Whole Foods last week.

It began with my granddaughter, who wanted some candy. I took her to the candy section, where she perused the offerings with a puzzled look on her face.

“What are you looking for?” I asked.

“Chocolate.”

“Here’s chocolate,” I told her, pointing out some bars. “And here, and here…”

The puzzled look remained.

“Cali,” I said, “This is an organic and natural foods store.”

Puzzlement turned to horror.

“But I don’t want to eat healthy candy!” she exclaimed.

Hence the visit to the bakery, where I thought she might find something sweet that was more to her liking. Or at least looked relatively unhealthy.

While there, I relayed the story to the woman who asked if she could help.

“My mother’s like that,” she said as she laughed — and then proceeded to tell me how she had refused to let her mother have a piece of strawberry shortcake (like everybody else was having) because Mom is a “severe diabetic” who has to take four shots a day and the dessert “had too much sugar in it.”

I then told her what I thought of the food police. When I finished my rant, she kind of backed away. Slowly.

Before I continue, let me tell you what my philosophy is concerning food. Briefly, it’s “I don’t tell you what to eat; you don’t tell me what to eat.” Most of the time, I eat healthy. Sometimes I have a treat. Try not to get between me and my treat.

What is it about having diabetes that makes people treat adults like children, telling them what they can and cannot eat or do? Does having diabetes instantly turn us into idiots, rendering us unable to make decisions for ourselves?

The practice isn’t limited to the general population, either: I once had a nurse tell me I couldn’t have a real soda because I had diabetes (actually, it was “you’re a diabetic”) — even after I explained that I was hypoglycemic and couldn’t get my glucose to go up. I, on the other hand, was following my certified diabetes educator’s instructions: When I can’t get my glucose up with regular means, “Drink something with sugar and caffeine in it, and sit still.”

However, she was a nurse and I but a mere patient and, despite the fact that I take care of diabetes 24/7 and she doesn’t, she knew best. Or so she believed. I solved my dilemma by paging the hospital’s CDE, who is a friend of mine. She brought me a cola. I believe an in-service ensued.

Usually, what I do when a person asks “Should you be eating that?” is explain that insulin is a naturally occurring hormone and when that person eats, his body automatically releases insulin to handle the carbohydrates: I do it mechanically. I also tell them that all carbohydrate-containing foods convert to sugar, whether it’s pasta or a pastry.

Sometimes, the little light bulb comes on over his head.

Very infrequently, I tell them exactly what I think of their idiotic question. I can remember maybe twice that I’ve done that. Poor bakery clerk…

I understand that she is concerned about her mother. What I don’t understand is why she doesn’t make an attempt to learn more about diabetes. Maybe it’s just too easy to rely on outdated information, or even information that was incorrect in the first place. Maybe she, like most people, doesn’t know that she doesn’t know something.

If she knew more about diabetes, she might realize that she should probably have passed up the sugary strawberry shortcake, too. She was a bit overweight and had that apple shape so common among people with Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes aside, however, what about good ol’ common courtesy? When I have a guest who cannot (or should not) be eating something, I don’t serve it. It’s that simple.

Even when I’m in charge of a social function, I will make sure everybody there can eat freely. If somebody has celiac, everything will be gluten-free. I’m not about to tell somebody, “You can eat that and that, but everything else if off-limits.” It doesn’t hurt anybody else to eat gluten-free, but it would hurt the person who needs to do so.

Family members also should be included. They’re people, too. Yes, even our mothers.



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