Do You Need to Be More Conscious of Your Eating Habits? It Depends.
Perhaps you’ve been accused of not being good at “watching what you eat.”
“You really should pay more attention to how much saturated fat you’re eating.”
“Are you sure you want to eat that?”
“Do you know how many carbs are in that bagel?”
Paying too much attention to what you eat?
Especially if you have a chronic condition like type 2 diabetes, it can feel like you’re constantly being scolded to pay more attention to what goes in your mouth. But what about the other side of that coin? What about paying too much attention to what you eat?
Say what!? How is that possible? Let me tell you, as a former health coach and someone who struggled with an eating disorder, it’s possible, very possible, to pay too much attention to what you eat, and it can have serious consequences on your mental wellbeing.
In fact, just yesterday I heard the story of a woman who had struggled with her weight her whole life. She thought losing weight would be the ticket to happiness, so she joined a 12 step group for food addicts. Part of the program was being put on a strict diet in which she wasn’t allowed to ever, ever eat flour or sugar, and she had to weigh and measure her food at every meal. She lost weight, but food became her whole world and she thought about it constantly. She stuck with it for two years, but was absolutely miserable the whole time. Being ultra-focused on food did not solve her problems.
I can relate. At the darkest times of my eating disorder, I thought about food every waking moment, or at least that’s how it felt. I always thought I had to eat “better” and that I had to eat the “right” foods.
Unfortunately, some people are susceptible to this kind of thinking, and when they’re given too many food rules or asked to put food into categories of good or bad, it can make them incredibly focused on what they're eating, but not in a way that’s helpful or healthy.
Healthy eating & mental wellbeing
So what are you supposed to do to protect your mental wellbeing and still eat foods that support your health? First, I’d recommend working with a registered dietitian who is also a certified intuitive eating counselor. They’ll be specifically trained both in working with someone who has type 2 diabetes and with helping you make food choices that are both nutritionally sound and satisfying.
Another suggestion is to make sure you’re paying as much attention to your mental health as your physical health. Yeah, eating a lot of vegetables and exercising is great…but not if you’re miserable and anxious and feeling out of control. If you do find yourself feeling that way, working with a counselor can be a great help (again, I know this from personal experience).
If you find yourself obsessing about food, get some help. We normalize dieting in our culture, so when people around you are constantly talking about how many calories or points or grams of fat their food has, it might seem like you should be doing it, too, but that's not true if it's making you feel out of control or anxious.
You’ll be the happiest (and healthiest) when you find a balance between eating well and still leaving room for life.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, sleep apnea, RLS) in addition to your diabetes?