Diabetes has spiritual symptoms as well as physical ones. One is making an enemy of food. If you see food as a danger instead of a blessing, you have suffered a loss. How can we learn to love what gives us life?
If you approach it with an open mind and heart, all food is a gift. Every morsel is the life force of the universe giving its energy to you. That’s not poetry; it’s a literal fact. The energy of the sun flows into us through our food. If it were not for the soil, the rain, worms, insects, the plants and animals, we would not have a life. They are all feeding us. Really, a spiritual person might regard every bite of food as a prayer.
Few of us regard food that way, of course. Even people without illness are too stressed or too distracted to appreciate the miracle of food and savor its delights. We have things to do, worries to weigh us down, people to talk to, screens to watch. We barely taste food after the first bite. This has probably always been true, but the reasons have changed.
In ancient times, you had to rush through your food to get enough without risking being eaten yourself. Now we’re safer, and food is plentiful, so we could slow down. But we’re so worried about our lives, our problems, about what’s good for us and what’s bad, and about what we weigh, that we can’t relax and enjoy eating.
Then having diabetes or prediabetes adds a thick sauce of fear and doubt to everything we eat. What will this food do to my sugar? My weight? My cholesterol? Is this food going to kill me? That is not the way to treat a gift from God/the Universe. That is not a healthy relationship with food.
We might say, “Well, that’s too bad about not enjoying our food, but it’s not a 5-star restaurant dinner, is it? It’s just a sandwich from the machine at work. I have other things to do.” One problem with that is if we don’t taste our food and feel our body’s reaction to it, we don’t know if it’s good for us. We don’t know when we’ve had enough.
Another problem is that a stressed body can’t absorb food properly. Stress shuts down blood flow to the digestive tract to keep more blood for the muscles’ “fight or flight.” So many good nutrients will not be absorbed under stress. Some hormones necessary for insulin function may not be produced.
The problem that speaks loudest to me is that food goes unappreciated. That’s like not appreciating life. It’s taking the world for granted. I don’t have studies to back this up, but if you don’t appreciate your life, what’s the point of living it? Your body may catch on to that at some point, with unhealthy results. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll be missing out on a source of love the world is always trying to give you.
Here are a few ways to love food more. I don’t know how much they’ll lower your A1C, but I do know that eating more consciously will allow you to eat less and enjoy it more. The ideal state would be eating as a form of meditation. Be totally focused on the experience you are having with the food, not thinking about anything else. This may not be realistic for most people, including me, but it’s interesting to try and delicious to taste. It could be that even one bite like that will help your body work with your food.
• Slow down. Give yourself time to taste the food and feel your body’s response. One easy way is to put the fork or the sandwich down between bites. Another is to count chews, but that can be distracting.
• Focus. Close your eyes. Don’t talk. It’s all about the food. Give it at least as much attention as you would give sex.
• Give thanks. Don’t just thank your version of God. Thank the sun and moon, the insects, the farmworkers and delivery workers, your source of money, everyone who helped get the food to you. Include yourself if you earned, brought home, or cooked it. Especially thank any animals you eat for giving up their life for you.
• Imagine where it comes from. When eating plant food, imagine the field and the sun and rain and the roots going into the dirt. If eating an animal, if you do that, think about what it ate, where it lived. This is especially rewarding with seafood. Taste the ocean, lake, or river!
Dinner might take a little longer this way. You might eat less and talk less. But it’s worth it in my opinion. You’ll combine meditation, prayer, and healthy eating. You’ll digest and absorb better. You’ll enjoy food more and be less tense. It won’t be easy at first, but practice. See what happens.
Anxiety about a future with diabetes can be crippling. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to find out how to deal with this fear of the unknown from Type 1 diabetes veteran, and former therapist, Scott Coulter.
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David Spero: David Spero has been a nurse for 40 years and has lived with multiple sclerosis for 30 years. He is the author of four books: The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House 2002), Diabetes: Sugar-coated Crisis — Who Gets It, Who Profits, and How to Stop It (New Society 2006, Diabetes Heroes (Jim Healthy 2014), and The Inn by the Healing Path: Stories on the road to wellness (Smashwords 2015.) He writes for Diabetes Self-Management and Pain-Free Living (formerly Arthritis Self-Management) magazines. His website is www.davidsperorn.com. His blog is TheInnbytheHealingPath.com.
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