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Intuitive Eating for Type 2 Diabetes

What Diet Is Best For Diabetes?

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes you have likely been told, at one point or another, what you can’t eat or that you have to follow a special diet.  As a Certified Diabetes Educator, I am here to tell you that this is not true.

 According to the American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care, there is no single “diabetic diet” that is recommended for all individuals with diabetes. If you have diabetes there are no foods that you can’t eat or a certain diet that you have to follow for best results. In fact, placing foods completely off-limits has been shown to increase cravings for those foods.

When working with clients with diabetes and those without, I work with an Intuitive Eating approach.  If you are not familiar with intuitive eating you are not alone, many of my clients are not either when they first come to me.  The term was coined back in 1995 by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. 

What Is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to food and health and in many ways, a complete about-face to the historical nutrition advice focused around counting calories or sticking to carefully crafted meal plans. Instead, Intuitive Eating is a focus on reconnecting with our body’s own hunger and fullness cues and understanding some of the emotional and behavioral reasons behind why we eat.  It’s composed of 10 core principles.

Principle 1:
Reject The Diet Mentality

Our culture is deeply steeped in accepting dieting as a norm.  Every January starts with millions of Americans planning to “start a new diet”.  The problem with this is that these diets don’t work and 95% of people who go on a diet to lose weight end up gaining it back (1).  

Principle 2:
Honor Your Hunger

Listening to your body and not limiting food when you are hungry can help keep energy levels stable and avoid the rebound effect that happens when food is restricted.

Principle 3:
Make Peace with Food

Throw out the idea that some foods are “good” while other “off-limits” or “bad”.  In an Intuitive Eating approach, all foods fit and should be enjoyed. This openness to allow all foods without rules reduces the feelings of deprivation and can prevent the “last supper” style eating that can happen when you give in.

Principle 4:
Challenge the Food Police

The Food Police is the voice in your head that you were good for eating a certain food or bad for eating another.  Silencing this self-judgment 

Principle 5:
Feel Your Fullness

Reconnect and listen to the signals your body tells you when you are no longer hungry.  Distractions can blunt your ability to listen to these signals.

Principle 6:
Discover The Satisfaction Factor

Principle 6:
Discover The Satisfaction Factor

Take pleasure in eating the foods you enjoy. Savor the flavors and pay attention to how much of that food is needed to feel satisfied.

Principle 7:
Cope With Your Emotions Without Using Food

Assess your eating triggers or habits.  Find alternative ways to manage emotions without turning to food.  Stress, boredom, loneliness, and anger are emotions that may be temporarily blunted but will not be cured with food.

Principle 8:
Respect Your Body

Everyone has a genetic blueprint that is in some way responsible for body shape and size. Building a healthy relationship with food is best built by first accepting your body the way it is and what it does for you, then focusing on what you can eat and do to take care of it.

Principle 9:
Exercise and Feel the Difference

Exercise is not meant to be a punishment or a method of “earning” food.  Instead of viewing movement as something that feels good and has beneficial effects like helping you sleep better at night, clearing your head after a stressful day at work or providing a boost of energy

Principle 10:
Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition

Choose foods that honor your health and make you feel good. Caring about your health and wanting to eat well is a positive attribute but remember that perfection is not the goal.

Can Intuitive Eating Work For Me If I Have Diabetes?

It can! At its core, Intuitive Eating is about reconnecting with our body’s own hunger and fullness cues and understanding some of the emotional and behavioral reasons behind why we eat. These are beneficial skills for all individuals. Studies have also shown Intuitive Eating is associated with lower levels of triglycerides, higher HDL cholesterol, lower glucose levels, and lower BMI.  Interested in learning more about how to get started with Intuitive Eating? Get in touch!

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