By Megrette Fletcher M.Ed, RD, CDE
Co-Author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes
It had been about a year since I last saw Richard. He came into our session as would any friend I hadn’t seen in a while. Light chatter filled the air as I gathered the necessary information about medications and blood pressure. When this was finished, I settled into my seat and listened to Richard tell me of his life.
“I don’t know why I stopped,” he began. “I was doing great last year and then, I stopped. Weird as that is, when I started to see my numbers and weight increase, I didn’t start back again either. Do you know why?”
To begin, it is normal to get off track. Richard’s question about why he didn’t just start back again is an excellent one to ponder. There are lots of possible answers, many of which we explore in chapter 22 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes. In Richard’s case, what I already knew about him is the following:
Richard is a really smart guy who is gifted with numbers. He is a thinker, and for him, life is wonderful if all the numbers and behaviors “add up” and “make sense.” Eighteen months earlier, he had been introduced to the mindful eating cycle. It made sense to him to eat when he was hungry and stop when he was full. He understood that by checking in with his hunger before a meal and eating with the intent to meet this level of hunger, he would likely stop overeating. It seemed logical, so he tried it. What he really liked about this plan was the numbers made sense. His blood sugars responded when he honored his hunger, falling into target. He began to exercise, returning to the gym on a consistent and regular basis. Soon his A1c was below 6.5 mg/dL, and his weight had dropped more than 25 pounds. When we parted 12 months ago, Richard felt healthy and in charge of his diabetes.
Yet, when I asked why he stopped using the mindful eating cycle, he said, “The numbers were in target so I figured I was okay.” With that response, I had a suspicion what the problem was.
Health is an experience. Health is not a number. It is not a weight, a blood sugar, a cholesterol level or A1C test. When individuals begin to eat mindfully, they begin to notice their direct experience with food and eating. When individuals begin to exercise mindfully, they begin to notice their direct experience with exercise. When I asked Richard about his experience with exercise, he stated in a somewhat surprised voice, “But I LIKE to exercise!” So I asked, “What was your experience when you ate more mindfully?” and he smiled, his voice soft as he remembered that “I liked it. I felt better. It wasn’t about a number then, was it?”
To which I confimed, “No, it wasn’t.”