What is Intuitive Eating for Diabetes?

What is Intuitive Eating for Diabetes?
Nutrition
Diabetes
Written By:
Adrien
Paczosa
RD
LD
CEDRD-S

There is a big misconception about Intuitive Eating.

We need to clear that up before we talk about how to intuitively eat with diabetes.

Intuitive Eating is NOT  “eat whatever you want,” and forget about honoring your body! To learn more about Intuitive Eating, check out our blog post about Intuitive Eating for Beginners. But the truth is, Intuitive Eating really is for everybody.

Those with the chronic disease might feel a bit nervous trusting their bodies when starting  to intuitively eat. We are going to share a few tips to help you feel more confident in the process.

Here are three ways you can begin to repair your relationship with food, your body, and your diabetes – and begin to live intuitively.

1. Intuitive Eating Invites You to Start Where You’re At

It doesn’t take long into the intuitive eating journey to realize how distorted our relationships with food, body image, exercise, wellness, and health are. The truth is though. When working with one of our dietitians, we help guide you along on this path to slowly unravel all the mixed messages you might have picked up along your journey about food and taking care of your body.

Rather, intuitive eating empowers you to begin to relearn your body, which is critical for someone learning to manage their diabetes. Everyone starts this process at different places and there is no wrong place to begin. While the principles are established in a somewhat purposeful order, they are not meant to serve as boxes to check. In fact, guidelines like “honoring your hunger” and “feeling your fullness” actually aren’t always intuitive for some people.  Giving yourself time and finding a supportive registered dietitian nutritionist can help.

One Intuitive Eating principle that anyone, at any point in their journey, can begin to explore is: Reject the Diet Mentality. Explore your own values.

  • What does health mean to you?
  • What are things you enjoy?
  • What are things you feel pressured to enjoy, but actually don’t?
  • What decisions are you making about food and exercise that come from external cues (diet rules, workout regimens, societal pressures, etc.)?
  • If you’ve begun to learn about how nutrition can help you manage your blood sugar, what has that been like for you? Is it getting mixed up in your history with dieting?
  • Does it feel like you’re swaying between all or nothing when it comes to eating?

Let go of the rigid idea that there is a perfect way to eat (or do anything, for that matter) and simply observe your thoughts as you begin to do so.

2. Recognize Your Needs & Incorporate the Satisfaction Factor

How do we balance what our body needs and honoring our hunger? That can feel like a lot when you are just starting out with Intuitive Eating and diabetes.

For example, you may want that freshly baked cookie because it’s delicious and it’s lunchtime and you are feeling hunger cues. You also know that your body needs some protein to help keep your blood sugars level, otherwise that headache post-glucose-spike will really put a damper on your afternoon (need).

Ask yourself, “What is the most supportive right now?

The intuitive choice might look something like: a half of a turkey and cheese sandwich paired with some chips rather than that ooey-gooey, warm cookie.

Keep in mind there is NO WRONG way to eat. You might feel one way a certain day and the next day, you might say forget the chips and I want two cookies. As you work with our dietitians, you will begin to find your balance for your body and diabetes and honoring your needs.

3. Gather the Facts by Listening to Your Body

No, I don’t mean scour the label for the nutrition facts. I mean, listen to your body and start to collect the data over time.

Every body is different, so it only makes sense that our biological reactions to even the same stimuli are as well. Take caffeine, for example. One person may be able to enjoy a cup of coffee before bed and drift off to sleep with no problem, while another person can’t have a single drop after 11 am or they’re awake all night. The same goes for blood sugar response following your intake. Testing your blood sugar regularly, and recognizing the what, when, how, and why of eating provides the necessary insight to make an intuitive choice.

If you know your blood sugar is sensitive to sweet potato, you can make the informed decision to split the basket of sweet potato fries with a friend and avoid the painful side effects of a blood sugar spike. Or, you can choose not to, because maybe the fries are worth it to you in that moment. Regardless of your decision, by doing the work to gather that data on yourself, the decision is an informed one.

At its core, Intuitive Eating is about attuning the relationship between mind, body, and food, which starts with recognizing what’s actually happening IN your body.

Here are some great Intuitive Eating resources:

Don’t let your diabetes stop you from feeling like you can’t mend your relationship with food and your body. No doubt, living with a chronic disease adds a layer of complexity to your life each and every day. And at the same time, you deserve to feel confident and comfortable around food – and diabetes doesn’t have to get in the way of that!