The Decadent Diabetic: Chef Ward Alper's Story


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 habits to support a diabetic lifestyle. In this article, Alper shares how he copes with a diabetic diet.

A week after my second blood test, my first A1C, I sat in my doctor’s office. He came in with the diabetes pamphlets attached to my chart. While I was not surprised (my father, brother and sister were all diabetics) it was the diagnosis I had dreaded for years. You see I am needle-phobic. No assurance of how painless it was now to test blood sugars could make me at ease. But that was not the worst of it.

Coping with the Diabetes Diet

I am the model patient. I devoured the information, went to the diabetes clinic and strictly monitored my diet. Two results: 1) my numbers came down, and 2) I was mostly sad and unhappy. I spent more time crying those first six months than I had since I was a kid. The loss of interesting and delicious food had sent me into a tail spin. I had to carry eye glasses to the market and read every label. Books on food values became my new reading matter.

The worst day was a hot day in that first summer when I thought I could have fruit salad and cottage cheese for lunch. That diet standby for the ages was now too high in carbohydrates for me. I sat in the parking lot of the “stupidmarket” and just wept. When the chef in me woke up and it dawned on me that I could still have this meal if I just changed up the fruits I used, or if I used vegetables instead of fruits, my spirits soared. And I had lunch.

That day was the start for me. Like Scarlet O’Hara, I was never going to be hungry again. I am a chef. I know the way with food. That day I decided to have the way with diabetic compatible food. Enough with JUST protein and salad; I was about to begin to eat like a person again.

Living as a 'Decadent Diabetic'

Four years later, still 60 pounds lighter and with a consistent A1C of between 5.2 and 5.4, I eat like a diabetic king. What motivates me more than anything else is sharing my recipes and trials with my fellow diabetics through my website. I have learned that sticking to a diet is about expanding the tastes of foods that I could and should have so that the loss of what I need to avoid becomes so much less important. Do I crave some things? Sure I do, but I have created so many new things for me and my family that I sometimes wonder what all the fuss was about.

The world of food is mine, and I am the Decadent Diabetic. You can be too. That is, if you want.

Check out Alper's recipe for California Italian Salad.

For more recipes and information, visit Alper's website.