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TABLE 1.

Suggestions for Improving Messages in Diabetes

Instead ofUseRationale
When referring to people with diabetes 
Diabetic • Person with diabetes
• Person living with diabetes
• Person who has diabetes 
• Put the person first
• Thinking of a person as having rather than being is empowering. 
When talking about weight 
Obese/fat • Unhealthy weight
• Extra weight
• Has obesity 
• Avoid words that send messages of stigma and blame. 
Normal weight • Healthy weight
• Goal weight 
• In general, it is best to avoid the word “normal” because its opposite, “abnormal,” is scary. Use more descriptive terms. 
When talking about blood glucose levels 
Normal blood glucose • Target blood glucose
• Goal blood glucose 
• Strengths-based; send messages about what is realistic and achievable. 
Control
Controlled
Uncontrolled
Good/bad control
Poor control
Poorly controlled
Metabolic control
Glycemic control
Control diabetes 
• Blood glucose levels
• Elevated/high blood glucose level
• A1C
• Glucose variability
• Glucose stability/instability
• Target glucose levels
• Glycemic targets
• Glycemic goals
• Manage diabetes 
• Focus on physiology, and avoid judgment.
• True “control” is virtually impossible to achieve. 
When talking about treatments or self-care behaviors 
Failed • Did not/has not/does not . . .
• The medication/intervention failed to work for the person. 
• People do not fail, their medications or treatments do. 
Should • Can I make a suggestion?
• Have you considered . . . 
• Well-intentioned suggestions of what “should” be done can make one feel burdened, overwhelmed, and shameful. 
Get them to . . . (as in, “I got him to lose 50 pounds” or “I got her to take insulin.”) • Help
• Work with
• Partner
• Collaborate
• “He lost 50 pounds.”
• “She started taking insulin.” 
• Give people credit for the work their doing. 
Blood glucose testing • Blood glucose monitoring
• Checking blood glucose levels 
• “Test” implies pass/fail or good/bad. Use words that imply collecting information (numbers) with which to make decisions. 
Normal blood glucose • Target blood glucose
• Blood glucose goal(s) 
• In general, it is best to avoid the word “normal” because its opposite, “abnormal,” is scary. Use more descriptive terms. 
Diet • Meal plan
• Food choices
• Eating plan 
• People often have negative associations of “diets” that are short term and usually have not worked. 
Exercise • Physical activity • “Exercise” often brings up negative images of something difficult and outside of most people’s usual routines, whereas “physical activity” seems more attainable. 
Adherence/compliance • Medication taking
• Takes/does not take care of himself/herself
• She takes her medication about half the time.
• He takes his insulin when he can afford it. 
• Focus on behaviors and physiology.
• Avoid words that send messages of judgment.
• Frame statements in a positive way; build on people’s strengths. What are they doing well? 
Prevention • Risk reduction • We cannot always prevent primary or secondary disease or complications.
• People do have the power to reduce their risks. 
Instead ofUseRationale
When referring to people with diabetes 
Diabetic • Person with diabetes
• Person living with diabetes
• Person who has diabetes 
• Put the person first
• Thinking of a person as having rather than being is empowering. 
When talking about weight 
Obese/fat • Unhealthy weight
• Extra weight
• Has obesity 
• Avoid words that send messages of stigma and blame. 
Normal weight • Healthy weight
• Goal weight 
• In general, it is best to avoid the word “normal” because its opposite, “abnormal,” is scary. Use more descriptive terms. 
When talking about blood glucose levels 
Normal blood glucose • Target blood glucose
• Goal blood glucose 
• Strengths-based; send messages about what is realistic and achievable. 
Control
Controlled
Uncontrolled
Good/bad control
Poor control
Poorly controlled
Metabolic control
Glycemic control
Control diabetes 
• Blood glucose levels
• Elevated/high blood glucose level
• A1C
• Glucose variability
• Glucose stability/instability
• Target glucose levels
• Glycemic targets
• Glycemic goals
• Manage diabetes 
• Focus on physiology, and avoid judgment.
• True “control” is virtually impossible to achieve. 
When talking about treatments or self-care behaviors 
Failed • Did not/has not/does not . . .
• The medication/intervention failed to work for the person. 
• People do not fail, their medications or treatments do. 
Should • Can I make a suggestion?
• Have you considered . . . 
• Well-intentioned suggestions of what “should” be done can make one feel burdened, overwhelmed, and shameful. 
Get them to . . . (as in, “I got him to lose 50 pounds” or “I got her to take insulin.”) • Help
• Work with
• Partner
• Collaborate
• “He lost 50 pounds.”
• “She started taking insulin.” 
• Give people credit for the work their doing. 
Blood glucose testing • Blood glucose monitoring
• Checking blood glucose levels 
• “Test” implies pass/fail or good/bad. Use words that imply collecting information (numbers) with which to make decisions. 
Normal blood glucose • Target blood glucose
• Blood glucose goal(s) 
• In general, it is best to avoid the word “normal” because its opposite, “abnormal,” is scary. Use more descriptive terms. 
Diet • Meal plan
• Food choices
• Eating plan 
• People often have negative associations of “diets” that are short term and usually have not worked. 
Exercise • Physical activity • “Exercise” often brings up negative images of something difficult and outside of most people’s usual routines, whereas “physical activity” seems more attainable. 
Adherence/compliance • Medication taking
• Takes/does not take care of himself/herself
• She takes her medication about half the time.
• He takes his insulin when he can afford it. 
• Focus on behaviors and physiology.
• Avoid words that send messages of judgment.
• Frame statements in a positive way; build on people’s strengths. What are they doing well? 
Prevention • Risk reduction • We cannot always prevent primary or secondary disease or complications.
• People do have the power to reduce their risks. 
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