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Diabetes Diet

Eating Attentively to Manage Diabetes

Carefully counting calories can help those of us who have diabetes lose weight. But the discipline and effort involved in monitoring our calorie intake over a period of months or years is a lot of work, and few of us can keep it up for long. For this reason the average amount of weight that people lose typically slows down after a few months.

A huge proportion of people with diabetes need to lose weight. The percentage is far higher than that of the general population. For years before and after I learned in 1994 that I have diabetes, my own weight was far too high, and this probably had a lot to do with my getting diabetes in the first place and certainly made managing my diabetes a lot harder than it had to be.

Much easier and perhaps just as effective than counting calories are strategies focusing on attentive eating. We have several such tools at our disposal, several of which I have written about here previously. They include mindfulness training, slow eating, and food habituation (eating the same stuff day after day).

All of these strategies probably owe their effectiveness to attentive eating. When we give more attention to the food we eat as we eat it, studies have shown that we don’t eat as much.

To date, 24 good studies that investigate the influence of attention and memory on food intake show that attentive eating does influence how much we eat. While some of these studies were small, they consistently reported the same results.

Now, a group of seven British researchers led by Dr. Eric Robinson of the University of Liverpool has completed a systematic review and meta-analysis of these studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition just published this review in its April 2013 issue. While only the abstract is free online, Dr. Robinson kindly sent me the full-text.

Their analysis of the 24 studies of attentive eating indicates that it is indeed likely to influence how much we eat and that when we include one of these strategies in our lifestyle we have a better approach to losing weight that that of simply counting calories.

The message is clear. If you really do want to lose weight, when you sit down at the table, pay attention.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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