Diabetes and Hunger Games

As a woman with Type 1 diabetes, I don’t trust my body when it comes to hunger. Most of the time when my stomach makes noises, it’s because my blood sugar is on its way up or down. Hunger pangs are one of the signals I depend on to alert me to a changing blood sugar. The feeling of hunger is real, but I’m not hungry. It’s confusing, I know. For example, sometimes I’ll feel hungry less than an hour after I’ve eaten. If you’re reading this and you have diabetes, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Usually after I’ve treated the low or high blood sugar the hunger goes away, but the experience deepens the frustration of living with diabetes.

As a young mother, I often marveled at my boys who only ate when they were hungry. They would occasionally skip breakfast or stop eating when they were full. It was eye opening to me. They listened to their bodies, and if they weren’t hungry for lunch at 12:30 PM, they said no, thank you.

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Ever since I was diagnosed at 14 years old, I’ve been eating three meals a day plus snacks. I eat whether I’m hungry or not. I’m tall and have always been active, so I’ve never been overweight, but my relationship with food is more about habit or maintenance than want or need. I learned to curb my cravings and replace them with a scientific formula based on a carb-counting/sliding scale. Food was transformed from a source of pleasure into one of pain. That sounds a bit dramatic I know, but if I miscalculate the carb count and give too much or too little insulin, I pay the painful price of high or low blood sugar.

My boys are older now and rarely skip a meal. Instead they eat so much and so often that everyone who works at our neighborhood grocery store knows my name. They are picky eaters and sometimes just eat bread and fruit for dinner, but they are better at gauging their hunger than me. I want to learn how to eat from my boys, not the picky part, but the responsive part. I want to retrain my body to eat only when I’m hungry instead of according to a calculation, but old habits are hard to break, and my boys don’t have diabetes. But still. I’d like to believe after all these years that I can change my relationship with food. I don’t know if it’s possible, but I’d like to stop these hunger games and eat only when I am hungry, truly hungry.

Doctors’ urgings to lose weight may be doing patients more harm than good, says nurse David Spero. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.

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