Family gatherings can be particularly difficult for diabetics, as it seems that every gathering centers on food. Navigating food choices at family gatherings can also strain the willpower of even the most disciplined diabetic. The typical Thanksgiving dinner can be over 2,500 calories (with normal portion sizes) and it is easy to consume over 4,500 calories in the course of the day.
I recently had an opportunity to interview chef Charles Mattocks. Widely known as “The Poor Chef,” his cookbook, Eat Cheap but Eat Well, features healthy meals for under $7. Inspired by his uncle, the late Bob Marley, Mattocks dared to dream big. After being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, he focused on teaching the world to eat healthy. Growing up on Long Island, Charles learned early on that food was a big part of our culture. Charles still loves food, but since being diagnosed, he knows he needs to manage his diet better. When first diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic, Charles was prescribed the typical treatment using metformin. But he didn’t want to be taking a pharmaceutical drug for the rest of his life, so he changed his lifestyle and diet, lost weight, and started exercising. He soon had his diabetes under control and was off all medications. I asked Charles what he does to stay on track. The first thing he said was “Treat yourself, and eat what you enjoy in moderation.” For his own meals, Charles tries to avoid processed foods, adds more fresh vegetables to his diet, and focuses on portion control. Gatherings should be a time for celebration and enjoying what you like to eat—not feeling guilty about enjoying great tasting food. He says, “Enjoy yourself during special times because, you know, life is really about winning, and once again with discipline and moderation, you can conquer everything.”