How to politely tell diabetes-do-gooders to “Stuff it!”


Now you can tell family members, friends, colleagues and your mother-in-law to “Stuff it!” when they get in your face about how you’re managing your diabetes. You know, that finger-wagging, judgmental tone and unsolicited comment about, “Should you be eating that?” or “What’s your blood sugar?” As if all this work wasn’t enough.

That’s because the Behavioral Diabetes Institute (BDI) – founded by Bill Polonsky – have put out these nifty little Etiquette Cards to keep those of us who live with diabetes sane – and safer – from interfering busybodies and self-ascribed do-gooders. 

The mini (2″ x 3″) pocket-stuffers to keep people from getting in your hair have 10 tips each, such as these:

• Don’t tell me horror stories about your grandmother or other people with diabetes you have heard about, and

• Do ask how you might be helpful

In fact, even kids with diabetes can tell their parents to “Stuff it!” because they now have a card just for them equipped with great tips like:

• When my blood sugars are high, don’t assume I’ve done something stupid (although I may have), and

• Recognize that I am never going to be perfect with my diabetes care, no matter how much you want this

There’s also an all-purpose educational mini card called, “Don’t Freak Out! 10 Things to Know When Diagnosed With Type 2 Diabetes.” Including tidbits like:

• No, it probably isn’t a mistake, and

• Ignoring your diabetes after being diagnosed is a very bad idea

I joke, but these provide great little tips both to educate one’s self and those around you. If you haven’t heard of the BDI it’s one of the very few diabetes centers that help patients cope with the emotional stresses of diabetes: burn-out, depression and being off-track with your management through seminars and workshops. 

You can download the Etiquette Cards or send away for them.

Eat more micronutrients, get healthy and lose weight

Try to catch this program if you can on your PBS station: 3 STEPS TO INCREDIBLE HEALTH! with Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Dr. Fuhrman’s proposition is the American diet is tremendously devoid of micronutrients the body needs to stay strong and healthy. As a result we are largely in a constant state of “toxic hunger”, always looking to eat more to get rid of the uncomfortable feeling it creates. Fuhrman says 65% of most Americans’ diet is comprised of micronutrient-devoid foods – processed and refined foods.

He proposes the answer for losing weight and having a healthy life is to eat more micronutrient dense foods. He uses the acronym GOMBS for a guide:

G – Green Vegetables

O – Onions

M – Mushrooms

B – Berries and beans

S – Seeds and Nuts

If you’re following the many who have been saying this the past few years, this is not news, but Fuhrman explains why this is the case in an easy to understand scientific way based on his medical training.

I never heard of Dr. Fuhrman when I started eating this way several years ago, but I can attest to the fact that it did cause me to lose weight and I have kept it off without diet or struggle or hunger and I do believe with all my being that “Food is Medicine.”


Create a support network that helps you manage diabetes

Everyone living with diabetes does better with support. And now there’s a new APP that can help anyone build a personal support network so they don’t have to do diabetes alone. 

I’ve just developed 3 FREE great short, smart videos to help you invite people to be in your circle of support. There’s an APP under “EatSmart” ‘Build Your Personal Support Network’ or you can also find the videos online on the left hand side of the page under “Build Your Personal Support Network.” 

Video #1- Will help identify what you might need help with – for instance perhaps a drive to the doctor’s office, a walking buddy or someone to learn healthy cooking with, and, who might be available from your circle of loved ones and acquaintances to be on your team.

Video #2 – Gives you tips how to ask for help in ways that people will want to help you. Yes, it’s a little bit science, a little bit art and a lot of just being honest, open and appreciative.

Video #3 – Gives examples how you can use people’s help to help you develop and maintain healthy habits. 

Take a look and a listen. It will only cost you a few minutes of your time and there’s so much to be gained. I don’t know what it would be like having to manage my diabetes without the support of my husband and several of my great friends. 

A thriving diabetes community in Portland that welcomed me

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 3.51.09 PMIt’s not often in life we meet people whom we feel so in tune with, but when it happens I really, really treasure it. Not surprisingly, many of my diabetes colleagues, friends and acquaintances I meet initially through email. The best is when we actually get to then meet face-to-face – and this week that happened. Two of my email friendships got consummatedshall we say ;-). 

I’d like to introduce you to Heather Clute and Jeff Horacek, tell you what makes them amazing, and share a bit of my week. 

Heather is a wellness counselor and coach and has had type 1 diabetes for 14 years since the age of 27. Jeff is an internist and some roads in his personal life led him to run Portland’s diabetes support group. Jeff is the kind of doctor who credits his patients for his deep understanding of what it’s like to live with diabetes. I know because he’s said it more than once including at his diabetes support group this week.

Both Heather and Jeff also co-host the online radio podcast“Transforming Diabetes” where their interviews with diabetes experts help us transform diabetes from foe to friend. The link above takes you to the program we recorded while I was in studio. We call it ‘getting real with riva’ but it’s really three people sharing what it’s like to live with diabetes and what we’ve all learned along the way. 

I went to Portland to give an A1c Champion presentation to Jeff’s support group and I arrived a few days early to get to know my hosts. And I do mean hosts. Heather hosted me in her home for two days. And besides enjoying her hospitality, and the drive to the second largest waterfall in America, and the walk in the Japanese Garden – which transported me to my days living in Japan – what I also got to see and appreciate is what it’s like to manage type 1 diabetes when you’re also managing three littles ones, two aged 6, one age 8. Cute as buttons they are, yet your time is their time. I saw how many more challenges there are in that setting than my own where I have no one vying for my attention, where diabetes is my only child so to speak. And that’s just the kind of stuff we talked about on our in-studio Transforming Diabetes program.

The evening before my A1c Champion presentation to Jeff’s support group, Heather and Jeff invited two other professionals from the Portland diabetes community to join us for dinner – endocrinologist Elizabeth Stephens and RN, CDE Susanna Reiner. We had a great evening sharing tapas and conversation. I learned from Susanna, who’s heavily pursuing gluten free cooking, about substituting almond meal for flour, which I plan to do in my next batch of chocolate/ginger biscotti which my husband loves. 

The night I delivered my presentation I did something I’ve never done before. Before I began, I led the group through a mindfulness exercise to ground everyone about why they’d come and have them remind themselves what they hoped to get out of the evening, and to be present. I thought to do it because every time I look at Heather or Jeff I think mindfulness – they are working on a program they hope to offer next year that will revolve around mindfulness and diabetes management. 

Maybe this is just my way of saying “thank you” to my hosts. To take a few moments to appreciate how special my time in Portland was and how special it is when people walk into our lives who make us feel validated, important and seen. When you wrap that around diabetes, that’s quite a gift.

In a way there is nothing amazing about Heather and Jeff, they are just two people living their lives and doing what they love. And in the doing they are brightening a little corner of their own, and our, lives. They are, as are so many, the unsung heroes in diabetes, and all our unsung heroes are pretty amazing in my book. 

I’ve been in some great diabetes company lately


Phil Southerland

It’s been a quick changeover to fall here in the Northeast, rain, rain, rain, and I feel myself both speeding up and slowing down. Bizarre.

Over the last week I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to interview three diabetes leaders whose stories will show up in the next two months in my Huffington Post series on diabetes change agents: Phil Southerland, founder of Team Type 1 and author of his early memoir, Not Dead Yet, his indomitable mother Joanna Southerland, who made sure none of the dire predictions for Phil, diagnosed with type 1 at seven months would come true,  and Brandy Barnes, founder of the incredibly supportive space for women around the block and around the globe, DiabetesSisters.

This Friday I take off for the Left Coast where I’ll be doing an A1c Champion program in Portland, Oregon on the 14th and visiting with two other great diabetes advocates, Healther Clute and Jeff Horacek who co-host the program, ‘Transforming Diabetes.” In fact the plan is rather than my making a third appearance on their show, I’m turning the tables and interviewing them. Something to listen for on the show’s podcasts.

So between now and then the husband leaves once again for Holland where he does most of his work, that means cleaning the house after letting things pile up for two months, and I meet with my YMCA coach who’s leading me through a 12 week class of cardio and weight lifting. Oy! 

Maybe packing my suitcase tomorrow will count as weight lifting! Don’t you think?