By Amy Wenk
amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

Two years ago, Buckhead resident Walt Henley’s life changed when he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

“It’s not something that you take two weeks of pills and get over,” the 50-year-old said.

Diabetes is a lifelong disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone necessary to convert sugar into energy. The diagnosis meant Henley would have to alter his daily routine to manage the illness, which affects more than 900,000 Georgians and 23 million Americans.

The professed workaholic suddenly had to adhere to a regular exercise regime and develop healthy eating habits.

“I was eating probably 3,000 calories a day,” said Henley, who grew up in Brookwood Hills and lives in Chastain Park. “Right after I got diagnosed, I dropped my calorie intake down to about 1,700 a day, which is almost intolerable, frankly.”

His new lifestyle also included checking his blood sugar twice a day and abandoning excess carbohydrates, including his beloved carrot cake and vanilla ice cream.

“The biggest thing that I struggle with is eating rich food,” the electrical engineer said. “I have always loved rich food.

“Finding simpler, better things to eat in an urban environment is challenging. Our culture doesn’t encourage that type of eating exactly.”

Hoping to give diabetics more choices and dispel the myth that having diabetes means no sweets, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is holding The Sweet Life: Decadent Desserts on Nov. 6. The fundraiser will be at Mason Murer Fine Art, 199 Armour Drive.

“The Sweet Life is basically a dessert event that will appeal to people that have diabetes, as well as people who are interested in promoting and living a healthy lifestyle,” said Chrystal Neely, the diabetes association’s associate director. “It’s the first of its kind for the ADA.”

The event will feature 10 desserts from 10 vendors such as Dulce Vegan.

The alternative bakery near Atlantic Station features vegan cupcakes, muffins, cakes and scones made with organic ingredients. The desserts are distributed to eateries like R. Thomas Deluxe Grill in Buckhead, World Peace Cafe in Sandy Springs and the Brookhaven Bistro.

“We also do sugar-fee and low-sugar options,” said Idalys Sansores, owner of Dulce Vegan. As an alternative to sugar or artificial sweeteners, the bakery uses agave syrup.

She said her dessert for The Sweet Life “is going to be very chocolaty and decadent because it’s not something that diabetics usually get a chance to have.”

The Sweet Life also will feature a silent auction, a diamond raffle, dinner and jazz music from Alex Lattimore.

The proceeds will go to the ADA, which supports research on Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. The nonprofit organization also holds educational programs and protects diabetics against discrimination.

“One of the scariest things for us is now people are being diagnosed with diabetes three people every minute,” Neely said. “The number is steadily increasing. … We are trying to make sure people who have diabetes are getting the help that they need.”

The Sweet Life begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are $75 in advance and $85 at the door. For more information, visit www.adasweetlife.org.