How I Adjusted to Dietary Changes with Diabetes

by Phyllisa Deroze Patient Advocate

When I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2011, I was overwhelmed by the various dietary guidelines and restrictions that I needed to implement to help me manage diabetes. Six years later, I have an hemoglobin A1C that is within range and I feel comfortable with my management routine. Yet, I am human and there are a few things that I struggle with occasionally.

Portion size

I grew up eating until I was full. If I wanted seconds, I was welcome to have more if it was available. This was how I ate for years. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, things had to change. It was difficult in the beginning. I started by using smaller plates and avoided returning for a second helping even if I felt hungry. Nowadays, I eat dinner from a dessert plate and I eat healthier than I did before I was diagnosed. Admittedly, though, there are times I struggle with portion size and it’s usually during the holidays; social gatherings are happy times and tables are often covered with my favorite dishes. I try to limit my portions at events by having something light to eat before I arrive.

Saying no when I want to say yes

I love macaroni and cheese, sweet potato pie, and Southern-style potato salad. Sadly, many of my favorite foods are packed with carbohydrates. After I was diagnosed, I had to significantly reduce how often and how much of these dishes I ate. When I began weighing my food and I saw what 30 grams of mac and cheese actually looked like on my 9-inch plate, I was in disbelief. I wondered if my nutritionist was serious about limiting my carb intake to no more than 45 grams of carbs per day. When I realized that she was serious and that I needed to make these changes to avoid complications, I walked the straight and narrow with my carb intake. But sometimes, I still struggle with saying no to certain foods when I really want to say yes. Last week, I should have said no to the scoop of ice cream for dessert, but I decided to have it and go for a 30-minute walk afterwards.

Eating on schedule

I am not a person who loves routine; I prefer spontaneity. Unfortunately, managing type 2 diabetes and being spontaneous don’t always complement each other. I admit that when I eat at the same time every day and choose the right foods, my blood sugar levels are very stable. But I’m an educator, and each semester my schedule changes. My taste buds love variety, my soul is unpredictable at times, and I love to travel. All of this means that my life fluctuates daily, weekly, and seasonally. In order to help stay on track, I have a reminder set in my phone so I know when it's time for a meal or a snack.

I used to be very hard on myself when a day didn’t go as perfectly as I planned it and my struggles with one of the above issues affected me. I felt like a failure, and before I knew it this feeling snowballed. Getting it right means giving myself a margin of error, even if it is a very small margin. Now, I don’t allow one bad day to get me down. I just try harder the next day.

Phyllisa Deroze
Meet Our Writer
Phyllisa Deroze

Phyllisa Deroze is a prominent online health advocate for Type 2 diabetes and a professor of American Literature with a special interest in the connections between literature, feminism, and health. She is a Fulbright Scholar Alumna who enjoys writing professionally about type 2 diabetes for academic and mainstream audiences. After being diagnosed with Type 2 in 2011, she noticed that there was a lack of culturally competent information for African Americans and started blogging at and to fill the gap. Phyllisa is dynamic speaker and health motivator who offers free diabetes workshops annually in her hometown of Pompano Beach, Florida as a part of her commitment to community outreach. She is currently working on a project that examines the connections between food, culture, and type 2 diabetes among underrepresented groups.