The mother of Team Type 1 founder Phil Southerland (our T1D hero this month) tells the story of how she was eating potato chips not long after his diagnosis when she realized that her food-buying habits had to change. She didn’t want to keep food in the house that her son couldn’t eat, so she embarked on a radical reconstruction of the pantry and refrigerator, allowing her son to grow up without too much temptation.
There are days when I wish Joanna Southerlandwas in charge of my life! It’s easy to eat healthy if you’re a child and your mother only permits whole grains and lean meat into the house. When you have no access to trans fats, it’s hard to consume them!
Unfortunately, for most of us, sugar-laden foods are well within reach much of the time, and eating in ways that best manage diabetes is a daily challenge. Here are five strategies we can use to stay motivated to stick to our type 1 diabetes diet when temptation beckons and willpower lags:
Start the Day with Fats and Proteins. When’s the last time you binged on scrambled eggs? Probably never. As anyone who’s ever been on a low-carb diet can attest, fats and protein fill us up; it’s those dastardly carbohydrates that cause insatiable cravings. When your breakfast contains carbs, you’ll soon be wanting more. Eat just enough to keep your blood sugar levels in check, and no more. I try to stick to a low carb high fat diet to keep my energy levels high and my blood sugar in check. Though, while that works well for me, every person is different and what works for me may not be ideal for you.
Paper the Fridge. If you have children, chances are, there’s artwork on the refrigerator already. Push that aside and hang a few of your own: pictures of T1 heroes to inspire you, maybe even a few clippings about their accomplishments. It’s hard to eat junk food with an image of, say, marathoner Missy Foy smiling at you.
Buddy Up – If no one in your inner circle has diabetes, it’s time to reach outside the circle and find a new friend to pull in. Where to meet them? Try an online support group, or a diabetes education class or support group in your community. Once you’ve met someone you “click” with, suggest being accountable to each other for a while, maybe even have a contest each week to see who’s checked their glucose levels the most, or who has maintained consistency best. Loser buys (healthy) lunch.
Shop Once a Week, and Only Buy Foods That You Love. Sometimes, the idea of eating healthy feels like a burden; we think only of the foods we can’t eat, which only makes us want them more, and when we can’t have them, we feel deprived and resentful. But chances are, there are plenty of good-for-you foods that you truly love. Spend a few minutes, and make a list of them. Then, buy enough to last a week. Cutting down on trips to the grocery store limits impulse buying, and we’re more likely to feel satisfied when we’re eating only foods we truly love. We won’t even mind if they’re healthy.
Exercise Every Day. Or at least, every other day. The American philosopher of running, Dr. George Sheehan, famously said that the running body knows what it needs. In other words, when you are in tune with your body, you know how to read its signals, and vigorous exercise is the best way to get to know your body and to know what it needs. (Hint: It does not need potato chips.) Moreover, exercise keeps your appetite in check and releases endorphins that make you feel good for hours after you stop. Plus, you’re far more likely to eat healthy when you act healthy, so to ward off a bad-eating binge, lace up those athletic shoes.