Mindful eating for diabetes self-management: Balanced eating and consistent intake of carbohydrates is a challenging message to communicate to clients during a brief office visit. Even with time, a complete diet overhaul just does not work. Shifting the conversation away from restrictive diets toward mindful eating helps move the relationship with food from adversarial to nourishing.
We hear a lot about ‘mindful eating’ these days, but what is it?
May and Fletcher: The origins of mindful eating come from mindfulness, which is choosing to be aware of the present moment without judgment. After all, the present moment is where all decisions are made. Instead of telling you about it, experience mindfulness for yourself right now. Stop reading for a moment and pay attention to your body in your seat. Simply notice how it feels. What are you aware of? If you notice you’re uncomfortable, what could you change to feel more comfortable? Could you shift positions? Get a drink? Grab a blanket? That bit of awareness opened you up to several options for taking care of yourself.
How can mindful eating help with diabetes self-management?
May and Fletcher: Our diet-crazed culture often encourages restriction of certain foods or macronutrients, which isn’t health promoting or sustainable and may trigger disordered eating patterns. With diabetes, people may become self-critical and avoidant. They live in the past (I should have …) or the future (what if …) or distract themselves with TV, work or food. The tendency to overlook, and even distrust, their present experience prevents them from using the most current information to make decisions. Further, the diet-culture narrative is that health is dependent on a number on the scale, which becomes a distraction from the many day-to-day decisions they make that can affect their blood sugar.
On the other hand, mindful eating for diabetes care focuses on awareness, not restriction, as the critical skill people need for long-term diabetes self-management. Mindful eating teaches us to pause and become curious about our physical sensations, thoughts and feelings, giving us a way to become conscious about our underlying beliefs. For example, if a person notices that they feel overly full and uncomfortable after eating, they might realize that they felt compelled to clean their plate to avoid wasting food. They can then use that feedback to help them with future decision-making. If they also choose to check their blood sugar, they’ll get additional feedback about the effect of eating past the point of satiety.