How a Food Writer Deals With Diabetes

This restaurant reviewer didn't let her diagnosis derail her career.

Medically Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on April 09, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

Sloane Burwell, a community member, shares her story.

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes the day before Thanksgiving 5 years ago. I was 40 years old and making a career transition, from technology to food writing. Not only was the timing terrible, I felt like diabetes was going to destroy all of my plans. Who'd want to read my restaurant reviews if I couldn't eat any dessert or starches? I was devastated.

I was pretty surprised by the diagnosis. I'd put on a little weight, and my mood swings were out of control, but I had a very stressful job at the time, and I figured that was the reason. The week before my diagnosis, I'd woken up and the white of my left eye was all red. The next week, the same thing happened in my right eye.

My doctor sent me to an eye specialist who immediately said, "You have diabetes." A blood sugar test confirmed it.

I was depressed for months. I cried every day. Then I started reading about the disease, took a 6-week diabetes class, and met with a nutritionist. Still, my blood sugar rose even higher.

From my reading, I thought that if the carbohydrates in food were causing my blood sugar to rise, I'd just eat fewer carbs. But I learned that all carbs break down into sugar in the bloodstream, whether it comes from bread or sweets. That was a shock.

Of course, I had to pay attention to sugar. I was surprised to learn the amount of sugar in dried fruits, so that was the first thing to go. 

I made other trade-offs. I used to eat lots of chips and dips, but I realized what I really liked was the dip, so I switched chips for celery. Now I eat salsa and dips like baba ghanoush to my heart's content. I also love chocolate, and I thought I'd have to give that up. But I found dark chocolate, which has less sugar and therefore fewer carbs, so I eat that.

If I'm reviewing a restaurant, I examine the menu extensively ahead of time. I'll have one kind of carb -- bread or dessert or pasta -- and enjoy it.

I wasn't an exerciser before, but now I do yoga once a week and walk two to three times a week for about an hour. By watching my carbs, taking medication, and exercising, I've lost about 50 pounds. I feel great.

Sloane's Secrets

1. "Exercise is important and walking is key. You can do it anywhere. It clears your head. And it doesn't cost you any money."

2. "Let your blood sugar tell you how your body reacts to what you eat. The only way you can tell is by testing, particularly every 1 and 2 hours after meals."

3. "It's totally normal to feel like your life is turned upside down, because it is. Take it as an opportunity to get better."

WebMD Magazine - Feature



Sloane Burwell, food writer.

© 2015 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.