When I look at pictures from my childhood, I see a normal kid. My siblings and I climbed trees, played outside, and ate whatever was put in front of us. There were seven children in my family, and not one of us was overweight.
But in our teenage years, we girls were on diets a lot. Our grandmother was obese, and I’m pretty sure our mother wanted to keep that from happening to us. Regardless of her motive, the results for me have been the opposite of what she hoped.
With all of the diets, and I’ve tried most of them, I remain extremely overweight. If you’ve read my story you will understand why I do not believe dieting is the answer. Unless we can change how and what we eat, those of us who fight obesity and Type 2 diabetes will not find success.
Part of the secret for me lies in getting some exercise every day. Without it I struggle to keep weight off and blood sugars down. But that is only half the battle.
The other half is learning how much food I actually need. Most obese people are not aware when they have had enough. The reasons we eat have less to do with hunger and more with other things.
So how do we teach ourselves to know how much to eat? There is a lot of advice on “tricking” yourself into eating less. You can try them, and if they work for you, great.
Some psychologists suggest using a smaller plate and a bigger fork. Or is it the other way around? Whichever it is (Editor’s note: The advice is to use a smaller plate and bigger fork.), it may not work if you are obese.
The best advice I’ve found is the divided plate idea. One-half of the plate, whatever its size, is taken up with low-carbohydrate vegetables. One-fourth is for the protein, like chicken or fish, and the other fourth is reserved for things on your “high-glycemic-but-I-love-it” list, like potatoes and fruit salad.
Giving yourself treats, but in small amounts, actually helps you eat less. I have learned that a few bites can be just as satisfying as a big helping. It keeps me from that sense of missing out on good things that we often feel with Type 2 diabetes.
Another thing that works for me is eating highly flavored foods, things that have a stronger aroma. For some reason these fill me up faster. It takes less of them to satisfy. Tests have proven that this works. People in one study ate less of a vanilla-flavored dessert when the vanilla scent was stronger.
But this will not help if we do not slow down and smell the food before we eat. So try this. Sit and look at your food first. Smell it. This will actually make you feel full more quickly.
It is one reason I like to give thanks before eating. That pause prepares me for the food, helps me be mindful and focused. It also keeps me from another mistake obese people often make.
That mistake is eating while distracted. We eat in front of the TV or while we read. That leads to feeling unsatisfied. It makes us eat more than we would otherwise.
Water helps you eat less, too. Dietitians claim that your body does not know the difference between hunger and thirst. We can use that to our advantage by drinking some water before we eat. Satisfy your thirst first. You may get full faster.
When I keep water in front of me all day, I drink more and have fewer snack attacks. Many times we think we want to eat when we are just thirsty.
There is one final rule I follow whenever I can: Eat with others. Eating alone is less satisfying, and I am more likely to eat more than I need. Sharing food with others, laughing with them — these things make meals less about the food and more about the company.
Have you struggled with obesity on your Type 2 diabetes journey? I would love to hear how you are doing.