The focus of most, if not all, the studies of mindful eating and drinking has been weight loss rather than diabetes. But losing weight is very important for almost everyone with type 2 diabetes because it makes managing the disease easier.
Eating and drinking mindfully are perhaps the most important keys to managing diabetes. When we are mindful of what we put in our mouths, we can satisfy our hunger and thirst better than when our minds are preoccupied with something that happened in the past or that we imagine might happen in the future.
The best tool
In my experience, bringing our weight down to normal is the best tool we have to manage our diabetes. With every pound of weight we lose, it gets easier to keep our blood glucose at the level where it doesn’t inevitably lead to the complications of diabetes.
My basic practice of mindful eating is to put down the fork or spoon that I use to eat my meal. I don’t pick it up again until I finish what I was eating. When we slow down and savor each bite, we don’t need to eat so much because the food has so much more taste to us.
Food that we eat slowly has more taste to us than when we mindlessly eat a lot of the most expensive and delicious food. It’s a trade-off between quality and quantity.Eating slowly is especially important when we are eating with other people. But someone will almost always be talking or listening. It’s not easy—or smart—to try to talk or listen and eat at the same time.
The mindful way to eat with someone else is to wait until that person stops talking. Then, instead of taking your turn to talk, have a bite to eat. Of course, this will slow down the meal, another benefit of eating mindfully.
Other distractions from mindful eating are television, reading, and increasingly, smartphones. These are common examples of multitasking. Practice monotasking instead.
We can switch our attention from one thing to another, like between listening and eating. But we can actually pay full attention to only one stream of consciousness at a time.
This applies to drinking too. We need to be mindful in the same way as when we eat food. Perhaps we need to be even more mindful of what we drink because it’s so easy to drink calories.
Studies show that especially when we drink soda or fruit juice, we consume more calories that day. Alcohol, of course, also has calories and is even more problematic than soda or fruit juice because it loosens your awareness, making you even less mindful.
Eating and drinking mindfully can help you lose weight and therefore make it easier for you to manage your diabetes. But mindful eating alone will only get you part way to the goal. Eating right is partly being mindful of what you are eating, partly eating the right food, and partly eating the right amount.
You don’t have to be perfectly mindful. In fact, for most of us—myself included—being mindful all the time when you are eating and drinking is an impossible goal.
A more reasonable goal is to be more mindful than you have been. You will slip up, and that will probably happen every day. When you do, accept that you’ve slipped and just start anew.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.
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