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Happy New Year! Many of us are making resolutions for the New Year. Why not take the chance to explore self-care and mindfulness to kick-start the year?

As we know, diabetes is a self-managed disease. Although you are receiving help and guidance from your healthcare professionals, most of the time you are making decisions about managing your diabetes independently. Sometimes it can be difficult – whether it be applying changes to your diet, monitoring your blood sugars, or preventing complications. One strategy that may help with improving your self-management of diabetes is through mindfulness and mindful eating practices.

 

What is Mindfulness and Mindful Eating, and How can it Help?

Mindfulness is the act of deliberately paying attention to the present moment without judgement; having an attitude of curiosity, openness and acceptance towards the present. Mindful eating, similarly, is being aware of the entire eating experience; including food selection, preparation, and consumption. It involves:

  • Using all of the senses of taste, smell, touch, sight, and sound to choose food that is satisfying and nourishing.

  • Acknowledging our unique responses to food without judgement.

  • Using the physical hunger and satiety cues of our body to guide decisions about food.

Research has shown that mindful eating can improve blood sugar control in those with prediabetes, Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes.  Mindful eating may also help with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. When coupled with diabetes education from your healthcare professionals, it can help you become more aware and be in more control of what, how much, and why you eat; anywhere and at any time.

Mindful Eating Tips

1. Limit Distractions when Eating

  • We are often distracted when eating – and we don’t even realize it! There may be distractions coming from our environment, such as when we eat while watching TV or working on the computer. There may also be distractions coming from our internal state of mind, for example stressful thoughts or emotions.

  • Eating in the presence of a distraction can often cause us to eat more than we need to. Limit distractions by turning off the TV and putting away your phone. When you pay attention and take the time to focus on the food that you are eating, food tends to taste better and be more satisfying to your senses.

2. Be Aware of Hunger and Fullness Cues

  • Think about how you are feeling before, during, and after a meal. Why you are eating? Are you physically hungry, or are you simply bored? Are you feeling just a little peckish, or are you hungry to the point of feeling ravenous?

  • Start eating when you are feeling just a little hungry and stop eating when you are feeling just satisfied. When we start eating when we are too hungry – we tend to overeat. And when we stop eating when we are too full – we tend to feel sick and nauseous. Neither of these feelings are pleasant feelings to have, nor are they good habits for blood sugar control.

  • Eating slowly and paying attention to the textures, tastes, and sensations of our foods can help you recognize how your body is responding.

  • Keep in mind, if you are taking insulin or a medication that can cause low blood sugars, your eating habits should consider the timing and dose of these agents as well.

3. Eat a Balanced Meal Full of Protein and Fibre

  • Eating a balanced meal with half a plate of non-starchy vegetables, quarter of a plate of protein, and quarter of a plate of carbohydrates is a great way to make sure we are eating enough protein and fibre. Protein and fibre keeps us fuller for longer during the day, which helps prevent mindless eating and snacking. They are also great foods to eat in combination with carbohydrates because they help blood sugars stabilize!

4. Make Time for Eating and Enjoy it

  • Food is an ingrained and pleasurable part of our lives that often connects us with our loved ones, and this experience doesn’t have to be compromised because of diabetes. Even though it may be challenging to incorporate changes to your diet and lifestyle, make time to eat with your friends and families, and enjoy the food you are eating!

If you would like to read more about mindful eating, here are a few great resources to start with.

  • “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes” by Michelle May, MD and Megrette Fletcher, MEd, RD, CDE

  • “Slim by Design” by Brian Wansink, PhD

  • The Center for Mindful Eating: http://thecenterformindfuleating.org

References:

http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/diaspect/30/2/89.full.pdf

https://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org/Principles-Mindful-Eating

http://www.pennutrition.com.proxy3.library.mcgill.ca/KnowledgePathway.aspx?kpid=16011&pqcatid=146&pqid=16007&kppid=26598&book=Evidence&num=3#Evidence