Day after day I see people newly diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes and all they want to know is “What do I eat?” (the third decision point in the Mindful Eating Cycle). As I listen to how my clients are eating, it’s easy to see that mindful eating would be a powerful tool to help them make sustainable, lifelong changes in their eating.
Many of my clients are initially skeptical about whether mindful eating could “work” for them. Most think they should follow a rigid diabetes meal plan but eventually recognize that that is no different from the dozens of other restrictive eating programs, aka diets, that they have tried over the years, with the same predictable results.
Fear and Fantasy
There is both a fear and a fantasy that food and eating choices can be simplified into a single list. Thankfully, they can’t, and knowledge alone doesn’t change behavior anyway. Rigid plans and programs that preach perfection and focus on weight loss instead of balanced eating do more harm than good. Popular food plans that eliminate carbohydrates, or even just sweets, nourish the seeds of food guilt and body shame which only make changing one’s diet and managing one’s health more difficult.
Unfortunately, the fear and guilt that often come with a diagnosis of prediabetes and diabetes is so great that it’s hard for many people to even consider using a mindful eating approach. They insist on focusing on questions like, “What am I allowed to eat?” or “Tell me which foods are good and which ones are bad.” But after a few weeks of fear-based eating, my clients are more confused than before. They explain, “I am really trying!” and I know they are. After years of practice, I also know that rigid food rules and unrealistic thinking founded in fear nourish a sense of guilt with each bite, making it impossible to create a sensible meal plan. Diet after diet, attempt after attempt brings each client to the same place: frustration, confusion, and resentment at eating a balanced diet.
Mindful Eating for Diabetes
The Mindful Eating Cycle is an amazing tool to help you unravel thought, feelings, and beliefs around food and eating that may have gotten tangled up from dieting. It is the basis of the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Diabetes Program – in fact, all of the Am I Hungry? mindful eating programs and our book, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes. While we don’t give you a list of what to eat, the nutrition information is based on scientific recommendations from the American Diabetes Association and other nationally recognized organizations to help you start discovering an “all foods fit” approach to eating.
If you’ve been diagnosed with either prediabetes or diabetes and want a simple understanding of nutrition that will not leave you feeling frustrated, confused, or resentful about eating a balanced diet, consider mindful eating. It is our experience that it can unlock the prison of restrictive eating and open the door to a life-changing approach to prediabetes and diabetes care.