When Diabetics Want What They Want
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 explains that all diabetics have the power to choose whether they embrace a healthier lifestyle.
From the day we first get the diagnosis that we have diabetes, we are told to watch what we eat, especially the carbohydrates. What we do about that is each person’s choice.
Meet Maude and Harold
I have this friend, Maude. Like me, she is a type 2 diabetic, but she is having a tough time of it. Like all of us, she has been informed about watching her intake of carbohydrates. She knows that not taking care of herself may lead to problems down the road.
Maude (a very picky eater) just does not want to give up the foods and flavors she has always eaten. Maude knows that her choices may not be the best choices for her, but for now, she wants what she wants! Maude leads a very busy life. She works long hours and has a house and kids to tend to as well as a very neurotic parakeet. She does not feel that there is time to actually prepare the recipes she sees online.
I also have a friend, Harold. He is married to Maude. He, too, is a type 2 diabetic. He is not having a tough time of it. Like me, like Maude, he knows what he should do but frankly could give a rats backside about it. Both Maude and Harold are not willing to choose to change their way of eating or, more importantly, their way of thinking.
Maude follows “diabetic–friendly” websites religiously. She likes what she reads and the recipes that are there, but that is, for now, as far as it goes. For Maude, changes are difficult. Harold, on the other hand, eats a lot of bread, potatoes, ice cream and doughnuts. Maude beats herself up for not doing what she thinks she is supposed to do. Harold is the type of person who others might point to and say, “Well, no wonder he is sick with diabetes.” (Who would say such a thing?) Which one do you think is better off?
Who has the right to judge? No question, both Maude and Harold may face some problems down the road. Maude compounds the issue by being unhappy that she is “not being good.” Harold, on the other hand, is perhaps accelerating the onset of physical problems by deliberately defying those who tell him what he should do, and he feels empowered by that defiance. Being diabetic is simply not part of his consciousness. Both he and Maude may have problems down the road. Harold may clearly have a better time getting there.
I, like most of us, choose to do what I can and make it as interesting and tasty a journey as I know how. We all make our own choices. All I can do is share what is working for me. I know that some of my recipes have too many grams of carbohydrates for some diabetics. I know that some people cringe at my use of artificial sweeteners. It is simply what works for me and my family so we can be healthier and eat “real good.” With diabetes, as with life, we all get choices.
Both of these people are my friends. I am not their doctor or nutritionist or parent; I am just a chef and their friend. No matter how much I care about them, I cannot make them change their method of thinking about food. All I can do is tell them about what works for me, remind them that there are tons of foods that are not going to cause them additional diabetes problems, and support and love them for who they are. Sometimes I think this is tougher for me to witness than it is for them to live. I GET IT. They want what they want and won’t take no for an answer. They are not about to give up a lifetime of food experiences and memories, regardless of the possible consequences.
My attitude is that the more you try new things, the bigger your repertory of foods, the easier it gets to stick to a new way of eating – and the more fun your life and your table become. Your attitude has got to change, the menus have to become so interesting that the “old ways” are re-created to be better choices for them, and “new” tastes become new favorites.
So what happened? I still want what I want, but what I want tastes and feels so good it is not a sacrifice or hardship to live a healthier, diabetic lifestyle. As For Maude and Harold, they love what I cook. They just don’t want to change enough to cook it for themselves. I’m working at it.
A Quick and Simple Recipe
Almost everybody who is not vegetarian likes chicken. Below is a quick and simple recipe for chicken breasts that anyone can make. Capers (in jars) are easily available in the market, usually in the pickle and olive aisle. (By the way, both Harold and Maude love this dish, although Maude was skeptical about the delicious but funny looking green things.)
Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy, BE DECADENT!
Get more nutrition tips and recipe ideas from Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic, on his website.