Turning Our Thoughts and Emotions Into Diabetes Diet Allies

Sometimes it seems as though our thoughts, emotions, and cravings make sticking to a diabetes diet impossible.

How can we get the energies of mind and body to be our dietary ally, or at least not get in the way?

Fortunately, thoughts and feelings are influenced by our awareness, are amenable to small behavior adjustments, and respond to pertinent questions.

Here, for instance, are seven shifts in focus and diet strategy that might make glucose management a bit easier:

  1. We cannot hear our body’s wisdom if we’ve forgotten to listen. Once a week, or once a month, cultivate body awareness by enjoying a meal in silence, being attentive to your food’s appearance and tantalizing aroma, its variety of flavors, and textures. Take a few moments between bites to check in with your body, making note of any sensations or feelings, including signals related to hunger or satiety.
  2. It is usually small, steady steps that get us where we want to go, because small steps don’t scare us. Similarly, small, healthy food swaps can help us reach our diabetes management goals—they don’t trigger the resentment and rebellion that broad restrictive rules do. We might, for instance, use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, drink water with mint or lemon instead of a sweetened beverage, substitute crisp lettuce leaves for sandwich bread, or put a dash of stevia powder in our coffee instead of sugar.
  3. Guidelines empower us to stay on a chosen path, and our degree of hunger can function as a guide. Using a scale from 1 to 10 - 1 being extreme hunger and 10 being uncomfortably full - aim to eat when your level of hunger is at 2 or 3, and stop eating when you reach a level of 7 (satisfied, not stuffed). With regular practice this guideline can morph into a healthy habit.
  4. Before eating, give thanks for the abundance of vitamins, fiber, minerals, and antioxidants on your plate, for the way they will nourish and energize the body’s cells, and help it thrive. You will see your food choices with fresh eyes.
  5. We tend to overeat when food becomes a means of self-soothing. As a craving arises, we can ask ourself whether it might represent a hunger for something besides food. Maybe we long to feel appreciated after working hard all day. We might be bored and need stimulation, feel sad and wish for comfort, or are trying to avoid starting an unpleasant task. The food cravings may subside by understanding and fulfilling our authentic needs.
  6. Share meals with family and friends, revel in their presence and cultivate conversation. Research shows that adults who enjoy regular, pleasant sit-down meals eat healthier, and tend to be slimmer. Plus, regular family (or friend) meals help children and grownups learn to enjoy a wide variety of fare, and to think less about food between mealtimes.
  7. In the movie City Slickers, Billy Crystal’s character made peace with life and himself when he focused on the “one thing” most meaningful to him. Sometimes, by reminding ourself what is most important - such as seeing our kids or grandkids grow up - sticking to our healthy choices becomes easier.

Sources: Chopra; Ellyn Satter Institute
Photo credit: Amy Selleck

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