How to set boundaries with friends and family around type 2 diabetes

When friends and family members are aware of how they can best support you in your diabetes care, they’re more willing to help. Since most of type 2 diabetes management happens behind closed doors, loved ones don’t always know what your lifestyle needs really are. So it’s up to you to tell them. Setting boundaries isn’t selfish—it means clearly stating your needs so everyone can understand more about you.
Jacqui Hathaway
min read
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Quick summary

  • Boundaries help protect and support type 2 diabetes management
  • It's important to set boundaries with family and friends so that everyone is aware of and understands your needs
  • Take the time to educate your loved ones about the reasons behind your boundaries
  • Think about the best way to explain your boundaries to different people
  • Learning to clearly state your needs isn't selfish—it's beneficial for everyone who loves and cares about you

It’s important to set boundaries with loved ones if you're living with and managing type 2 diabetes. Friends and family members can often be unaware when they disrupt your dietary restrictions or fail to support your lifestyle needs. So it’s up to you to steer them in the right direction. That’s why implementing healthy boundaries is so necessary.

If you're a lifelong people pleaser or are used to “keeping the peace” in relationships, having hard conversations can be tough—especially with loved ones. But remember, boundaries are rules for how others learn to treat you. They’re guidelines of what you will and will not tolerate.[1] And as you certainly know, protecting your type 2 diabetes management matters a whole lot. 

Support from friends and family members is a positive contribution to diabetes management

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

For example, if you’re hosting a house full of guests who maybe don’t have dietary restrictions, there may be extra sweets and carbohydrates strewn throughout the kitchen. People may even forget that you have type 2 diabetes and offer a few treats. This could disrupt the habits and measures you've been practicing to keep your blood sugar levels under control but with practice, you can clearly state what is and isn’t acceptable in your home and in your life.

The people who care about you want to know how they can best support you. Learning to clearly state your needs isn’t selfish—it’s beneficial for everyone who loves and cares for you. After following these tips, you’ll be a seasoned boundary setter in no time.  

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1. Make an internal decision about your boundary

When you fully and truly believe the changes you’re making are crucial for your health and wellbeing, you’re more likely to stick to your boundaries when enforcing them with others.[2] Establishing boundaries with others also means establishing those boundaries within ourselves. Make an internal choice to say “no” to certain foods or behaviours before speaking with others. Or remind yourself that you deserve people who support your type 2 diabetes management. Reminding yourself that you are worthy of setting a boundary, no matter how others respond, is crucial. This way, you’ll be grounded in your words and less likely to sway if they persist. 

2. Educate others

What’s common knowledge for you when it comes to type 2 diabetes, may not be common knowledge for others. Since most type 2 diabetes management happens behind closed doors, the people closest to you may lack awareness about your daily routines, blood sugar levels and the importance of reducing stress. There’s a lot of truth to the “out of sight out of mind” principle. Providing a basic education about your type 2 diabetes can go a long way.[3] This may clear up why certain foods are off-limits or why you must go on a walk at the same designated time of day etc. When loved ones know more, they’re more likely to respect your boundaries.

3. Prepare a plan of action

“Feeling it out” can be helpful when it comes to some sensitive conversations, but more often than not, you’ll want to be prepared. Difficult emotions may arise—especially if saying what you need is still new and uncomfortable—and feeling confident in what you’re going to say is important. Spend time figuring out who you’re going to speak with first. Then you can determine what kind of language to use when you set your boundaries.[2] For example, some friends appreciate a casual tone and respond well to lightheartedness. Others may need a firmer more serious tone to fully grasp what you mean. Practice speaking these conversations out loud in the mirror just like one may do for a speech. Sometimes hard topics sound different out loud than they do rolling around your mind.[2]

4. Be assertive

According to Well + Good, boundaries should be firm enough to get your point across (even when using the previously mentioned lighthearted route). When you belittle your need for a boundary, it weakens the central point which results in you spending more time reinforcing said boundary over and over. This can be frustrating because it signals that your boundary isn’t being honoured.[4] Start out your boundary conversation with a clear and assertive attitude. This will help stabilise a level of respect moving forward. Clarity is key. 

5. Reinforce if necessary

Some folks need a reminder that yes, you’re still very serious about implementing this new boundary. As frustrating as that can be—because hey, you’ve done all the leg work chalking yourself up to set that boundary in the first place—it can take a few practice tries before a boundary really sets in, becomes real, or reaches its full effect. People need to know where you stand, clearly. 

6. Feel confident saying "No"

You’ve done all the work setting your boundary and even reinforcing it. So when someone continues to cross your boundary, a simple “No” will reiterate that you’re sticking to it no matter what.[1] Also, people who continue to cross your boundaries, again and again, may not be worth your valuable time and attention. Take it as information and move forward accordingly. 

Healthy boundaries strengthen bonds

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that support from friends and family members is a positive contribution to diabetes management.[5] Those who are willing to hear you out and respect your boundaries around type 2 diabetes will show you they care by offering healthier options if sweets are being served. They’ll offer to walk with you and ask how they can learn more to support you. But you have to first make them aware of what your needs are and how they can help.

People want to know where to stop and start with you and your type 2 diabetes. The saying “good fences make good neighbours” is as true as ever in this case.[6] Even if some folks react negatively, it doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong. Boundaries aren’t selfish. Remember, before setting a boundary (or possibly reinforcing one) to pause and check in with yourself first.[2] With a little help, you’ll be ready to set boundaries that keep your type 2 diabetes needs on track. Plus, learning to set healthy boundaries can mean you’ll create stronger and more meaningful relationships to help support you on your journey.


[1] Andrade S. (2021). The Importance of Setting Healthy Boundaries. Forbes. Accessible here

[2] Winderl E.M. (2021). 6 Ways to Set Boundaries Around Food With Your Family. Self. Accessible here

[3] Smith J. (2016). 7 Tips to Set Boundaries with Others About Your Type 2 Diabetes. Insulin Nation. Accessible here

[4] Bunch E. (2021). How to Set Healthy Boundaries with Friends to Preserve Your Mental and Emotional Well Being. Well + Good. Accessible here.

[5] Friends, Family and Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 4 April 2022. Accessible here

[6] How Good Boundaries Make Life With Diabetes Easier. Diabetes Team. Retrieved 4 April 2022. Accessible here

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