Why Is It Important to Set Boundaries in Diabetes Management?


Managing diabetes is a personal journey. It’s nice to have people in your corner to help you pick up medications or listen when you need to vent. However, it is important to set boundaries in diabetes management—especially where your weight, food choices and movement are concerned.

Let’s explore why boundaries are so important for diabetes management, and how you can set them with other people.

Why Is It Important to Set Boundaries in Diabetes Management?

Setting boundaries is an essential part of building healthy relationships with people,

Boundaries come in different forms, including:

  • Physical—which involve the space around you, your body and your privacy
  • Emotional—which has to do with your feelings.

Setting boundaries has many benefits, including:

  • Feeling little to no resentment toward other people
  • Having more balance among your obligations
  • Developing healthier relationships
  • Preventing disagreements, and
  • Becoming more independent.

When it comes to managing your diabetes and issues related to it—such as what you eat and your body size—there are different ways to create boundaries.

How to Set Boundaries Around Your Body Size

It seems like people are always more than happy to make comments about other people’s bodies.

Diet culture—which is made up of misconceptions and unrealistic expectations around food and weight—influences our beliefs around these matters.

It also equates size with health—even if research shows you can be healthy at every size.

However, old habits die hard, and people still think it’s ok to make negative—or what they think are positive—comments about other people’s bodies.

No matter if your body size has stayed the same or changed, it’s never ok for someone to comment on it. Body shaming has many negative effects, including playing a role in the development of eating disorders, low self-esteem, depression and body dysmorphic disorder.

Fortunately, there are ways to set boundaries around comments about your body size

Change the Subject
If you’re with another person, they might comment about your body.

It might be a “positive” comment—e.g., “Oh wow, you look so great! What’s your secret?”—in which they are actually complimenting an illness or eating disorder.

It might also be a “negative” one—e.g., ”Don’t you know that being too heavy/too thin is bad for you?

If this ever happens, a good first approach is to simply change the subject. Show others you don’t want to discuss your body.

Be Straightforward
If you prefer to be more blunt, tell others that you do not want comments made about your body.

You don’t need to explain why. The most important thing is that others respect your desire.

Leave the Room
If people make comments about your body, it’s okay to separate yourself from them.

Whether you go to another room or take a walk to clear your head, there isn’t a wrong way to put physical distance between you and body shamers.

How to Set Boundaries Around Your Food Choices

In addition to commenting on your body, people might also make remarks about your food choices.

Like body size, food choices are personal and something on which comments should not be made.

Since you have diabetes, people might feel like they can “police” you to make sure you eat the “right” foods.

However, you can choose what you want to eat. You are in control of managing your diabetes!

You don’t need people’s opinions—especially if they aren’t warranted or helpful!

How to Respond to Food Comments

Examples of comments people might make about what you eat include:

  • “Are you sure you’re going to eat that bread? It has carbs.”
  • “Why are you eating sugar when you have diabetes?”
  • “I heard fruit has too much sugar. You might not want to eat that apple.”

There isn’t a correct way to respond to food comments, but here are a few ideas:

  • Thanks for your concern! I’m confident in my food choices, and would appreciate you letting me decide on my own.
  • Not eating sugar when you have diabetes is outdated advice. I’ve learned how to manage my blood-sugar levels while eating sugar and carbs!”
  • Fruit has a ton of nutrients like fiber and vitamin C. They’re a part of my eating pattern that I enjoy. Thanks for the concern, though.

You could also ask if they would like to read some resources that have helped you learn more about nutrition and diabetes.

How to Set Boundaries Around Exercise

How you move your body is another individual choice.

How you exercise is also something about which people do not need to share their opinion.

If someone tells you to try a certain exercise—or to move more—there are different ways to respond.

  • If it’s an exercise that does not interest you, tell them, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
  • If, however, you are open to their exercise suggestion, tell them, “Thanks … I might give that a try.

Other comments people might make about exercise could be: “You should exercise every day for an hour like I do,” or “You need to do Crossfit. My friend was cured of diabetes after he started.”

You might respond with something similar to these ideas:

  • “Thanks for the suggestion, but I have a workout routine that works for my schedule.”
  • “Crossfit isn’t really my thing. I really enjoy Zumba because it gets me moving and it’s actually fun! Even if I don’t “get rid” of my diabetes, I prefer doing workouts that don’t feel like a chore”.
  • “I really want movement to be something I’m excited about, and yoga/walking/running, etc is something I look forward to. Thanks for your suggestion though!”

You could also ask people to not comment on your exercise routine and trust that you’ve got it handled.

Try Out Different Methods to See What Works

Remember that there isn’t a correct way to set boundaries with others.

Try out different methods to see what works for you so you can enjoy healthy relationships while managing your diabetes.

And if you would like to connect with others who understand what it’s like to live with diabetes, join the Beyond Type 2 Community!

This content was made possible by Lilly, a Founding Partner of Beyond Type 2.

Beyond Type 2 maintains editorial control over its content.

WRITTEN BY Kourtney Johnson, POSTED 03/22/24, UPDATED 03/22/24

Kourtney is a registered dietitian living with type 1 diabetes. She was inspired to study nutrition after learning about the role food plays in managing this condition. When she's not writing about all things food and diabetes-related, she enjoys reading, cooking, traveling, going to the beach and spending time with loved ones.