What Do You Mean I'm a Diabetic?

Ward Alper.jpg

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 shares his favorite story: meeting with a nurse and a dietician after being diagnosed and what these experiences taught him (it's probably not what you think).

I don’t eat candy bars or a lot of sugary desserts. I get heartburn from even a donut hole. I eat light ice cream and light yogurt. I followed the food pyramid. I exercised every day, Monday through Friday. I watched my salt and cholesterol. I should be the specimen of good health.

So my father was a diabetic and my brother and sister were both diabetics. But no one on the other side of the family was diabetic, and I look more like them. Nonetheless, my diabetes diagnosis came down in December of 2008.

Meeting with a Nurse

Dr. Dan sent me off to a diabetes center for some much-needed education and advice. I met with a nurse specializing in diabetes care. I was upset, excited and looking forward to the meeting.

At the meeting, the nurse pulls out this little black bag and removes a device. She said: “This is a new way to do your sugar testing. It will not hurt as much as the old method.” This device can be used on the hand or the arm to get a blood sample. So, to show me how to use it, she jabs my forearm. Nothing. She jabs it again in another place. Nothing! Third time's a charm?

On the third try, she gets a little drop of blood. It turns out that it was too small for it to be a sample. Finally after the fourth try, success! The nurse starts packing up the device and hands it to me. I said, “Thank you, but if you can’t do this easily, how in the world can I do this on my own?”

Meeting with a Dietician

Oh, joy! I already knew that it was suggested I have 45 grams of carbohydrates at breakfast, 60 grams at both lunch and dinner, and 15 grams as a snack. That added up to only 180 grams a day, if my math is right. Pasta was something I missed a lot, and I was not happy with the ¼ cup portion for 35 grams of carbs. I want a bowl!

I had been saving up questions since I read the pamphlets that Dr. Dan gave me.

Question 1

  • Me: If I have black coffee for breakfast, lettuce leaves and tuna for lunch, can I use the 105 carbs I saved, add it to the 60 for dinner and have a bowl of pasta?
  • Dietician: YOU CAN’T DO THAT!

Question 2

  • Me: I saw that alcohol is either low in carbohydrates or does not have any carbohydrates. Is it alright if I have a drink?
  • Dietician: How much do you drink?
  • Me: On weekends we would usually split a bottle of wine.
  • Dietician: YOU CAN’T DO THAT!
  • Me: OK, how much can I have?
  • Dietician: No more than two 6-ounce glasses.

I hate to keep doing the math, but half of a 750 ml bottle of wine is 12.25 ounces. I am willing to take one less sip. In her defense, it has been suggested that she thought I meant a jug or a box of wine. I don’t think so. And, forgive me, I am not willing to give her the benefit of this doubt.

After being screamed at twice in less than 20 minutes, I thought it was best to leave – and maybe get a drink and chips!

Lesson Learned

If any medical professional does not treat you with care, respect and dignity, walk out. There are hundreds out there who will. Four years later, I have learned to control my diet, cook wonderful foods and laugh at the “crazy” dietician.

Check out Ward's recipe for Salty, Crunchy Lavash Chips!

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