Art Smith is an award-winning chef, cookbook author and television personality.
As the former personal chef to the stars, including Oprah Winfrey, Smith’s mission is to encourage families and friends to gather around the table to share a meal. In 2008, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and has made nutrition and healthy eating a priority.
A lot of people are talking about Tom Hanks’s recent type 2 diabetes diagnosis—and as someone who received the same diagnosis a few years ago, my heart truly goes out to him and everyone affected by this disease. People were very surprised by his revelation, but diabetes doesn’t discriminate—it’s not a one-size-fits-all condition.
Was it easy to hear the news that I had type 2 diabetes? No way! As the executive chef and co-owner of five restaurants, I know how food can bring people together. But when I was diagnosed in 2008, I realized my food-centered life was taking a huge toll on my body.
For years, my doctor had been telling me to lose weight and warning that I was at risk for diabetes, but I never changed my lifestyle. I didn’t exercise, had very little energy, and weighed more than 325 pounds. I eventually had a serious scare when I thought I was having a heart attack.
This was the wake-up call I needed to get serious about my health. As most of you will probably understand, this was easier said than done!
I count myself among the lucky ones because I was able to find a doctor that I trusted, and we worked together to come up with a plan that was right for me. With some hard work and resolve, I started eating healthier and learning how to make some of my favorite dishes more diabetes-friendly. I also started exercising five days a week, which, let me tell you, was not easy!
There’s no doubt about it: I have a great love for family and good food, two basic ingredients that link people together. But I’m also about helping, which is the main reason why I decided to partner with Merck on Taking Diabetes to Heart. I want to help those 26 millions Americans living with the disease understand how small but important changes can help them better manage their lives.
Are you living with type 2 diabetes? Here are some of the most important things you can do:
1. Work with your doctor to develop a diabetes-management plan that’s right for you, which may include diet, exercise and, if appropriate, medication.
2. Know the ABCs of diabetes—that’s A for A1C, also known as blood sugar, B for blood pressure and C for cholesterol.
3. Stick to a consistent eating schedule to manage your blood sugar. Make sure your doctor explains the causes, signs and symptoms of both high and low blood sugar.
4. Be careful about your portions. Half of your plate should always be vegetables. You can never overdo it when it comes to veggies!
5. Plan meals for the entire family. You don’t have to eat alone just because you have type 2 diabetes. Look for recipes that the entire family can enjoy and find ways to remake your favorite foods. I’ve found ways to make healthier versions of my favorite foods such as burgers and fried chicken
At TakingDiabetestoHeart.com you can find my delicious diabetes-friendly recipes, as well as helpful tips for you and your family. It is so important to have a strong support system as you battle this disease, and I could not have put my health back on track without the help of family. Just like they have helped me, I want to help others. As a chef, I have the opportunity to be there for the people I serve—and this is why I am challenging more restaurants and food trucks to offer dishes that are diabetes friendly, just like I am doing at my own restaurants.
Remember, even if you have type 2 diabetes, you can still live a fabulous and delicious life!