Pushing our Diabetes Buttons


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.

I don’t know how many articles I have read about “212 things NOT to say to a person with diabetes” or “1,440 things a person with diabetes hates to hear.”

So this is not about that. This is about something more subtle and perhaps more annoying. This is about the way people without diabetes don’t get it – and still love you.

My Amazing Auntie Sylvia

My auntie Sylvia is 97 years old. She is just amazing. She lives in her own apartment in a retirement community. She gets up every Tuesday morning, strips her bed and straightens up her apartment before the cleaning crew arrives. She still goes out to dinner whenever the opportunity arises. And she still knows how to push my buttons.

Sylvia is aware that I have diabetes. She is also aware that I manage it very well.

But it is incomprehensible to her that I have diabetes and manage it. When we chat about it, Sylvia is always able to work “stuff” into the conversation: “I don’t understand why you have diabetes. No one on our side of the family has ever had that.”

I am so tempted to tell her that I got it from a door knob, but I suppose that would be cruel. You've figured out by now that the other side of the family (aka THEM!) is the culprit.

My Diabetes Buttons

Sylvia, like too many others I know, is baffled by what I choose not to eat. In her mind, it is sugar and sugar alone that is the problem. The concept of carbohydrates is not part of her consciousness.

Another big button for me is when she says, “You have terrific willpower.” OK, Sylvia. Give the kid (to her, I will be a kid until I am 90 years old) a little credit. It is not willpower; it is the choice to make my life as healthy and comfortable as I can. I see my work as allowing me to keep all the parts of my body that I still like; I will do whatever I can to keep my vision. It is not willpower; it is the desire to live a healthy life. I can do something about managing my diabetes, and it is my choice to do it.

Don’t get me wrong, and I suppose don’t get me going, but it is not just Auntie Sylvia. I was on the telephone the other day with a friend, and two of my favorite buttons got pushed. The first was, “Well, can’t you just have a little?” Sure I can, but I know myself; "a little" usually does not satisfy me. One exception is smashed spuds. I make them taste so good and rich that a little does go a long way. However, a bite or a quarter of a corn muffin or bagel – not so much.

Button two: “But you can have brown rice or whole-wheat pasta, right?” I CAN have any color rice I want. Rice and pasta, whatever color they are, are still high-carbohydrate foods. Do they metabolize more slowly than white rice or white pasta? Sure they do. Bottom line: They, in the quantity I want, burst my carbohydrate budget.

The deal with the brown rice and whole-wheat pasta is the fiber. We are so heart-health orientated that many people forget that while a heart-healthy diet is usually a good choice, not everything that is part of a heart-healthy diet is a good choice in managing your diabetes.

Don’t even get me started on beans. They are a good source of protein. They are also a big source of carbohydrates. I make the choice to limit the carbohydrates in my eating. For me, there are other sources of protein that have less or no carbohydrates than beans. Do I eat beans? Every once in a while, sure, but not as a staple in my meal plan.

One last button: In comments on my articles and those of others, I see someone saying: “If you just stop eating sweet things, you will learn never to eat sweet things.” I wonder if that includes corn on the cob? I chose to severely limit the number of times that I chow down on an ear of corn over the summer. Do I still drool? I must be a bad person.

ENJOY!!! Be happy, be healthy, be creative, and BE DECADENT! ... And try to be tolerant of those button-pushers.

Click here for Ward's 50 Shades of Celery recipe!

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

Photo credit: flattop341 on Flickr