Don't Let Diabetes Doom You to Failure

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This guest post was written by type 2 diabetic and chef Ward Alper. It originally appeared on his website, The Decadent Diabetic, and was republished on Information About Diabetes with permission.

Having diabetes is not a failure on our part.

In the beginning, I started by having a practically no-carb meal for breakfast and lunch. My lunch of a can of tuna and a lettuce leaf was not going to keep me eating happily for long.

When I looked at the can (tin) of tuna, I saw that the 5 ounces in the can was supposed to be two servings. Oh, great. It used to be the same two servings, but the can was 7 ounces. Huh??? If I was hungry after eating the whole can, what would I be after eating only half of the can? What does one do with that uneaten half? I promise you, it does not get better in the fridge overnight.

So my question is: What should I do? Do I eat the suggested serving and feel hungry and deprived? How long would I keep that up? Do I follow the old adage: “waste not, want not”?

What Worked for Me

What I did was what worked for me. Thanks to a friendly nutritionist, I discovered a bunch of breads that took that can of tuna, and with a little seasoning (I like dill, pepper and parsley), a little mayonnaise (0 grams of carbohydrates) and a squeeze of lemon (0 grams of carbohydrates), I had me a “samich.” Guess who did not overeat but instead left the table satisfied – me! It was a very big little thing. It helped put all of the rest of eating in better focus for me.

What (Usually) Doesn't Work

One of the forums that I look at from time to time has a commentator with a string of letters behind their name. This person is a nurse, a Certified Diabetes Educator, a nutritionist and who knows what else. They have all the qualifications to help you manage your diabetes. What they do not have is a human hand. Rather than reinforce the good you have accomplished, they are all too quick to point out the negative.

There were a couple of recipes posted. Meaning well, and according to what they were taught, they commented on what the serving size for that dish should be. The problem is that nobody really eats that way. Perhaps we all should, but we don’t. We don’t really want to. I think that what made it worse was they were commenting on a part of a holiday meal. I am not saying that because it is a holiday we should gorge ourselves, but we are smart enough to make it work for us without getting sick. We DON’T need to be scolded!

Three ounces of turkey or ham may be the recommended serving for you, depending on ALL of your variables – height, weight, age, etc. – but is it enough to really satisfy your needs, both physical and emotional? That 3-ounce serving makes a decent enough sandwich, but a holiday meal?

We all know that moderation is key, but will we moderate ourselves out of eating happily AND healthfully? More important, will it make us just throw in the towel?

You're in Charge

I am a chef, so I am all about the tastes and textures of foods. Sure, I do suggest a serving size in a recipe. That is to balance the flavors out, NOT a medical recommendation.

You can make the serving size anything you like by adjusting the rest of the ingredients to make it work for YOU. If it is too much for your needs and health, cut it down. If you need more to satisfy your appetite, make it larger. Just be aware of what you are doing and, more importantly, why you are doing it.

Left to my own devices, I can – and have – eaten tons of bacon at one sitting. Am I so dumb that I did not know that was not a good choice? Of course not! It is something I have done, know better than to do again (until I do) and I don’t need or want the police out there to scold me.

Having diabetes is not a failure on our part. It is a disease that we need to manage. How we go about that is different for all of us. Each of us needs to make it work for ourselves. What we eat is not just about our blood sugars, but also about our allergies, traditions and taste preferences. I can tell you that cauliflower is the greatest gift to the world since chocolate, but if you hate it, you hate it. Move on. Spaghetti squash perhaps?

For me to make my eating life work in a way that helped me manage my diabetes, I had to make every bit count. I get so many comments from my readers about the new joy they have found in eating a diabetes-compatible dish, I just grin from ear to ear. It is so rewarding to know that what I have learned is of use to even one more person. If I can’t have it all (who says?) then what I can have is going to be the best-tasting (to me) I know how to make it. What are you going to do?

ENJOY!!! Be happy, be healthy, be creative, and BE DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Braised Pork Chops with Tomato recipe!

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

Photo by James Jordan