How Do You Manage Your Diabetes?

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Ward Alper is a type 2 diabetic and chef who lives and eats decadently in Portland, Maine. Since his diagnosis more than four years ago, he has refocused his recipes and eating to support his diabetic health. In this article, Ward explains how two of his friends manage type 2 diabetes.

I met up with two old friends this week. For their privacy, I will call them Jack and John. Jack is 72ish and John is 44ish. Jack is a working farmer and John works in a market. Both of my friends are type 2 diabetics.

The Meat-and-Potatoes Man

John struggled for the first year of his illness. He got so fed up and bored with doing what he was told to do, he seemed to give up. When I met him he was not at all well. He had no energy and little interest in life or in doing something about his diabetes. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he changed his way of living. Now, John is no “foodie.” This was a by-the-book meat-and-potatoes man. Not having the potatoes as part of his diet may have just overwhelmed him. All the spices in the world were not going to change his life – or so he thought.

John’s diabetes had progressed so fast that oral medications no longer had much of an effect on him. He started using insulin. That may have been the trigger for him. (Like me, and most men, he is one of the worst patients. You ask any nurse and he or she will tell you that men are the biggest babies when it comes to drawing blood or getting a shot.) John started eating more veggies and far less carbohydrates. As of this week, he has taken off about 50 pounds.

Interestingly, John told me that he was no longer a diabetic. What he meant by that is that he no longer needs to use the insulin. His numbers had come way down. He was full of energy. He started playing sports again. And John looked fantastic. No, it wasn’t just the weight loss. It was his face. It was smiling and interested. He does not especially like veggies, but he eats two or three with each meal. For him the benefits of this have outweighed the negatives.

Now, John has an interesting way of doing things. He has one (yes, one) cookie after dinner every night. Me, I am afraid to do that. Like a smoker or an alcoholic, for me one is not enough and one is too much. As I keep saying: We are all different.

The Veggie Lover

Jack arrived at my door carrying an armload of fresh produce from his farm. Unlike John, Jack loves to eat veggies. He grows them because he likes them. But Jack’s approach to diabetes is very different. He does not watch his carbs. He does not attempt to lose weight. Jack does what he darn well pleases. And good for him! He knows about my website and others and has no interest whatsoever in looking at them or following any advice that he might get from them.

Jack also likes to egg me on. He announces upon leaving that he stopped on his way here to eat a Klondike Bar. He is happy with his oral medications, although they are now not enough to keep his sugars in check. He now uses Lantus. Jack is happy to check his blood once a day, and if it is under 300 he is good to go. Not all the pleading in the world, not all the scolding (which I will not do) will get Jack to change his mind. Jack pretty much lives alone and has no interest in cooking anything to eat. Pizza is his perfect food.

I am proud of both my friends for making the choices that they have. Are my choices different? Perhaps. Would I wish that Jack was more like John? It is not up to me. I wish both of my friends well. Each has a big smile on his face; John for how he feels, looks and what he has accomplished, and Jack smiles because that is his coping mechanism. I know that one will probably have a harder time later on in his life, and I hope I can be of assistance to him. Even though I won’t scold, with Jack, I have to think, "What would you do for a Klondike Bar?"

Check out Ward's recipe for an Easy Diabetic-Compatible Breakfast Pizza!

Get more nutrition tips and recipe ideas from Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic, on his website.