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Keeping Your Sanity While Battling Food Restrictions

When you’re living with a chronic condition like type 2 diabetes, it can feel like you have no wiggle room and much of your life is restricted, especially when it comes to food choices.

My whole life used to be about food restrictions. No, I didn’t have a chronic condition, but I did have some self-imposed rules about what I could and couldn’t eat. And it made me miserable.

With time I was able to get out of the cycle of constantly restricting my food and food choices, but I know how taxing it can be to feel like you can’t eat what you want—and how much it can impact your mental well-being.

Here are my tips for dealing with food restrictions but also enjoying your life:

Work with a registered dietitian to figure out what you have room for – it might be more than you think.

The worst thing about restrictive diets, in my opinion, is feeling like you’re missing out. Missing out on something that’s delicious, missing out on fun parties, missing out on events with friends. When you work with a professional, though, they’ll help you identify strategies for dealing with all those fun events, and help you work in some items that are really important to you, which cuts way down on deprivation.

Get creative and search for satisfying substitutes.

Maybe you love a giant bowl of pasta, but can’t indulge anymore. Do any of the bean-based substitutes work for you? What about shirataki noodles? Does a bowl of half pasta-half zoodles (spiralized zucchini noodles) give you that same feeling of comfort and satisfaction? Instead of telling yourself you can’t have everything and then overdoing it when you finally give in, try to find a way to feel satisfied with your food choices every day.

Get help for any eating disorders you may struggle with.

People who suffer from binge eating disorder are more likely than the general population to develop type 2 diabetes, so if this is you, know there is help available. Getting in touch with a mental health professional trained in treating eating disorders will allow you to create an eating pattern that works for you, and help you avoid binge eating.

Find other things to look forward to.

If you really need something delicious to cap off your day, would a cup of tea work? If eating something decadent with your friends was one of the ways you always bonded, can you try taking an exercise or craft class, instead? Be creative!

Try mindfulness.

Mindfulness is just being aware and present with what’s going on in this exact moment, and it can really help with cravings and stress. When you’re feeling like you just can’t eat anything you want, try stopping, breathing, and noticing what’s going on right now. Is your heart rate elevated? Are you stressed out about something that’s unrelated to eating (like work)? Use this time to get calm and come up with a plan for making the best choices possible.

Having to make changes that not everyone else has to can feel really awful, but there are ways to make it easier.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.