Diabetes and Eating Behaviors: It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat that matters

By Janice Baker, RD CDE CNSC

When you have a great meal and exercise plan in place, it’s hard to imagine what could get in the way of managing your weight and blood glucose levels. Unfortunately, old habits are often hard to change, and your behavior can become a big obstacle in the way of progress. Managing weight and blood glucose is not just about calories and carbs; it’s also about making behavior changes that will stick. The smallest habits (good or bad) can add up, influencing weight and blood glucose management.

Here are three ways to become more in tune with what and how you eat:

  1. Keep track of your food intake for 3 days. The best way to stop yourself from mindlessly eating is to become aware of exactly what your food habits are. How often do you eat? Do you always eat when you are hungry, or is it because you are bored or sad? Do you like big meals or snacks, or both? These are important questions to ask yourself when you look over your food journal.


Use a notebook to record every bite and sip of food and drink for 3 days. Include time of day; portion sizes; location of meal or snack; reason for eating (hunger or stress?); and who you were with. Avoid judging your meal logs until after the 3 days are up. Then, review and make another list of how you might improve awareness of your eating habits.


  1. Think about your eating environment. Surroundings make a big difference! Many of us eat in stressful or distracting areas, like in offices, work cubicles, or while driving. When we eat while multitasking, our brains may not be able to tell us when we are full. This can lead to overeating.


Make the effort to eat your meals and snacks in low-stress areas, such as on a park bench, outside on your patio or in a more calm and pleasant area of the house. Try listening to soft, relaxing music instead of eating in front of the television. These simple changes can make a difference in how satisfied you are with your meal or snack.


  1. Enjoy non-food related hobbies. So many food cues and triggers exist in our environment today, and these make it difficult to know when you are really hungry. It’s hard to focus on your body’s signals when you see an ad for fast food, or watch someone on TV eat a candy bar.


Think about starting a new hobby or learning a new skill that engages your creativity and distracts you from the food-triggering environment. Sewing, knitting, gardening, playing a musical instrument, scrapbooking, and playing board games are just some examples that help to minimize the temptation to eat when you are not hungry.


In summary, weight management and diabetes control is not just about numbers; it involves being aware of your eating behaviors and how our surroundings influence us. When you focus on eating habit changes, it will become obvious that it’s not just what you eat, it’s how you eat that matters!
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Janice Baker, a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, certified nutrition support clinician and Board Certified in Advanced Diabetes Management in San Diego, has worked extensively with people living with diabetes, weight management and other health issues.

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