Every Diabetic Is Different, None Is Alone
Ward Alper is a type 2 diabetic and chef who lives and eats decadently in Portland, Maine. Since his diagnosis more than five years ago, he has refocused his recipes and eating to support his diabetic health. In this article, Ward explains the importance of finding what works for you when it comes to managing diabetes and highlights the benefits of connecting with other diabetics.
Everybody manages diabetes in his or her own way. Some do it through exercise and diet. Some manage it with medications. Some are overwhelmed and get stuck in not knowing what to do. Some just ignore it.
I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys being a diabetic, though I have come to celebrate being diabetic. Am I crazy? Don’t misunderstand me; I somehow have come to see my disease as a great challenge. Unless science makes some miracle discovery, I will always be a diabetic. My challenge is to be as happy and healthy as a diabetic as I can be.
Getting Happy and Healthy
What is working for me is controlling my diet by controlling the amount of carbohydrates I eat. I know that for some people that means no more than 15 or 20, maybe 30 grams a day. For me, that was not going to work. On the other hand, the 180 grams that was suggested five years ago was also not going to work. I had to find the right amount for me and balance it with a diet that I could stick to.
Man, I was one very unhappy diabetic. Please be clear that I think I would sell my soul sometimes to be able to eat a hunk of French bread and butter without a spike.
What became clear for me was that I had to take what I could eat and keep making it as interesting and different as I could. It was doing myself no emotional good to moan and grumble about the NO FACTOR. So I started looking at recipes that were “diabetic-friendly.” (“Hi there, you Diabetic Devil you. I am good for you. So what if I taste like re-dried cardboard? Give me a little taste.”) Some were interesting, some were not. What occurred to me was that, as a chef, I just needed to take the skills I had developed and apply them in a new way. The result was that I got happy and I got healthy.
Connecting with Other Diabetics
I started talking to people in the “stupidmarket.” We are easy to spot. We are the ones reading labels. We are the ones who have mostly vegetables and protein in our shopping carts. Those one-on-one encounters led to me sharing recipes. That led to my compiling them on my computer. That led to doing a cook book. The joy I found in sharing my journey and recipes made me a better diabetic.
The other thing I did was to go online and search out sites that shared information about diabetes. Some clearly wanted to sell me something. Some had negative attitudes toward the people who shared information on the site. A few have some articles and community forums that were interesting and supportive. Some just seemed mean spirited, bitter, and suspicious. I kept reading the ones I liked and left the others alone.
The great discovery for me was that I was NOT alone. Knowing that there were 25 million plus diabetics in the states was an interesting statistic. I just could not relate to the numbers; I needed communication from someone else who was going through some of the same things I was going through.
The fascinating part is that we each go through being diabetic in our own way. What works for one may not work for another. What does work is reading about and communicating with others and taking from them what I think will work for me. Most people with a disease, any disease, may find little comfort in knowing that there are others out there in the imaginary universe. On the other hand, I found that the sharing of information did give me some comfort and certainly some laughs – and some groans.
Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy, BE DECADENT!
Get more nutrition tips and recipe ideas from Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic, on his website.