If Dieting is Stressing You Out, Try This

Recently I was thinking about the impact of stress on type 2 diabetes. It can do some not-great things like raising blood glucose and increasing the chance of other issues, including heart disease and high blood pressure. There are lots of ways to deal with stress, but I wondered, what if there was a big stressor that was being overlooked?

Intuitive eating

That’s the stressor I’m talking about. Obsessing about everything you’re supposed to eat (and not eat), counting calories or net carbs, worrying about the number on the scale every morning, that can lead to some serious anxiety.

So how do you balance eating in a way that supports your health without adding stress on top? The answer may be intuitive eating. I’ve written about this before, but it’s been a while and I think it’s an important topic to revisit.

The basics of intuitive eating are to eat what you truly want when you feel hungry and to stop when you’re satisfied. Gentle nutrition is part of the process, too, though this isn’t a diet and isn’t a weight loss plan (some people do lose weight, but it’s certainly not always the case).

The program also asks you to let go of the dieting mentality, move your body for the joy of it, and respect your body shape and genetic blueprint. Part of the program also deals with finding other ways to deal with emotions besides eating, which is very important no matter what eating plan you’re following.

Benefits of intuitive eating

It’s true that those suffering from a chronic health condition have more to consider when they embark upon an intuitive eating journey. However, this way of eating can lead to long term benefits and wellness.

As I mentioned above, obsessing about weight loss may be adding great stress to your life, which of course is not good for any aspect of your well-being. In addition, a preoccupation with following a particular diet may be distracting you from things that are even more important, like taking care of your mental health and having a positive sense of self.

Intuitive eating is different. All foods are on the table (ha, literally, perhaps). Your task is simple, if not easy, in that you will start listening to internal cues from your body about when and what to eat. Your body will let you know when it wants to eat with signs like a rumbling stomach, feeling light-headed, or getting “hangry.” Few diet programs allow you to be in touch with your body in this way, and all of them tell you what to eat. With intuitive eating, you genuinely stop and ask yourself what sounds best at this moment in time.

That’s probably a scary thought, right? Well, Dr. Linda Bacon, PhD, and Judith Matz, LCSW suggest paying close attention to how various foods affect you, and checking your blood glucose before the meal and two hours after. If something raises your blood glucose higher than it should, consider how you can modify the meal or foods in the future to make it work for you. Perhaps you could add fat (Peanut butter? Cheese?) to a piece of bread or other carby food to slow the release of glucose into your blood stream, or try eating a smaller portion of high carb foods like mashed potatoes.

Research has shown that those who eat intuitively generally have a lower BMI, less disordered eating issues and binges, and are more likely to engage in physical activity for the fun of it.

If constant counting and monitoring and obsessing is making your life worse and stressing you out, consider intuitive eating.

As with any changes to your diet, speaking to your doctor is always a good idea. I’d also suggest working with a dietitian, specifically one who is trained in working with patients with type 2 diabetes and a certified intuitive eating counselor.

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