It’s mid February and I don’t know about you but I’m feeling fat. It’s horrible isn’t it? Here in England it’s cold, wet and dark early in the evenings and the last thing I’ve felt like doing is exercising, even despite my New Years Resolutions.
Eating and weight is an issue that many of my private clients struggle with. I too grapple with similar issues – yes I’ve learned a lot from my Clinical Psychology training but even now, ‘life’ can get in the way and things can go a little off the rails. For me, eating is often a response to emotional upheaval, and like many people (with and without diabetes) food has long been a source of comfort.
In many ways, humans were designed to be this way. In our evolutionary past when food was scarce we would eat all we could and store food as energy to draw upon when food supplies were not accessible. Secondly, growing up as infants in the western world, food was often offered as a comfort to soothe when we are emotionally upset – our mums lovingly gave us a sweet or biscuit when we were sad or upset, not just when we were physically hungry. So from a very early age, this link between food and coping with unpleasant emotions was forged.
It’s no wonder then that if food has been relied upon as a coping mechanism for many years, then the diagnosis of diabetes often isn’t enough to change this habit. This of course can make the person with diabetes feel very ‘stuck’ – you probably know that your actions are putting your health at risk, but feel powerless to know how to intervene and make changes in the long term.
So what can you do to break this pattern? Well, this week I’ve been doing things a bit differently. I’ve sat down and thought about what is “do-able”, rather than what I’ve been doing ‘wrong’. It’s all to easy to set a big goal for yourself, hoping that it will motivate you, and then feel disheartened if ‘life’ gets in the way and you fail to reach it. I know I’ve been guilty of that, but looking back over the times when weight loss has worked in the past, I know that small changes followed through consistently is key.
Making one change with my diet and one change with my exercise each day may not seem like much, but over the course of a week… a month… 6 months… a year – those seemingly small changes will add up to really noticeable changes. Losing 1kg or 1lb every week may seem tiny – but will it seem so insignificant this time next year when you’ve lost 52kg or 52lbs?!
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Dr. Jen Nash, The Diabetes Psychologist, is a Clinical Psychologist who has been living with diabetes for over 25 years. Motivated to provide emotional support to individuals struggling with the condition, she founded ‘Positive Diabetes’, a therapy and education service to address the psychological impact of living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. She is the author of ‘Diabetes and Wellbeing’ (Wiley-Blackwell), the first UK authored self-help book focussing on managing the emotional impact of diabetes.
She was named as a ‘World Diabetes Day Hero’ in 2012