With all of the incredible information available at our fingertips for blood sugar control and weight loss, it can be hard to sort through it all and decide what is best to “listen” to. In reality, we should be listening to our bodies first!
A big movement in the self-help, nutrition, and medical fields is the concept of mindfulness. What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is defined as “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”. How can this relate to our diabetes management?
- We can be aware of how our bodies feel and react when our blood sugar is too high or too low
- We can be aware of how we feel when exercise or get a good night’s sleep
- We can be aware of whether we are hungry or full
Learning to listen to our bodies and how we feel in different scenarios can help us make the best decisions for our health and well-being, provide an opportunity to de-stress, and can help us deal with all of the complicated factors that make up living with diabetes.
No judgment zone
One of the hardest parts of mindfulness for some is being nonjudgmental. When you think about how you feel in the moment, it’s just that – a feeling.
Practice Makes Perfect!
Here are a couple of exercises that can help you start listening to your body and become more mindful.
- Position yourself in a comfortable reclined position. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Starting with your toes, clench and relax each muscle group every few seconds (toes, calves, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, etc.).
- Make note of the relaxation of each muscle group and let them relax during the duration of the exercise.
This helps you with body awareness and mindfully relaxing, which can help in stressful moments or when you aren’t sure if you are hungry or full.
- Take a small food item – a raisin or a small piece of chocolate, for example.
- Observe the food item. Notice how if feels, looks, and smells. Is it enticing? Neutral? What color is it? Does it smell appetizing?
- Also observe yourself. Are you hungry right now? Neutral? Averse to the food or do you have an appetite?
- Take a bite or place the whole item into your mouth. Before you start chewing, notice the mouthfeel of the item. Is it hard? Soft? Smooth? Rough?
- Finally, slowly chew and make some more observations. Is the item chewy? Crunchy?
This exercise helps you to begin to slow down your eating and observe how it makes you feel, which can be important in creating a fulfilling and satisfying eating experience!
- Each time you sit down to eat, think about your hunger on a scale from 1 to 10 (a helpful little pocket card you can print is available from the American Diabetes Association here. 1 is extreme hunger, 10 is uncomfortably full, and 5 is neutral. We want to aim to eat when we are starting to feel hungry (3-4) and stop when we are satisfied (6).
This exercise helps with getting you back in tune with how your body feels in relation to food. It can help you be objective about your hunger and help to remove feelings of guilt around eating.
Benefits and Extra Resources
Research into mindfulness has been expanding rapidly and there are numerous benefits that have been reported. Benefits reported have included improved diabetes self-management, improved Hgb A1c values, and improved mental health.
If you are interested in learning more, some helpful resources can be found below: