Diabetes…The Love / Hate Relationship

Ward - love hate

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.

In the years since my diagnosis I have spoken to hundreds of people about their Diabetes. Universally, people hate that they have Diabetes…but, and it is a big but, many people also credit their diagnosis to a boost in their general health.

As many of you know I started working in my family’s restaurant as a tyke. It wasn’t a question of wanting to work there, it was understood that my brother (12 years older and also had Diabetes) were supposed to work there. To this day, I have no idea why my sisters (4 of them) were not required to work in the restaurant.

Instead of little league, I learned the first tricks of cooking from Maurice the restaurant chef, and I suppose, my first cooking coach. My being the boss’s son, Maurice was very kind to me, and never threw a pan at my head. Some of the others in the kitchen were not so lucky.

I can’t say I loved working in the kitchen. I can’t say I hated it. Learning to cook, professionally, at a young age served me well. In college I used those skills to make enough money to live on, and can happily say I was never a starving college student. I ate from the “blue box” because I liked it, not because it was all I could afford to eat.

Right out of college, I left the world of restaurants and went to work at Bloomingdale’s in New York City. Cooking for me became just a fun hobby. It was my “schtick” to amuse and feed my friends. It became more of a pleasure than when I had to do it to earn a living, or please my parents.

What has this to do with Diabetes?
Because of my family history, you know those forms they make you fill out again and again at the doctor’s office, I stood a good chance that I would develop Diabetes. I dreaded it. I am crazy needle-phobic. I could practically pass out when I got a flu shot. Can you imagine how I felt know all the testing in store for me? Like most people with Diabetes, I hated it.

I was treated with an oral medication. I was determined to keep my Diabetes in check so that I would not have to inject insulin. As horrible the idea of injecting myself was, I hated the way I thought I had to cook and eat to keep me needle free.
For the first few months, eating and cooking was a drag. No more than that. All the joy and creativity in my life seemed to be gone. Add to that the delightful gastro- intestinal problems caused by the medication, I hated my life.

Something had to change. It did. My body adjusted to the medication and I was thrilled. My poor sister NEVER did adjust and had to keep trying new things. I lost weight and looked pretty good for an old codger. What is not to love?
But more than that, I found people out in the world that were willing to help me. From one very little thing (learning how to read labels, and figuring out what they really meant to me) my personal Diabetes world turned around.

I found a bread, then another bread, then other foods, and uses for foods I already used. Chocolate, in small amounts, was still possible. My eating world expanded. I got to understand that not all foods were off the table. Many are still a part of my meal plan. Sure there are changes and decisions I consciously make every single day, but they are not a chore but a challenge. I use my mind differently and my math skills more than I have since high school.

The big breakthrough for me was realizing that what worked for some people was either too strict or too lax for me. We are all uniquely different. The challenge is to find our own personal level of comfort in managing your Diabetes.
For any of you that have ever worked in a restaurant, you know that chefs sometimes have huge egos….and tempers. I am a chef and am no exception. I have learned to love what I cook. More than that, I brag about how well I eat and how well I have managed my Diabetes.

Do I love that for my regime pasta and rice are only once in a while and even then eaten in small amounts? No, I don’t. What I do love is that I have been able to find other foods to replace those items. What I do love is that my cooking and eating life has gotten to taste great and works….for me.

If there is anything at all to love about Diabetes is how empowered I feel by knowing that I can manage my Diabetes.

We have Diabetes. We have to live with that fact. We don’t have to love it…but we can!

Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy, BE DECADENT.-w!

Source: Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic