"Help! I'm Always Hungry!" -- Managing Our Hunger Signals
Redirecting our thoughts and energies when we’re trying to make lifestyle changes can be difficult, especially if we have developed a lifetime of bad habits and emotional connections to food and inactivity. We may feel that trying to change our eating habits may be too much, but there are things we can do to make the journey less stressful.
- Consider practicing mindful eating, instead of extreme dieting: Often, going from extreme overeating to a very restrictive diet just sets a person up for failure. Consider simply cutting back on portion sizes and second helpings, and focusing on satiety signals.
- Have planned snacks: As persons with diabetes, testing our glucose levels and having well balanced snacks during the day helps us manage our blood sugar levels – which will in turn help us manage our hunger signals. Any time our blood glucose is too low, or too high, we may feel ravenous, and therefore struggle to control our eating.
- Eat meals which are high in fiber: Fiber helps us absorb glucose and feel fuller. Stick to foods which are high in fiber, such as whole-grain foods, non-starchy vegetables, and leafy greens.
- Have water regularly: Most people don’t drink enough water to keep hydrated, and often, people will confuse their thirst signals with their hunger signals. Keeping well-hydrated will help us better identify when we’re actually hungry, and stop when satisfied. It will also help us better taste the foods we’re actually eating, and get more emotional satisfaction out of them. Sweetened or sugary beverages tend to keep us eating past the point of fullness.
- Add protein to your meals: While carbohydrates may provide the fuel that energizes us, protein helps us sustain that fuel for longer periods of time by further slowing down digestion. A breakfast that is high in protein will keep you satisfied, and going through your day, more than just cereal alone. So go ahead and have that egg for breakfast.
- Avoid overly processed foods: Overly processed foods are low in fiber and nutrients because this allows for them to have a longer shelf life without spoiling. They tend to have an unfulfilling and addictive combination of high fat, high sugar, and high sodium that keeps us coming back for more. Avoid these foods, as they will not easily trigger your satiety signals.
Use this time to explore other areas of life that don’t involve eating:
- Discover a hobby: Read a book, take a bubble bath, or take up indoor/outdoor gardening.
- Exercise regularly: Exercising helps us find satisfaction in how our bodies feel from regular activity, and feel confident in the power of healthfulness. It is a way to redirect the mind. More importantly, exercising regularly helps the body metabolize energy more efficiently, keeping blood glucose levels more stable, and reducing our hunger pangs.
- Consider meditation, a support group, or a behavioral therapist: Overeating is often more than just eating more than we need. It can be the result of years of emotional trauma, or a lack of self confidence and other more appropriate coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, we often think we can treat overeating by just jumping on another diet. Therapy may help us explore the root causes for our compulsive behavior, and find supportive outlets to share in our daily challenges.
Changing our relationship with food might be painful, but living a long and healthy life is worthy of our work and sacrifice. With the right tools in place, and the right support system, it doesn’t have to be impossible.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, sleep apnea, RLS) in addition to your diabetes?