Fong on Food - Living with Diabetes
Nathan Fong loves food. He loves it so much he created a highly successful career around food. From national TV celebrity, to food stylist and journalist, Nathan established himself as one of Canada's premiere food and props stylists for culinary print and film advertising.
Among a large list of national and international clients, he is regularly featured on CBC Radio, Global BCTV, EAT Magazine, Fine Cooking and Cooking Light Magazine to name a few. He is also the new food columnist for The Vancouver Sun as well as a regular contributor to Men's Health Magazine UK which is the second largest men's magazine in the UK.
You can imagine Nathan's surprise when he was recently diagnosed with Adult onset Type 2 diabetes, a common yet progressive form of the disease. “I was in absolute shock”, says Nathan. “I live a healthy lifestyle, exercise regularly and eat well “I had a really hard time accepting the diagnosis.” For Nathan, food was his life and this life, as he knew it, was about to change forever.
In his 40's, Nathan was working hard in his career. Between juggling numerous projects, volunteering and maintaining a social life, Nathan was surely busy. But no matter how much he rested, he could not shake off the fatigue.
“I felt really tired all the time and just not myself”. He says his lethargy started to affect his work and his personal life. “I also had to go the washroom all the time, almost like I had a bladder infection” “this was very frustrating,” he adds. Nathan knew something wasn't right and finally decided to speak to his physician.
Not surprisingly, Nathan never thought to check for diabetes prior to this, nor did his doctor believe he was at risk. “If you are not overweight and live a healthy lifestyle, physicians may not randomly check for the disease. It's really important to ask for these types of tests, especially if you are Asian, Indian or First Nations”.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is to become informed about this disease”. He says understanding and recognizing the signs early on can make a world of difference in diagnosis and treatment.
“Our cultures tend to eat diets high in fat, sugars and carbohydrates, primarily due to white noodles and rice”. Moreover, Nathan says the combination of oils and coconut milk adds to the risk. “I've cut out 98 per cent of my carbohydrate and sugar intake which is quite difficult to do when your life and career is built around food.”
Simple changes he makes include reducing bread, processed pasta, sweets and white flour from his diet. In addition, Nathan now eats and cooks mainly brown rice and reduced his consumption of alcoholic beverages. Increasing his protein intake in combination with watching the amount of starchy vegetables is also important as the balance between carbohydrates, sugars and proteins affect his blood sugar levels. The increase consumption of vegetables has also been beneficial.
The change in his diet has not affected his career, as he still manages to dine out on a regular basis. He's pleased that a majority of Vancouver restaurants are accommodating to various dietary needs.
“Vancouver is home to some of North America's top restaurants and chefs, many of which understand that today's guest have varying dietary needs. Creating and substituting dishes are becoming increasingly common and expected.”
When asked how well he's adjusted to the diagnosis, Nathan says his approach to food has changed a lot. “I do take medication to keep my sugar levels under control. This, combined with a high protein, low fat and carbohydrate diet, makes me feel like myself again”.
Although he is more aware of what, how and when he eats, his love for food remains strong. “Healthy food can still be delicious when you know what ingredients to use and how to use them”. He says we all can benefit from cooking and eating this way.
According to the Canadian Diabetes Association Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body does not effectively use the insulin that is produced. Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood, although increasing numbers of children in high-risk populations are being diagnosed.
For more information please contact the Canadian Diabetes Association
By Leslie Horne
Photo of Nathan Fong supplied by: Nathan Fong
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