How Mindfulness Can Help You Manage Your Diabetes and Weight

October 10,2022 |
Woman meditating outside.

Diabetes is a condition that’s characteristically associated with high levels of psychological distress. Over time, this can have a big impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. Psychological distress can also lead to diabetes distress, which can quickly lead to dangerous situations. To avoid serious diabetes-related complications, it’s important to find ways to manage your condition in a healthy, calming way. That’s where mindfulness comes in. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to help reduce stress and negative emotions surrounding a situation, while increasing overall attitude and outlook. There is also evidence that it leads to healthier behaviors and a stronger ability to cope with stressful situations. For more information, we’ll discuss how mindfulness can help you manage your diabetes and your weight.

 

What is Mindfulness?

By definition, mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware or something. It’s the ability for someone to be fully present in each individual moment. Mindfulness is, therefore, the act of paying attention to whatever activity, thought, or feeling you’re currently engulfed in. It also involves taking in the details of your surroundings. In addition to being present in each passing moment, mindfulness focuses on avoiding judgement. It’s about processing what’s happening just the way it is, without any positive or negative associations. This is the foundation of meditation, but mindfulness can also be adopted in your everyday life.

How to Practice Mindfulness Daily

Although it may seem like mindfulness is a difficult endeavor that requires a lot of practice and commitment, it’s easy to incorporate into your daily life. The most important thing is to be aware of what’s going on around you. Try to engage all of your senses and periodically pause to focus on the present moment. You can set an alarm or two throughout the day for a reminder during the beginning of your practice to help carve out time where you’re committed.

Focusing on your breath and observing your thoughts is another way that you can incorporate mindful habits into your lifestyle. Try to actively listen whenever you’re engaging in conversation and, most importantly, be mindful about what you eat and how you eat it. This is one of the ways that mindfulness will beneficially impact diabetes management.

 

Impact of Mindfulness on Diabetes

Mindfulness can help you break down the cycle of stress or anxiety. It’s also been shown to help reduce feelings of depression over time. While this can be helpful to anyone struggling, it has a particularly important impact on those living with diabetes. In fact, several studies have shown that mindfulness can support mental turmoil often associated with managing a chronic condition like diabetes. Regular practice can also help with the following:

Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood glucose levels raise above 10mmol/L. This is problematic for individuals living with diabetes, as prolonged periods of hypoglycemia can lead to a greater risk of long-term complications. Cardiovascular disease and stroke are especially dangerous risk factors of hypoglycemia. Mindfulness has been shown to improve overall glycemic control, which can reduce your chances of hypoglycemia. Studies have shown that engaging in mindfulness for just eight weeks can significantly reduce HbA1C levels, making it a worthwhile tool for diabetes management.

Sleep

Mindfulness can also improve your overall quality of sleep, which is key to stabilizing blood sugar levels and giving your body time to recover each night. Lack of sleep can also interfere with your ability to make healthy choices, cope with stress effectively, and maintain an overall positive outlook. All of these components play a role in diabetes management. Mindfulness can improve your sleeping patterns and the overall quality of rest you get each night.

 

Benefits of Mindfulness on a Healthy Weight

Across the world, mindfulness is becoming an increasingly popular way to address health, especially in terms of eating habits. Although this used to be common practice, many societal pressures and distractions have turned eating into a mindless activity that’s sometime done without us even noticing. When you practice mindfulness during meals, you become more aware of what you’re consuming, how much you’re eating, and the time it takes you to finish a meal. Here are some ways to use mindfulness to help manage diabetes and weight.

Slower Food Consumption

When you practice mindfulness while eating, it can help you elongate your meal and allow for more stable digestion. Try to focus on each bite that you take and chew it thoroughly. Enjoy the flavor and put your fork down while you’re processing each bite to engage all of your senses. This can help you change your overall attitude about food and lead to a healthier relationship with eating. Plus, when you decrease the speed of ingestion, you’ll find that you’ll become more aware of your hunger cues and avoid overeating. This can help you maintain a healthy weight and improve the stability of your blood sugar levels throughout the meal. It’s still important to choose whole, nutritious ingredients to reap the benefits. But being mindful when you indulge in savory or sweet treats every now and then can also help you find enjoyment from less.

Better Portion Control

The first step to better portion control is to get educated on what a true portion really is. In the US, many restaurant and take-away portions could actually be split into three separate meals. This has led to a skewed perception of what’s considered normal and healthy for us to consume during any given meal. Use a scale or measuring cups to help you get acclimated to what a portion should be, then put your food on a smaller plate when you eat. This is a way to psychologically trick your brain into thinking you’re eating more during your mindfulness practice. In terms of diabetes management, better portion control will help you improve cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar, and improve your overall blood pressure.

Reduction of Distractions

Since the basis of mindfulness revolves around living in the moment, you’ll reduce many distractions that can cause us to engage in unhealthy eating patterns. When you eat meals in front of the TV or while you’re scrolling through social media feeds, you’re less likely to notice when you’re full. Instead, you’ll continue to eat until your plate is gone, which is another thing that leads to overeating. Making a pact to only eat meals with mindful intentions can also reduce your tendency to grab a bag of chips out of boredom or reach for an unhealthy snack on the way out the door.

At the beginning of each meal, set a place at the table, put your phone away, and give yourself permission to unplug from the chaos of the day. This is also a great way to practice stress management, as giving yourself time away from your screen and the constant activity of electronics will provide you with an opportunity to breathe.

Healthier Food Choices

Mindful eating revolves around making healthier choices. When you put thought into what goes on your plate, you become more aware of how many calories that breaded chicken sandwich has when compared to a grilled chicken breast and baked potato. The more you practice mindfulness with food choices, the more it becomes second nature. Try to stock your pantry with healthy choices just in case you’re tempted to snack. Otherwise, stick to your mindful, distraction-free eating habits paired with diabetes friendly meal plans. Being proactive about this can help you manage your weight and improve your blood sugar levels over time.

While mindfulness is a great tool for diabetes management, it doesn’t replace the need to track blood sugar levels and see your doctor. To help provide you with a comprehensive diabetes management toolkit, Byram Healthcare has a range of continuous blood glucose monitors. We also offer diabetes support and educational materials to give you everything you need for ongoing care. For more information and added support on diabetes management, sign up for Byram Healthcare’s Caring Touch At Home Program.

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