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How can I eat what I love when I have diabetes?

By Michelle May, M.D.
By Michelle May, M.D. Co-Author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes

“I love sweets! How can I eat what I love when I have diabetes?”

chocolate trufflesThis common question underscores a common misconception about diabetes. The old myth that eating sugar causes diabetes and must be avoided when you have diabetes is a misunderstanding about the nature of the problem. To help you understand the importance of learning to eat what you love, consider this interesting report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine called “Association Between More Frequent Chocolate Consumption and Lower Body Mass Index” (Golomb et al). They speculated that maybe chocolate had some physiological effect on weight but I have a different theory:

People who eat what they love (in this case, chocolate) don’t feel deprived. Therefore, they enjoy their favorite foods in moderation and therefore maintain a healthier weight. And, if they have diabetes, they should also be better able to maintain their glucose in the target range.

So the short answer is, yes, you can eat sweets even if you have diabetes. The full answer requires a little more information which I’ll summarize here (of course, there’s a lot more detail in Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes):

  • Carbohydrates have the greatest effect on blood glucose levels
  • The total amount of carbohydrate you consume at each meal or mini-meal is important when you have pre-diabetes or diabetes
  • A typical range to begin with is between 45-60 grams of carbohydrate per meal for women, 60-75 grams for men, with 15-30 grams for a snack. Follow your health professional’s recommendations and monitor your blood glucose to determine the optimal range for you.
  • Sugar is a carbohydrate
  • Grains and grain products, starchy vegetables, fruit, and dairy are also carbohydrates
  • Restriction can lead to feelings of deprivation, cravings, overeating, guilt, and more overeating
  • Therefore, if you love sweets, it is wise to determine how to include them in your total carbohydrate intake rather than restricting, then overeating, them!

About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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