Chocolate, candy, and all other assorted holiday treats, Abound! The temptation is everywhere you look. From your television to your computer, and it’s even at your workplace. You can’t hide from it forever, because it’s here! It’s holiday time, and it’s not going away until the end of the year.
Unfortunately, this is the time of year when people slip. They deviate from their normal eating behavior when joining in with all the festivities. It is okay to stray a little bit and treat yourself, but if you find yourself eating impulsively, then you might be running into trouble. The real question you need to ask yourself is why you’re eating.
When a person is eating to live, their stomach tells them that they are hungry. Your stomach may speak to you and growl. The feeling of being hungry comes from your belly. Our stomach tells us when it is time to eat, but we have become a society that impulsively eats.
We say things like, “but there’s free food in the conference room” or “Hey! Mom! The ice cream truck is here,” and justify impulsive eating. We may even cave into guilt caused by other family members or friends when we are at social functions. We may convince ourselves it’s okay, because everyone else is doing it. There are many things that we tell ourselves to make it okay to eat when we are not hungry, and we may not even realize it.
There are many reasons people eat: culture, religion, social pressure, family behavior, happiness and as a coping mechanism. How does a person know whether they are eating, because they’re hungry or some other reason? It’s not simple! But, here’s the answer.
Before you eat, ask yourself why am I eating? Most people don’t think before they eat. That is why it is so hard not to eat when a situation presents itself. If it is any other reason aside from your stomach feeling hungry, then most likely you are not eating because you are hungry. The best reason is to live, give the body nutrients that are needed to keep your body running. After all, a healthy body is a happy body.
Happiness or eating to cope is part of what is called emotional eating. When we eat, it releases dopamine, the chemical that causes positive feelings. This process is normal and makes eating very pleasurable.
When you ask yourself why you are eating, if your response is feeling or craving hunger in your chest you’re most likely emotionally eating. Emotional eating is usually brought on by stress and anxiety. The dopamine release from eating will reduce the stress, but it’s very temporary and not worth calories or the guilt that follows.
It is quite simple. When you know the possible long-term consequences of poor diabetes management and eat poorly, then eating what you want, when you want, is a behavior that will lead to an early or premature death. You are choosing food over life itself.
People living with diabetes, who don’t take care of themselves are heading for disaster and will die hard, a slow and painful death over many long years. Not taking care of oneself is a choice, just like what we put in our body is a choice.
Don’t follow the masses just because it is a time of the year where some people let everything go! Including their waistline! It’s your life and your choice. Eating healthy can cause happiness that lasts.
I hope this helps you navigate the holiday season. Keep in mind why you are eating and you will, hopefully, make better decisions around food.
If you are struggling with eating issues, please meet with a Certified Diabetes Educator or a psychotherapist that specializes in eating disorders to help you find ways to resolve your issues.
Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist. His private practice, located in New York City and is also available via Skype. LeBow, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1977, treats the many diverse cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
All the advice included in this blog is therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Before making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.