Unwanted Advice

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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  • Joe

    I’m quite forgiving of people who are innocently ignorant. It’s not their fault they don’t know, or have been misinformed. I’m not at all tolerant of those who are ignorant by choice, who have been shown the difference between facts and fiction, and stubbornly continue to believe in rumor, gossip, or lies as truth because they like that world better than reality.

    And keep in mind, people offering malicious advice are not always thinking of your best interests. The ones who condescendingly point out that your disease is surely caused or exacerbated by something of your own doing are frequently taking a perverse pleasure in shaming you.

  • Kathleen

    I don’t get a lot of advice. I think it is because I talk about what I read on this blog and other places. If they tell me to try something I tell them what I am doing and what I know. And really they do
    not want to talk about Diabetes most of the time.
    The people who love me like to know what I am doing.
    Although the most irritating is my daughter, but then she likes to school me on everything not just Diabetes.

  • Redneck Angel

    Well then; along w/vinegar & bitter melon, try sauerkraut. I find that if I eat sauerkraut , it drops my BS & also keeps it from rising as fast as it ordinarily would for a few hours! Sort of like drenching my fries w/vinegar!!

  • Kate

    I tried bitter melon and it did keep my blood glucose from rising much after the meal. But I had the worst morning blood glucose reading in the 20 years since diagnosis. I will never try it again.

  • vie

    I had at one time gotten lots of “advice” from people who don’t even know where the pancreas does in the body. I pretty much got them to stop when I would ask them why don’t you lose weight? You are at risk too.
    The last person who said something to me so rude in front of a group of people that live in my complex. This man was about 55 was always jogging and exercising. I only wish I could walk with out pain. He said to me “If you would run or swim and use the weights you would lose weight.” He was lucky I was in a good mode or I would have ripped him a new back side.I told how yes all those things would be great IF I did not have 2 herniated disc in my back which are pressing on nerves, and knees that are bone on bone and oh yes diabetic nerve damage to my feet. And a thyroid condition that was not found till I reached the age of 65. And is only barely working even with medication. He sat down and apologized for being so out of line. Sometimes you just got to clear the air.

  • Napol

    Sometimes the best response is ‘No’ response. Though most people mean well, they can be annoying at times. Also, most people have misconceptions about many chronic conditions. Their perceptions, attitudes and views are based on their personal experience (not everyone with the same chronic condition goes through the same symptoms & ups and downs), knowledge and education which can be lacking. I’ve learned to just nod yes, say thank you and not engage them. Again, they do mean well.

    Peace & Blessings to all!!

  • Don M

    Vie, I love your comment about “You are at risk, too.”

    In my experience, I’ve known both T1s and T2s who were very physically active and it didn’t cure a darn thing. The fact is that BOTH T1 and T2 are DISEASES, not self-inflicted punishments, and as such, they strike when and where they please. True, BOTH types can mitigate the negative consequences with diet and exercise, but I’ve known an assortment of people who were and weren’t taking insulin (T2s), who were and weren’t exercising, who were and weren’t overweight or inactive, and while there IS demonstrable correlation between obesity and T2, THAT IS NOT CAUSATION.

    I help manage a group of diabetic athletes in the DFW area, both T1 and T2, and I challenge any of the “free advice givers” to outrun, out-ride, or out-swim our athletes. Once you can do that, you’ve got some business telling us how to be fit and healthy.

  • Michael

    As a type 1, my family members know that there is
    no cure for me and that I do read a lot and understand what I need to do to keep myself under control. It’s the friends and acquaintances that
    seem to always offer suggestions (like the neighbor who has no children, but tells you how you should raise them). I usually tell them I’ve already heard of that article or just thank them and say “I’ll look into it”.
    I suffer from diabetic neuropathy in my lower legs and have to wear Ankle Foot Orthotics. Makes it impossible to run and makes walking an
    obstacle. People look at me and ask “do you have Polio”. When I tell them what I have, they say things like “Well, if you would have taken better care of yourself”. I just shrug it off.
    Comes a time in your life where you just can’t
    let little things bother you. At 66, I don’t.

    Be well all.

  • Dave Davis

    Thanks David for taking the discussion further. They ended up shutting down my thread because it was hi-jacked by nastiness and name calling, so it’s good to see the discussion furthering somewhere else. ūüôā Peace! Dave

  • Ferne

    I am handicapped through no fault of my own – genetics and from all the years I worked as an RN. Thankfully I had several surgeries on my feet before I was diagnosed with diabetes – also a genetic problem with many of every generation having it – so I just get asked why I have to wear a brace and use a cane. Or when they see me on crutches they just figure I have had surgery again. I’ve been fortunate that it’s not diabetes I get advice from but I sure get tired of a relative without filters who goes after everyone. I understand the blogs and I have a sore tongue from biting it so much!!

  • Jennifer

    Usually I get unsolicited advice at work over a lunch break. I can usually point to something on their plate and say, “I read an article that says too much fat increases your risk of a heart attack. You should probably eat less of those fries.” They seem to run out of things to say then.

  • Tammee

    I’ve found out that when family offers advice, they usually mean well. However, I get very annoyed at “old school” advice given to me about my diabetes or my multiple sclerosis. I choose to change the subject and let their advice go in one ear and out the other. Again, per the previous remarks, not all advice is bad. I’ve also learned that though some advice is annoying from loved ones, it’s usually because they care about me. So, I have to say that any advice given to me, though annoying, is caring advice and I’m so blessed to have so many people who care for me.

  • Deb G

    Reading the comments, I suppose I am quite fortunate to not get much negative input at all from friends or family. Most are very understanding and supportive. I don’t complain about the things I can’t eat and since I’ve been Type 2 for probably ten years now, sweets (rather sugar) are quite insignificant for me. My only issue is my daughter-in-law who seems to think it’s okay to have that piece of the grandsons birthday cake and double up on my Metformin. I politely say I’m fine with just a small sliver of cake and eat just that, perhaps with a 1/2 cup of ice cream. I’m careful to stay on track with my “better” eating. I have no issues with foot pain, walking or moving around, vision, etc., so I am , at 57, very lucky. Yes, I sometimes eat more pasta and bread than I should, yes, my job requires me to sit 12 hours a day, flipping from days to nights. Hell on a diabetic person but I do walk regularly, get out and do yard work and do light hiking. Perhaps that’s why folks are so supportive. Also, for advice, this newsletter has been very helpful and I follow regularly. It’s been a good thing to read up on the comments of others in addition to the medical news offered.

  • Eileen

    My biggest complaint is about the “food police” who monitor everything on my plate and everything I put in my mouth. Often, the very same people who will say “should you be eating that?” will immediately follow up with offering me a similar food and saying “have some of this instead; it won’t hurt you”! Planning ahead for the coming holiday season and family dinners, I’m practicing looking dinner companions in the eye while smiling and saying ” I’m so glad I thought this through and know exactly what to eat and what I’m not going to eat”. Their usual response” “Oh, OK” and no more hassles!

  • Mary Strayer

    I get most frustrated by the TV shows that tell us all to exercise, and eat just certain foods, and it’s for sure we will loose weight. Some of us, besides diabetes, also have major physical problems such as spine problems, and hip/knee problems, I wish just one show would include the problems of the elderly and the disabled, and stop saying there is nothing to stop you from doing this or that.