Asking Questions About Diabetes


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 can’t count the number of times I have said to people struggling with their eating and Diabetes to look everywhere for assistance. It ALWAYS comes with the caveat: “Ask questions like crazy and don’t be intimidated. The professionals are there to guide you but YOU have the last word and the responsibility to do what works for YOU.”


WHAT DO YOU MEAN I AM A DIABETIC? I don’t eat candy bars or a lot of sugary desserts. I got heartburn from even a donut hole. I ate light ice cream and light yogurt. I followed the food pyramid. I exercised every day, well Monday through Friday anyway. I watched my salt and cholesterol. I should be the specimen of good health. Ok, ok, so my father was a diabetic, my brother and sister both had diabetes, but “no one” on the other side of the family was diabetic, and I look more like them. Nonetheless my diabetes diagnosis came down in December of 2008.

Recently, there was a piece online that talked about meeting with a dietician/ nutritionist. The comments were all over the board. MY first experience was pretty grim.

My doctor sent me off to a diabetes center for some much needed education and advice. I meet with a nutritionist “specializing” in diabetes care. I was upset, excited, and looking forward to the meeting. I had just figured out that it was not just sugar that was a problem, but also carbohydrates. I also felt incredibly guilty and stupid that in the uneducated past, when my diabetic brother or my diabetic neighbor would come to dinner, I would make a sugar free dessert but serve them bowls of rice or potatoes. Like most people, I did not know any better.

Meeting with the “specialist”

Oh joy! I had been saving up questions since I read the pamphlets the doctor gave me. It was ORIGINALLY suggested I eat X grams of carbohydrates at breakfast, X grams at both lunch and dinner, and X grams as a snack. Pasta was something I missed a lot. I was not happy with the ¼ cup portion for 35 grams of carbs. I WANTED A BOWL!

Question 1- If I have black coffee for breakfast, lettuce leaves and tuna for lunch, can I use the carbs I saved, add it to the carbs for dinner and have a bowl of pasta? The dietician looked at me and rose from her chair, leaned forward into MY space, and started screaming at me. “YOU CAN’T DO THAT” Ok… Ok, I was just asking. Rather than screaming at me, the proper response (so I learned too many years later) should have been: That is not the best choice for a person with Diabetes. However, if the urge to have something you want to eat so much is too strong to resist, balancing out your day once in a while is fine once you have your Diabetes under better control. Not only would that have been a relief but an encouragement to do the best job I could.

Question 2- She asked me how much alcohol I drank. I told her that on weekends we would usually split a bottle a wine. She rose from her chair again, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT” she screamed. Ok, how much can I have? “No more than 2 six ounce glasses” she replied at the top of her lungs. I hate to teach the math …but .. half a 750 ml bottle of wine is 12.25 ounces. I am willing to take one less sip. Now in her defense, it has been suggested that the dietician might have thought I meant a jug or a box of wine. I don’t think so, and forgive me, I am not willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

After being screamed at twice in less than twenty minutes, I thought it was best to leave…and maybe get a drink?

Years later, I was told that this same “specialist” had treated a slew of new patients as poorly as she had treated me. My next question has to be why is she still working there?

Most people with Diabetes quickly learn the “basics” of how to eat for health, but this may not be enough information to keep up long term habits. We need information but we also deserve encouragement.

Now it seems to be my way to try and make lemonade (sugar free of course) out of lemons, so this fun time at the diabetes center became the inspiration for THE DECADENT DIABETIC. Didn’t I have to get even?

Going back to the article I saw here on Diabetes Support, there were a number of comments regarding “Diabetes Specialists”, both negative and positive:

“Yes, you do have to learn what works for you!”

“The dietician of my diabetes team is the best ! They are so smart and have the best tips for managing your diabetes”

“Met my dietician months back, been seeing her regularly and had more help off Facebook than from her”

“Seen three dieticians all very young and none of them cooked from scratch, they didn’t know how. I knew more than they did and their advice was absolute rubbish.

Dieticians are educated but [no one] can do anything except you. You must do trial and error to see how your body reacts”.

The second time I met with a dietician, was with a nutritionist working for my local “Stupidmarket”. She had a totally different approach. She showed me a few items that would work and taught me to read labels to make better choices.

Bottom line, as you ALL know, it is up to us. However, we do deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. Any professional that does not do that should reexamine their own motives for being in a business “devoted” to assisting others. If you are not treated with respect, don’t be shy. Let them know how you feel and that you will move on to somebody more professional.

ENJOY!!! Be happy, be healthy, and BE DECADENT! –w

Ward Alper, The Decadent Diabetic