Mindful eating. Mindful is a new “it” word. We are advised to slow down, breathe deeply, consider before acting, consciously make decisions, etc. Sounds like a good idea in this crazy- paced world. However, in the world of people with diabetes, “mindful eating” simply can’t work.
- Ask a person with type 2 diabetes what their blood sugar is at any time during the day/night. Despite having diabetes for years, and testing their blood sugar regularly, they won’t be able to accurately tell you without testing. You see, diabetes sets a “new bar” for what feels normal. If you have lived with high blood sugar for a period of time, your body feels as if this elevated blood sugar is normal. Anyone with diabetes can tell you that when they work on improving their blood sugar or decreasing their A1C, they often mistake true normal blood sugar for hypoglycemia. To their body, true normal blood sugar “feels” like low blood sugar. It will take a period of time for the body/mind to acclimate to the feeling of true normal blood sugar. Conversely, I have had patients with blood sugar over 300mg/dL sit across from me and tell me they feel just fine. If a person without diabetes had a 300mg/dL blood sugar, they could be incapacitated! Those with blood sugar aberrations can’t “trust” the mind to signal correctly regarding food choices.
- When blood sugar is volatile and not in balance with insulin release (pre diabetes or type 2 diabetes) it roller coasters all day and night. The “mind” is fueled by blood glucose and requires normal blood sugar to function in an optimal manner.
During the years of pre diabetes and for years after progression to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, the pancreas releases EXCESS insulin. Excess insulin opens the receptors on excess fat cells and causes excess blood sugar to exit the blood stream and enter the cells to be stored as excess fat. (Hence, those with pre diabetes and who are in the first years of type 2 diabetes become “over fat” on their bodies and in their blood). This action of excess insulin release causes the blood sugar to temporarily drop.
If a person with uncontrolled diabetes is being “mindful”….he/she will go right for the carbohydrates at this point as the brain is directing them to eat carb and get the blood sugar into the normal range again. As a result, those with pre diabetes and type 2 diabetes may feel full right after a meal, but feel “empty” and are “looking to eat” within an hour or two after a meal. The mind is telling them to eat the very food that can bring the sugar back up. If they don’t respond by eating carb, the brain will signal the liver to release glycogen to bring the sugar back up.
As years pass,, the pancreas gradually fatigues and the person with diabetes goes through a period of time with high levels of insulin AND glucose in the blood stream. The blood sugar is right there (actually in excess), but there is either not enough insuiln or the insulin is ineffective due to increased insulin resistance. In either case, the cells are not being fed appropriately.
What does the brain do? The brain signals the person with more advanced type 2 diabetes to go find some carbohydrate to get that blood sugar up and feed the cells! (Even though the sugar is right there, it just can’t get inside).
As more years pass, people with uncontrolled diabetes may actually lose weight without trying. Initially, this weight loss might be welcome but for the fact that at the same time they are losing weight, their blood sugar is very elevated. The food (blood sugar) is right there but there is very inadequate insulin to open the cell doors. Once again, the person is hungry for carbs, at the same time his blood sugar is super high.
So…on paper, “mindful eating” sounds great. And I do believe it can work for those who do not have pre diabetes or type 2 diabetes. But, I do not believe those with type 2 diabetes can “listen to the mind” when it comes to instinctively knowing when to eat and what to choose. In the case of diabetes, the mind is often reacting to a very unnatural and unhealthy situation.
PS: An important aside. The nutrition guidelines most T2 diabetic guidelines are given upon diagnosis leave MUCH to be desired. The latest from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the former American Dietetic Association) is to follow a program tailored to your personal needs and lifestyle. I’m not certain who can afford to have that done. If the patient is taught in an ADA accredited diabetes center, they will learn to consume about 50-55% calories from carbohydrates. This will not work to lower weight or help blood sugar. So, perhaps if we are comparing “mindful eating” with following current diet protocol for T2 diabetes…they will yield similar results….NOT MUCH
If you or someone you love has pre diabetes or T2 diabetes, you owe it to them or yourself to read The Diabetes Miracle. This program, based in real science and proven….will lower weight, blood sugar, the need for medications and doses of medication, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure. www.thediabetesmiracle.com