Language Matters In Diabetes Management

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You may have heard a thing or two about diabetes language.

You may have rolled your eyes at the thought of it: that the words you choose -- in regards to diabetes -- matter.

You also may think it doesn’t pertain to you: you have diabetes, you live with it every single day, and you don’t care what words are used to describe it! That’s someone else’s problem.

But it is our problem. And it’s something that goes far beyond just the realm of diabetes language.

Speaking to diabetes specifically, though, it is important that we are choosy in the words we use when talking about this thing we constantly manage.

Words Matter

By showing more compassion and kindness to yourself through your words and less blame and criticism, you decrease feelings of defensiveness and shame.

Whether you’re talking to yourself, your significant other, or your child, making subtle word changes can have a significant impact on your well-being. It can also help you see your diabetes through a glass half-full lens.

When we see it from that perspective, we’re more encouraged to move forward and make better decisions for our health.

Changing Word Choice in Diabetes Management

Think about the language you use when talking about your diabetes (or the diabetes of a loved one). What do you notice? Judgement? Blame? Shame?

The language many of us hear when we are diagnosed or visit our doctors is hierarchical. When we apply that type of language to our everyday lives of keeping up with our diabetes, it can have a very negative impact.

How do we change it?

It only takes a few tweaks.

For example, instead of using “good” or “bad” to describe the blood sugar that pops up on your meter, use “in-range” or “above-range.”

Words like good or bad are emotionally charged (have I failed, have I passed?); instead, we can use very fact-based, non-judgemental language.

For example, many of us living with diabetes see a high or low number on our meter screen and immediately feel failure. Instead, think of these numbers as pure data -- data that helps us to better understand our bodies and selves.

Another way of looking at it? The only “bad” numbers in diabetes are the ones that don’t exist. All numbers are data. And the more data we have, the more we learn.

By swapping just a few words, we give ourselves more respect, motivation, dignity, and well-being. Take a look at the chart below for a few simple suggestions! 

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The outcomes of our diabetes depend on how we manage each and everyday. How we manage can be largely impacted by the words we use to describe -- both to ourselves and others -- our daily experiences.

Encourage respect, dignity, and a sense of self rather than diabetes by making these simple changes in the language you use.

Are there other ways you’re already doing this? Let us know how you're using your words to positively impact your diabetes! 

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Mary Elizabeth Adams
Jan 10, 2020

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