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It’s More than “a Touch of Sugar” with Constance Brown-Riggs

Author of "The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes"

Laura KolodjeskiLaura Kolodjeski

Continuing our week of featuring diabetes programs and resources that serve the African American community, I’d like to introduce you to Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN, who has been a registered dietitian for more than 25 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) for most of that time.

Constance Brown-Riggs author of The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes
Constance Brown-Riggs

Constance first became interested in diabetes care as a child. “I lost a cousin at a young age as a result of complications associated with diabetes,” she said. “I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to diabetes, so I strive to do as much as I possibly can to help to lessen some of the ugly and the bad and enhance more of the good.”

In her private practice, Constance primarily works with adults who live with type 2 diabetes. As a part of her medical nutrition therapy services, she has developed a number of educational tools specifically for her African American clients.

“When we’re able to provide culturally competent care, we get positive outcomes,” she explained. To address the need for nutritional information about traditional southern foods, she created a Diabetes Soul Food Pyramid, and self-published a book called, “Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes.” She later expanded on those materials and wrote, “The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes.”

Her second book offers a holistic approach to self-care, addressing mental, emotional, physical and spiritual topics. At the end of each chapter is a section called ‘For Your Spirit’ that provides an inspirational, encouraging message for those living with diabetes. The book also provides the nutritional information for foods that are not typically found in other books, such as Caribbean foods and traditional foods from the South.

The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) has Favorably Reviewed the book, which means a multidisciplinary team evaluated the material for the accuracy of diabetes information, readability and appropriateness for its target audience.

Constance uses her blog, Diabetes: Don’t Claim It! Manage It!, and Twitter account as ways to engage with more people, beyond her practice. “I try to show people how they can still enjoy food while living with diabetes. They don’t have to claim or embrace their condition, but they do have to manage it. It’s persistence, not perfection, that’s key.”

Constance cautions against the idea of “just a touch of sugar,” which is a common phrase in the African American community that she sees as a form of denial about diabetes. “It’s more than ‘a touch of sugar,’” she said. “African Americans often think ‘my life is over.’ But they really should try to embrace the diagnosis and think of it as a second chance. It’s a chance to exercise more, to eat healthier and to think seriously about their health.”

She advises her clients, “Don’t let diabetes take the sweetness out of life. There’s likely room to include foods that you grew up on that may be near and dear to your heart. You might not be able to eat them every day, or you may have to tweak the recipes a little bit, but there may be room to incorporate them into your meal plan in moderation. Just because you have the diagnosis of diabetes doesn’t mean that you can’t live a great, fulfilling life. You can live well with diabetes.”

I so appreciate how Constance saw a need for culturally relevant information for her clients and identified a means by which to meet that need. Many thanks to her for sharing her story and for the educational resources she provides for the African American community.

All the best,

Laura K.

Disclosure: Constance Brown-Riggs received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.

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  1. Scott
    February 20th, 2013, 11:28 AM

    Thank you, Constance, for the work you do to help an under-served population.