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I have diabetes and I’m afraid to eat carbs

By Megrette Fletcher, M.Ed., R.D., C.D.E

Diabetes-afraid-to-eat-carbsEvery day, people with diabetes are bombarded with messages to limit, restrict, avoid, and feel guilty for eating carbohydrates. Not surprisingly, my clients with diabetes often tell me they are afraid of eating carbs.

Trying to motivate yourself with fear is not only ineffective, it can lead to misinformation, misunderstanding, and toxic emotions like blame, shame, and depression. So how does someone with diabetes stop being afraid of eating carbohydrates?

Restriction breeds fear and fear breeds restriction

If you are trying to be “good,” it’s a red flag that you may be stuck in a restrictive mindset. The idea of being “good” often start as an intention to make more informed choices, but when the reason you’re trying to “be good” is out of fear, something shifts. Fear can make any choice not good enough because fear moves the goal of eating a balanced meal to a meal that is better. “Better” of course means eating fewer and fewer carbohydrates until you have nearly eliminated carbohydrates from your diet, hoping that the fear of eating would end. But it doesn’t, does it?

Pause and ask yourself, “Do I think all foods can fit in your diet when you have diabetes?” Fear and being afraid, makes it hard to think, read a label, consider your options, or make a decision. In our book Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, we tackle how to resolve some of these difficult thoughts about food and eating.

Try this activity based on Healthy Eating vs. Restrictive Dieting on page 27 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes. As you read the lists of “Restrictive Dieting” and “Healthy Eating” words, notice whether a word “hits you” as you read it. If it does, maybe place a dot after it. Did anything surprise you?

What most of my clients share with me is that they are afraid of eating carbs because they have diabetes. To address this fear, they resort to a restrictive eating mindset, thinking that by avoiding or eliminating carbohydrates, they won’t be afraid. It causes them to re-act, or repeat the same decision, over and over again. The thing is, avoiding carbohydrates won’t stop your fear. Understanding what a balanced diet really means when you have diabetes, and learning how eating certain foods affects diabetes management, does.

We understand why thoughts surrounding food and eating get all tangled up. The Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Diabetes Program uses the Mindful Eating Cycle, an easy to understand and amazingly effective tool to help you move away from restrictive, fear-based thinking to discovering a balanced way of relating to food. I have seen firsthand how effective mindful eating is for stabilizing blood sugars by showing clients how to stop being afraid of carbohydrates and eating.

To learn more about how mindful eating can help you with prediabetes or diabetes, please visit Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Diabetes.

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About the author

Megrette Fletcher is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, author, and co-founder of The Center for Mindful Eating. Megrette is the 2013-2014 president of The Center for Mindful Eating, a non-profit, organization to assist health professionals to explore the concepts of mindful eating. She has written articles for and has been quoted about mindful eating in Diabetes Self Management, Today’s Dietitian, Today’s Social Worker, Bariatric Times, Glamour, Family Circle, The Wall Street Journal, US News and World Report, Women’s Day, and Oxygen Magazine. Megrette currently works as a diabetes educator in Dover, New Hampshire.

One Comment

  1. Lynn Godsey says:

    Wow! That is me to a “T” right now. I restrict and restrict hoping my blood sugars will e better and then I binge – causing me to spend days getting back on track – with even more restriction! It feels hopeless…

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