Have you ever gone to your fridge and taken the box of ice-cream and eaten most or all of the ice cream? Or have you taken the bag of chips or cheesies and eaten the entire bag? I know I remember eating a bag of cheesies or buying a bag of jube jubes and eating most of it. These items of food are different for everyone. What type of food chosen depends upon an individual’s cravings and on which food will provide a feeling of comfort. I refer to this style of eating as ‘emotional eating’.
Why do people emotionally eat?
People who are feeling depressed, anxious, or maybe just drained from the long day at work may find themselves eating comfort foods to feel reassured or calm. This action can result in weight gain and may ultimately lead to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Emotional eating and diabetes is therefore a common behaviour that needs to be addressed. Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can be the kick-start needed to ask for help for depression and/or negative eating patterns, and to learn new approaches to eating. Also changing eating habits, a sense of pleasure, appreciation, and satisfaction in eating may be renewed.
Where to get help
Individuals with type 2 diabetes can visit their closest diabetes education centre and receive help from the centre's social worker and dietitian. The social worker can provide counselling for the sadness through the utilization of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Help for eating issues can also be provided, utilizing the art of Mindful Eating programs. These programs incorporate Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Therapy.
The dietitian can assist with identifying foods, drinks, and meal and snack planning that will help monitor weight and glucose levels. Some dietitians are involved in Mindful Eating programs as well.
In my previous blog I described the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT approach for a person with depression. In this blog I will outline the mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy and how to utilize the tools for healthy eating.
An exercise that demonstrates how mindful eating can change a person’s habits is the raisin exercise, which Jon Kabat-Zinn explains in his book Full Catastrophe Living. It highlights that, by taking the time to explore how each raisin looks, feels, smells, tastes, chewed and how it feels as it is swallowed, people can realize that by eating in a slow thoughtful fashion, they would eat less and have a more pleasant and enjoyable eating experience.
This experience helps a person become more aware of their emotions and how their body reacts to these emotions and the process of eating. Mindful Eating will help a person tune into his/her body's own wisdom about what, when, and how much to eat. You may notice that you are eating less while feeling fully satisfied.
Throughout the mindful eating process, it’s important to remember that this process takes time and there may be days when it just does not work. This is fine - please remember this. Change takes time and a lot of practice. If you are able to, ask for support from family, friends, and your diabetes education centre team. Especially be kind to yourself.
To learn about mindful eating, attend a group or look for individual sessions. Ask your medical doctor or a member of your diabetes educator team for a program near you.