How Your Family May Sabotage Your Efforts to Manage Diabetes
If family members and friends have "got your back," it can give you the boost you need to exercise and eat right to keep diabetes under control.
One study of native Hawaiians who had or were at risk for diabetes found that people with family support were more likely to make healthy lifestyle changes than those who did not have that kind of help.
Another study involving focus groups of Mexican Americans with type 2 diabetes found that a family-oriented walking program could help motivate people to engage in physical activity.
However, you may need to cope with family members who are less than supportive.
Some family members believe food equals love
Yvonne Thigpen, RN, is a diabetes educator who has seen it all in terms of family support. As the diabetes program coordinator at Mount Clemens Regional Medical Center, in Mt. Clemens, Mich., she counsels people through several classes—a total of 10 hours of training—on how to manage the disease.
Although she always invites spouses and family members, they don't always come. Family members of diabetics often continue to bring junk food into the house. Some even offer candy as a treat to their loved one and feel hurt if it's rejected.
"You know that whole 'food is love' thing," she says. "Sometimes we know it's deliberate sabotage."
It can be hard to figure out why a family member is not supporting your efforts. But sometimes it's because they are afraid of change.
They may be thinking, "I don't want you to change, you might become somebody else and go away, or if you change, that might mean I have to change and I don't want to change," says Thigpen. Or it could be more of a power struggle in terms of who's the one "who gets to say what we eat in this house," she says. "We've heard some pretty bad stories."
Family members also can be a huge help
Claudia McGill, 49, an artist in Wyncote, Penn., learned she had prediabetes after she and her husband decided to slim down together and visit a nutritionist to revamp their diet. At their first meeting the nutritionist warned McGill that she was at risk for prediabetes. Despite changing her diet and increasing her exercise, a year later McGill was diagnosed with prediabetes. Still, she and her husband stuck to their new, healthier habits.
"We used to eat mashed potatoes probably every meal—and portion sizes, I had no clue about. I would figure a pile of mashed potatoes the size of a person's head—that's about what we should be eating, right?"
She credits her husband for providing the support she needed to make a radical lifestyle change. Since December 2005 she has dropped 83 pounds and five dress sizes, and is no longer prediabetic.
If you don't have that kind of support or are seeking more, you can turn to community groups or online groups to get the help you need.