Salud Saturday: What’s “Normal”?


Guest post by Christina Elizabeth Rodríguez (@kikisbetes)

If I had a dollar for every time I heard the word “normal” in reference to my diabetes, I would be pretty well-off. If I had 50 cents for every refill of “normal” coming out of my own mouth for lack of a better explanation, I’d be rich. It’s no joke that every time I say, “I could be normal if…” or “…would lead me to live a more normal life” I think to myself that I’m a sell-out and that I’m not changing anything for the betterment of acceptance or treatment for those of us with the disease/disorder.

So this week’s blog is going to be dedicated to those who live normal lives and are diabetic. We’re still getting insulin into our system somehow, we still eat, have fears, party, dance, do all the things “normal” people do and are  probably less abnormal than those we’re dancing next to.

Sure, it may be a pain to check blood sugar every few hours, watch what my daily diet looks like and make sure I change the site to my insulin pump every three days, but it’s gotten to the point where it’s like brushing your teeth every morning. It’s no different for us, los acostumbrados, to do it all the time, every day. We know we have to. Our lives depend on our mind. Isn’t that weird? Our mind is what tells us what to do and how to do it. It tells us to react to our body’s symptoms and to do something about it. It’s very literally mind over matter when it comes to diabetes.

The reason why I bring up the issue of normal is because I was recently in a Twitter conversation with @AARP en Espanol, discussing the use of the phrase “for diabetics” or “para diabeticos.” They found my @kikisbetes account and told me to check out the recipes they had on their website. “Very good!” I told them, but at the same time, why do you say “para diabeticos”? This is the same reason why I don’t use “diabetic” cook books, and I’m glad an organization like AARP was willing to listen..

I told them when you’re dealing with Latinos, especially older Latinos, they’re the last people that want to think they’re at all different or abnormal. They want to live just like the rest of us and don’t want to think, “I can only have diabetic food,” which, doesn’t exist. I told them to consider saying something like, “Healthy Choices” or “Food recipes to prevent …” and then mention the fact that it’s a good choice for people with diabetes because of the low carbohydrate count.

That’s all you have to keep an eye on now as diabetics—carbohydrates. It’s important to teach people to LIVE with the disorder, not shun them and make them feel completely different and limited from what they CAN have.

When it comes to Type 2 diabetes, it’s about showing people how to eat healthier, have more fruits and vegetables instead of so many tortillas. It’s about eating wheat or whole-grain bread even if the white bread is a little cheaper. It’s about having a cafecito sin azucar or con sustituto instead of five teaspoons of sugar. It’s about having pan dulce without the crystallized sugar on top, instead of una concha. It’s about drinking MORE WATER than soda or beer.

With Type 1 diabetes, well, like I tell people, I can eat whatever I want. I had to learn the process of counting carbohydrates, estimating, reading labels, guessing and all the rest of it. It’s not harder, it’s just a different process. And by the way, there is NOTHING that won’t make your sugar go up, unless it’s a steak and then you have to watch out for the intake of fat. I knew someone who told me that he didn’t eat anything that would make his sugar go up. As I looked over his plate, I realized he was wrong, but being on medication will also help you in that effort.

So, bottom line, I don’t need a diabetic cookbook or a diabetic recipe. I need a healthier choice. I need something that’s going to want to make me feel better about myself, about my health, about my weight and about living with diabetes.

I find it refreshing that an organization like AARP and AARP en espanol is willing to take my opinion and experience into consideration rather than just try to sell their content or products to me. More brands should take their example and listen to what their consumers are saying.

If you know someone with diabetes that isn’t helping themselves, it’s probably because they don’t know how. Showing them that changing their diet slowly can do a lot of benefit to their health and elongating their life, will probably be one of the biggest gifts you could give them. If they won’t learn, you learn for them.


Christina is a writer who lives in Chicago. She has a Master’s in journalism from the UIUC and writes non-fiction, fiction and poetry. You may find her inspired musings on life, media and music at Mine & Mine Only. Christina is a Type I #diabetic and she writes about living with the disease at the Diabetes Types A Blog.  You may also know her as @kiki416.

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    Reina Valenzuela 9 years ago

    Mom has been living with Diabetes for 17 years and she controls it well with a nutritional diet, she rarely takes insulin. My brother has had it for three years and its already out of control because he doesn’t really monitor it daily with the tests, diet, and controlled portions. I’m educating myself in case in case I’m next. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

    Joe Ray 9 years ago

    Your last paragraph was perfect/right on. Many may not realize they have it, much less what to do. I’ve worked on programs educating people in rural areas and along the US/Mexico border about diabetes and cardio disease. Education is key. You have to inform people, not just tell them. Show them how.

    My mother was diabetic and led a problem free life, she listened to her body and ate less as she went along. I have friends my age who are diabetic, they’re angry at who knows what (they’re men) but are okay once they’re shown how to change their diet and aren’t feeling judged or abnormal.

    This is something big in our communities, it’s important to bring to light, which is why I really like your final paragraph. Well said!

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