People around the globe find that food is a major focus, yet most don’t practice what is referred to as mindful eating; a simple habit that can keep you healthier and help manage type 2 diabetes.
A lot of us eat on the run or in a hurry, even when we do have the time to savor the flavors, and literally thousands of people eat in front of the television day after day; paying closer attention to the action on the screen than the amount of food going into their mouths.
The problem with these habits is that they can result in overeating, eating the wrong foods and giving in to our cravings. Mindful eating means paying attention to your food and enjoying your food with the intention of caring for yourself. Being in the moment and paying attention allows us to be more conscious of our food choices and requires us to use all of our five senses. It’s really all about truly tasting and enjoying food without needlessly stuffing ourselves.
Previous study shows mindful eating can help people with type 2 diabetes
A study conducted by a research team at Ohio State University and published in a 2012 Edition of the U.S National Library of Medicine indicates that mindful eating can be an effective tool for those who are trying to manage type 2 diabetes.
While examining two different dietary interventions for patients, the researchers were able to determine that type 2 diabetes with mindful eating could lead to weight control and glycemic reduction. They split a group of adults, aged 35 to 65, into two groups and assigned them to either mindful eating or a Smart Food Choices program for three months. After the three-month period, food intake, physical activity, weight, glycemia and fasting insulin were assessed. While there weren’t huge differences between the two groups at the end of the study, both experienced weight loss and improved glycemic levels. Researchers concluded that training in mindful eating for diabetes can lead to improved dietary intake, modest weight loss and significant glycemic control.
The bottom line is that a diet plan of any kind creates an awareness of what you are eating and generally leads to eating less. Countless studies have demonstrated that excess weight is a risk factor for diabetes.
Mindful eating cycle for diabetes self-management
So how do you change your habits? Mindful eating may sound difficult but it doesn’t have to be. Many people use a mindful eating cycle when it comes to diabetes self-management. The mindful eating cycle is a series of questions that people can ask themselves about their relationship with food.
- Why do I eat – for energy, nutrition, fuel, fear or due to stress?
- When do I eat – how can I tell if I am hungry or hypoglycemic?
- What do I eat – a variety of foods? Balanced meals? Do I eat in moderation?
- How do I eat – fast, in front of the TV, alone, while driving? Do I sneak food?
- How much do I eat – is my plate clean? Do I feel full?
- Where do I use my energy – am I active? Do I sit too much? Do I have hobbies?
Benefits of mindful eating for type 2 diabetes
There are many benefits to mindful eating. One of the most obvious is that it can reduce the amount of non-hunger eating episodes people experience. Let’s be honest, we have all fallen into the trap of eating when we are not really hungry. While food is enjoyable, we can’t forget that its true purpose is to provide energy and nutrition. For people with type 2 diabetes, reducing non-hunger eating can be very important.
Here are a few more benefits of mindful eating:
- Fewer blood sugar highs and lows
- Tastes become more refined (you find yourself less drawn to fast food)
- Feeling better (realizing some foods just make you feel yucky)
- Enjoying food more (savoring, smelling can make it more satisfying)
Many people who practice mindful eating have also noticed that they eat less because they have eliminated the feelings of depriving themselves. Their feelings of guilt or restriction eventually go away because they are making conscious decisions about what they are eating. Mindful eaters also find that they start to eat for activity. Being active can be one of the best ways to control blood sugar.
Tips to help you eat more mindfully
It can be easy to slip back into old habits, but there are ways you can help yourself. Here are some tried and true mindful eating tips. If one does not work, try another and you will have a fighting chance at not only becoming more aware of your food choices, but of enjoying your meals as well.
- Avoid distractions, such as the television, computer and reading when you eat.
- Tell yourself to slow down when eating.
- Take smaller bites and chew your food thoroughly.
- Before you eat, take a moment to rate your hunger level.
- If you have a tendency to overeat certain food, don’t buy them!
- Eat from a smaller plate or bowl.
- Don’t just grab the first food item you see, think about what you want.
- Put healthy food out in the open where you can see it.
- Read about emotional eating.
- Think you are hungry, but realize you aren’t? Make yourself a cup of tea or get a glass of water.
Often times we relate eating to comfort or we don’t think at all; we just eat and are distracted by what is going on around us. We have to remember that eating is needed to nourish our bodies – to provide us with nutrients, vitamins and minerals so that we can lead healthy lives. Food can be really delicious and joyful when we take the time to eat in a mindful way, whether we are alone or with family and friends.
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