Visit to Grocery Store Leads to Whole Rant

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.


“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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  • tmana

    I’m thinking, maybe we should wonder as much about the care the mother (or other third-party loved one) is getting as the caregiver’s/food-police’s response?

    If you were on a long-acting insulin only, you might be given a set amount of carbs and calories to eat, and a set amount of insulin, with instructions that you had to pay extremely strict attention to your diet, no cheating allowed. Depending on the training level of the prescribing physician, I don’t consider it impossible that even with mealtime insulins, a person may be prescribed a consistent amount of insulin and a consistent amount of carbs.

    Now, I don’t disagree that healthcare professionals <b>should</b> be more up-to-date on their information and should provide their patients with all options. Sadly, many are not up-to-date, and are further hampered by the insurance companies time-rushing them and refusing to cover more-appropriate-but-pricier treatments.

  • shelly

    I actually censor what I pack for lunch because my co-workers give me the third degree about if I should be eating something or not. I wish they wouldn’t comment, but I can’t control other people.

  • Betty

    If you are going to eat something, eat it and ignore the nosy people’s coments.

  • snowgirl


    i realy enjoy reading this blog,it seem there alway a food person around waiting to say something about what you can have or not. thank you for your cool insight’s on this.

  • Heather

    I have had these experiences. Some times you just loose it and want people to be aware that diabetics are people too, competent people. Diabetics are probably a heck of a lot more competent than the average non-diabetic.
    My first day of public speaking class last semester, my professor lectured about how to talk to your audience, he asked for a topic to explain. Someone said candy.
    He went on to say that if you wanted to tell kids about candy, you would address them differently than if you wanted to tell seniors about candy. When some one in the class said “warn kids not to eat candy, they could get diabetes” I almost exploded. YOU CAN”T GET DIABETES FROM CANDY!

    I ended up giving a speech that day on what diabetes is, so that none of them make that silly mistake again. ūüôā

  • Amy J

    You know, when I was “pre-diabetic” and trying to find out how NOT to develop diabetes, I had a really hard time finding good information. I, too, get annoyed by food police but I can understand their ignorance seeing that I couldn’t get good information when I actively sought it. By the time I found a suitable class, I was diabetic. Now I get how various foods turn to sugar and affect diabetics just as much as chocolate cake… kind of. More education is needed, yes, but it’s not just because of laziness that people aren’t getting it. Hopefully, your article will help the lighbulb go off in others, people with diabetes and friends & family members of people with diabetes.

  • Steve Sawyer

    After 38 years of not-infrequent encounters with “food police”, I’ve pretty much learned to ignore them. If they push the matter, I just advise them that I inject insulin to cover the carbohydrates and let it go. They either accept that or consider me a bad diabetic. Either is fine with me. That being said, I sympathize withJan’s encounter and would love to have heard it.

  • Chrys

    What would you think if there was food for people with diabetes as there is for vegetarians for example? My cousins suffer from type one diabetes and they told me that what really annoys them is if they go out and crave a chocolate, a candy or Starbucks! They will go for it but at the same time will have to recheck the glucose level and administrate more insulin (on top of the 4times they normally do per day. Diabetes is a way of life and the best doctor is yourself , but having food that is more accessible for you around wouldn’t it help?