Editor’s note: Last week, Scott outlined several approaches for dealing with emotional eating. This week, he concludes the series with additional pointers…
3. Understand that food is addictive.
Food can be just as addictive as alcohol or drugs. That’s been found in numerous studies. Overeaters Anonymous came out of this realization, and while food may not rise quite to the level of serious addiction for most of us, the understanding that comes out of recovery is still very, very valuable. First and foremost, we have to understand that we are dealing with a force that can easily overwhelm our everyday logic and plans. We’ve got to take it, as they say, one day at a time, and get into the habit of “accepting the things we cannot change,” and having the “courage to change the things we can.” This is, of course, part of the well-known Serenity Prayer, and it’s telling us to stop making grand plans that we can’t follow through on, or going the other way and just giving in. It’s telling us to just be mindful in THIS moment, and let the next moment worry about itself.
4. A moment of silence.
Many people pray before eating, and this is a valuable practice. I wasn’t raised in a particularly religious house, and I still consider myself to be a religious Universalist in many ways. However, I am also a Quaker, and so a moment of silence before eating is something that has some religious significance to me. It is a moment to pause and give thanks to the many hands and forces that came together to offer me the food on my plate. But even if I weren’t Quaker or religious in any way, I would still maintain this practice for another reason. And that is this: Really stopping to think about what we’re about to consume, and to cultivate gratitude for it, creates a feeling of mindfulness. And when we eat mindfully, we are less likely to overeat; we’re less likely to graze (heck, if you’re always pausing before you eat, at a certain point it’s just plain annoying to graze since you’ll be pausing every 10 minutes!); we’re less likely to consume in a robotic, habitual way.
5. Plan your meals.
When we’re in a rush, we don’t usually make good choices. If we’re really rushing, we might simply have to make unhealthy food choices for the sake of efficiency. Planning out our food week is a great practice. It’s something my wife and I are starting, and it’s a really helpful tool. We’ll sit down together Sunday night, figure out what we’re going to cook for the week, figure out what ingredients we need, and make the trip to the grocery store and the cooking time a part of our schedules, no different than any other appointment. And that takes away that old “we don’t have anything for dinner; let’s order in” excuse. We always have something on hand that we made, that’s healthy, and that’s easy to simply reheat or take to work. I’ll make sandwiches ahead for the week, too. I might just make four of them, and put them in the fridge. That way, even if I’m running out the door after oversleeping, I can still reach in the fridge, grab my lunch, and continue running to the car! If that sandwich weren’t there, I’d be stopping at a drive-thru on my way to work.
Food is one of the most complicated issues in our lives. We need it for survival, but it can become a force for ill health and addiction. We gather around the dinner table for social gatherings and food can be the source of family, cultural, and personal identity. Food is a source of pleasure and comfort, but also a source of self-judgment and stress. It’s a deceptively powerful force, and we need to understand how to work wisely with it. And I’ll be the first to tell you, I struggle with every single one of those steps outlined in this blog. We all do, and in the end we need to be forgiving of ourselves, supportive of one another, and maintain our commitment to living in the moment. For some of us, there may be some deeper issues that need exploring; for some, those issues have been sitting unexamined for years, and the journey may need the assistance of support groups or individual therapy.
As with everything relating to diabetes management, maintaining mindfulness is fundamental. Being aware of our actions and looking directly at our own feelings and motivations is the starting point for everything we do. Food is a wonderful thing, as long as we understand it, and as long as we understand ourselves.
The diabetes drug Actos may reduce the risk of a second stroke, according to new research from Yale School of Medicine. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.