Food can be one of the greatest sources of joy and pleasure in life, but it can also be a source of frustration and shame. Trying to enjoy a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle isn’t easy when we’re constantly receiving mixed messages about diet and nutrition. It only gets more confusing when managing a chronic health condition like diabetes. Whether you’ve just received a diagnosis or you’ve been managing diabetes for years, it can be overwhelming to sift through all the information about the best way to approach eating.
With intuitive eating, you can enjoy food, manage your diabetes, and improve your overall mental and physical health without the restrictions of a traditional diet. In this blog post, we will explore the essence of intuitive eating, its principles, and how it can benefit people with diabetes.
What Is Intuitive Eating?
Imagine a way of eating where you listen to your body’s signals, honor your hunger, and feel satisfied without guilt or shame. This is the essence of eating intuitively, a non-diet approach that encourages you to pay attention to your internal cues of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction instead of following strict rules about what, when, and how much to eat. Designed by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, intuitive eating goes beyond traditional dieting and restrictive eating habits by focusing on mental health, emotional well-being, and other indicators of physical health rather than solely on weight and body mass index (BMI).
Is Intuitive Eating Helpful for People with Diabetes?
Intuitive eating, sometimes referred to as mindful eating, can indeed be beneficial for people with diabetes, as it helps improve glycemic control, cholesterol levels, and overall well-being while reducing disordered and emotional eating. Once individuals reject the diet mentality and understand that restrictive diets don’t yield lasting health, they can start embracing the principles of intuitive eating. These principles include:
- Honoring one’s hunger
- Making peace with food
- Challenging food rules
- Respecting one’s body
- Engaging in enjoyable physical activity
- Addressing health concerns as they arise
In theory, by following these principles of healthy eating, individuals can develop a more balanced and enjoyable relationship with food, while also taking into account the unique needs and preferences of people with diabetes.
Make no mistake — if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it’s still important to monitor your blood sugar and take medications as instructed by your care team. But with intuitive eating, you can become more in tune with your bodily cues over time and achieve a balanced and satisfying relationship with food that still aligns with managing diabetes.
How to Get Started with Intuitive Eating
No matter what, the first step to get started with intuitive eating is to ditch the traditional diet mentality. If you have diabetes, intuitive eating is possible, but you’ll need to take extra precautions to ensure you’re honoring your body’s unique needs.
Tailoring the Approach
In order to successfully and safely incorporate this approach into your lifestyle, you may need to adapt the 10 principles of intuitive eating. We’ve summarized some tips for beginners that focus on encouraging you to make decisions that are right for your body and mind while still adequately managing your decisions.
- Reject diet culture, especially fad diets. If you have diabetes, participating in fad diets can be especially dangerous. Creating additional rules around food may make you feel overwhelmed as you try to juggle sticking with a diet on top of regulating blood sugar. Plus, consistency is key with diabetes — swinging from one strict diet to another can cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar, which is unpleasant at best and life-threatening at worst.
- Listen to what your body needs. Over time, you’ll start to learn warning signs if you’re feeling high or low. One of the most important concepts within the intuitive eating framework focuses on paying attention to what your body is telling you. If you start to feel unfamiliar symptoms, pay attention to what’s happening in your body and read your levels. Over time, you’ll start to know why your body feels certain sensations, and it’ll become easier to regulate your blood sugar. Making food choices that help you feel physically good will start to feel like second nature.
- Enjoy movement. Physical activity is healthy for everyone, but you don’t need to hit the gym to experience the benefits of exercising. Taking walks, dancing, and even doing activities like gardening can improve circulation and lift your mood.
Be kind to your body. Adjusting to managing a new condition can come with a major learning curve, and it’s important to respect your body even if you feel frustrated. Be diligent about checking your blood sugar and taking your medications as prescribed by your doctor. Remind yourself your body has carried you this far — and that’s something to celebrate.
If You Have Questions About Managing Diabetes, We’re Here to Help.
Intuitive eating offers a refreshing perspective on food and health, providing a framework for individuals, including those with diabetes, to develop a healthier relationship with food and their bodies. By focusing on internal cues and maintaining a non-judgmental attitude, intuitive eating encourages individuals to let go of diet mentality and restrictive eating habits, ultimately leading to improved mental and physical well-being. When paired with careful, routine blood sugar checks, intuitive eating can improve symptoms of diabetes and encourage better self-esteem.
At Community Access Network, we’re passionate about treating patients as people, and that goes beyond just physical symptoms. If you have questions about how to lead a healthy lifestyle, whether you have diabetes or not, we’d love to connect with you.