#398: I’m tired of explaining my medical condition and food choices to “helpful” folks.

A Pi Pie: A pie with the pi symbol baked into the crust on top.
Fantastic Pi Pie photo by Paul Adam Smith on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license. P.S. The Letter Writer is allowed to eat this if s/he wants to.

As of 11/29/2012, comments on this entry are closed.

Hi Captain!

I’ve had type 1 diabetes for nearly my whole life (18 years), and I’ve graduated college and moved away from home. As I’m very open about having T1D, I’m often asked about what diabetes is, what the difference is between type 1 and 2 (PSA: they are not the same at all, T1D is autoimmune, Type 2 is much more common and is not), and whether or not I can eat that.

As I have recently moved away from all my usual support, I’ve been dealing with some major Diabetes Burnout. I’ve found a few things that help me cope, but am always open for suggestions (yes I’m looking into therapy and support groups). But my real issue lies in how to deal with the very well-intentioned people who ask invasive questions (normally I enjoy answering them and educating people about diabetes), make assumptions about what I can and cannot eat (anything I please, thankyouverymuch!), compare me to their 80 year old grandpa with type 2/their friend’s college roommate who had it (which OBVIOUSLY means they know everything there is to know about T1D), or freak out if I’m having an issue. At this point in my life, I don’t feel up to patiently explaining things the way I usually do, and the way people freak out if something happens makes it hard/impossible to tell people I’m having an issue and need a minute/a snack/to wear my glasses /pee every 20 minutes/etc, which, in turn, fuels the burnout.

Any advice on how to get people to not freak out and stop attempting to be so very helpful without me first asking for help? I really don’t want to be rude to them, they just don’t know much about T1D, as it is very rare and the treatments have radically changed in the last 15 years.


I’m so sorry that I didn’t get around to this before the U.S.A.’s National Day of Eating, and I apologize if you had to do another round of Yes-I-Can-So-Have-Some-Pie with Auntie Helpful last week.

I think the world would be a better place if we stuck to one acceptable way of commenting on what is on a fellow adult’s plate. That way is “That looks delicious” + some variation of “Where did you get it/how did you make it/does it taste as good as it looks/smells/Is it like this other thing that is also delicious?

Stop commenting on how much or how little someone eats. “Is that all you’re eating?” “Are you really going to eat all of that?” “Looks like SOMEONE was HUNGRY.” If you feel any of those sentences about to leave your mouth, clap your hand over that mouth.

Stop commenting on what is on someone else’s plate.Are you sure it’s okay to eat that?” “Should you really be eating that?” Do not wrinkle your nose, call other people’s food gross, or explain in detail why you wish you could eat what they are eating but can’t since you gave up _________. Don’t bring up your health issues or their health issues. Don’t bring up that thing you read online somewhere about the health benefits of x, y, and z. Don’t bring up that diet your Aunt Susie tried that worked so well for her. When someone is eating delicious meat, it’s not a good time to talk about factory farms. When someone is eating delicious daal, it’s not the time to sermonize about how you could never be a vegetarian and lovingly describe your favorite roast baby sheep dish from childhood.

Stop assigning food a moral value. Don’t go on and on about how you probably shouldn’t eat whatever it is. Don’t try to justify a big meal or dessert by claiming that you only ate a few leaves of parsley earlier and try to suck everyone into your shame spiral – no one cares. Pie isn’t “sinful;” pie is fucking delicious.

If people could do that, that would solve 90% of your problem right there. You are the boss of what goes on your plate and into your mouth. Other people are the boss of what goes into their own mouths.


  • You are a doctor and the person in question is your patient and there is some issue that has a dietary component that needs to be discussed, for example: “When you’re on this medication, you can’t eat this food.”
  • You are a licensed dietician/nutritionist/medical caretaker of some stripe and the person in question is your patient and has asked your advice.
  • You are preparing/sharing/deciding on where to go for a meal with that person and are asking about any dietary restrictions/allergies/preferences they have. People who live and prepare meals together need to know what’s up, and also, it is polite to remember who among your friends is a vegetarian or allergic to something and plan accordingly. This is why the internet is magic! You can link people to restaurant menus or recipes and say “Will this work for you?” and lo and behold your friend can make an informed decision about their own eating.

You’re not that person’s doctor? You’re not their nutritionist? You’re not the parent of a young child talking to that child? You’re not running a proposed dish or a restaurant by a dining companion? Then NOTHING you have to say about what they are eating is important.


Except “That looks/smells/sounds tasty” + maybe a nice question about provenance.

LW, we’re a long way from my utopia where everyone’s body (and food) belongs solely to them, but I think it’s helpful for you to keep in mind that you are not being rude and weird for having a malfunction in your pancreas. Second-guessing the food choices of a fellow adult is rude and weird (And boring!). Just because it’s ubiquitous in American culture right now doesn’t mean it’s not rude and weird!

So when someone asks you if you should really be eating that or goes into a long story about how someone they vaguely know who is also vaguely diabetic, I think it will help if you mentally reframe their suggestion or question as intrusive, rude, and weird before you respond. Since they are the ones being awkward and rude, you can treat “Should you really be eating that?” as the invasive question that it is, as if the person has asked you “Should you really have had that sexual fantasy when you masturbated this morning?

You can respond calmly and respectfully, but you’re doing them a favor by letting the faux pas slide and not the other way around.

Let’s assemble the script arsenal, starting with one-word and two-word answers:

  • Huh.”
  • “Weird.”
  • “Wow.”
  • Hmmmm…interesting” or “How interesting.”
  • “Sure, okay.”

The way to use one-word answers is to respond to whatever they are saying with SOMETHING that does not invite further discussion, and then change the subject as if the thing they said never existed. It’s up to you if you want to let a really awkward silence linger before you rescue them with a subject change.

You can build on those answers if you like.

  • “Huh. That really doesn’t apply to me, but good to know.” + Change of subject.
  • Wow, that’s really not the case for me, but thanks for the suggestion.” + Change of subject.
  • That has not been my experience.” + Change of subject.

You could decide to super-factual:

  • Diabetes isn’t an allergy to certain foods, it just means I have to decide certain things with my brain instead of my pancreas. After 18 years, I’m pretty good at the math.”

You can tell them straight-up to drop the subject as you would with any intrusive question.

  • Thanks for your suggestion, I know it’s well-meant, but after 18 years I’m pretty good at managing this stuff on my own.” + Change the subject.
  • Sorry to interrupt you, but that story about your relative has nothing to do with me. I hope that works out for him, though!” + Change the subject.
  • There’s really no reason for you to be concerned. I got this.” + Change the subject.

The key is to say it as a statement and not a request. You’re not trying to draw them into a debate, you’re trying to tell them as politely as possible to STFU. You may want to practice with a friend to get the right tone of finality into your voice.

Cliff Clavin from Cheers
“I know it’s your body and you live in it all the time, but I’m sure that I read something somewhere that negates your entire lived experience. Sit tight while I tell you all about it!”

Your question contains the seeds of some good, honest, reasonable scripts:

  • I know you want to be helpful, but I get pretty tired of having to explain diabetes to people. Can we table this and just enjoy the meal?”
  • Can you email me later and remind me to send you to some great websites that go into the details? I’d rather just hang out and catch up than go into Diabetes 101 mode today.
  • I don’t feel like to getting into it. Can we change the subject?

If you encounter someone who wants to be a Bad Science Warrior because they read a thing in Reader’s Digest in their uncle’s cousin’s guest bathroom, go ahead and shut it down.

  • “I know you mean well, but that question is actually pretty intrusive. Let’s change the subject.”
  • “That’s between me and my doctor.”
  • “What I eat is not really up for discussion or debate.”
  • “I’m sure you’ve read many articles about this. I still prefer not to discuss it with you.”
  • Sometimes I get burnt out on explaining diabetes and what I can and can’t eat. Let’s talk about ANYTHING else!
  • “I feel pretty awkward when I have to defend my food choices/explain diabetes. Shall we change the subject?”
  • I’ve got things well in hand, so would appreciate a break from having to explain about diabetes today. Can you help me out?

Prepare for people to get huffy because they were just being helpful and they are laboring under the fallacy that good intentions are magic, like, “I cloaked you in my worry, why aren’t you more grateful for my kind concern?

It takes some practice to let other people’s emotions, like bad assumptions, unasked-for worry, or embarrassment they experience when they’ve overstepped someone’s bounds be their emotions and not take them on as your own to prevent or feel guilty for causing. You don’t have to prove them wrong or engage with the substance of their arguments at all. You get to just shut it down as cleanly as possible, and if they get huffy, let them! Let them get embarrassed. They are the ones who are making it weird by a) commenting on a fellow adult’s body and food choices and  b) expecting a person with a medical condition to be a constant, smiling, grateful source of information and reassurances in response to ignorance and intrusiveness.

You don’t have to be a diabetes educator. People can look that shit up if they are really interested in it and they don’t have a right to expect that you will explain it to them. Also, guess what? You don’t have a duty to optimize your health at all times and you definitely don’t have a duty to perform as a perfect diabetes patient to mollify other people’s unwarranted fears. And you don’t have to put up with other people’s concern trolling about your food choices. I think it’s time we all started treating that behavior as the giant faux pas that it is.


Moderation reminder:

This is a no diet-talk zone, because:

1) There is more than enough of that business on the internet and in the culture in general. I don’t want to read that stuff on my own website.

2) We are not under each other’s medical supervision or in each other’s parental custody, which puts us completely outside any kind of relationship where commenting on other people’s food/eating/body/medical issues would be okay.

3) The answer to “But what if x person IS eating y food that IS really unhealthy and it is a very special case and I just care about them and want them to be okay?” is “Are you the boss of that person and their body? No. Also, your comment is deleted now.

I trust you guys to be cool, but there are new readers all the time and I want to make it very, very clear that on this site we stick to”That looks/sounds delicious! “You look great,” “All bodies are good bodies,” and “How are you feeling?” on this site. You are the boss of you and no one else.

369 thoughts on “#398: I’m tired of explaining my medical condition and food choices to “helpful” folks.

  1. Great ideas! They are also useful when you are grieving or dealing with something difficult and someone calls, all upset, telling you how worried they are about you and how terrible your trauma has made them feel. Like they are the victim! And you feel like you are expected to comfort THEM!

    I’ll also add that I have a wonderful 25 year old daughter who is happy, healthy, dealing well with adulthood and is also way too thin (in my opinion of course!) thanks to a food issue when she was much younger–which of course affected the whole family and was quite difficult. BUT–thanks to the fact that I have been reading Captain Awkward for the past several months I did not say a single word about it over the Thanksgiving weekend when she was home and it is a weight off my shoulders to realize that it is OK to turn her adulthood over to her! Thanks!

  2. Excellent response as always. It’s really none of anyone else’s business and at least in my experience the more you can make that your mantra, it can help.

    With people that you particularly like and/or have exceptional faith that they mean well and can be counted on, you can also go with some variation of “I’ve got this, but if I need your help I’ll definitely ask” as appropriate. I’ve had a few friends while dealing with my interesting brain chemistry who I knew really meant well and I cared a lot about but who were just trying way too hard to make sure I knew they were concerned/would help if I needed it, and flat out saying “I’m really okay right now/I’ve got it handled, but I’ll tell you if there’s something I need from you” had the right combination of “you seriously need to chill” and “I know that you’re available to be part of my support structure” to get the necessary information across. Obviously that’s only a line to be used with people who you actually DO foresee yourself using as part of Team You and not for your third cousin twice-removed who took that one nutrition class in college once, but I thought it might be another good one to have in your arsenal.

    Good luck surviving the busy bodies, LW, and enjoy your pie!

    1. Obviously that’s only a line to be used with people who you actually DO foresee yourself using as part of Team You and not for your third cousin twice-removed who took that one nutrition class in college once

      I dunno, actually — there’s a lot to be said in some situations for a polite response like that that has a mental “and I will never need anything from you related to this” attached. Your nosy third cousin twice removed can go away content that you value their opinion and feel comfortable calling on them as a family member, so they have Done Their Helpful Duty, and you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you have averted any more insistent Helpfulness.

      Obviously, this depends on the individual personalities and dynamics and your comfort level with social fibs and so forth. But I think the word “if” is an extremely useful one. It’s okay to use it for a circumstance of vanishingly small probability like “if I want a nosy acquaintances input on the condition I’ve been managing for most of my life” — it’s still technically an accurate if-then statement.

      1. …Uh, that first paragraph was meant to be a quote, of course. Today I fail at coding, I guess!

        1. That’s a really good point. I haven’t used it that way so it didn’t even occur to me, but I can see how it would absolve the busy bodies who feel like they need to Do A Good Deed that you’ve mentally registered them as a Good Person (TM) and can now GTFO.

    2. I think this is the perfect response for me. Thank you. Most of the busybodies are my work colleges, and I mostly like them/need them to not act all strange around me because I (read: they) once made them(selves) feel uncomfortable because they were prying.

  3. I love the rules for what people can say about food! If everyone would respect them, it would certainly make my life easier. (I have no food-related health issues, but it gets so tiresome to hear, e.g., how gross oysters are, or that I’m not ordering my Thai food spicy “enough”, or how much better I’d feel if I gave up gluten or white sugar or whatever.)

      1. One restaurant that I order Thai food from pretty regularly has three heat settings for their curries: “mild”, “medium hot”, and “Thai hot”. I made the mistake of ordering my green curry Thai hot only once. I ate the shitte, but fucken A, thatte shitte nearly killed me! Now I stick with medium hot.

      2. I copped so much teasing nonsense from my BFF’s mother when I visited LA a couple of times. They’re used to eating spicy, hot food. I’m not; I have no tolerance for it – I won’t even put pepper or, these days, much salt on my food, and I would never eat chillis or such things. It reached the point where BFF’s mum (who is in other respects a lovely person, whom I really like) said I had a “timid palate” and I said I didn’t consider “timid” and “masochistic” to be synonyms, since hot/spicy = painful for me. She finally got the picture after that (and my BFF got stuck into her to tell her to lay off). That’s another “I’m boss of what I eat” thing that really irks me: being told I should eat things I know I will hate just because person X likes them.

        1. “Timid” implies that you’re just too scaredy to try something. Pfft on that. Personally, I’m not timid–I just know that if I eat something spicy, I’ll hate it and then get indigestion. To me, that’s not timidity; it’s just good judgment.

          1. Same here! And if it were about being scared – well, who sticks their hand on a hot stove? That’s about how pleasant hot food is for me.

        2. I’m a big fan of the phrase “mad screaming shits” to describe my reasons for avoiding certain foods. Is it a little rude? Sure, but so is policing what I eat.

          1. OMG I love it! And I have IBS too, and never thought of using it as a way to get people to stop pushing their food preferences at me. Threaten ’em with detail, heheheh.

      3. And sometimes, to eat sushi with. I used to run with a group of folks who liked their soy+wasabi mixes to be green, not brown. I joined for a while, but then said to myself “You know, I eat sushi because I like raw fish. Why am I covering up the taste with wasabi and soy?”

        They too liked the Thai hot and the hot chile peppers. I like a bit of hot spices, but … I want to taste food, not spice heat.

      4. I’ve known a couple of people who worked in Indian places here who said that white (non-Indian) people consistently ordered spicier food than (non-white) Indian people to show off how awesome they were at eating spicy food. The staff are not as duly impressed as the customers apparently hope people will be.

          1. To be fair, I imagine anyone working in a restaurant can tell the genuine spice-lovers from the show-offs. Speaking as someone who also genuinely loves spicy food, it’s a little telling when groups of loud, boorish types loudly demand the “hottest item on the menu” and then make a huge fuss about how tough they are while they eat it.

        1. That reminds me of a comedy from years back, sending up English and Indian stereotypes and racism – they had a bunch of Indian Brits doing the post-pub going for a curry thing, but going to an ‘English restaurant’ and ordering food that was ‘bland, but not too bland.’ 🙂

          1. It’s the ‘Going for an English’ sketch from Goodness Gracious Me – the braggadocio asks ‘what is the blandest thing on the menu?’ 🙂

          2. “And I want to eat it with a KNIFE and a FORK”
            I was thinking of that sketch too 🙂

    1. I actually have the opposite thing happen to me all the time–I actually like really, really spicy food, and people are very fond of telling me that I have a tin palate, that I’m ruining the flavor, that I’m just trying to show off (which…I don’t really get, I guess?). I’m happy to live and let live even if I think their food preferences are bland, and I wish they would do the same.

      1. I actually think most food preference arguments go both ways–getting crap for being a wuss and eating it “so mild there’s no taste” vs. getting crap for eating it “so spicy it’s ruined”, trying to force someone to taste your rare steak vs. “how can you eat that bloody mess?”, trying to guilt someone into eating the salad instead of the burger vs. “rabbit food!”, etc.

        All the more reason for everyone to just freakin’ stop commenting on each other’s meals, I think!

    2. If it makes any of you feel better, there are actually genetic differences to our sense of taste. Some people have many more taste receptors than others and are considered “super tasters”, while others have few taste receptors are are considered “non-tasters”. Super-tasters like their food extra salty, and non-tasters like their food, well…what many consider to be bland. Many famous chefs are supertasters (go figure..). Anderson Cooper is a famous non-taster, he eats the same 3 meals every day.

      Spice is one of the few tastes that can be “learned”. The more spicy food you eat, the more tolerant you become; the less you eat, the less tolerant you become. If you don’t eat a lot of spicy food when you are young, you will not have the tolerance when you are older (although it can still be learned if you have the patience to do so!).

      So the next time someone gives you crap about what food you do or do not like, you have the science of genetics and culture on your side.

      1. The “effects” side of that is a little rocky — people with fewer taste buds sometimes seek greater stimulation (salt, spiciness, sugar, whatever), while the people with high taste bud density are super-sensitive to certain flavors. The superest supertaster I know has a very narrow range of foods that are palatable to him; most things are overwhelmingly intense. I’m a moderate supertaster for bitter flavors, which made college interesting, since coffee and most types of beer are unspeakably vile to me. I also can’t abide olives: the saltiness in them overwhelms everything else until it’s all I can taste. Some supertasters are much more sensitive to bitter flavors than I am, such that nearly all vegetables are seriously unpalatable; those folks do tend to use a lot of salt to “drown out” other unpleasant flavors.

        tl;dr: There are lots of different reasons people do/don’t like or eat certain things. Opposite causes can lead to similar effects. Weird, huh?

  4. Spot-on advice, especially for the general public about appropriate comments on food. Even if you aren’t about to engage in health or diet related talk, saying anything other than “That looks delicious” or some variation about another person’s food is really just a waste of everyone’s time.

    Also, it makes me sad that it wasn’t the LW’s helpful pals who wrote in. The Captain’s scripts are awesome, but saying stuff like that can be really hard, while just not commenting on someone’s food is actually pretty easy.

    1. “…just not commenting on someone’s food is actually pretty easy.”

      I’d have to disagree on that one. I had a friend in sixth form who was diagnosed with type II diabetes when we were seventeen or so, and I really did have to learn how to not yell ‘YOU’RE GOING TO BLIND YOUR OLDER SELF’ every time she decided to have a slice of cake.

      I *did* learn, because I’m not a complete wanker and deep down I knew it was none of my business, but it was certainly not easy.

      Human beings become fundamentally stupid when we’re driven by fear. Snapping out of the idiotic fear-response nosiness and shutting up about the cake is definitely possible, but first you have to notice that you’re being stupid when at the time it seems like not speaking would be the stupid thing to do (because BLINDNESS OH MY GOD I WOULD TOTALLY BE BEING NEGLIGENT IF I DID NOT SEPARATE THIS WHOLLY CAPABLE ADULT FROM THIS ONE PIECE OF CAKE BECAUSE BLINDNESS AND OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD).

      It’s a process. People can be stupid. (I was stupid.) And it’s easy for unstupid people to say that not being stupid is easy, but unstupefying ourselves can be pretty hard.

      1. I’m sure you got it, but for anyone reading this who’s thinking “but… no, really, how could you not say something?” – even if the friend did go blind, being blind isn’t the end of the world, and it’s quite possible to have a perfectly good life that way. Especially if you have some warning that you’re at risk for it and can work on the skills you’ll need ahead of time. Maybe *you* would choose a life without cake over (a chance of – it’s not a given, either) a life without sunsets, but not everyone is required to have the same priorities as you, and one of the options getting the label of ‘disability’ doesn’t change that.

        1. Thank you thank you thank you!

          This message does not get out there anywhere NEAR often enough.

          I did my first year social work internship at an Independent Living Center under the supervision of a blind disability rights activist. It was an awesome experience. Not so awesome but a useful perspective was continually having to remind my school to STOP with the sending of inaccessible paperwork.

          One of the things that I really had reinforced for me (and am actually working on a paper on this very thing tonight) is how often people treat disability as the ultimate form of fate worse than death, and just how disempowering that can be for actual people with disabilities when it keeps showing up as a trope.

          1. Man, I wasn’t even thinking of this at the time, but I’m asexual as well as disabled (autistic); the joke does rather write itself, there. ^^

          2. People with out cake likely are hindered in full enjoyment of life! Our society should take steps to accommodate their cakelessness. Possibly through provision of free cake.

  5. My BIL is diabetic, and his favorite response is a stiff-but-chill, “Thanks, I’ve found that I
    do best when I self-regulate.”

    If the well-meaning person edges out onto the creaky ice, with a comment about how there’s a lot of sugar in that pie, he’ll say something like,

    “Yes. That’s why I’m eating it,” in a firm and confident tone. Because oddly enough, he’s very aware of his condition, and occasionally NEEDS A BIT OF SUGAR; SIL carries a little packet of chocolate snacks to fling at him if he starts to get low on an outing.

    This absolutely does shock people who don’t understand diabetes, as I’m sure you’re aware. They really do think that diabetics should not eat sugar ever, and are also blissfully unaware of how there is occasionally sugar in food. So BIL finds it easiest to keep circling back to the “I manage my condition with my diet, thank you” portion of the conversation. It has the pleasant effect of making the well-meaning-person feel a bit awkward when they do Get It.

  6. Wow. This is super timely for me, the daughter of a Type 1 diabetic. Thinking back over our Thanksgiving doings, it occurs to me that while my family has its busybody aspects like most do, at this point in my mom’s life — she was first diagnosed in the early 1970s — they are all very good about leaving her alone to enjoy eating what she knows is fine for her to eat, etc (insulin pump! best invention ever). But I know that’s been a long process. It also helps that she’s a nurse, so for people to try to explain medical things to her they have to be a special kind of tone-deaf. Dealing with other people’s freakouts when you are trying to take care of yourself is the worst — I know how frustrating that has often been for my mom.

    As for the whole Type 1 vs 2 thing, there is that subset of people who should mind their own damn business but instead seem to think that Type 2 diabetes is some kind of divine punishment for the moral failure of having a poor diet, rather than, you know, a disease like any other disease with physiological and sometimes lifestyle factors, etc. Two (as the LW indicated), no one understands the difference between the two and Type 2 is now far more common, so those same people turn their judgment on Type 1 diabetics, too, which is not only unfair but doesn’t even make sense. Grrr. GRRRRR.

    1. Yeah, and that also segues into how stupid it is to expect 100 percent of people to exhibit superhuman willpower in an enviroment full of scientifically-optimized temptations.

      1. Ugh, so much this. I’m on a low-carb diet, and it’s incredible how difficult it is to avoid sugar in our society. I’m on the diet by choice, so I can’t imagine how hard it must be for people who do it for medical reasons and can’t slip up.

        Though, frankly, it wouldn’t matter if that weren’t the case. If you had to hike five miles in the rain just to find something with sugar in it, that STILL wouldn’t make it okay to shame people for eating it.

    2. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! I hate being judged by ignorant people because they think that having an autoimmune disorder was my fault (not that type two is anyone’s fault – it sucks to have, and no one should be judged for medical issues).

  7. I have food allergies, and it is amazing how comfortable people feel about criticizing my eating habits. My decisions are based on a medical condition, but even if they weren’t I don’t think it’s rude to ask somebody what is in the food I’m eating and I *certainly* don’t think it’s rude to turn down food that has been offered to me when I don’t feel safe eating it! Yet I’m constantly told that this is the case. I imagine many people with dietary restrictions avoid eating around others just like I do, because it usually isn’t worth the hassle.

    And the bit about “I know it’s your body and you live in it all the time, but I’m sure that I read something somewhere that negates your entire lived experience” is very true! I have had many people “educate” me about cross-contamination being a myth, and others have told me that mollusks are not shellfish so I must not be allergic to them. I wish more people understood how rude this is.

    1. I had a friend who was absolutely determined that there’s no such thing as being allergic to alcohol, and even if you did manage such a thing, it cooks out! (Which begs the question, If it all cooks out, why are you putting it in?) I had to stop eating when he cooked because he kept trying to sneak it into things.

      1. LW’s letter already had me side-tilting my head and thinking, “People are doing /what/ now?” I mean, I’m often curious to the point of being rude, and my family is a nosy Italian one, but…why would anyone think that someone who has been managing their condition successfully for years needs any sort of input on their diet? How is there any way to perceive that other than invasive as heck?

        And then your comment happened, and…what? One of my BFFs is allergic to everything under the sun. We tease her about it and say we’ll order the shrimp and all, but…No. NO. You do NOT sneak something into someone’s meal if they tell you they’re allergic. My friend will occasionally indulge in a bit of one verbotten item or another, if she thinks she can handle it, but that’s her choice, and any one of our crew who tried to sneak or even coax her into eating something would get a ten-person smackdown. That’s just WRONG. That’s such an awful thing to do to a friend.

        1. You would be amazed at some of the creepy shit people do. I have a life-threatening nut allergy, and when I was little, some old ladies that we were visiting lied to my mother and fed me pastries with nuts in them on purpose, because they were trying to “prove” that I was just a picky eater.

          I also occasionally get people who are handing me an entree with nuts on it – I mean, I can see them! – and insisting that no, this doesn’t have nuts in it because somehow in their brains, pine nuts do not equal nuts.

          1. I’ve heard these kinds of stories way too many times to even be surprised anymore. 😦 The only possible excuse I can give is that these stupid people have never actually witnessed anyone go into anaphylactic shock. I’ve thankfully only seen it once but will never forget it.

      2. (You put it in mostly for the flavor, which remains even though *most* of the alcohol itself cooks out, because alcohol has a lower boiling point than water.)

        Regardless, it is IMMENSELY CREEPY to try to sneak something into someone’s food.

      3. Seriously, what does this sort of thing prove? Does this guy expect a good-natured “you got me! I was fibbing the whole time!” and an Ain’t I A Stinker musical sting if you eat his alcohol-laced cooking? Who the fuck does that?

      4. Ugh, as a mother to a toddler with food allergies, I can’t even imagine what I would do if someone tried to sneak something she was allergic to into my daughter’s food! But yes, they are fewer than they were, but there are definitely still people who don’t believe in any/certain food allergies and way more that don’t get how serious they are for a lot of folks. I’ve run into plenty already that believe she has an allergy, but just don’t get it as they try to offer her something that says right on the label “could contain things-toddler-is-allergic-to”.

        But yes, I completely agree that it is the people being nosy about food choices that are being rude and treating it as such is the right call. I’m still trying to deprogram myself from the this food is bad, this food is good, etc. games. Food is delicious and I am going to enjoy it damnit!

        1. I would be very tempted to ask such people if they were intending to pay for her hospital bills if she had a reaction to the thing.

          Ditto for the people trying to do it to adults to prove a point, too, actually. Maybe it’d give ’em a clue.

      5. Amberfoxfire: I don’t drink often, as a matter of personal choice. Anyone who tries to merely motherfucking *persuade* me into consuming alcohol when I don’t feel like it gets a verbal smackdown; I cannot imagine being able to ever again feel safe around someone who actually tried to TRICK me into imbibing, and I would probably expunge that person from my life with all possible celerity. And I don’t even have an allergy! Screaming warning bells are happening in my head over this fuckery. Anyone who can hold even your personal boundaries, never mind your PHYSICAL SAFETY, in such contempt sounds Extremely Unsafe to me. Unless you’re sure I’m completely wrong to feel afraid of him on your behalf, please don’t ever be alone with this man. From what you’ve said, I feel he might be extremely creepy and dangerous.

      6. I have a friend who is a recovering alcoholic and he has me taste test dishes for him so he can avoid any alcohol. He’s stayed sober for more than 20 years because of this vigilance. He knows that just a tiny taste would trigger cravings. He doesn’t want or need to go into this explanation with hosts, cooks, or waiters. There are many reasons for avoiding alcohol: allergies, health, religious prohibitions…to trick someone into imbibing against his/her will, when he/she has politely declined…that’s just really crappy.

    2. High-five for food allergies! People who act like food allergies aren’t real (or not worth caring about) piss me off so much. I think part of it’s based in this idea that allergies are only just sneezing or maybe a bit of hives, not dying horribly as you are smothered by your own tongue, and so aren’t worth getting scared over?

      Tangentially, I kind of get pissed off when I ask if something has nuts in it and people act like I’ve just insulted their dead mother. I’m not asking solely to offend you, and turning down your food if you say it does has nuts is not a personal insult: I’m keeping myself from having to whip out a giant fucking needle and stabbing myself in the thigh, so I think that for you to not act affronted while I try to ensure my personal safety is not a big thing to ask!

      1. Conversely, some people think that *if* the allergy is *not* “life-threatening swelling immediately,” then it isn’t a “real allergy” and doesn’t deserve to be treated with care or concern. Umm, it may not be hives/swelling/life-threatening, but 24 hours of diarrhea is not exactly a walk in the park either! (Unless it’s a park full of geese, I guess.)

  8. First time properly commenting, eeep.

    That Utopian word of absent food fuckery sounds great, and I wished I lived there. People Are Weird About Food! I suppose it’s so frequently about that it gets considered public domain, and people have crappy filters for things that are considered public domain. (See also: everything ever.) That situation sounds really crappy, LW, and like most health-related problems, in the end incredibly tiring to have to constantly go through. As for support and coping, do you have some indulgent things that you like but don’t usually have time for/can’t be bothered with? When I have had a really shitty day, I sit down and paint my nails, and it makes me feel like I’m being very fancy and indulgent. It’s soothing and it helps to feel like I’m taking care of myself more than usual; the extra effort required gives me time to think and reflect and come to peace with my day. It could be something more active, depending on who you are; going for a walk, perhaps. Sometimes one gets locked into a routine, and just sitting there and feeling down about the people asking ridiculous questions whilst moving through the routine. Allowing yourself to go “fuck it, I’ve had a crap day” and set aside ten minutes solely for taking care of yourself can be pretty nice. For me, what’s most important is to be kind to yourself. Be kind to yourself, and trust when you need to take a break and do something that you love. You’re awesome! Hone your awesome to an art form.

    I do hope that this isn’t derailing–if you have to wonder, it usually is, right?–but as an extension rather than writing a really similar letter, does anyone have any advice for well-meaning friends? For instance, with my awful fatigue, I go “I really goddamn hate climbing stairs” because I’m worried that one day I’ll be in too much pain to reach the top, and my friend laughs and goes “oh yeah, me too, it’s so much effort to get up here”. It feels dismissive and like they’re co-opting my pain. Is a nice solution just to go “Wow” or “Hm.” so that they get the point?

    1. With people I know well enough to say this to, I’ve found that “Please don’t force me to pass for able-bodied, I’m really not up for that right now!” gets the point across. (I have a bad foot. Running is right out. Most walking/climbing tasks *can* be done but slower and with more pain involved than I’d like. Friends are generally aware of this but sometimes forget.)

    2. “Not remotely the same, but thanks for your support.”


      There are many issues that you won’t have any frame of reference for unless you’ve dealt with them firsthand. This is why healthy people make comments about how nice it must be to just lie around the house every day and do nothing (when you’re chronically ill). They know what it’s like to have a lazy day, and they don’t think to add the bits about how you feel awful and miss out on the things you actually like to do.

      This might be a decent way to explain it to people you know well and will only need to be told once. Probably too much work for everybody else, though.

    3. I’m so glad you brought that up – I’m able-bodied and sometimes daft, and if someone said to me ‘I really hate climbing stairs’, my priority would be to avoid saying something that sounds like ‘Really? I find climbing stairs to be made of awesome. Sucks to be you. I trust you are feeling pitied, patronised and belittled right now.’ I am sure I’ve slipped into the ‘Yes, it does suck’ mode of responding simply because I don’t want to be all privileged in someone’s face.

      I hadn’t considered that the ‘yes, it does suck’ type of answer is so co-opty and belittling. Thanks for highlighting it, I’ll try to be better 🙂

      1. I find that sometimes, the best approach is to directly ask what kind of reaction people would like (well, not in a “How am I supposed to answer to that?” way ;). This way, as an able-bodied person, you can show that you understand that there is a problem and you want to show sympathy and support, but you are unsure how to go about it in order to really be supportive. Works best for everyone, I think.

      2. A great way to be supportive is just to verbally indicate that you’ve heard and understood what they said. Make your reply about them and their feelings. Don’t make it about you, don’t try to change it. “I’m sorry, that sucks.” “Then this must be pretty miserable for you.” “Yeah, you mentioned that” (in a way that means “I remember this about you”, not, “shut up with your tedious whining”). Sometimes people just need to be reminded that others are paying attention and care.

    4. Hi Sophi. That’s great advice. Thank you. It really does help to lock myself in a room and do whatever I want and screw the chores/work/hungry cat for a couple of minutes.

      Also, totally no a derail. I think that is very relevant to the discussion.

    5. There’s an expression in Russian, that the sated person will never understand the starving.

      I’ve been living with chronic illness for just about a decade now. I’m only in my 20s, so a good chunk of that time was with my family. My parents were good at understanding pretty quickly – in only a few years – that they really don’t understand what it’s like to be chronically ill. My sister, who didn’t live with us (being older), to this day has no flipping idea what chronic illness means. She can play with the idea intellectually, but she can’t internalize it. There’s no script in the world that will make a warm, fed person understand what starvation is.

  9. Thank you for this!

    LW, I don’t have diabetes, but I do have a weird genetic endocrine disorder that makes me extremely thin and results in some dietary monitoring to avoid nutrient deficiencies and osteoporosis. The only thing I have found so far to stop the Food Police is to be downright nasty. Which sucks because the reason friends and family ask is because they care, most of the time. But after a while, reporting your daily menu by text gets old. (Side note, is this a thing the young people do nowadays? Was I the only one who felt the world did not need to know via Twitter/Fb that I had a lovely piece of halibut for supper?)

    Most annoying is when I’m hosting a party and in the middle of serving food to my guests (when I have been tasting and picking at everything I’ve been cooking all day) and someone stops me to insist that, serving spoon full of mashed potatoes midway to someone’s plate, I must drop the spoon NOW and sit down to eat with a plate they have prepared for me. Um, I do actually prefer to take care of guests first, it’s just Hospitality, and that plate they have made? Only has about half the food I’d have dished out for myself, thanks.

    If this could be generalized to all health issues, that’d be a blessing too. I for one could have less of the comments about my medication requirements (just because they are sometimes inconvenient and have side effects does not mean my doctor is an idiot, it means biology can suck sometimes) and having to repeat, “yes, I’ve been to specialists. Yes they are very good. Yes, I am doing everything they recommend. Yes they do in fact recommend (random thing person disapproves of) Thank you for your concern.”

    1. A thousand times yes on your final paragraph. This happens to me frequently; one particularly blatant example was when I mentioned having odd dreams while on Ambien to a friend once, and she went all “Why are you taking that omg” and would not accept “Because I can’t sleep and my doctor prescribed it” for an answer. Seriously, do you want my whole medical and psychiatric history now? So that you, not a doctor, can *personally* feel satisfied that it’s okay for me to take a prescribed drug that works for a chronic condition? What else should I be running by you?

      1. Eurgh, yes. I actually had a pharmacist’s assistant tell me I should ask my doctor to change my meds (for severe depression) because they make me nauseous. I went a bit HULK on her and replied that actually I’d take being nauseous over suicidal any day, that I’m treatment-resistant so there’s nothing else I can take, and that it was none of her damn business anyway. The pharmacist actually heard and chimed in with ‘and anyway coming off these would be terrible anyway, keep taking them’.

        Can we make some kind of blanket ban on ever commenting on a person’s medical choices unless you are a) a health professional and b) have been SPECIFICALLY ASKED for help? Because I too am bored of being expected to tell random strangers my medical history.

        1. Curious, is it Effexor? I have nausea on that if I haven’t eaten enough and it’s widely acknowledged as SHITSTAIN to come off. Fuck Effexor, except that it’s what got me able to start working and studying again.

          1. Yogurt can sometimes help prevent Effexor nausea. (If you already knew this, I apologize; no intent to be pushy.) I’m on Effexor and have a fun unrelated condition where eating to the point of feeling full leads to vomiting, so finding a way to eat enough to take my pills was a big thing for me.

          2. Yep, it is! It is a nightmare to come off, I know, and I wasn’t keen on going on to it, but like you it’s the only choice I’ve got right now!

            Thanks for the yoghurt tip, Other Becky! I am actually also suffering from bonus stomach issues so I’m nauseous every day even without meds, and I will totally give that a try. For me, rice cakes are also genius!

        2. That sounds like a good extension to the suggested policy about unwanted food advice, definitely.

          The only unsolicited comments I want from the pharmacists or their assistants are if they notice a possible interaction with another prescription I have at that pharmacy, because that is part of their job. Beyond that, not only do my doctors know about side effects, I can and do read the paperwork that comes with the medicine.

  10. The food rules are brilliant, and I wish everyone kept them… especially the third one. I used to work in a clerical team, and most of them couldn’t talk about food without giving it some kind of moral value. After a while I developed a sort of mantra that I would use when it got too much: “Lying is a sin. Stealing is a sin. Cheating is a sin. Chocolate is NOT a sin, so just enjoy it!”

    I can’t say the food-guilt stopped altogether, but they soon learned to show a lot less of it around me. 🙂

  11. I’ve had T1D for 12 years, and this is one of the most annoying parts of the disease. Thanks for the great advice, I’ll try to keep in mind when dealing with friends, relatives, and strangers this holiday season.

  12. Thank you for this! The food police drives me nuts, and I resent that women are especially policed when they eat, and given the side-eye if they don’t apologize abjectly for eating something highly caloric.
    As to having to be an illness educator, I relate. I have had rheumatoid arthritis since I was a kid, and people can be so rude, patronizing, etc. I recently african violeted someone who just couldn’t let me be more than the RA. Having a painful chronic illness is challenging enough. Dealing with insensitive nosy jerks makes it way worse!

    1. I, too, resent the food police. Random men in line at a conference buffet will make cracks about the food I pick, like, “That must me the zero-calorie brownie, right?” How rude is it for a perfect stranger to assume that because I am female, I either am on a diet or should be on a diet?

  13. The only time I’d speak up about food on someone else’s plate is if I’m concerned there might be an actual allergy issue — alerting someone to an odd ingredient in a potluck dish, for example. But then, I have and am friends with people with food allergy issues.

    But the advice on keeping people off your plate is fantastic. Mostly, I’d rather NOT discuss the fact that I just asked our waiter 5 questions and then very specifically ordered my food without some ingredients. I’m self-conscious about it.

    I do ask people about their food all the time, as I’m really not a picky eater at all and now have to be. I want to know what things taste like when I can’t have them. I’m fine with “It’s really good,” though.

    1. I think informing a person that a food they want to eat contains a substance that they are allergic to, if they had no other way of knowing that, is fine. I remember once doing a similar thing when a friend of mine who is a vegan was going to use my spoon to try something and I informed her that I had just been eating ice cream with that spoon so she could make an informed decision about whether or not to use it. What’s not okay is when someone does make an informed decision (like maybe someone who is lactose intolerant orders the milky-milkness-dairy-supreme), and you remind them that they shouldn’t consume stuff with that ingredient because of their condition.

      Also, I think asking about food is okay. It’s kind of a variation on telling someone their food looks delicious.

      1. “FYI, that has milk in it!” is a fine thing to say to someone with an allergy or lactose intolerance or whatever.

        I also think it’s fair for someone’s partner (or similarly life-invested person — roommate, etc) to say (maybe not right then, but sometime) “Look, you {turn into a horrible grouch/hog the bathroom for an hour/always end up summoning 6 emergency vehicles/whatever} whenever you eat that food, and I’m tired of your bullshit; take care of your health, because your mismanagement is now affecting *my* life too, not just your own.” But the key, with that, is to do it in a boundary-respecting fashion – it’s only okay to say it because of the “it’s now affecting my life, too” part.

        1. It really depends. I am dairy intolerant but when I order ice cream or pie or something else that obviously had dairy in it at a restaurant, I KNOW it has dairy in it and I really don’t need anybody to ask me if I should be eating that.

          1. It’s also different with lactose intolerance, because (if I understand it correctly) you can just take a lactase pill and you’re more or less okay. With an allergy (which is what I have), there isn’t really that option.

          2. I’m intolerant to casein and whey, not lactose. No pill for that. I say “dairy” because nobody knows what casein is. It’s still my choice if I want to have milk and butter, which at worst causes a mild reaction – and, frankly, it’s my choice if I want to have cheese or yogurt and risk a much more serious reaction.

            I’m not saying it’s never ok to say “fyi that has dairy in it” but if I obviously know what I’m eating (ice cream, for instance), other people should butt out.

          3. Yeah my little brother’s allergic to about five things – the same four things as my dad + eggs – but luckily they’re mild enough that he avoids them *generally* so he’s not coming up in hives all the time but will eat them if they’re in something he likes. Like pavlova. I don’t think he’d ever turn down pavlova. A lot of our family recipes avoid corn and oats and eggs just for convenience, but there’s really a huge range of effect with allergies and only the person with the allergy actually knows exactly how it will affect them.

          4. Oh, argh, I just did the same thing that I hate when other people do — sorry about that, Blue. (I learned something new today, though – casein/whey intolerance, vs. lactose intolerance!)

            And yes, I see the annoyance when things are *obviously* made out of milk — it’s not a hidden ingredient in *ice cream.*

          5. Emmers – It’s cool 🙂 Casein intolerance is much less common than lactose intolerance – hence my use of “dairy intolerance”, because nobody’s heard of it.

        2. I had an SO once who needed to have that said to him by me. I could have used that script in those days.

          1. I was just the worst person while I was figuring out what was wrong with me, and my family and husband (then-boyfriend) deserve lots of points for putting up with it.

            Pro tip, kids: if you’re pretty sure something you’re eating is giving you severe GI distress, get the damn allergy test already (if you have insurance or can afford it). It is *worth it.*

          2. Replying to add to Emmers’ comment, but the nesting ended:

            Not everything is an allergy. Lactose intolerance, eg, is not an allergy. If you react to something, yes, bring it to the doctor (if you have access), but an allergy test is not always called for. It could be a different kind of reaction that you are having.

            Fun fact of the day!

          3. An important addendum! (Within my social circle, we have a dairy allergy, a wheat allergy (different from gluten intolerance!), IBS, Crohn’s Disease, gastroparesis, and I’m not sure what else. At least we can support each other with the “figuring out what the heck is wrong” process, which yeah, takes a different amount of time depending on what’s wrong with you and what you check for first…)

        3. My mum has a couple of very mild food allergies that have developed over time, peanuts being the struggle. Eggs have *always* made her feel a bit sick, so she never had to unlearn the habit of eating them; peanuts she used to love. Other nuts, too, but they don’t seem to have quite the same effect just now.

          It has taken at least 3 years for her to reach the point where she has made the decision to stop eating peanutty things. It drove me crazier than I usually am, she would get quite unwell and would suffer – not to the point of calling an ambulance, but bad enough. And she would complain about the reaction and peanuts EVERY TIME (a couple of times a week!)

          But she had to come to the conclusion to just stop eating the damned things herself. It got so that she would start to complain about 3 hours in the bathroom and my only response would be “yeah, that’ll keep happening.” or similar and moving on.

          It probably saved both our sanity over the issue, I wasn’t haranguing her for 2 straight hours about one sodding peanut; she wasn’t complaining about something that, as far as I could see, had a theoretically simple solution. And mutual respect survived for another day.

          Now, she just talks about how glad she is she’s finally stopped losing so much time to feeling ill. And we read labels very closely.

          I may have lost the thread of why I was commenting… Do excuse me!

          1. Let me sum up! “Even when people do have legit food issues, they need time to figure out how to manage it on their own.”
            You handled things exactly right with your mom. She didn’t need you flinging yourself between her and a peanut shouting “noooo” in slow-mo. Not least because she has to figure out how to adapt & regulate her diet when there is no one else to fling themselves on the peanut grenade.

          2. To blatantly steal from AA, you really do have to hit your own rock bottom before you make this sort of change in your life. Other people can’t change it for you, as much as they might want to.

          3. …oh, huh. That comment is somehow the one that is turning on the lightbulb for me about a somewhat related health issue that I’m having with someone. Specifically, how to balance “It is their body and they get to decide what they do with it” with “…but they’re constantly complaining about the results of what they do with it.”

            That does help. Thank you.

        4. Yes. I have some friends/family who are very good at this. The “Hey, I didn’t notice you give yourself insulin. Did you?” is fine, and often helpful. The “there are x carbs in 2 of those” helpful – so that I know how much insulin to do. “I used that peanut butter on my gluten bread, don’t eat it.” Helpful. “Dude, stop acting like a bitch. Test your bloodsugar” – helpful (although I will respond like a bitch to that too…).

          “Wait, this has sugar in it, you can’t eat it, right?” Not helpful.

          1. Those are people who are close to you, and you both know what your boundaries are and have had a chance to define/negotiate/figure them out over the years, so carry on!

            Casual acquaintances/passing strangers/people you see a few times a year at holidays – step off.

      2. As someone who can’t tolerate gluten, I appreciate being made aware of stealth ingredients. If you started that soup with a roux using wheat flour, or used barley in that soup, I absolutely would like to know.
        But, if you see me eating a cookie? It’s most likely because I baked or bought it, and it is actually safe. If my friend who is also gluten intolerant decides to eat pasta, then that is her deal, and I stay as quiet as I can. I have been known to wince when she does that, but, our symptoms are different. She can do it. I don’t dare. Our choices.

    2. Yeah, I have stopped one of my friends with celiac disease from poisoning herself with a contaminated dip before, because I saw someone get bread crumbs in it that she didn’t observe. I was pretty sure she’d want to know that because she’s made herself clear about her level of sensitivity and her wishes on the matter. It was a “Whoa, hold up, before you touch that, I did see someone dip their bread in that.” “Aww, hell. Thanks.” sort of exchange. We’re also close enough/informed about each other’s preferences enough that we’ll place each other’s drink orders at restaurants if one of us happens to be away from the table when the waiter comes.

      When I saw a similar situation with a gluten-free co-worker, I was much more tentative about the issue, letting her know that I’d seen potential cross-contamination if she had that level of sensitivity. And she turned out not to.

      I am generally in favor of ingredients lists for potluck dishes, to eliminate horrible food allergy guessing games.

      1. A friend told me about the best ingredient list ever: the recipe! At her social-group potlucks, everyone routinely brings copies of the recipe for every shared dish. Folks like me who need to avoid foods can read all about it, and anyone who enjoys it can make it for themselves

        1. I love this!
          It is especially useful if the flour in the dish(or butter, or whatever) is a process ingredient and assumed, as in browning something with a bit of flour(buttering the baking dish, honey or egg as a glaze….etc.).
          The recipe is often a bit more enlightening than a list.

        2. I almost never follow a recipe exactly, so I wouldn’t trust that any more than a written list. What I’d really like is to know who brought what, so I can ask them.

      2. I color code the serving utensils–green for vegetarian, yellow for vegan, red for meat, white for dairy, etc. I haven’t gotten into making super-fine distinctions, but I guess I could. That’s usually for big pot-lucks, where there are two versions of most dishes (the vegetarian chili and the meat lovers’ chili).

    3. Yeah, and asking people to be careful to not accidentally poison you/others is also okay, I think. I have a very serious allergy, so occasionally at some restaurants I need to ask people to be careful to avoid contaminating, say, a communal rice bowl — I used to either have to excuse myself to the bathroom to cry or just not eat until a friend sat me down and explained she’d rather be a little careful than either starve me or inadvertently kill me.

      1. Of course that’s within bounds. That’s also about what YOU are putting in your mouth, so not a critique of someone else’s plate. 🙂

    4. I would do the same for people with known voluntary dietary restrictions (vegetarianism, kashrut, etc.) But carefully, because that’s not license to food-shame them either. If the vegetarian person toasting that marshmallow either does not care about gelatin or is choosing to maintain a policy of plausible deniability on whether these particular marshmallows have gelatin, that is her decision, and “ha-HA, I have found a contradiction in your food ethics!” is really obnoxious.

      Also, I haven’t read enough of the comments to see if someone else got here first, but just in case: if you do feel the need to notify someone about a hidden ingredient or whatever? Please do it discreetly. Otherwise, no matter how tactful and polite you’re being, you’ve just changed the general topic of conversation to What Soandso Eats, and that’s singling them out even if everyone else is polite enough not to make a federal inquiry about it.

      1. As a voluntary vegan who eats honey and wears leather, I second this. Shut up about my choices. Their mine alone to make. It’s like certain people believe that because it’s a voluntary dietary restriction then it’s not a good enough reason to be that. Also, stop asking me what I eat. The answer is food…food that is vegan. Stop asking me where I get my protein, calcium, B12 and my personal favorite from the arm-chair chemist, choline. I’m fine.

        I can really relate to LW’s burnout on educating people. I used to take the time to say things like, “One would have to be calorie deficient to be protein deficient, regardless of animal protein intake,” and “There’s more calcium in a ripe bell pepper than a glass of milk,” but it only invites more (ridiculous) questions, like “So you eat a whole bell pepper every day for calcium? That’s amazing.” (Answer: No. And duh.)

        And the people who will dose you milk/eggs/butter without your knowledge because they know better than you about what you should be eating…fuck those people. That’s all kinds of wrong and it’s happened to me 4 times in 4 years.

        Is it really SO VERY HARD to imagine what a vegan person eats? Do I need to explain food item by food item where my protein/vitamins/minerals come from? Do I need a “good reason” for being vegan? No. Stop. There are books. There’s the internet. That’s where your information about veganism will come from in the future. Good luck, LW.

        1. As a medical professional, when people tell me they are vegan, I usually ask how they get their protein. If they look at me blankly, I ask them to talk to a nutritionist or read a book. If they can list off a couple sources, I feel better about their knowledge base (which probably is more extensive than mine).
          As a host/guest, I just want to know what’s on the ‘no’ list.

          1. Ok, but are these people *your patients* and have they *asked for your advice*? If not, you may want to re-read the OP?.

          2. To further draw clear, bright boundary lines: If someone is trying to convince you to become a vegan, you have all of the rights to ask them questions like this, *during* conversations in which they are trying to convince you.

            Not really during other times, and certainly not if they’ve given up trying to convince you.

          3. There’s a reason most people eat the way we were taught by their parents. There is a reason that there are cultural food norms. It’s a shortcut to nutrition. The average person does not have to really know what protein is and how much a person needs in a day because they follow a standard/time-tested diet.

            If dining in restaurants has proved anything to me, it is that my diet is NOT culturally normative/standard diet in the US. But that doesn’t make me unhealthy nor does it make my diet unhealthy. It doesn’t mean I think other people who eat things that I don’t are unhealthy. Different strokes for different folks.

            There are certainly people who do veganism/vegetarianism all wrong (read: without researching anything about nutrition). I’ve known them. People whose hair starts to fall out/fingernails peel/skin turns green or orange, people who make themselves too weak to walk, people who have constant headaches after switching. That’s a nutrition problem. It’s a nutrition problem that can happen to non-vegans as well. People who’ve had bad experiences with veganism/vegetarianism are the one’s who fight me the hardest about my dietary choices being unhealthy.

            It’s none of anyone’s business, but I’ve been to a nutritionist. I’ve had blood work done every six months for two years, not because anything was wrong, but because I wanted to know for sure. I’m healthy, in fact, the healthiest I’ve ever been and I’m happy with my choices.

          4. Um, you being a medical professional does not make other peoples’ diets your business. Unless they are your patient and have a nutrition-related issue that you are or need to be treating.

        2. Is it hard to imagine what a vegan eats? It’s not hard for me, but for about 5 years I was a sort-of vegetarian (I still ate seafood of all kinds, as well as eggs and dairy) and people even used to ask ME what in the world I ate! I would tell them that most Americans eat about 5 different types of animals, but there are hundreds of different vegetables, grains and legumes to choose from. Being unable to imagine what I could eat just seemed lazy!

          1. Word, but the laziest part to me is people who recycle the same made-up statistics about protein and calcium (because women and calcium, amiright? how will my bones not fall apart if I don’t gobble 5 yogurts a day?) just to bully me into toeing the line of their food norms.

            Why does what I eat affect these people at all? I’ve had multiple people tell me I’m killing myself by not eating meat. And just because this posting has become cathartic to me, the worst of it was this woman who told me I was going to hell for not eating meat. God gave man animals as part of our dominion and by not consuming them, I’m ignoring God’s will. I’m an atheist, so it didn’t bother me too much other than the sheer ignorance of it, but it made my grandmother cry. Down, rageasaurus, down.

        3. Ok, almost completely off-topic, but thank you for that information about bell peppers! I hadn’t even thought to check their calcium content, but they may be what’s making my guinea pig sick (they can very easily get too much calcium, and one of my pigs seems to be particularly sensitive to it.).

        4. The reply chain ran out, so I am replying to your post below, here.

          “There are certainly people who do veganism/vegetarianism all wrong (read: without researching anything about nutrition). I’ve known them. People whose hair starts to fall out/fingernails peel/skin turns green or orange, people who make themselves too weak to walk, people who have constant headaches after switching. That’s a nutrition problem. It’s a nutrition problem that can happen to non-vegans as well.”

          This attitude is extremely ableist. There are people who do the right research, and in fact whose diet and food intake are extremely good, who still do not thrive as vegetarians, because their bodies are not capable. Sometimes they thrive for years as vegetarians, but then something in their bodies changes, and they are no longer able to thrive this way. (I don’t include vegans in this group because frankly, I have never heard of a vegan whose nutrition intake is extremely good.)

          The idea that if someone does not thrive on a vegan or vegetarian diet, it is because “they did it wrong” is ableist and it is actually propaganda. It is not based in science. You are in fact recycling made-up “information”.

          I’ve been to a nutritionist too. She told me that it is not possible for the body to get glucose from protein (untrue), to eat something high in carbs if my blood sugar gets low (specifically contraindicated by my illness) and to stop taking my prescribed medication (way, way outside her area of expertise.) So the fact that you have been to a nutritionist really doesn’t mean anything. Nor do your labs, frankly, because they can miss a lot (as they did for me, for years, because they don’t test for everything under the sun.)

          If you are happy as a vegan, great! That is your choice! Insulting people who did not thrive as vegans or vegetarians is frankly not okay. It’s your choice too, but keep in mind that you are making ableist generalizations with no basis in fact.

          1. I guess I’m not sure what the generalizations were made that were ableist? Something about bananacat’s comment rubbed me the wrong way, but I’m not sure I’d call it ableist per se. However, you are clearly reading something there that I’m not, so clearly I may be missing something.

            Having said that, statements like this seem to directly contradict the “food commenting guidelines” and the moderation note in the OP:
            frankly, I have never heard of a vegan whose nutrition intake is extremely good

          2. Again the comment thread ran out, so this response is for Ethyl:

            The comments that I consider ableist are the ones I quoted directly in my response. It is ableist to blame someone for a physical condition outside their control. The allegation that if someone does not thrive on a vegan diet it is because “they did it wrong” is an insulting, ableist generalization. And it is damaging, to all the people who want to be vegan or vegetarian, who really try, and whose health suffers, and who are convinced by propagandists that it must be their own fault. (It is also not uncommon for ex-vegans to be ostracized by their vegan friends because of generalizations like bananabearcat’s; the attitude is that if they were really committed, they would have done it right, and still be vegan.)

            It’s like telling a dyslexic person that the reason they can’t read perfectly is that they are doing it wrong! They didn’t do their research!

            As for the moderation bit, the moderator approved my comment (I believe they are all initially screened?) so there is that.

            Jennifer-The-Moderator is editing this from here forward Ethyl, Ms. Pris, this little sub-discussion is DONE. Do not respond to one another further in this thread. In fact, do not post anymore in this thread.

            Moderators do not approve every single comment as it is posted, just the first time someone posts- frankly, to think we even read every single comment as it happens is ridiculous. So claiming that it must be ok because it posted is completely obnoxious.

            This sub-discussion has gone far astray, so let’s reiterate:

            You are the boss of what YOU eat. You are not the boss of what/how other people eat. Am I preparing dinner for you? No. I am writing a blog. So I don’t give a fuck about your particular nutritional requirements or what either of you think about other people’s nutritional problems. Stop now. Don’t come back to this thread.

            In fact, this seems like a good idea to close comments altogether. MODERATOR EDIT COMPLETE

    5. Very much yes to letting people know about unexpected allergens, or even “I’m not sure if this counts-isms.” I’d really appreciate when someone says “You said citrus, but pineapple is sort of like citrus and this has pineapple where you really wouldn’t have expected it, is that okay?” than just assumes, though you can take that too far into annoying territory. “But this food is yellow and lemons are yellow!”

      1. Ugh, sorry for the awkward sentence. I hate those sentences that turn out all half-formed thought, no wait I’ll say it like this, but whoops I forgot to change the beginning.

  14. Excellent advice, as always! It feels kinda weird at first, but as you gain more practice, it gets easier to shut down those conversations.

    I had to practice this earlier in the year, when out with people I didn’t know well. I had been invited to my soon-to-be-DIL’s bachelorette dinner (don’t even get me started on that!), and was trying to make the best of a very trying day. I have chronic asthma, and had been having issues for a couple of months. The stress of the upcoming wedding meant I couldn’t break a persistent, stress induced, asthmatic cough, so I coughed every few minutes or so.

    The maid of honor’s mother is a respiratory therapist, and seated next to me. I had been coughing all day, and finally, at dinner, she turned to me and wanted to discuss the cough. I explained that I have asthma, stress, yada yada, 3 rounds of steroids, etc.. – really, much more than I really should have had to do. She began to give me all sorts of advice, up to and including telling my doctor to change my medications, and what medications I should change to (I’ve pretty much tried everything out there – we found out the hard way I’m allergic to one of the most popular long acting steroids on the market), and would NOT.SHUT.UP, even when I politely tried to change the subject.

    I finally decided I’d had enough and said, “my pulmonologist is the Chief of Staff for X Hospital. X Hospital has just won major awards for their Pulmonary Department in this state, and is extremely highly rated in the country overall for the Pulmonary Department. He has M.D. and other letters after his name, and I believe I am under the best care possible. What additional medical degrees do you have, and where do you practice medicine?” It was a bit over the top, but it did shut her up.

    I’m not advising you to let it get that far – I think the Captain has excellent suggestions for shutting down those conversations before they get that far, but if you have a very persistent individual who just.cannot.shut.up, you might try something like that. Also? It’s not that I don’t think she knows anything about asthma, just… wrong place, wrong time, and who asked her? you know?

    1. I’ve spent years fighting back a super-sarcastic, “My god, that’s amazing! When my doctor wants to diagnose me or suggest treatment, she usually has to do bloodwork and tests with equipment and everything, but here you’ve just talked to me! And you know more than my doctor! How do you DO that?” in the presence of some people I know.

      1. I wish I had thought quickly enough to say something like that!! It’s entertaining to imagine the expression on her face!

    2. There are about 85 nurses in the family i married into, and I have had to learn to sic them on each other to get out from under the I Am A Nurse I Know Everything thing at family gatherings.

      Partly just because I don’t want to discuss poop or blood at dinner, but also because, really, we have not only doctors but the entire internet if we want to research medical things.

      1. I’m amazed at the number of people who feel free to just tell you what to do – meds to take, new! exciting! treatments, as if you aren’t quite aware of those, and have possibly discussed, and discarded, with your doctor.

        The other issue is antibiotics – I’m allergic to many of them. That means I have lots of people suggesting ones that have been useful to them – seemingly unaware that many are in the same “family”, and if I’m allergic to one, I’m allergic to the whole class/family. I was in the ER the other night, and even the docs were having a problem figuring out which one I could take.

  15. Excellent advice from the Captain, as usual!

    I have Crohn’s disease, so I tend to deal with this sort of thing often as well. My family means well, but after several years, you’d think they’d understand that I can handle my disease in my own way. Are there times when I probably shouldn’t eat a bunch of KFC? Of course. But, sometimes when I’m sick and miserable, I just want to feel normal and eat something I’d eat when in remission. I know I’ll pay for it later, and I do it anyway. Now that I am in remission, my family has thankfully backed off a lot.

    But, just last week at work, we were having a taco potluck lunch, and a co-worker who doesn’t know about my disease kept going ON and ON about how I wasn’t finishing the only taco I took and how it was SO wasteful and there are people in the world who don’t have food/are starving, etc. Finally, I got up to throw away my plate (with food still on it because I couldn’t physically eat anymore and I’m not real big on forcing myself to nausea), and he says something again. I just turned to him and said, “You know what, there’s a reason I’m not eating, but it’s really none of your damn business.” Not another peep came out of his mouth.

    Some people really don’t understand how rude they’re being until you point it out to them.

    1. Yuck, I’m sorry you have to go through that.

      On top of being incredibly rude and pushy the “children starving in Africa” line is bs. Whether or not I finish this food has no bearing on those kids. I didn’t steal if from them and making myself fat or sick from overeating doesn’t make them any less malnourished.

      1. When my uncle was a little kid he apparently had enough of nan telling him about the ‘starving kids in Africa.’ he offered to post them his leftovers.

        I have been known to steal that line as an adult 🙂

        1. I think I figured out it was BS before I turned 10. It made me angry, because I then interpreted it as them trying to manipulate me and make me feel guilty. So maybe pause before you use it. Smart kids might take offense.

          The other line that made my young blood boil was “Life isn’t fair” when used as a cop out to not attempt to correct something unfair.

          1. Oh, I think AB was saying they would steal the “well then I’ll mail them my leftovers” line, not the original “Starving kids in Africa” line.

    2. Unless someone shaming you for leaving food uneaten is going to polish off your plate themself, they can STFU.

      1. this inspires me to hand my plate off to the next person who shames my uneaten food and tell them they’re right, and should finish this for me.

        1. This is an excellent solution. (When I’m out with my coworkers and I order a salad that comes with olives, I ask for the olives on the side, so folks who actually enjoy them can eat them, instead of me picking around them.)

      2. Talking of people finishing yout food, I have a tiny appetite, and I rarely finish a standard serving of food (and not all restaurants are sympathetic about providing small portions!). I usually don’t mind at all if someone steps in and asks if they can have the rest of mine – in fact I usually like it because it saves me the ‘What was wrong with it?’ conversation with the staff.

        But I once had a friend ask me ‘Are you going to finish that?’ before I took my first bite of pizza. It put me off so badly that I almost handed him the whole thing. I ate about two slices because I felt that I was under such scrutiny so he could score free food. Not a fun dining experience!

        1. God, that just happened to me a few weeks ago, with someone I’d just met. We were all out a group event, in the cafe of a supermarket, so it’s not like I was the Keeper of the Food.
          It was so bizarre that I still can’t believe it happened.

    3. That is so fucking irritating!

      I have Crohn’s too, and it was really rough at first when I was super sick…particularly explaining to friends why I couldn’t drink at their parties, and having people take it as a personal referendum on their choice/ability to drink. And then there were the casual acquaintances coming up to me while I was still newly diagnosed, in an active flare, and demanding to know my weight loss secret – and not backing down when I said I didn’t want to talk about it. These days I’m pretty comfortable telling them, “well, yes, I lost 25 pounds in three months because I had explosive diarrhea twelve times a day, you should try it!” and letting the conversation just die right there. But it sucks when you are newly diagnosed and so depressed and vulnerable!

      Now that I am in remission, certain people in my life periodically quiz me about “are you sure you should eat that?” Or they get irritated when we’re at family gatherings and I ask about the ingredients in a dish. Or I’m staying with my family and my mom insists on buying/making dishes that I can’t eat, then pouting when I refuse to eat them, even after I’ve told 1,000 times that I can’t eat something and offered to cook dinner myself.

      It really does get exhausting after a while. I feel your pain!

      1. Oh man, been there! And it doesn’t stop when you’re in remission- every time someone tries to compliment me on how skinny I am, or how it must be nice not to have to worry about eating food x (where x can be any high-caloric food). Part of me knows they think they’re being nice (at least, with the compliments- not so much telling me what I should or shouldn’t worry about) but the rest of me is desperately holding back the “Why, thanks! Six months of unexplained vomiting and diarrhea were totally worth it, don’t you think? And hasn’t my hair grown back well?” Grrrr!

        p.s.- I wish Crohn’s didn’t take so long to diagnose.

        1. Yeah! I hate the compliments about my weight loss too. I want to shake people by the shoulders and say, “It’s not an achievement! I’d rather be healthy!”

          In fact, I may have said that to a few people, during my wonderful stint on steroids :O

  16. Oh wow, TRU DAT to all of the Captain’s advise. I don’t have any food-related diseases but it hasn’t stopped people from constantly commenting/critiquing my eating habits. And by people, I mostly mean co-workers. My peers don’t seem to have any issue with how/what/when I eat. But since starting my post-college job a few years back, it’s been a constant barrage of people and Their Opinions. The biggest of which is older women telling me some variation of how I better enjoy my food because I’m going to get fat when I’m older. It’s horrifying. Some have been people I consider myself friendly with, others I barely know.

    My favorite was from a woman who had a candy dish full of chocolate in her office and a giant tub of pretzels for people to take. And I was told this while grabbing some snacks, one of those “when you get to a certain age, you won’t be able to eat like you do/look like you do” comments. Which, will probably be true. But last time I checked, telling young people they’ll die of cancer/heart disease is PROBABLY true, but not something we’re allowed to say. Anyway, that’s what I refer to now as “trap candy.” Where the people thinks they have the right to comment on bad shit you eat because it’s THEIR bad shit they put in a bowl for you to take. Sigh.

    Anyway, I am going to attempt to employ some of these tactics. Especially because after 4 years of biting my tongue, the next perpetrator might be accidentally subject to some sort of 4 years-cumulative rant.

    1. Ugh, my boyfriend’s family does that all the time, telling me that if I keep eating like they do I’ll get fat like they are. YOU GAVE ME THIS FOOD, why are you complaining that I’m eating it?!

      I usually throw out some variation of “I can live with that,” because it’s short, casual, true*, and usually ends the conversation. And it makes a convenient broken-record phrase! Maybe not with medical concern-trolls (although “Won’t you get sick if you eat X?”—“I can live with that” might work out, come to think of it).

      *If I were fatter, I would look so fabulous in horizontal-striped black-and-white knit dresses you don’t even know. With ruby boots. And a feathery black hat. I found a fatshion blog with a woman wearing that a year ago and I STILL think about it.

      1. My mom used to do this, too! During one of my holiday visits home, she’d give me big ol’ I’ve Missed You Allow Me To Show You With Delicious Vittles portions and then, not an hour later, tell me that I should watch what I eat because my stomach sticks out (which, really, BFD, am I right?). Eventually I snapped and pointed out that she can feed me or criticize, but ferchrissakes just pick one. It was a pretty clear lightbulb moment for her there and she quit picking at my weight, which made the rest of my visit a lot more pleasant for both of us.

        1. This is brilliant – I am totally stealing your line to get me through Christmas with my mum! 🙂

      2. BLARG on the family thing. I love my mum to bits, really, but she is a prime example of this. Telling me how concerned she is that I’m fat and offering “healthy” diet advice that would see me cut out nuts, fruit and honey from my diet entirely in favour of splenda and ricecakes, while serving a meat pie and potato dinner that represents possibly about 4 times what I would, of my own volition, consume in a single meal and acting concerned if I don’t eat it all. Then dragging out a massive pudding, serving me a big slice, and as I eat it casually mention that “you can’t eat like this every day, you know, that’s why you’re fat”.

        I always assumed it was just massive cognitive dissonance, but Trap Candy is the perfect term for it!

        1. > “you can’t eat like this every day, you know, that’s why you’re fat”

          “What makes you think I do?”

          1. IKR? Especially when it’s food SHE has served me, while I’m visiting HER house. The whole “this thing is why you’re fat” would be utter crap REGARDLESS, but it’s just even more nonsense when I’m only eating it because it’s what she cooked!

        2. I like to think of it as calories by proxy. (My mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother have all done the same thing.) And then the you’re getting fat stuff is really about them as well.

      1. I bring sweets that I make to work and put that exact note on them except with the “welcome” in all caps and underlined.

        Please do not tell me about your diet. Tell me you like the pie, thank me, hell, I’m generous so you can even tell me you can’t believe it’s vegan, but not about how bad you are for eating something or anything about WW points or ### lbs. It makes me not want to bring you guys delicious pie.

  17. My absolute, all-time favorite rebuttal/response is, “Thanks, but I don’t think you should worry about it.” I love it because it adapts to just about any tone of voice. I can say it kindly with a smile, and (if pushed) move slowly but inexorably all the way down the tonal spectrum to a death stare with a cold, clipped “I REALLY don’t think you should worry about it.” It’s never not worked (although different people STFU at different points on the tonal spectrum). I LOVE it.

    For what it’s worth. 🙂

    1. Where were you with this before my wedding?! It would have helped SO much 😀 Stealing going forward, especially for the holidays and the lovely “why don’t you shave your legs” conversations….

  18. Gahhhh… I dislike Food Policing with the heat of 1000 suns!

    We all have to eat. Some folks just need to eat a bit differently than others. And those folks who have been dealing with MEDICALISSUES know how to deal and how to plan what to eat. It sucks having to eat “structurally” all the time, but, trust us to know ourselves and our bodies.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Cap’n for these scripts!

    Polite questions by a host or friend are fine (and are often appreciated. Personally, it lets me know those folks have my back and/or care.); The Spanish Inquisition of Food is not. And on a “low spoons day”, having some of these scripts at hand is awesome! Because nothing aggravates my Rageasaurus faster than unnecessary judgement and/or advice.

    FWIW: I have to eat a certain way to ensure my brain cooties stay in check and I have to eat more nutritionally-, fat- and protein-dense foods to address certain metabolic shenanigans. So all of those things we get shamed about eating? Well, I need to eat them to stay alive. And the comments, even the well-intended ones, sure do get old after awhile.

    Eat what you can. Eat what you like. Eat what you can afford. Eat according to the advice of your medical practitioners. Bugger the rest.

    (Still taming my Rageasauras… It’s a work in progress.)

  19. Oh my, I can’t tell you how much I love your food rules, and wish everyone would follow them. As a naturally skinny person, I constantly have people peck at me for how much/how little food is on my plate, or even insinuate that I have an eating disorder. I get so tired of having to feel guilty and apologize, just because I prefer to eat many small meals during the day.

    Thanks for the scripts on how to treat food comments as the weird intrusive behavior that they are!

    1. I’m an underweight grazer too. I recently exploded at someone on my Twitter feed who was peddling the “calories in calories out” line about how fat people are just lazy because quite aside from having done the research I just cannot comprehend that anyone who’s overweight could possibly eat/exercise so much worse than I do. It’s just not believable.* And if it was that easy I wouldn’t *be* underweight with the problems that go along with that. It was really, really satisfying and apparently satisfying to watch as well, but unfortunately you can’t do that at work or wherever because you have to keep seeing those people.

      *Particularly since until I was almost 18, I could just eat anything. Food went into Z-space after my stomach ran out of room. That ended when I got gastro for the first time and now I can’t eat as much as most of my family can in one sitting, so I *have* to graze.

    2. I was so guilty of this with my boyfriend. He’s a skinny person who eats tiny portions. He also works in construction, so intensely physical labor all day. I was genuinely worried about him eating enough for how much he was doing. Then I realized it was totally insulting his intelligence to question whether or not he is eating enough for a physically demanding job. Of course he is. He was feeding himself for 40 years before he ever met me. Time for me to STFU. Now when I prepare him a plate, I make sure to make him a boyfriend-sized portion which is approximately 75% of a bearcat-sized portion with fewer starches and carbs, the way he prefers. And it leaves more delicious starches and carbs for me. Win-win.

  20. Join the online diabetes community. Seriously. Doing that has saved me from burnout. Get a Twitter account, look for people using the hashtag #bgnow (as in, current blood glucose), and start unearthing the really rich diabeted online world (which is, weirdly, dominated by T1Ds — you’d think that T2Ds, being more common, would dominate, but it’s just not the case).

    If Twitter isn’t your thing, find blogs by T1Ds, like Six Until Me, which is sort of the grand dame of T1D blogs. This post: http://sixuntilme.com/blog2/2011/02/postsecret.html was what pulled me into the online community, and it’s discussing exactly what your question is about, i.e. how to deal with people saying, “Should you be eating that?”

    Much love from me and my insulin pump (whose name is Jane Grey, because her casing is gray and I am super-creative).

    1. Thanks for the good suggestions, and the LW is already a member of some support stuff, I think!

  21. Stop commenting on what is on someone else’s plate.


    Also please stop with the whole you’d like it if you only tried it, just a little bit, come on, have a taste, don’t you like my cooking, this is now a referendum on how much you love me spiral of doom. Not liking/being allergic to/being too full to eat a particular dish/ingredient is not in any way connected to my feelings for you, I swear!

    I was blindsided this Thanksgiving by some very intrusive behavior from Beloved’s grandma, and I wish I had some of these scripts to deploy 🙂 I am keeping them in my back pocket for later, though!

  22. I have celiac disease (also an autoimmune condition), and when I have the energy to do anything besides shut down a question (and I’ll be saving several of these responses for future use), my favorite response to people questioning me is to go into a really, really detailed scientific response about it. The LW frames that as a patient thing to do, and sometimes it is — like I say, I have times when I can’t deal with doing it — but other times I feel like I’m turning it into a “you want to get in my business? Ok, here’s what I deal with every day, all these considerations about what I eat and don’t eat, that you know nothing about. Still want to tell me what to do?” kind of boundary-setting. And if they hear all that and still think they have helpful advice to give me even though they know nothing about it, well, I’ve learned something about how seriously to take that person.

    Though often I do just give the short answer.

    My related frustration is that in addition to the things I CAN’T eat, there are also things I don’t LIKE to eat. But by the time I’ve said no to all the things that will actually make me sick, some people think I’m being really picky when I then go on to “oh, and I don’t like shellfish or mushrooms.” And that’s incredibly annoying, too. Yeah, sometimes I have to suck it up and eat things that I don’t want to eat because there isn’t anything I both can and want to. But the fact that some foods make me sick shouldn’t mean I don’t get to have things I enjoy.

    1. “My related frustration is that in addition to the things I CAN’T eat, there are also things I don’t LIKE to eat.”

      Yes, yes, YES! I’m allergic to dairy and intolerant to gluten and that doesn’t mean I automatically like everything that’s left. People think there ISN’T anything left, which is its own ridiculousness.

    2. Oh yeah, like you’re not allowed to have preferences!

      You might just collect the whole list into Things You Don’t Eat. It’s nobody’s business if you don’t eat them because they make you sick or if you don’t eat them because they turn your stomach. All those things are Not Food for you.

      I guess you might have problems with people being confused why you pick out mushrooms but won’t even touch the delightful pasta, but I think that people should suck that up. That stuff there? It’s Not Food. Some of it is poison, and some of it wouldn’t hurt you, but is like… chewing on tree bark. Probably harmless, but definitely not Lalala food.

      1. Unfortunately, if I didn’t make a distinction between I Will Pick This Out and This Will Send Me To The Hospital, people would not pick up on “maybe I should let her know that this might be cross-contaminated with [x]”. (Alerting me about possible cross-contamination with all of my allergies, intolerances, and preferences would take hours.) And then, whoops, hospital time. So the non-life-threatening intolerances go in their own column, and the food preferences go in a third one, and if people don’t want to respect that last one, that’s their problem; but no, no really, I need multiple lists.

        1. I’m sorry to hear that! The going to the hospital sometimes thing, and all of it. It sounds exhausting.

          You do get to have as many lists as you need. I do better when I try to keep it all to one, but I don’t have that many foods on my list and cross-contamination won’t make me very sick. (Just a bit overfriendly with the bathroom.) I’ve found it easier to communicate with people about my constraints when it’s all one bucket of Not Food.

          But my experience is not yours and if you need three or four lists, or even a whole dang spreadsheet, that’s what you need.

          Most of all, you totally get to have ALL the food preferences!

  23. Oh, God. I’ve been doing this. I’ve been doing *all* of this. I would never do anything like this based on anyone’s weight or meat-choices and I’ve been totally doing this to a diabetic. I’m so freaking sorry. 😦

    Thanks for publishing this letter so I can stop doing that, now.

    1. I’ve had a lot of the captain’s articles punch me in the self-awareness in the same way. It’s part of the reason I keep reading, because I am Learning Stuff. Kudos to you for being willing to recognise your mistakes and to change; I have to believe that this is what makes a decent human being, rather than someone who doesn’t make any mistakes at all, because otherwise I am decidedly Not A Decent Human Being and neither is anybody else on the planet, which is a terribly depressing worldview that I want no part of. All the jedi hugs!

  24. I have several (minor) issues that influence what I can and can’t eat and also I’m fat which some people think SHOULD influence what I can and can’t eat. I’m pretty open about all of this, but sometimes I wish I weren’t, because some friends and acquaintances say “should you eat that???” all too often and I’m having trouble training them out of it.

    Yes, I should totally eat that ice cream, even though I’m fat and dairy intolerant, because it’s my fing body and I want some fing ice cream.

    Also, between the health issues and the fact that I’m a picky eater (and to anyone who gets annoyed by adult picky eaters: I promise it is much, much more annoying to me than it could possibly be to you), I pretty much have to know exactly what it is I’m eating, or I don’t eat it.

    The only time I appreciate “don’t eat that!” is when it’s one of the two or three things that will make me really ill. Which happened over Thanksgiving – I forgot that a dish had cheese in it (well, I would never put cheese in that!) and one of my friends quickly reminded me. Thank goodness, because eating cheese = a very bad evening for me.

    1. There’s some research that indicates that picky eaters have taste buds that are extra sensitive to bitter things. You’re not trying to annoy anyone, and you’re not just refusing to tolerate something mildly distasteful; “mildly distasteful” to everyone else tastes AWFUL if you’ve got extra-sensitive taste buds. The theory I saw was that picky eaters can taste rotten/poisonous food before other people can*, so they stay healthy/alive when food sources are contaminated. Among social animals, they can also warn others.

      Or at least, that’s the theory for taste-based picky eating. There’s a lot of reasons to be picky. But this one–I mean, would you ask a normal-taste-budded person to eat grapes coated in strychnine flavoring? Because that’s how bad things taste to a picky eater. According to science.

      *this probably developed before humans, though.

      1. Yay science here to save the day!

        To Blue, I feel your pain. I’m lactose intolerant and allergic to corn (I get hyper/unable to focus and here in the US it’s in EVERYTHING, ugh!). But I also have preferences, I should be allowed to express them, within reason. Sometimes I feel like I can’t.

        On the flip side, sometimes I really want popcorn. It’s obnoxious when people try to stop me (including my overbearing mother).

        1. Exactly – you don’t owe your allergy constant obedience.

          I’m slightly allergic to coffee (some varieties can make me a little red-faced and sneezy), and I should really watch my intake while I’m on this antidepressant because it can make me a little more keyed up than normal. But, as Rupert Giles famously noted: “Tea is soothing. I wish to be tense.”

          1. I think I’ll hold on to that quote! 🙂

            Luckily my boyfriend is NOT this way. He’s a bit of an enabler about the corn 😉 And doesn’t mind the behavior change that follows. You would not believe how fast I start talking.

      2. I’m a picky eater–food I dislike tastes really awful to me. I cannot get it down without looking like I’m reverse-horking a hairball, even when I try. I have to refuse food that’s pushed on me just because it would be way ruder if I gagged up someone’s homemade cookies.

        These days, when I visit older women with strong hostess socialization, I request something simple and universally palatable right the bat; if she’s the kind of woman to do the three offers/three refusals dance, I say “Actually, I’d love some [water]” after the first offer, without even demurring. Then I can answer any further badgering or offers with, “No, thanks. You were so kind to give me the [water], I really don’t need anything else.” It lets her feel like she has done her duty, and lets me save face.

      3. That’s interesting, CheckeredFoxglove. Do you have a link to wherever you read that? There are some people I’d like to share it with, if you do.

        Anyway, I know I’m not trying to annoy anyone, but the number of people who think someone else’s picky eating is somehow about them (instead of ONLY about the picky eater) is astounding. Just read the comments on any article or blog about picky eating. Or sometimes the article itself.

        1. Supertasters! Also sometimes referred to as PROP tasters!


          Another science-y reason for “picky eaters” can include sensory processing issues (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_processing_disorder). Basically, different people can process the exact same stimuli in really different ways. And sometimes those differences can be fairly extreme.

          Sensory processing issues are particularly common in people with autism spectrum disorders, and so certain food textures can be tremendously upsetting for some people on the spectrum. It varies from person to person, of course. I have two sons who are autistic, and one has a SERIOUS aversion to foods that combine multiple textures. He likes pancakes. He likes blueberries. But put the blueberries IN the pancakes? He will go through and pick each and every berry out, eat them individually, and then eat the ravaged pancake remains. The two textures in his mouth at the same time is just more than he can stand.

          So, y’know, yet ANOTHER reason why policing other people’s food choices is a big bag of crap. 🙂

          1. Yes! I am a “super taster” and now I use that to explain my pickiness. I even bought the little paper things so I could have fun testing in a group. This turns out not to fun because people equate not being super as being less than – I wish whoever named the types had chosen less loaded words. If you want to try it’s P.T.C. Paper, to a super taster it is horrible, to middlins it is slightly bitter, to the low taster it is tasteless.

        2. Yes! As an adult picky eater, it is frustrating when people get offended that I don’t like the food they’ve made. I’ve come a long way in trying foods and being willing to broaden my horizons, but there is just some food that I cannot stand. It’s not that they made food with x ingredient and are therefore terrible people, it’s that x ingredient exists and tastes gross.

          And I’ve always found Thanksgiving especially painful, because I only eat rolls and homemade mac’n cheese. I just really dislike all forms of Thanksgiving food. It would be wonderful if people would stop commenting on what I put on my plate and accept that I made an informed decision on what I eat. I’m going to have to line up some responses for next year.

          1. Erin O – You can totally come to my house for Thanksgiving next year! Rolls and mac-n-cheese are exactly what my kids have for Thanksgiving most years! (This year we stayed home, so I was free to cook them whatever I wanted, without worrying about “ruining” anyone’s turkey feast. They had sauceless pizza, which is food they love and feel thankful for.)

      4. I am my official family checker for spoiled food. I can tell if meat or milk is going bad several days before anyone else. Milk comes in drink/cereal/pudding/cook/pour-out and I’ve had to learn that just because I think it smells off doesn’t mean my mother wants me to throw out the hamburger, she just wants a heads-up to cook it tonight instead of this weekend.

      5. There’s also synesthetes who if they have a taste->something version might not like something because of how it sounds/looks/feels. I have relatively minor taste->colour which is about the most boring thing ever and I wish I had something cool and potentially useful like number->spatial or character->colour but sometimes the colours are just so unappealing that I don’t really want to eat the food. Usually anything that has much black in it is just not good.

        1. Oh yes, this too! My particular taste->visuals synesthesia doesn’t make anything actually unappealing (it’s actually good for figuring out which flavors will go together, since I can ‘add up’ the visuals in my head and see if the result has the shape of something that would taste good) but I could certainly see where some other forms might have that effect.

    2. I have worked in many, many offices full of dieters, including the year there was an Atkins dieter who had to smell all the baked goods because she was only allowed to eat half of one cookie each week and needed to make sure it was the BEST cookie, and the year half the women in the office spent the first 12 days of each month only consuming lemon water with cayenne in it, and green tea. Also I’m fat. Always have been, moreso now than in the past.

      So, anyway, I finally started doing this: every comment of the “should you eat that/is that healthy/how much fat is in that/does corn have gluten?” vein, i just say “I like it.”

      It kind of blows a lot of minds, the idea of eating food you like *because* you like it, not food you like because it is also healthy or low calorie or “clean” or whatever.

      Unfortunately it takes weeks of repetition to shut people up, so it’s not useful for family gatherings.

  25. I love how these all are so adaptable to any number of invasive/controlling things that tend to get said to me, aside from food-related ones.

    1. Decision Tree:

      Is it your business?
      Are you the boss of that person?
      Did they ask for your input?

      Then maybe, I don’t know, be quiet? 🙂

      1. And chances are, even if you’re technically the boss of that person, be quiet is still the correct option. 🙂

      2. And by “boss”, we mean “has this person agreed that you are responsible for their welfare”, not “employer”. 😛

  26. Thanks, Captain, for saying this so clearly. It always bears repeating, and it’s so easy to lapse back into intrusive comments when you’re anxious about your own diet for whatever reason. This is a good reminder as my boyfriend and I are trying to simplify the way we eat and get a little healthier, and when I’m feeling bad about falling off plan, I find myself micromanaging what he eats too. I have to just keep repeating to myself: not my plate, not my problem.

  27. I’m so glad this came up! I have celiac disease and I’m about to go away for a month over Christmas, staying with people who have little to no first-hand experience dealing with people who are gluten free. In my experience people either scoff because they think it’s a moral/fad diet choice (though this is happening less and less) or they waaaay over compensate and buy super expensive, not that great gluten free food when I would have been perfectly happy just not having bread with my soup or skipping the gravy or whatever. I realize people mean well, but it’s awkward for me because I’d much rather make the adjustments on my own without people feeling obliged to go out of their way to make an Extra Special Effort. It’s complicated by the fact that I can eat small amounts of gluten without getting sick, so there is a level of self-regulation involved that is difficult to explain. And then there’s the fact that people hear “food allergy” and think that I will go into anaphylactic shock if so much as breath in flour dust…

    Thank you for the scripts Cap, I’ll have to file these away for future use!

    1. I have a similar condition, but more mild than yours, I can eat ‘a huge amount’ of gluten without getting sick. It can be very frustrating when people try to be inclusive (like parties and the like) in a way that makes you even more conspicuous.

      1. ^omg this. I’m vegetarian, and anytime I mention it (usually only if someone has offered me something with meat in it), suddenly it becomes this big huge thing. Not only do they want to know the specifics of what I do and do not eat (eggs? dairy? fish?!), they want to know why I eat the way I do, and then they have to make this big huge deal about it any time I eat with them. I understand they mean well when they do this, and I infinitely prefer it to the way one of my brother’s friends reacted (which is to say, by needling me about it constantly and judging my choice and bombarding me with questionable data and insistence that I read a book that cites wikipedia), but, like… I can see for myself whether or not that spaghetti has meatballs in it, y’know?

        People also like to bug me about “getting enough protein”, not realizing that I’ve done my research and it’s not actually that hard to get enough protein even without eating meat. Blech.

        1. Yeah I think with vegetarianism or veganism people get this weird idea in their head like you’re not eating meat AT them, and are silently judging their food choices. There’s also a really gendered component to it, too; Beloved gets shit for not liking steak and being “a man” because of it sometimes. You’d think enough people are veggie in various ways these days that it would cease to be such a surprise!

          1. Men assume my boyfriend is gay because he is a vegan. When they find out about me, they assume that he’s vegan cause I make him. Nope. He was vegan for 20 years before he met me. He actually made me a vegan; I was a vegetarian when we met and switched to vegan for simplicity when we moved in together.

          2. Exactly! And they keep that weird idea even after I specifically go out of my way to say that I’m NOT judging them, I’m NOT going to insist they should eat my way, I DON’T think they’re bad people for eating meat… It’s really frustrating. I never asked for any of that! All I want is to be able to live my life the way I see fit without being harassed for it.

        2. Anyone have any tips on how to get people to shut up about your diet when they’re your boyfriends parents and you’re trying very hard to get them to like you? I’m a vegetarian, which seems to be simply not done by Chinese Canadians like those my bfs family. They do a pretty good job of accommodating my food preferences (with a healthy dose of “You can eat that, right? It’s just got a little bit scallops/shrimp/oyster sauce in it!”) but what really bugs me is that his dad, especially, is constantly commenting on my vegetarianism. After going through the usual questions (Why? How long? How do you get your protein?) he started in on whether I minded other people eating meat around me (no) or found meat disgusting (well, yes, but not to the extent that I mind people eating it around me, see above). This was while the rest of the family was eating a nice, rare prime rib. He was really egging me on, trying to get me to say that I was disgusted by it. I was, a little, but I was certainly not going to tell him so.

          So what should I say the next time he does this? Enlist my boyfriend to get him to lay off? It doesn’t help that I’m white, which is not what his parents would prefer, and I’m trying to be as easy going as possible.

          1. This is one for your boyfriend – “Whoa, Dad, lay off! Poppy is happy with what s/he eats. And I’m happy about x food – let’s eat!

            If you need to say something, go with a very clinical “I am happy to recommend many cookbooks and websites and literally drown you in this information! Except for right now, when I am hungry and just want to eat x food that looks great.

            This is one of those weird things about setting boundaries. “I don’t eat meat (even a little bit)” means “I don’t eat meat”, not “I THINK EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU IS WRONG.” But sometimes people get really, really defensive and take it as a judgment on them and want to argue with you on that territory.

          2. Poppy, I like what a commenter further down said. “What I eat is pretty much my least favorite thing to talk about.” then smile and change the subject. It’s so simple and true (at least for me). I’ve never used it, but I’m positive it will work.

            I think Captain is right in what she said above, but sometimes people react with an outpouring of questions not because they feel judged, but because your vegetarianism is the most interesting thing about you (to them at least) and therefore something to talk about with you. They have no idea that you don’t want to talk about it. In their minds: why wouldn’t you; it’s so interesting. I feel like they are just trying to make you comfortable and get to know you better.

            The fish sauce thing they pulled reminds me of my grandmother cooking green beans with pork in them and telling me they’re vegan because it was just for flavoring and “you can take the pork out right?” I ate them because I didn’t know and got pretty sick, which she witnessed. I hope that you don’t have to use this, but I ended up having to tell her that if I couldn’t trust her to at least inform me of what is and is not vegan, then I wouldn’t be able to eat anything she prepared ever again (or at least until I could trust her). She read a book about vegetarianism and nutrition and talked to her doctor about her concerns about my diet (all on her own, I’m so proud). She changed her ways pretty quickly.

    2. I hear you on the expensive awful stuff. I go to dance camps, and some of them are great (they serve stuff made from scratch because that’s how they roll for everyone) and some are… not so great. I still remember the time when the last lunch of the weekend for the food-restrictions-people was gluten-free wraps with lettuce, carrot, and chopped up leftover meat from the food-restrictions-people dinners all weekend. Gluten free wraps generally crumble instead of folding, so they were inedible and not fit for purpose. As someone who is, amongst other things, protein intolerant, the only things I could eat from that lunch were the lettuce and carrot. As someone who is supposed to eat rather a lot lest I fade away into oblivion, I crankily went and ate the salad that was served with the lasagne they gave the non-food-restrictions-people.

      (I would much rather have got the lasagne, and taken a pill with it so I could digest it)

      1. Dance camps live or die on the reputation of their food. The horror stories are legion. But, really? They expect you to dance for hours on that? Wow.

    3. My husband is also mostly-but-not-completely gluten free. When we inform people we’ll be staying with, they tend to freeze and mentally go “so if he doesn’t eat bread or pasta, what *does* he eat?” We’ve found it’s useful to suggest alternatives – mostly rice and potatoes, in our case. Once we suggest that, their brain starts ticking through the rice and potato based meals they know how to make, and the crisis is averted. We’ve also been able to explain the mostly-but-not-completely thing by saying that if the recipe has a little flour in it – like most sauces do – it’s fine. He just can’t make a meal out of it. So far people seem to get it without a lot of drama, but then we tend to have really laid-back friends.

      Good luck!

      1. omg rice is a lifesaver seriously. It’s either the same price or cheaper than pasta and it goes with everything and you can eat it every meal if you have to and yes. Honestly I find that dinner is the easiest meal to deal with, which is fortunate because that’s where I’m most likely to be dealing with other people cooking for me. It can just be a little weird for me when people go to the lengths of converting a recipe to gluten free when they could have just made something *without* gluten in it in the first place. Still I’m hopeful things will go smoothly!

    4. “In my experience people either scoff because they think it’s a moral/fad diet choice (though this is happening less and less) or they waaaay over compensate and buy super expensive, not that great gluten free food when I would have been perfectly happy just not having bread with my soup or skipping the gravy or whatever.”

      This. And my personal favorite, not understanding that yes, I’m allergic to dairy and intolerant to gluten, and that still doesn’t mean I like / want this thing that has no dairy or gluten in it. I can dislike things that are dairy- and gluten-free! Imagine that.

      1. YES as if being gluten/dairy intolerant suddenly voids your taste buds “How can you eat this?!” “Er usually I don’t”

    5. Finding the right balance on how much special treatment to ask for is so difficult. The person who’s hosting me for the first time and I’m one of a whole bunch of guests? I really don’t want to feel like I have to be at the center of their planning. But someone who’s going to be serving me food semi-regularly over a period of years? I don’t want to start the relationship saying don’t worry about me at all, I’ll eat the side dishes or whatever and be fine, because eventually I’m going to resent that and feel like I’m locked into saying “yes, I will just take whatever scraps I can and never ask for anything special.” But you don’t always know the first time someone serves you food that it’s going to turn into a more intense relationship…

      This Thanksgiving was my first with my BF’s family and I did a fair amount of boundary-setting of the “I’m happy to bring the following things that contain gluten and that I’d feel sad sitting at a table where everyone else was eating them” variety. I don’t care if it seems like we have more desserts than we need if having the “right” amount would mean everyone else had three choices and I had one that I might or might not like. Again, if it was the only time I’d be eating with these people, I’d be fine sucking it up. I just don’t want to set the precedent that this is how it’ll be for years to come.

      1. This exactly. I’m socially awkward as it is and trying to negotiate the right boundary with new people straight off the bat has been a learning curve. I don’t want to come off as a control freak about it but at the same time I don’t want to be hunched over a toilet for the rest of the night when I get home. Especially since with newer relationships you don’t know whether people are going to fall on the “massively overcompensating” end of the spectrum or the “a little means a smaller serving of pasta” end. It adds another level of social squick for me. It’s part of why I much prefer to go out to a restaurant if people want to do meals, because I know what restaurants do good gluten free food. Being in a university town there are a lot of cheap restaurants with great gluten free food so birthday get-togethers have gotten much easier at least!

  28. I’ll admit I do tend to comment on my friend’s food from time to time. But only if we’ve had a discussion about something food/eating related AWAY from food, and have agreed upon appropriate things to say.
    I’ve had experience with close friends who admitted to struggling with food; one was worried she didn’t eat enough, and another wanted to break the habit of eating junk food. They told me about their worries, and sort of enlisted my help in motivating them to eat they way they wanted to.
    It was really awkward, because I HATE being The Behaviour Police. Especially where bodies and self-image are concerned. So I kept my commentary to things like, “you say you’re feeling tired? What have you eaten today? Maybe you need a snack?” or “how about we make salad with [food thing] instead of fries? I’m in the mood for something cool and crunchy.”
    I NEVER comment on a food thing once they’ve decided to eat it. That’s up to them, and it’s not my job to make their choices for them or make them feel one way or another about it.
    Sorry if this has too much food talk!
    I guess my point is, sometimes it is okay to comment on what people eat. But only if they are close to you, and have asked you to in a conversation that took place when you were not eating. And even then, I think the best way is to “comment” by asking questions, and let them decide, and then shut your mouth.

    1. The key thing is, they asked you. You are close, it is an observable issue, you eat together, etc.

  29. Miss Manners has a great answer to intrusive questions:

    “That’s so thoughtful of you to be concerned!”

    Or any variation thereof.

        1. It’s a tone thing. “How kind of you to ask” + a chilling, awkward, pointed silence where you don’t answer the question.

          The thing that’s been most effective for me in shutting down unwanted help, nosy questions etc. is about 80% tone (delivering whatever it is in a tone like I expect to be believed and respected, with a clear period at the end of the sentence) and about 20% in NOT jumping into apologize/explain/smooth over immediately after an awkward pause. Say your thing, let it get uncomfortable for a second, and demonstrate that you are okay with it getting uncomfortable = power.

          Not everyone will respect it, obviously, but that’s what “Wow, that’s a really personal question. Let’s talk about something else please!” is for.

          1. Being okay with silence and discomfort is one of my number one teaching skills. “Oh, no one’s willing to think about this question? That’s cool, I’ll just wait.”

  30. I spent a few months last year on a complicated elimination diet whose usefulness I wasn’t sure of, which made me dislike talking about it even more than I already normally dislike talking about my food issues. At the same time, I was in a food co-op of about 50 people, which meant that I had to keep 50 people updated on the progress of this diet that I would really have preferred to keep private. This resulted in people often asking me how it was going, including people I didn’t know that well – especially them, in fact, since when we ended up in conversations together they just sort of latched on to what they knew about me, which included this diet. I found it helpful and effective to just honestly respond, “Sorry, that’s pretty much my least favorite topic.”, and after they inevitably apologized, “No worries, you couldn’t have known that. Just FYI.”

    They weren’t usually giving me advice, though. The only person who does that against my will is my mom – and I’m having trouble shutting her out of this part of my life, since it’s my parents who pay the medical bills at this point…

    1. “Sorry, that’s pretty much my least favorite topic”

      Keeping that one for myself. Cause it’s true. Food is such a dull thing to talk about. Especially when it’s the same conversation over and over again.

  31. You know, even though she Walked with the Dinosaurs, Dear Abby had a great response to intrusive or rude questions or comments. She recommended a shocked stare, and then asking, “Why on earth would you ask/say that?” Make it clear you put the question or comment in the same category as puking on your shoes or picking one’s nose in public.

    Puts it directly back in the lap of the intruder. Of course, you might not want to employ this with (allegedly) loved ones, but it’s a perfect response for strangers in the food court or the distant cousin attending the next family gathering. They’ll get offended, but so what? Those are their feelings. If they’d kept their mouth shut in the first place, everyone would be happy.

    Perhaps I’m just a bit grumpy today.

    1. My other fave advice-columnist response that’s relevant here is Carolyn Hax’s “Wow.” Works best, of course, for the most directly/obviously rude comments (Q: “Don’t you know you shouldn’t be eating that?” A: “Wow.”).

    2. my fave advice columnist shock response is Miss Manners’ trick of answering the question that the rude person SHOULD have asked. if they say “should you really be eating that?” treat it as if they really said “how are you today?”. to which you can cheerfully answer, “fine, thanks! how are you?”. bonus points for the more non-sequitur it seems.

  32. My parents needs to read this.

    I am an adult(!) living at home. After feeding myself for four years at college and not keeling over you’d think they’d be able to recognize that I can feed myself. But no, whenever I ask them to get juice that is sweetened from the grocery store or my mother sees me making lemonade with lemon juice, water and sugar I get a lecture about how terrible sugar is for you and that I really ought to be drinking water when I’m thirsty. Usually with a comment about drinking less milk too. The problem? I hate plain water. IF I’m really thirsty I might crave it, but then only with ice. And like this post says, that’s my choice. I’m working on making her see that.

    But my mother and I have many, many boundary issues. In general, my mother makes her anxieties about any action of mine my problem. >.<

    1. I am with you there on the water. Straight water can actually upset my stomach sometimes, especially when I’m dehydrated, so I always put a little something in it. Though for me, it’s a tablespoon of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt substitute (Cause it’s extra potassium) into my glass rather than just flat out making lemonade.

      And what the heck is her problem with milk? The human body keeps depositing calcium in your bones till mid-20’s, and after that you need milk to keep from loosing those deposits. Calcium is our friiiiiend.

      1. She read some weird book called “Don’t Drink Your Milk” that was about how really milk after infant-hood is bad for you. And since it’s cows milk, it’s designed for baby cows not us…..

        But those are excuses, she’s mostly thinking, “It’s high calorie, you’re going to get fat!” Which is her same argument about the juices.

        I’ve found making it lemon water isn’t enough 😦 I just don’t like it and have trouble finishing a glass. But it would get her off my case. I do try to add my fiber supplement to the lemonade though, so it’s worth something. (I’m supposed to take extra fiber for irritable bowel.)

        1. Does it help if you mentally substitute “I” into those sentences? When she says “Sugar is bad for you!” she means “Sugar is bad for me!” and when she says “You should drink water!” she means “I should drink water!”

          I have an adult female relative who routinely refuses to eat (drinking only black coffee and diet sodas and not having food) until she faints. She has a lot of obsessive bad food talk sometimes, and there’s no way I can address it because my weight makes me automatically bad about food in her mind. So I spend a lot of time wiht her using that mental translator.

          1. That’s worth a try. But she is a master of making her emotions my problem. We’ve been struggling with it for years.

          2. I had a roommate who was like your relative. I would try to butt out because I knew it was an ED and I didn’t want to give her anymore issues with food, but it was SO HARD. Her ED affected me. I would come home and find her passed out on the floor which is really scary until it happens for the 100th time. Then I would try to revive her. Half the time, I would have to feed her right there on the floor because she didn’t even have the energy to lift herself off the floor. Then she would eat enough to have the energy to make it to the bathroom. Then she would purge. One of the most terrifying things I’ve ever seen. I had to move out. I hope she’s doing better, but I couldn’t be there to save her over and over again.

    2. GAH. Water tastes terrible to me almost all the time, especially the 15 years I spent living across the country from where I grew up. Water, not as flavorless as people pretend it is.

      I support you in your drinking juice and lemonade and milk in the goal of hydration and nutrients and delicious things to drink.

    3. My father’s done the concern talk to me about sugar but he did it pretty well – I’m interested in how nature works so it was brought up at a non-food time as an interesting topic of what sugar does to your brain, and it did actually contribute to me switching to dark chocolate and eating less lollies. (I’m the opposite of you with water though – I love plain water and hated when I couldn’t have it much after earthquakes, I don’t like flavoured water unless the flavour is strong enough. I also love milk. And juice. And lemon lime & bitters. I don’t like Coke, which people think is weird because here the preference on cola skews hugely towards Coke, but it leaves a weird texture in my mouth. Other sodas are okay, just something about Coke.)

      1. This is starting to cross the line into annoying/boring/maybe prescriptive talk about what people should and should not eat. I’m not deleting it, but we don’t need that much detail about anyone’s personal food preferences.

  33. Thanks for this. I’m a recovering anorexic, which means I manage how and what I eat based on some complicated and personal scales. My coworkers comment on my food constantly and I’ve been having a really hard time with it. These scripts will be helpful in defending my boundaries better.

  34. As a recovering alcoholic, I have to ask in restaurants “Is it possible to leave the wine out of the sauce?” and then “Is it possible to leave the sauce off the dish?” Please don’t tell me, “Oh, the alcohol cooks out!” There’s strong evidence that it doesn’t all cook out, and it’s dangerous to me if it doesn’t.

    1. I hate the taste of alcohol, and I dislike almost all foods that are cooked in alcohol because that’s pretty much all I can taste. I’ve always thought “the alcohol cooks out” was bunk.

    2. And it turns up in odd, un-announced places sometimes, too. Or at least, I didn’t realize there’s beer in au jus sauce for dipping sandwiches, but that’s how my local place does it. In the bbq sauce, too, though that says so. I’ve just gotten in the habit of asking the server to find out for me, and if they’re not sure, I usually end up with a salad or something. It’s not worth the chance of throwing up everything I’ve eaten today, it’s really not. (On the upside, since mine’s a food allergy, I generally feel just fine once that’s done. That’s an upside, right?)

    3. As a science major, I’d say the actual ethanol should be cooking out at that temp. But if it wasn’t hot enough long enough there might be some left.

      But some of this could be you tasting the flavors that go with the alcohol and say to your brain !alert alcohol!.

      The reason they cook them in alcohol is to get the over flavors from the wines/beer/whathave you.

      But regardless it doesn’t matter, it’s better to be safe than sorry, if you so desire, and no one should use that information to pressure you.

      Cassandra, I’d imagine the flavor is enough to be a problem? So their argument is extra null.

      1. Sometimes the alcohol isn’t cooked at all–rum cake can be a sponge full of rum, for example.

      2. You actually have to cook the crap out of alcoholic dishes to get the ethanol to cook out. The cooking/baking that most dishes go through won’t do it.

        1. I think Cooks Illustrated actually demonstrated this. I’ll see if I can find it, but I don’t know if they keep that kind of stuff (it was in response to a reader question IIRC) online….

    4. That’s a tough one. I feel like people judge the no-alcohol thing. I have a friend who doesn’t drink at all for religious reasons, and once we were on vacation together and went to a fancy restaurant. They poured rum or something over her dessert and she got so embarrassed because she had to ask them to send it back and give her one without alcohol. I felt bad for her because the server seemed annoyed. She was so apologetic, but at least our friends were good about supporting her and telling her not to worry and that she was being perfectly reasonable.

      1. People can be such jerks about not drinking. That one especially is something I really feel that everyone should keep their noses out of, because a lot of people have really personal and valid reasons for not drinking — from food allergies, to religious preferences, to alcoholism. No one should ever have to justify that particular decision, or feel bad about it. Alcohol is not essential, and the potential dangers are real enough that *anyone* should feel comfortable opting out for *any* reason.

        No one should judge or pry into anyone else’s eating or drinking habits, period, but I feel like this *especially* applies to things like alcohol.

  35. On the medical condition rather than the food side of it: I’ve recently come up with a script for dealing with medical professionals who exceed their area of expertise. I haven’t had occasion to put it into practice yet, but here it is anyway:

    “Hi, pleased to meet you. Before we begin, I’d like to set some ground rules. Please only ask me health questions that are directly relevent to what we’re here for today. In particular, I do not want to talk about my weight or diet or psychiatric health unless that is necessary information in order for me to [donate blood, get a Pap smear, etc.] Rest assured that I see my GP [or insert other specialty here] regularly, and will discuss these things with them.”

    I figure that if I rehearse this enough now, I’ll be ready next time the blood bank nurse somehow thinks she’s more competent to assess whether my crazymeds are doing their job than the psychiatrist I’ve been seeing regularly for years.

    1. Just my 2 cents, but I find that a little bit confrontational. For a practitioner you have never met (who you would be using the “pleased to meet you” portion on), you don’t have a reason to assume that person is going to over step their practice. To hear something like that might just make them a little taken aback and start the visit off on a defensive note rather than establishing the rapport which contributes to getting good care. Also, things like weight, blood pressure, and other things are part of basic intake screening and are not outside the area of expertise of most practitioners. Remember, if it is someone you have never met, then they have never met you, either, and they would be remiss in not asking about these things. If it’s your regular care giver, they would also be remiss in not asking if you are keeping up with your pysch care (eg). Now, asking is different from suggesting a treatment regime, and I agree that might be crossing a line if it’s unwanted. I would skip ahead to the “I see a GP/psychiatrist/gastroenterologist/blah on a regular basis for that, and I am happy with the care I get there” on an as needed basis. You can escalate from there, if they persist.

      1. For a GP, sure, there’s some wiggle room there. My new dentist asking when I got my autism diagnosis was rather over the line, though; even insofar as my neurology affects my dental care (which it does; they rely on patient reports of pain for some diagnostic things, for example, and that doesn’t work so well when dealing with someone who doesn’t consistently recognize pain as a separate category from other sensations) that’s not a thing she needs to know about it. Same deal for most other specialists, too.

      2. My guess — and this is totally a guess, not a judgment of any kind — is that you aren’t fat. My experience as a woman on the “smaller” end of fat is that health professionals of all stripes seem to feel a need to inform me that I’m fat (true!) and that it is a Very Bad Thing (false!), and that I will get diabetes (unlikely — type 2 diabetes has a significant genetic component, and I have a family tree full of non-diabetic stout women, with one tall thin diabetic great-uncle thrown in).

        Times I have been informed of this:
        – when getting a flu shot
        – at a routine eye exam
        – when seeking treatment from a specialist for intractable neck muscle spasms
        – at an urgent care facility, presenting with a complaint of fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and several of my students out with strep throat
        – consulting with a podiatrist about an ingrown toenail
        – seeking physical therapy for a congenital knee problem (what part of “born this way” is so confusing?)
        – being tested for allergies
        – having a biopsy done of a suspicious mole
        – lots more

        This has, over all, been bad for my health, because it has made me reluctant to seek treatment for anything. I have let an ear infection go until the pain became unbearable (because my eardrum had blistered). I have let a UTI go until it became a kidney infection. Now that I’m able to choose my own doctors, it’s less of a problem, and I’m more likely to get the kind of care that keeps problems from occurring in the first place — but any time I have to be referred to a specialist for anything, I get very, very anxious, as I wonder whether they’ll actually treat me or just prescribe weight loss. (Interestingly enough, on my first visit to every doctor I’ve ever seen, my blood pressure is about 10 points higher than it usually is.)

        So if Pterinochilus murinus (do you mind if I call you “baboon spider”?) feels more comfortable interacting with a new health professional if zie has a pre-prepared script, I say go for it.

        1. Yep. Ditto having a mental health problem. I get weird recommendations for stuff to make my depression better a lot. For example, telling an optician that she needs to warn me before touching me because of my anxiety somehow ended with her recommending aromatherapy? Er, thanks, I actually just want some glasses.

          And yes, since I gained weight I do also get that a lot. Annoying, to say the least.

        2. You can certainly call me ‘baboon spider’! And yep, all of this plus the mental health stuff above.

          The advantage to me of (politely) getting in first is that I don’t get blindsided by it, and everyone knows what to expect. The last time it was a major problem, the gastroenterologist who was supposed to treat my IBS instead asked me why I didn’t have weight loss surgery, using the words “Don’t you WANT to be thin?” and then performed the physical exam while I was still crying, and chose that moment (during the exam!) to ask, sneeringly, what “all those psychologists are for, anyway?” (apparently my psychiatrist just got demoted.)

          I was so shocked that I let his receptionist schedule another appointment, and it wasn’t until I was on my way home that I rememebered that I don’t have to put up with this crap.

  36. One – thank you (LW) for the impetus to figure out what the differences are between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. BASIC CLARITY ACHIEVED; GOOD TO KNOW.

    Two – thank you (CA) for the scripts. I hate food policing bullshit. FUCK THAT NOISE.

  37. LW, I am in a very similar position — I have had Type 1 for sixteen years and also recently graduated from college, etc. I don’t have much to add to the Captain’s scripts, but I also wanted to mention how grateful I was to read someone else complaining of the same issues I’ve struggled with — ‘anything I please, thank you very much, and I will do the math myself!’ is something I’ve noticed some people have trouble believing, however well-intentioned their disbelief is. If you go for the one-sentence scripts, I underline the suggestion to say it firmly and move on or change the subject if you can/want to — personally, “are you sure?” is part of what gets to me (yes, of course I’m sure, didn’t we just go over this!).

    When I have to/feel that I should tell someone new that I have T1D, I sometimes think to make sure I include the words “type one” or “autoimmune” (as you probably do) the first — or only — time(s) I say it, so it’s easy to get across “No, that’s actually not the same at all as the Type 2 diabetes referenced in that commercial you’ve seen [and if I feel like it, ‘and this is why’].” If I’m telling someone I have T1D because we’ll be or are in a close relationship/on a trip together/that sort of thing and I want to head off policing I expect to come from concern -> overstepping boundaries, I’ll mention in particular what my low blood sugar issue symptoms are and assure them that if I need help, I will be able to say something and will ask for it, and if I don’t ask, it’s as if I have no medical issue as far as their concerns go. Sometimes I include the ~differences~ between this and Type 2, but I don’t think this ought to be necessary. (Of course, this all only matters/works if it is an issue/is the case for you at a given time.) I say those couple sentences super firmly. And change the subject right away, if I can and/or I’m worried about the next question. I’ve always been happy, like you, to answer people’s genuine questions, which have sometimes been seriously great — and always been angry when people assume they know what’s right for me and want to tell me what to do because of it; like you say, it makes it difficult to tell them when there is some issue.

    Thanks for the excellent scripts about both food and personal-care policing. This is great advice. “Pie isn’t ‘sinful’. Pie is fucking delicious.” Brilliance and truth, that.

  38. (Quick note just to add that I would, I expect, use approximately the same strategies if I DID have Type 2, sans saying “Type 1” — the food policing and personal-care policing problems are the same! But sometimes I get frustrated enough with people assuming they understand my diabetes because they know ALL ABOUT Type 2 that I get caught up in correcting them instead of focusing on how they should butt out of my business, even if they mean well. ‘Actually no, but I got this’ — yeah.) Anyway, best wishes and fingers crossed for you, LW.

  39. Great advice as always. I have Asperger’s Syndrome and depression, and at 20 I still get people telling me that it’s because I was vaccinated as a kid and that my symptoms would go away if I didn’t eat sugar/corn/preservatives. So, my comeback to contribute: “If I wanted your opinion/input, I would’ve asked for it. This conversation is over.” I usually save that as a last-resort thing because even said neutrally it’s pretty blunt, but it certainly gets the point across!

    1. I feel like that was probably an “and/or” but I have this train of thought now about how not eating sugar/corn/preservatives reverses vaccinations or something which is actually sort of tickling me because of how ridiculous it is.

    2. If you ever feel like engaging a bit to silence the bs I’ve got something that may be of use. Since these people don’t like to listen to the awesome research that demonstrates no connection between vaccines and autism, I have an anecdote you can share, people loooooove anecdotes even though they actually mean next to nothing.

      My boyfriend’s brother was born with a dangerously high fever, this led to severe brain damage. Also, doctors were concerned that his immune system was too weak to handle normal vaccines and so he wasn’t vaccinated for several years. In that time he was also diagnosed with autism (rather severe too), thus it couldn’t have been vaccines HE WASN’T VACCINATED YET.

      You can save that for those you feel genuinely care, but are being reeeeally ignorant.

  40. I also have celiac disease, like some of the other posters here. Wonderful post and thank you. On top of celiac (autoimmune reaction to gluten), I also have autoimmune reactions to other foods, and while some people drop the subject when I say “oh I’m allergic to [list]”, others just can’t let it go. Especially when I have about a 24-hour delayed reaction, so when I say “such-and-such was contaminated and I got sick” they don’t believe me because I got sick out of their presence after I ate it. Or when I have serious reactions to invisible amounts (crumb on my hand because I touched bread and forgot to wash my hands after!) people try to convince me that my reaction was to something else or was a virus or something non-food related. Or when I don’t want to eat something they made specially for me because I wasn’t present when it was made, ergo it could easily be inadvertently cross-contaminated, they get offended because I’m rejecting their “kindness.” Or when they insist I should eat a little bit because “so-and-so has celiac but cheats sometimes” — well good for him, but he isn’t me, is he?? …and on and on it goes.

    Thanksgiving and other food-centered holidays are always a major pain, too.

    I just wanted to chime in that special diets are similar to the disabilities described in this Ana Mardoll post about “remembering disabilities” being a basic kindness to the disabled: http://www.anamardoll.com/2012/11/health-remembrance.html .

    Basically, people who really *should* remember that you WILL NOT/CANNOT eat (or even TOUCH or BREATHE IN or whatever) foods A, B, and C, yet constantly forget, either asking you over and over what you can/can’t eat; offering you foods they know you can’t eat; eating foods in front of you that you either can’t stand, makes you feel ill to see/smell, or that you really WANT to eat but can’t anymore because allergies/celiac/diabetes/etc, …basically, those kinds of people, who constantly “forget” your allergies, intolerances, and non-negotiable food habits–they are, simply, terrible friends.

    1. My friends are not terrible because they forget my complicated food issues that they don’t have to deal with on a daily basis and suggest we have pizza, or because they eat cheese when I’m in the room. That’s ridiculous.

      If I only spent time with people who always remembered all of my food issues, I wouldn’t have any friends. It’s not their job, they don’t have to live with it, and I don’t expect them to remember. As long as they DO ask if I can or can’t eat (food they’re making) or (at restaurant), or care when I point out I can’t, then they are good friends.

        1. Can you clarify/correct what you disagree with in Blue’s post and what you think s/he misinterpeted from Jam’s? Otherwise this is conflict that goes nowhere.

          1. I didn’t understand Jams comment to be as hard on friends who forget dietary issues as Blue made it out to be, maybe because I had the article Jam linked in mind, which is quite reasonable.
            I think there is a difference between forgetting that someone doesn’t like the smell of bananas after being told once (understandable) and putting alcohol in your dish when you’ve clearly told them it will make you sick (asshole).

          2. Makes more sense. The post that Jam linked is extremely reasonable. The stuff at the end of their post crosses into the unreasonable in my opinion.

      1. Yeah, wow. There’s so much difference between “people who deliberately ignore my dietary issues and try to guilt/pressure/trick me into eating things that will hurt me”, and “people who fail to devote enormous time and mental energy to protecting me from food-related SADFEELS.”

    2. I think you some make good points, however, I agree with Blue. It’s good if your friends remember your allergies & preferences and work around them, but they aren’t obligated to remember every single detail of them or every possible ingredient or cooking method. Would you rather they run it by you (and possibly annoy you) or assume that they remember and maybe fuck it up and get you sick?

      Also, “eating foods in front of you that you either can’t stand, makes you feel ill to see/smell, or that you really WANT to eat but can’t anymore because allergies/celiac/diabetes/etc” doesn’t make one a terrible friend. Just like I am not the boss of what allergic people eat, their allergy is not the boss of me with the exception of “I can’t breathe anything to do with x food, so it really can’t be anywhere near me” situations. Your friends are not eating stuff you hate AT you, just like you’re not avoiding stuff that will make you sick AT them.

      1. Your friends are not eating stuff you hate AT you

        Yes, this.

        I have a friend whose diet is extremely restricted. That in and of itself is (obviously!) totally fine–I have no problems finding restaurants that serve things that she can eat and likes, and when she’s over for dinner I’m happy to cook only things she can eat.

        But she has a long list of things that nobody at the table is allowed to order because they squick her out even to see them (fish, lamb, anything rare or raw that isn’t a vegetable, anything with an opaque sauce including mayonnaise, anything with a translucent sauce unless the sauce is pink or yellow, and more) and another long list of things that nobody at the table is allowed to order because she can’t eat it and it makes her sad (hamburgers, bread, cheese, ice cream, pie, spaghetti bolognese, and more). And if you forget and order something on either of the ‘no’ lists, she gives you the guilt trip for days about how you don’t care enough to remember, unless you call back the waiter and change your order.

        I like her a lot, and I believe her that these things really do squick her out, but the end result is that I do not get meals with her. Because I feel, at this point, like she’s outsourced her coping mechanism to me, and I just don’t have enough bandwidth to do that for her.

        1. Wow, just wow. I would never eat with her, because I would not be interested in respecting such a long list of Don’ts. One or two things, I guess? I’ll happily avoid eating something if being near it causes allergies. But I am just not okay with someone controlling my food to the point where I could not order what I wanted to eat without having a major guilt trip.

          I mean, yeah, when I thought I was lactose intolerant, I was sad when people ate things I wish I could. And now that I know it’s a grass allergy (seriously, go figure) I have different foods to be sad about missing, and different ways to balance my needs. But even though I can’t have the strawberries doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! Even if I miss them and wish I could have some.

          I just love food too much to be all “none of you are allowed food pleasure because of my deprivation”. Gah. SO NOT OKAY. RAGEASAURUS REX SAYS EAT WHAT YOU WANT AND FRIEND CAN GO BLOW IT OUT HER EAR.

          1. Fortunately “You can’t eat that because I used to be able to eat it and now I can’t and will stare longingly at it” totally violates the “You are the boss of only your own food consumption” principle and is covered in the OP.

          2. My parents are vegetarian for ethical reasons. When I eat out with them I usually choose a vegetarian option as a mark of respect for them. But there’s a huge difference between me choosing to respect their beliefs and them insisting that I must (which luckily they don’t). I think you cross the line when you insist that your friends cannot or should not eat something you can’t or wont.

        2. Huh, not sure what your friend *can* eat with that list, but if I were at the table with her, my list of things I personally can’t eat would mean I couldn’t eat anything.

        3. Yikes.

          I feel like there’s a *huge* difference between “remembering that Friend can’t eat Allergen, so asking Friend ahead of time when planning a menu” and “remembering that Friend can’t eat Allergen, so NEVER CONSUMING OR EVEN MENTIONING ALLERGEN IN FRONT OF FRIEND FOREVER AND EVER AMEN.”

        4. Guilt trip for *days*? Your friend does not have food issues. She has Being A Self-Absorbed Nitwit issues.

  41. I’ve had two babies in the past two years so I’ve gotten a lot of weird pregnancy-eating comments lately. In addition to the obvious “you’re not supposed to eat that when you’re pregnant” stuff, people tend to assume that if a pregnant person is eating something that they (the observer) aren’t familiar with or don’t like, it’s because of WACKY PREGNANCY CRAVINGS. I feel really stupid trying to convince them that no, I’ve enjoyed this food for years. People also tend to get confused when I don’t finish a meal because pregnant women are supposed to be eating for two, right? At least in my experience, I get nauseated if I eat a lot at one time during the first half of the pregnancy and my stomach is too squashed by my uterus to eat much during the second half.

    1. Ha, Commander Logic is at the stage of pregnant where strangers feel the need to ask “Does the BABY really NEED that Diet Coke?” to which she smilingly and enthusiastically answers “Yup!”

      1. My other (non)favorite thing that people say is “Well, now you’re ALLOWED to eat [X delicious food].” To which I usually cheerfully respond, “Oh, I was ALWAYS allowed! You’re allowed to, too! (conspiratorial whisper) The Food Police aren’t actually a THING, ya know? Want some of this?”

        Haven’t gotten that from strangers, yet, but fingers crossed!

      2. As a thirtysomething USAsian living in the UK, I’ve noticed a big difference in the level of food policing and food paranoia here in relation to pregnancy. Some pregnant women don’t drink any alcohol – many will have a small glass of wine when they go out to dinner.* I feel like if an obviously pregnant woman back home would order a glass of wine she’d be frog-marched out of the restaurant and put in stocks – as though she’d just been laying out her gear to shoot up some heroin. There’s also a bit of “lay off the sushi and Camembert” but not the loooong list of universally verboten ingredients and neb-nosing enforcement/scaremongering. My pregnant UK friends have been, on average and at least as far as I can tell, somewhat more chilled out than their colonial counterparts.

        *because that 250 ml of Burgundy is probably not going to be why baby Felix doesn’t get into Cambridge in 2030.

    2. One of the weirdest questions I ever got about not eating meat was pregnancy related. Mind you, I’m not pregnant and not planning on getting pregnant. A coworker asked me if I would eat meat for the baby. Ummm, what baby? Then she said babies in utero need meat. Ummm, what baby? Apparently, my hypothetical fetus objects to my veganism and coworker really wanted me to know that. Also, apparently, pregnancy changes a woman from an autonomous being into a receptacle for baby-growing. Free will is no longer a thing. Pregnant women must always do what is best for baby-growing.

    3. The pregnancy food policing I’ve had is unreal! I ordered poached eggs the other day in a cafe and the waitress kept saying ‘do you want them cooked hard?’ No, I like poached eggs runny. ‘For the baby. Are you sure? FOR THE BABY’ Jesus christ. I didn’t even know runny poached eggs KILLED BABIES. (they didn’t, you’ll be amazed to hear).

    4. I’m vegetarian and throughout my pregnancy, people kept telling me I was going to have a “tiny baby” (which I think was code for “sick, malnourished baby”) because I didn’t eat meat. She was born weighing 10 pounds and has grown up into a robust 5’8″ teenager despite never eating meat herself, and I still occasionally remember those comments and think “HA! I knew you were all full of crap.”

    5. Ugh, I *hate* that! I ate sushi a few times during my first pregnancy because I looked into it and realized that as long as it wasn’t the prepackaged grocery store stuff and it was from a good, clean place, I was fine. I *love* sushi! I once posted a comment about having eaten it while pregnant on a mom blog site, and someone else actually had the nerve to compare me to a woman who gets drunk during pregnancy! I was just flabbergasted.

      Kiddo’s doing just fine, smart as a whip and tons of trouble!

  42. Great post about food policing! If only everyone could follow that philosophy.

    Can I just say something about the “my relative had this” phenomenon — is it possible that some people who do this are just, like, feeling awkward about how to respond to personal info about your health and trying specifically *not* to be invasive? It seems a bit odd to lump “Oh, my grandfather suffers from TID, too” in with “Should you really be eating that?” or “You wouldn’t have TID if your mom had breastfed” (or whatever crazy blame-y things people say)… Of course, if it’s of the form “My grandfather has TID and HE tried [X medical regime] and it worked so you should too!” that is rude — I guess I’m just wondering if the first variant is less invasive/rude and more a symptom of people’s humanly awkward reactions to the concept of disease.

    Not that I don’t sympathize with the LW for being burned out on those types of stories. I’m sure it’s tiresome.

    1. I’m sure they DO want to say something “helpful”, but just because it’s become a cultural norm to weigh at length on medical & dietary issues doesn’t mean it’s a GOOD norm. Fight!

    2. Hi Lauraroslin. You’re right, in a way. When people mention the grandfather with T1D as a conversational gambit, not as a segway to unwanted advice, I don’t mind too much – although that story is pretty boring (“So this one time, I knew someone who was diabetic” really great story, and your point?). It is the my “Cousin’s college roommate had the same thing you do, so obviously I know more about it than you do and you should listen to/follow my unwanted, unwelcome, and irrelevant advice” people who are the problem. And they outnumber the first type of person 30 to 1.

      1. Haha, yeah! Even if the non-advice-giving conversational gambit isn’t rude, I’m sure it gets awfully boring. I can’t help but think of that episode of Friends where Ross and Paul Rudd are hanging out and can’t find anything to say to each other and it’s incredibly awkward, and so Paul Rudd goes “So you’re a paleontologist, huh? My cousin is a paleontologist.” And then… crickets.

        It’s too bad the awkward/boring people are so outnumbered by the rude people. Hopefully the capn’s advice starts to change that!

        1. This. I have that conversation every time I meet someone new and they find out I’m a diabetic. This conversation happens to my sister all the time too, only hers is “You’re tall. How tall are you.” IT gets so old!
          (I tend to tell people so that if something terrible were to happen – pass out/etc – then they will know what to tell the EMTs after they call 911. Being safe is better than avoiding intrusive questions.)

  43. One thing for diabetics and coeliac sufferers and those with severe allergies particularly is to set severe boundaries when storing food in shared cupboards and refrigerators.

    I recall years ago a huuuuge telling off for a friend’s children. They *knew* that the bottle of coke in the fridge door marked with their mother’s name was strictly and only there in case she had a hypo event during our weekend away. She was a type 1 diabetic who had only one kidney and a heap of other issues – she could ‘drop like a stone’, or less dramatically, at random times. The kids had offered it to others and the whole lot was gone. Dad went ballistic.

    If you’ve brought specific bread, cookies, drinks or other foods clearly labelled with your name. Those items are not for general consumption unless you specifically offer them. That is for a reason. That reason might just be your life. This is a no go, no options, no exceptions boundary.

    1. There can be reasons for that kind of thing other than dietary, too.

      My family of birth was weird in a way that I now believe is usually considered dysfunctional around food and food ownership, and as a result of that my brain doesn’t really grasp the idea of ‘shared food’ outside of a there-are-hot-dishes-on-a-table context; if I’m supposed to be sharing, say, a gallon of milk or a tub of ice cream with a housemate, it ends up getting tagged simply as ‘not mine’ and ignored (as in, I don’t even remember that it exists) when I’m trying to work out what I might like to eat – to the point where I ended up on a diet of canned pasta and soda last time I was living with someone, because he wouldn’t believe me that this was an issue and leave other things alone so I wouldn’t go weird on them. (The fact that I’m autistic is a contributing factor, here; I’m rather strongly affected by automatic brain-stuff like that, because while I *can* override it with logic-fu, doing so is taxing and leaves me more prone to overload later.)

      I’ve worked out a couple strategies to deploy if I’m ever in a situation like that again, now, but I shouldn’t have to have – situations like that shouldn’t exist in the first place!

      1. Sorry to butt in, and tell me off if I’m overstepping, but would it help to maybe split the food as far as is possible into a ‘for me’ container and a ‘for others’ container? I’m the same about shared stuff, I’m always super-paranoid I’m taking too much so I don’t touch it. Splitting things would maybe let you enjoy the shared food a bit more!

        1. Splitting something into two containers and designating one of them as mine means it doesn’t count as shared any more, but that didn’t work in the case at hand. Not that I tried it exactly like that, I guess, but for example I’d get him a tub of ice cream and me a tub of ice cream and still come home every so often to find him having a bowl of, well, not mine any more, obviously! And after a half-dozen or so rounds of that it was obvious that ice cream was *never* going to properly be mine, so it stopped registering as food at all. 😛 (Not to mention the gaslighting of eating my stuff and then lying about it when I was confused about why it seemed to be disappearing so quickly… ya, there’s reasons I cut that guy out of my life.)

  44. Lots of good advice here, for sure. Forgive me if this has been mentioned, as I don’t have time to read through all of the comments (though I did skim), but one thing I would mention is that for some folks, even the “one acceptable way of commenting on what is on a fellow adult’s plate” is tricky. I’m currently dealing with severe anorexia and I can tell you that for me, and for many other ED sufferers I know (mostly other anorectics), having someone make specific and pointed comments about what I’m eating – even if they are positive – can be mortifying, terrifying, etc. Being told that something looks delicious or must taste really good…the thing is, even though I’m attempting recovery, food and especially the enjoyment of food – even just the simpleness of “I like ” – is a source of shame. I don’t like people to know that I like the taste of something or am enjoying eating it. In fact, I don’t eat in front of other people at all (with the exception of my parents, with whom I am living while recovering). I have a very difficult time talking about food or eating. Having it brought up as a subject for me to engage in, in front of a big group of people, would be…ack.

    (If you saw Girl, Interrupted, remember how Daisy only wanted to eat in her room, and said that for her, eating in front of other people would be like being in a room full of girls all taking a crap? Yeah, that.)

    So…I would just offer that if there is someone in your group who you either know for sure has an ED or you think they might, my advice is to refrain from *all* comments about food when talking with that person. It might seem weird, but I think a little weirdness on your part is better than extreme discomfort and anxiety on the other person’s.

  45. My best bud of 20 years also has Type 1 diabetes and also gets really fed up of the “acting concerned but really just bloody nosy” type of people. She’s been annoyed by them for so many years now that she’ll just give them a withering stare whenever they start up, and that usually shuts them down pretty fast.
    In fact, the withering shut-down stare can be tremendously effective!
    Best bud is VERY insulin-dependent, has a direct line that stays permanently open via a wierd little cap thing on her stomach, and when I’m out with her and she says “you know, I need a cake and a drink soon”, it pretty much means “drop everything and get me to Starbucks.”
    She’s an adult, knows her body and her condition better than anyone else, and we all just have to trust that she’ll do/say what she needs. It’s none of our business what she does, or how she does it. But we’ll help out if she wants us to.

    (one of the wierdest things was to hold her blood test kit while we were both in harnesses 10 meters up a tree…!)

    1. I’m not diabetic but do tend toward hypoglycaemia (and low blood pressure). My mom and I figured out long ago to recognise the signs of a crash and as an adult I am pretty clued-in to when I need to eat. (ED issues aside.) It took my partner a while, when we were first together, to understand that when I said, “I need to eat within the next 20 minutes or I am going to have a meltdown” I was not being dramatic. Back then he scoffed at the ideas of “hypoglycaemia” and “dehydration”.
      And but so, it turns out that partner gets the same way when he hasn’t eaten (his meltdown just takes a slightly different form) – I can see it coming better than he can sometimes, and I will advise him to eat some food before he does anything else.
      But I think that is an okay thing to do with an intimate, since I don’t care what he eats and this is tried and tested.

  46. Something that helps me when I get the urge to concern troll especially about other people’s food is to ask myself:

    ‘is this something serious enough to require An Intervention’, and if so,
    ‘am I the appropriate person to intervene’.

    Having had to give a parent what was essentially An Intervention when they were refusing to comply with a medical diet, I am well aware that there are OCCASIONALLY times when intervention is appropriate or necessary. However I also had to learn at what point it stopped being my business and when I could safely butt out. That point was when they started taking responsibility for looking after themselves and were actually able to make informed and reasoned decisions about it. Once they were doing that then even if the surface behaviours were occasionally the same (drinking alcohol, eating ‘forbidden’ foods), the psychology behind the decision to do it wasn’t, hence intervention no longer being necessary. The LW clearly knows what they are doing and DOES NOT need an intervention.

    Making that switch and letting go was really difficult though, especially as it meant working out the difference between a reasoned choice which happened to be different from the one I’d have made, and the compulsive/self-destructive choice of someone who needed help. I’m grateful for the clarity of the Captain’s food commenting rules – they will really help me keep my concern troll in check, especially over the impending Christmas season.

  47. A while back I was on medication that didn’t allow me to drink. If I’d consume some tiny amount of alcohol I could die from respiratory distress. I didn’t think that would be such a problem since I don’t drink much anyway. I simply cut drinking from my life and went my merry way.

    All the same, I had to tell people who’d invited me over for dinner that I couldn’t have any alcohol, not even in the food. And the reactions! More than once I caught people serving me alcohol in some form or another. It felt like they were trying to sneak in it to see if I was really telling the truth or something. It wasn’t until I was calling 911 that they’d realize that ooops, it really isn’t funny tampering with people’s food.

    Let’s not even get into all the pressure of social drinking. What was I, some kind of Unabomber missionary?

    1. The reaction about alcohol is so weird, isn’t it? It won’t make me sick (I don’t think, anyway), I just really hate the taste. It’s so hard for people to get that “I don’t like alcohol” doesn’t actually mean “I’m super religious/straight-edge/a teetotaler/etc.” Not that it’s most people’s business if I were any of those, but I’m not. Also, I’m not disliking alcohol AT THEM. I don’t judge! My family and most of my friends drink it! I always end up getting all defensive back!

      Apparently “I don’t like alcohol” is really, really confusing to some people, and the amount of pressure I’ve gotten to try this or that drink (because I “just haven’t find ‘my drink’ yet” apparently) is astonishing. Even from people who would otherwise not give me the time of day, seriously.

      On the up side, I always take non-alcoholic drinks (sparkling juices, usually) to parties and people are always so surprised and happy, because nobody else ever thinks to, apparently.

      1. Exactly, you’re not drinking at them. It’s like the only two socially acceptable reasons not to drink are that you’re a recovering alcoholic or that you’re pregnant. And not even then are you safe from people insisting that you have just one little drink.

      2. From my experience, even if you “find [your] drink” it won’t be sufficient for some. I enjoy plenty of alcoholic beverages (mixed drinks with rum, vodka,or etc), but cannot stand the taste of wine or beer. It’s surprising how many people set out to find the one beer or wine that I’d enjoy, or insist that I just need to develop a taste for it.

        My response (which works occasionally; not always) is a bland “why should I force myself to drink something I don’t like when there are things I already enjoy drinking?”

        1. I hate “you just need to develop a taste for it”. I give the same reply, for for both food and drink that people think I should “develop a taste for”. I enjoy the things I like, why waste time eating and drinking things that taste disgusting to me?

          Besides that, when I lived with my parents, we had the “try one bite” rule, so I had to try a bite of everything served, even if I hated it every other time I tried it. And you know what? I never did “develop a taste” for any of those things that I tried over and over again.

          1. zweisatz: Actually, with kids, it’s often a good idea to have them try a food several times, like ten times, before you stop feeding it to them. Their palates are unformed, so it takes a while for them to learn that actually they do really like that thing.

            Sometimes, though, they just don’t like it. It’s up to the parents to lay off then, but it’s not a strike against them having their children try a thing multiple times.

        2. I’ve walked out of a bar after the bartender copped an attitude at me and said “You just need to get used to it” after serving me a free birthday Guinness. I had never had it before and wanted to try it, but it turns out I just don’t like it!

      3. My sister and I used to attend get-togethers of a young professionals group. The first several times we went, the drink options were red wine and white wine. We ended up drinking water out of the ice bucket because there wasn’t a sink or a water fountain. They learned, eventually. But I’m still aggravated.

      4. I agree. I actually love the *taste* of alcohol, but if I have more than a few sips I invariably spend about half an hour Hating The World and then fall asleep. I am not a happy drunk, even for very mild definitions of “drunk”. Evidently, risking having me sobbing in the corner is far preferable to dealing with me drinking a non-alcoholic beverage.

  48. I rarely talk about my T2D outside of my close friends/family, mostly because of the scourge of misinformation about it, so I’ve largely been spared the “Uh…should you be eating that?” intrusiveness. I’m an adult, I know what I should/should not eat (for my particular health concerns, not because there is any Big Book of Acceptable Foods that applies to everyone in the world). It wasn’t until I really got fully into the HAES mindset that I started noticing just how ungodly OMGBORING diet talk is. Seriously, I have to walk away or put headphones on when certain cubicle neighbors of mine at work start blathering on about WW this and points that and OMG I ate CHOCOLATE CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? So frustrating, how we’ve been conditioned to bond over our deprivation and self-flagellation instead of the love of food/feast as it used to be.

  49. I love your rules! (Although I also love talking about food in lots of ways, but not *at the table* geeze louise! how rude do people get).

    Although TBH I’m really working on how to say “no thank you” politely when offered food that I don’t want to eat, not the first time (that’s easy “thank, but no thanks”) but after it’s pressed on me over and over. Because some people have this idea that I should *obviously* try some of their… whatever. I don’t usually want to go into *why* I don’t want it, especially if the “why” would be a Thing That Is Rude to talk about at the table. I’m working on just repeating “no thanks”.

    1. A lot of my family/acquaintances do that–they equate feeding people with treating them decently, so if they can’t feed you, they feel anxious because they’re treating you badly. And for me, social pressure to eat is distressing, but having people radiating huge “something you are doing makes me unhappy and anxious” waves at me is even worse. Some people can just not give a rip, but for me being able to tolerate someone else’s distress and still have a normal interaction is really hard.

      With them, instead of dealing with the anxious hovering and constant questions, I try to get at the basic distress. Or really, acknowledge their good intention->state my position->move the conversation along. Like asking early for something small and easy you can consume and saying it’s the only thing you want, or, “You’re so kind for offering, but I really don’t want any. How were your holidays?”

    2. Yeah. When people offer something I don’t eat, I usually just say “no thanks” and don’t make a big explanation. But it feels like doubling down because if they keep offering, I then feel more embarrassed to go into explanations, and by the time I finally fold and say “actually, I’m vegetarian” or whatever, they feel bad for having spent 5 minutes pressing me to eat some beef. Possibly I should just say “no thanks” the first time, but then the second time say I can’t eat it without going into specifics.

      1. I like not giving an explanation – “No thanks” should be enough! But yes, it can get weird if people won’t accept the “no thanks.” I like the suggestion someone had upthread for asking for a glass of water so that SOME host-guest transaction can take place and they can chill out.

  50. Thanks for the helpful scripts. De-lurking for the first time just to say people pay way, way too much attention to what I (and others in general) eat.

    I think in my case this is in part due to my weight, and weirdly, also the colour of my skin. I once went out and bought a club sandwich for lunch, and it had bacon on it. When I got back to work and was about to take the first bite, a coworker yells “STOP!” I thought maybe there was a bug on the sandwich or something, but nope, so I ask what’s wrong. She replies “You’re from the Middle East, you can’t eat bacon!”

    Which is wrong on at least three levels. I was born and live in Canada, my heritage is South American, I do not subscribe to any particular dietary-restricting religon and even if I did, It’s up to me whether I eat the bacon or not. And…yeah, the ENTIRE Middle-Eastern population eats absolutely no bacon ever. It’s not like there’s more than one culture, nationality, race, belief, or country in the ENTIRE Middle East, right? (Sarcasm, of course).

    I just looked at her and then got up and walked away. It probably would’ve been better of me to actually say something, but at the time I was just so flabberghasted that I couldn’t do anything more than walk away. Food shaming/dieting is a bit of an issue at our office, although I’ve been trying to keep it from being discussed at the lunch table at least. Mainly it’s “Why are we talking about what is eating, we should just be enjoying our food.” People have learned that I don’t react to it the way they’ve liked, but they still talk about other people, especially behind backs.

    I’m not entirely sure it’s any of my business, but I feel more comfortable trying to shut the discussion down rather than just sitting by and ignoring it.

    Anyway, LW, good luck! I think we’d all appreciate people playing by the Captain’s rules.

    1. OMG, your co-worker should win some sort of award for Most Wrong Assumptions in a Single Sentence. I would have been speechless too.

      On a similar note, I used to have a friend whose family was from India, and I lost count of how many people were shocked that he ate hamburgers. Amazingly, not everyone from India is Hindu! And even some people who are Hindu don’t follow every tenet of their religion, just like Christians and Jews! Who knew?

  51. A-goddamn-men, CA. My boyfriend is allergic/intolerant to almost everything that’s not meat, and so many family gatherings with HIS OWN FAMILY have de-railed into “Well don’t you have Celiacs?” “Oh, you should just sprout wheat instead, it’s fine!” “Your cousin with Crohns’ disease ate this and he says it’s ok.”

    Requesting permission to print this out as a newsletter?

  52. Way up-thread there was a question about lactose-intolerance and being able to get around it with the lactase enzyme pills, but the comment was already at the full depth of nesting, so responding here.

    My mom was born lactose-intolerant, and the lactase enzyme pills don’t work for her, period. They work for me, but they aren’t a magic wand – they allow me to safely have some lactose, but not unlimited amounts. There also seems to be a time element involved that probably varies from person to person – I can tolerate X amount of lactose at one meal, but if I have X lactose at each meal in one day I’ll be sorry.

    1. Yeah, that was me up-thread. I’m intolerant to casein and whey, not lactose, so the pills are not useful to me. What I can and can’t eat also seem to be the reverse of many lactose-intolerant people, so – like most of my food issues – it confuses people. And thus all the unnecessary and annoying “danger, will robinson! milk! milk!” alerts.

      1. I have a friend with an allergy to a specific protein, so I get that. IIRC our mutually-safe dairy goodness list boils down to certain goat cheeses. 🙂

  53. Yes! This! So more eloquently put than I ever could – this! I’ve been living with T2D for 10+ years now and I, too, get the overly-helpful-Sallies asking if I should be eating whatever it is I have or want. Thanks for the advice on redirecting their overzealous helpfulness.

    FYI, some newer studies have linked Type 2 Diabetes to autoimmune illnesses. Here’s an article, Type-2 diabetes linked to autoimmune reaction in study (http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2011/april/engleman.html), posted to the Stanford School of Medicine website. It’s not the first article I’ve read grouping T2D under autoimmune, just the one I found a link for first.

  54. What’s hardest for me, in some ways, is people not getting that, just like they eat different things at different times, my tolerance for / willingness to deal with the effects of foods … differs!

    So yes, I ate whipped cream at Thanksgiving. I love whipped cream. I eat it twice a year. And that doesn’t mean I will now eat all the dairy.

    1. HA! Yes! “But you ate that before! Why won’t you eat it now?”

      “Well, that time I had no meetings the next morning, but this time I do. So eating this is just not an option today”

      1. Right, it’s just another version of the spoons idea, really. And I get to spend my spoons (energy, mental wherewithal, or food-related) as I see fit, because I am the boss of my own underpants 😀

    2. Are these people you’ve told “I can’t eat dairy”? I mean, regardless, they shouldn’t be the Plate Police, but if you’re giving friends mixed messages (“Please let me know if this potluck item has any dairy in it”) it’s not that surprising they would Not Get It.

      1. Sometimes even friends mis-interperet. “Let me know if this dish has X in it” does not necessarily equate to “I can’t eat this if there’s X in it”. It may mean that I need to know so I can evaluate if its safe for me at this moment in time.

        It may be that I’m usually ok with consuming a limited amount of X, but but I’m nearing my limit for the day; or the spicy Thai food last night upset my tummy, and I don’t want to stress things any more by throwing X at it.

  55. I agree with The Captain that your diet is your own, and anyone making an issue of it is being rude.

    This past Thanksgiving I had a full-on freak-out at my brother for announcing nearly every day for a year that being a vegetarian is gross. He proceeded to pick apart everything I spent all day cooking for myself, and I snapped. My mother was angry at me for causing a scene but I haven’t heard anything about it since.

    Maybe one big “shut the hell up about my food” won’t work in the LW case, but so far it’s proven effective for me.

      1. Getting really angry at people sometimes does the trick. It shouldn’t be necessary though. And for me, it would be really difficult to state my preferences that firm. (Sorry that you were driven to that reaction, Kai. I hope it will prove to be worth it.)

          1. I haven’t had the C-word, to the best of my recollection, but for as long as I can remember, people have found it entertaining to upset me. Then they tell me I’m too sensitive, and that they wouldn’t do it if I didn’t react.

            It has mostly stopped happening now that I’m an adult living on my own, and I get to just stop talking to people who disregard my feelings, but I haven’t forgotten what it feels like when absolutely nothing you say or do is effective in convincing people to stop hurting you.

            Anyway. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

  56. The thing I want everyone in the world to learn and accept is that everyone gets to decide what fits into the category of Food, and what fits into the category of Not Food. Not Food might be stuff a person is allergic to, but it might also be stuff they just don’t like. Not Food can also be Not Food Right Now, because sometimes things we like one day are just not appetizing the next day and trying to force them down is just vile.

    I don’t need to know why something is Not Food. I just need to know that it’s Not, although if I’m cooking or something I really do what to know what Not Food is also a possible Contaminant, like wine in the sauce or cooking bread on the same grill.

    Of course I’ve screwed up a bit when I’m so loving a food and want to share the joy. But I try to remember that even as I get to declare fish Not Food, others get to declare my favorite thing Not Food.

    But the important thing is that many tasty things are just Not Food and that this is okay.

  57. I think you left off a good one, though you edged around it:

    “I don’t talk about medical conditions over dinner”

    It derails a belief that it’s Just Food and is a little clearer that this is a very personal thing.

    1. I really like that one. I’m sure there are still some extremely rude people who wouldn’t be put off, but I think most basically-reasonable-but-oblivious types would understand the reason why medical conditions =/= good dinner table conversations.

  58. LW, I do not have a medical condition, but I frequently need a minute/a snack/to wear my glasses/to go to the bathroom more frequently than people consider “normal” (whatever that is)/etc. Stating a need is a complete sentence, and anyone who asks you “why” you need to do those things deserves a “because I need to.” If someone is aware that you have diabetes and seeks to explain all of these things on that, they deserve a big eyeroll and a quick “would you question my needs if you didn’t know about it?” or possibly just awkward silence. You need what you need, whether it’s due to your diabetes or not, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation!

  59. This is awesome commentary on something very important, I think, and reminds me of an encounter I had with a (BUTT FACED AND MISOGYNIST) cyclist last week — unsolicited advice and commentary on other people’s decisions and life are actually really rude and irritating, even if you’re right!

    I mean, example: I was late for work, so I accidentally left my bike light at home. A cyclist comes up next to me in the intersection. Cyclist is like “HEY YOU SHOULD HAVE BIKE LIGHTS” and actually will not drop the subject until I tell him “yo dude mind your own business okay”, at which point he calls me “honey” and tries to run me off a busy road and spits at me.

    Like, yes, I should have bike lights. But why is it your job to tell me that? Why are you sk intent on invading my space and forcing yiur advice on me?

    And people do this all the time for different things — food, dress (“that doesn’t flatter yiur figure at all!”), what I do with my time (“You should be more active/volunteer/join a sports team/try out for a play”), what I study (“you’ll never get a job if you major in X!”), etc.

    Like, dudes, I AM AN ADULT. I have my mom and dad and partner for advice/real life invasive suggestions. I barely know you; why SHOULD I listen to you? Why is your advice so special?

    Our whole culture is just so invasive and probing; I’ve never understood why my business can’t just be my own. 😦

    1. …also I am in no way implying that regular unsolicited advice is equal to advice and comments about something like an illness. I have had both, and feedback/advice/concerns regarding a condition of yours is far more exhausting and upsetting!

      Also the “yuir” thing is me being terrible at typing on my phone.

      1. Ugh. This. I get the same haranguing tone when I mention to a stranger that I don’t want kids. For some reason there are a lot if strangers who want to convince that random girl working at Sam’s club that she might want kids someday, that all women do, that once she’s done ‘living’ she’ll be ready to settle down, that the right Man will sweep her off her feet… ugh, wtf.

  60. Quick story: My best friend in grade school was diagnosed with T1D at age eight. Our oh-so-wonderful (NOT) second grade teacher stood her up in front of the class and said, I quote, I can still remember it 32 years later, “As you all know, T has been in the hospital this week. Because she ate too much sugar, she will have to take shots every day for the rest of her life. This could happen to you.”

    And now, back to your regularly scheduled comments.

    1. …oh my god I hope that mouldy bag of shit teacher was fired

      Seriously; how awful can you get??? LET’S BULLY A CHILD IN FRONT OF ALL THE OTHER CHILDREN YAAAAAAAY

      1. Of course he was not fired! They don’t fire teachers for stuff like that, no matter how much they should. And he was an awful teacher in other ways, too. But T’s mom did call the Principal and give him an earful when we got home and told her about it. Who knows what the fallout was from that–she didn’t tell us, we were eight.

        1. I assumed as much, unfortunately. And I shouldn’t be assuming that way — people should be doing their fucking jobs and protecting vulnerable folks! This is just wrong and unprofessional behaviour on multiple levels.

          One, it victimizes a child in front of other children. Underline/bold/star CHILD. Even if the teacher WAS factually correct, how could you blame a child for having a sugar-rich diet? That would be the parent’s fault, would it not? So why is this teacher targeting the child?

          Two, HOLY SHIT why is it your job to disclose medical information about a student? Surely teachers must be bound by some form of confidentiality agreement? Any teachers around with more info on that one? I mean, it won’t be the same for every country, but I’m not even sure if they’re held to confidentiality where I’m from.

          Basically I just have a lot of feelings about asshole educators thinking they can say whatever the fuck they want because they are educators. I’ve had some amazing teachers and educators in my lifetime, but holy fuck have I also ever had some bad ones (Hi, lady, who kicked me out of a program and told me to go to group therapy because you found out I was depressed because some asshole in the class started making fun of “crazies” and cracking jokes about suicide! YOU CLEARLY KNEW WHAT WAS BEST FOR ME)

          akljahlgkejgkahwe I’m sorry for all this ranting. Like I said — loooooots of feelings.

    2. WOW that’s fucking awful, I too hope that teacher was fired. Not only are they incredibly ignorant about diabetes, they just put a child through a potentially traumatizing experience over a MEDICAL CONDITION, disclosed PERSONAL medical information about her to the class, AND basically bullied that child in front of all her peers. I hate teachers like that.

    3. Great Ceiling Cat, that teacher sounds like my first-grade teacher, though she’d have passed away decades ago.

      Zombie bullying teachers, I wish I hadn’t thought of that …

  61. I have a variety of special health fun times and I get really, really sick of all the questions too! If I don’t want to discuss details, I use some version of “I have health concerns.” i.e. I have to watch what I eat due to health concerns. I can’t make that trip/walk up stairs/leave the house today due to health concerns. It works quite well with casual acquaintances and people with whom you have no reason to discuss your health. If I’m at a function and I’m worried about making sure someone knows what to due in case of an emergency, I’ll either make sure at least one person knows what to do if certain things happen or, if they’re all strangers, make sure I’m wearing my medicalert bracelet to inform the EMTs if they need to be called.

    It’s been very successful for me! I think the phrase makes it clear that it’s serious and something I consider private. I’ll occasionally get somebody who does a little fishing for more, but it’s rare and very easy to shut down.

  62. LW, as a fellow type 1 (and for almost as long, 17 of my 35 years), I have to tell you that the only way to avoid these kinds of people–not that you can ever completely escape them–is to surround yourself with geeky, intellectually curious people. I have gotten to the point where I happily lecture (not in a haranguing way) people on what the deal is with type 1 diabetes, living with a pump, hypoglycemia, alcohol’s effects on blood sugar, etc. etc. etc. if they express any interest, and I’ve been lucky that my listeners are very receptive–even if I’m not entirely sure they get it by the time I’m done. But it is 100% legitimate to not want to talk about it at a meal. For god’s sake people, it’s frustrating enough to just eat and drink ANYTHING but water with type 1 diabetes without any non-diabetic trying to “help”. The Captain’s advice is spot-on. I’ve had a very good experience with the “that doesn’t really apply to me” + subject change method of dealing with things when it’s inappropriate/not worth my time to go into more detail. Good luck.

  63. “It takes some practice to let other people’s emotions, like bad assumptions, unasked-for worry, or embarrassment they experience when they’ve overstepped someone’s bounds be their emotions and not take them on as your own to prevent or feel guilty for causing.”

    I need to read that every day. Starting about 30 years ago.

  64. Hi There LW:

    You sound like you are maybe in your early 20’s? If you haven’t ever before and it’s your sort of thing, you could check out if your local American Diabetes Association chapter has a summer camp for diabetic kids. You’re the right age to be a camp counselor. I learned some of my best one liner brush offs from fellow counselors at camp. And also got to go canoeing!

    If you’re a camp counseling type, it might be a good source of support for you too? (I always had a blast.)

    Also, I have employed:

    Q: Are you sure you should be eating that?

    A: Yes, would you like some?


    Q: I thought diabetics couldn’t…

    A: Are you an endocrinologist? No? Oh. *change of subject*

    Q: Something something intrusive comment/question.

    A: What’s your take on the research demonstrating that as long as carb-to-insulin ratios are calculated correctly, the type of carbohydrate it is doesn’t matter?

    That third one, you have to be in the mood to smile cheerfully with icily polite interest in their answer. They won’t have one, so usually I just say “oh. Maybe you should read up on that.” *change of subject.*

    30 years and counting– T1 fist bump through the internet!

  65. I used to have a dog who was kind of skinny and walked with a limp. I couldn’t believe how much unsolicited diet advice he got from strangers. He was unfailingly polite, though.

    1. Thanks for that, I laughed out loud. I would walk my roommate’s Great Dane and the same thing would happen to me. Literal scorn from dog-lovers about starving my dog. One man spat at my feet. Great Danes grow so big, so fast that they are naturally skinny. We fed him expensive prescription high-calorie dog food ALL THE TIME and he was still skinny. People who take their animals to the vet look at that ubiquitous chart on the wall that shows the fat-skinny spectrum of dogs and think because they can see “my” dog’s ribs that I’m doing something bad to him. Butt out. Health at any size, people.

  66. Wow. Just wow. This post kind of struck a chord with me. I’m female, and I am skinny. But I have a racecar metabolism, so I’ll eat a large slice of free pie when it’s available in the break room at work, especially if I forgot to eat breakfast. Coworkers comment and ask if I’m really going to eat all that, how can I ingest that much pie, how can I be this skinny and eat like that… etc. I always feel really awkward when they do that. And then I feel like I need to defend myself by explaining my high metabolism, but they just get jealous. At which point I’m describing blood sugar crashes from my body burning through a full meal(or a big piece of pie ) without me eating again, they lose interest and I start feeling dumb. Thank you, captain, for affirming that my coworkers are being rude.

  67. My best friend is a Type 2 Diabetic and has a nurse mom who is super controlling about food. I learned early to respect other people’s choices and keep my mouth shut. This has had an interesting effect on my son’s social life. He has several friends with food issues, including one that seriously is allergic to EVERYTHING. All of the moms feel safe sending their kids to my house because I put out snacks that are appropriate and don’t pressure children. I actually make sure that we always have one kind of pretzels on hand just for when Friend A comes over. I couldn’t believe the stories of 911 calls because their own families didn’t take it seriously. Now I am not perfect. I feel totally free to mock vegans with my husband but I would never serve a vegan inappropriate food.

  68. The Captain’s advice is awesome as ever and reminds me of something my housemate told me about how much it bothered her when our other housemate would come in, see her cooking a certain food and announce something like ‘I heard so-and-so food causes cancer!’ I mean, one minute some food causes cancer and the next minute it cures it and the science involved is incredibly dubious, but even knowing that, what an inappropriate thing to say when someone is just cooking themselves some delicious mushrooms or adding a cheese topping or whatever. Just another possible way someone can meddle in another’s diet.

  69. I love this especially because I feel it is specific example of a large cultural issue. I hear so many strong opinions and perspectives on what is healthy, natural, and just the overall ‘best’ way to be (regarding everything from how we eat, to our gender identity, career choices, clothing, etc…), and then I see people trying to squeeze everyone into these one-size-fits-all boxes, without ever considering the individual.
    The way I see it, nobody actually knows the best, most natural, or healthiest way to be. And even our best knowledge in those areas is irrelevant to fact that everybody has the right to direct their own life for themselves.

  70. I’ve got a huge pet peeve about castigating kids (and adults, but it mostly happens to kids) for being “picky eaters”. Even children have the right to some say in what they put in their orifices – mouths included! It’s one of the few things in their lives that they can control, in a world that is often confusing and overstimulating in many ways.
    And as other posters have pointed out, many people are supertasters for certain things, so the broccoli or bell pepper that is fine for Kid A is disgusting to Kid Z. Other people have texture issues. Anyway, it makes evolutionary sense that mobile hungry juveniles would go through a conservative stage, particularly an aversion to strong, bitter flavours. (Many if which really are poisonous.) Castigating and shaming, or bullying, kids for being “picky” isn’t the way to help them expand their palates as they mature. Not to mention how Food Wars when kids are little are the perfect setup for eating disorders when they are older.
    Ok /rant!

    1. And it’s not like you have to “train” your kids out of it–everyone gets less picky when they grow up! Some of my favorite foods now I HATED when I was a kid. I wish more people would remember that and not give their kids so much crap about what they do/don’t like to eat.

  71. I have a question for the people who’ve been posting that they might be intolerant or allergic to X but it’s their business if they want to eat it.

    You see, I’m a vegetarian so I get boundaries and foods you can’t eat and I try really hard to accommodate people’s dietary restrictions. But it’s irritating when a friend who’s made a big deal about their gluten allergy rejects the special free from gluten brownies that I made a special trip to get because the homemade ones look ‘just so good’. Or rejects a specially made dish with only ingredients they can eat because they’re ‘being naughty this week’.

    It feels like a bait and switch. How can I follow your rules respectfully if you keep changing them? And why should I put more effort into making sure you have food that’s safe for you if you don’t do that for yourself? Am I being unreasonable?

    1. Feelings are never unreasonable.

      You went to an effort and it wasn’t appreciated. I guess it’s happened multiple times? I think then you could stop going to the same effort. I think it’s the special effort for that’s got you upset, and I can see why. So you don’t have to do that.

      Does the friend appreciate the GF food at other times? That might help you manage. Otherwise, you can just make a dish for everyone that happens to be GF. They totally exist! Especially now, it’s easier to get GF ingredients at the store, so you don’t have to know that they hide gluten in the “vegetable protein”.

      But you can also decide to keep doing it, but recast it some way other than a special trip, a special meal, etc. I know a bunch of people with food sensitivities who resent that because they don’t want to be The Special One Who Can’t Eat Normally. If it’s a normal part of your hospitality to make an effort for friends, you might be able to think of this as another normal part of your hospitality.

      You might have another conversation with your friend about it, too. Was she recently diagnosed? She might still be coming to terms with the changes in her diet, and that can be super hard. She might also be not as sensitive as some others.

      Which still doesn’t help you because you don’t want to poison your friend! But still, finding recipes that are easily gf or already gf is probably the easiest way to go, and will not draw attention to her condition.

      This can be hard stuff, and so again I’ll say, your feelings are totally reasonable. And you can decide what you do about them.

      1. “Otherwise, you can just make a dish for everyone that happens to be GF.”

        THIS THIS THIS!!! Given how low my tolerance is for gluten I’m not one to play shifting goalposts with it so idk how helpful my comment will be, but even then I like to be as low-key about having celiac disease as possible. Even after five years it *is* something that I really resent having to deal with, and most of the time I don’t have the spoons to answer the slightly-too-personal questions that tend to arise with newer acquaintances when people draw attention to it.

  72. “Stop commenting on how much or how little someone eats. ”
    I am a 6’4″, 250 lbs dude. I need to eat a LOT. And yet so many people act like I’m this horrible glutton because I can and do eat much larger portions than they do. I’m not fucking gorging over here, I’m just *maintaining my weight*.
    The worst part about this stuff is you just can’t win. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I’ll actually order too much food, and then I’ll get the “don’t you know there are starving kids in China?” BS. Just STFU and let me be the judge of how much food I want/need to eat right now.

  73. Can I add a qualifier?

    I have really severe food allergies that often make eating food from restaurants or other people’s kitchens a fraught enough issue that I prefer to avoid eating at social gatherings.

    When someone says they’d prefer not to eat, RESPECT THAT. It’s not a personal insult. It’s not that I think you’re not competent. It’s just that, just as you like having the chance to relax with friends, I enjoy having the chance to do so without having to focus on calculating and choosing risks and having what I can or can’t eat and why being the center of attention.

  74. Hi! Delurking to say THANKYOUTHANKYOU for this post and your super-fab advice. I’ve been taking some time to come to terms with what I had been convinced was unbelievably unreasonable anger about this sort of trolltastic hybrid of aggression and pity when I’m forced to reveal my veganism during ordering or around new people or coworkers, etc. Over the years I’ve learned to just *dreeeaaadd* when the topic is broached, for all the endless refrains of ” Really?! OMGLOL I could NEVER ever LIVE like that blahblahblah BACON glarbglarbglarb STEAK wankwankwank EW SUCKS FOR YOU…” I’ve gotten so many great ideas from reading this and the comments, and it’s just really good to hear an objective voice say that maybe I’m not a brittle, delicate little lunatic for feeling like I’d rather staple my eyelids to my elbows than endure this sort of prattle. Thanks again! *lurk on*

  75. I can totally relate to where this person is, having had T1D for almost 27 years now myself. You’re spot on, Captain, with the advice. Eventually, it gets better (though never stops).

    The slightly related thing that comes up more often for me these days is my back problems. I have intermittent back issues that cause me to walk with a limp about 40-50% of the time and be in severe, sometimes mind-numbing, pain about 5% of the time. I feel like I have to explain myself because of this very obvious thing ALL THE TIME. Even to people that I’ve explained it to a dozen times before. I don’t expect anyone to remember my medical issues all the time, especially when they aren’t ever-present and they are MY issues, not theirs, but I wish I didn’t feel like I had to trot out the long explanations about my back every time someone asks about why I’m limping just to get them off my case. The occasional “I was in a knife fight in a bar” thing gets old as a joke (to me, at least) after a while. I just haven’t really found a way to quickly diffuse it with people that don’t get it or forget all the time.

    Of course, maybe I’m just too used to explaining medical things to people all the time and go overboard on my own. Very realistic possibility.

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