By Megrette Fletcher M.Ed, RD, CDE
Co-Author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes
It happens when the seasons change. One after another, my clients say, “Well, I expected my blood sugars to be higher in the winter, but now that it is spring, I just thought they would go down.”
We talk about how to problem-solve changes in blood glucose readings in Chapter 18 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes . Elevated blood glucose typically has seven causes:
- Changes in eating
- Changes in physical activity
- Changes in medications
- Over-treatment of a low blood sugar
- Side effects in medications
- Progression of diabetes
In this blog post, I will explore the progression of diabetes. Many people assume that once their blood glucose levels have stabilized, their diabetes is all set – forever. Type 2 diabetes is a problem of both insulin resistance and a decrease in insulin production. Unfortunately, diabetes always changes, and one of these changes includes a decline in the body’s ability to make insulin.
Insulin, which is produced in the pancreas, can be thought of as a key that allows energy in the form of glucose to enter the cells. As diabetes progresses, the body’s ability to produce insulin decreases.
How Mindful Eating Helps
When individuals with prediabetes or diabetes stop chronically overeating, they are not asking the pancreas to make as much insulin. This helps preserve the insulin production and ultimately slows the progression of the disease.
Yet moderation can be a challenge. A great place to start is by asking, “Am I hungry?” If you realize you are hungry, ask, “How much food do I need to eat for this level of hunger?” When you establish a clear intent to satisfy, but not overshoot your level of hunger, you break the Overeating Cycle described in Chapter 1 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes.
Mindful eating brings freedom to food and eating choices. For example, say Susan realizes she is at a hunger level of 2, which we describe as “starving.” Susan admits that there is “no way!” that 45 grams of carbohydrates, which is about 1 cup of tortellini, will satisfy her level of hunger. Remembering that mindful eating isn’t about restriction, she explores other choices to satisfy her hunger. (How do you use MyPlate when you have diabetes?) She decides to have the tortellini as part of a larger salad, adding diced chicken, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli and peppers to the meal. These other choices do not contain a significant amount of carbohydrates so they do not require the body to use more insulin.
Looking at her plate, Susan notices that by adding a greater variety of foods to the meal, she had plenty to eat, while still managing her carbohydrate intake. Recognizing hunger and fullness is an invaluable tool and the first step to breaking free of the Overeating Cycle.