Embracing Diabetes: You Can Still Enjoy Life

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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 encourages fellow diabetics to embrace the disease and enjoy life.

Some of the biggest frustrations for the friends and loved ones of people diagnosed with diabetes are that the patient doesn’t seem to want to:

  • - take it seriously
  • - do anything about it
  • - talk about it

Or the person with diabetes:

  • - is just depressed that they have a disease
  • - blames themselves for their disease

Even though I am a diabetes patient myself, I share these frustrations about other friends who have been diagnosed. What may be worse is that I don’t get why anyone would choose not to do whatever they can to overcome their disease. Worse still (for me), in the case of my diabetes, it doesn’t have to be hard to do. I gotta tell you that changing my eating has not been bad. Take that back; it has been fun! It is a challenge.

'Thank Goodness It Is Only Diabetes'

For many on the sidelines of the individual diagnosed with diabetes, one has to wonder if the patient would react the same way if they were diagnosed with another life-threatening disease. Isn’t diabetes bad enough?

I was at a doctor’s office the other day. One of the staff there and I were talking about my having diabetes. I was surprised when she said to me, “Well thank goodness it is ONLY diabetes.” How much does the attitude of the medical profession and the general public play in the way the patient sees their disease? How does it affect you?

Now I realize that, unlike some diseases, diabetes does not usually disable and kill very quickly. But what is also true is that it will finally catch up with you. Happily, one can do something about it now to slow the complications to a crawl and live a long and healthy, and, yes, decadent life.

Avoiding Diabetes-Related Complications

After I was first diagnosed, I thought about my brother who, due to his diabetic state, had to have an infected toe removed – and then died within months from complications of the removal. I also was aware that two of my father’s sisters had limbs amputated. Was that what was in store for me?

I asked my wonderfully supportive doctor, Dan, about this. The answer was surprising. It was a resounding NO! What Dr. Dan told me is that I had done such a good job of controlling my disease that I was no more at risk than the general public for the complications associated with diabetes. How this will play out 20 to 25 years from now, we don’t know. But by that time, I should be old and decrepit anyway.

Annoying but Worth It

My vision of controlling diabetes is by exercising and changing my eating habits. It is no different than cleaning and bandaging a wound. Unlike the wound, my diabetes may never “heal,” but I can live happily with that as long as I remain healthy. Cleaning and bandaging the cut will help prevent further complications. Eating well, controlling my weight and exercising will do the same for my diabetes. Is that too much to ask of me as “payment”? Clearly I didn’t think so.

And in the way a bandage might constrict your movement for a while or the wound-cleaning solution may sting, changing the way you control your food may be a pain, but isn’t it worth it? I suppose for some, perhaps not. For me, I have NEVER been as creative at the stove as I am today. It brings me a new joy in what I have always loved doing. Every diabetic who contacts me and tells me they like a recipe or laughs at my bizarre humor makes me Kwel. (Just ask Barbra Streisand for a translation.)

In the silver-lining department, I have a new passion: sharing my experiences and foods with others in the same diabetic boat as I am in.
Do we diabetics need to be scared to death and destruction, or can we embrace our disease and hang on and live decadently?

Enjoy, be happy, be healthy, BE DECADENT!

Click here to check out Ward's recipe for Spicy Asian Chicken!

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