Chubby. Big-boned. Thick. These are the adjectives used by many women to describe themselves growing up, finally settling on “obese” as their clinical physical descriptor.
When it comes to how people think about their prediabetes, self-talk adjectives like these can damage their self-confidence and empty their emotional resources.
If eating junk food as a way of coping – using food as a balm to soothe feelings like hopelessness or frustration – it may feel like the most reliable coping tool in life is now gone. When they look in the mirror, they may see someone they do not trust.
This is a way of life for many American women. Masking unhappiness with the use of excitotoxins in food, beverage, and entertainment choices, they have long used consuming as a way to numb feelings of desperation. This can lead to a cycle that is hard to face.
“I eat because I’m unhappy and I’m unhappy because I eat. I am slowly killing myself with food and I don’t care.” T. R.
Food is both pain and pleasure for many of us. Food is almost always a part of how women interact with others and meet expectations that they share. This is complicated by the transitions and transformations that surround women in our culture. I was at a funeral this morning and there were seven women from the parish there, loading tables with donuts and cakes, standing ready to help the mourners at the end of the service. These lovely ladies provide comfort food for us because they are good people. The loss of a job, moving, a grandparent’s death, financial pressure, relationship heartbreak…all of these experiences are intertwined with the typical woman’s desire to “be a good person”.
You may have come to the turning point where the coping skills that were used to soothe are now recognized as the very behaviors that compound a health problem, a problem like prediabetes. This can be the turning point and a form of awakening…a way to stop the denial and truly begin a lifestyle of self-care.
“I vowed to give myself the love that I had been longing to get from someone else and started by practicing compassion toward myself. I knew I needed that more than anything else because if my body was going to change, my thinking and feelings about myself had to change first.” T.R.
As a diabetes educator, I can confirm that what often needs to change for those with prediabetes is how they use Self-Talk as a way to create their lifestyle turning point. We can all begin by thinking about how we talk to our close circle of friends and loved ones. We would never tell another person “I can’t stand to look at you!” and yet, we might say that very thing to ourselves in the mirror every morning.
When we choose to soften our self-talk and think about ways we are lovable, we can reframe our ideas about coping with stress. We are choosing a new lifestyle that can be sustained.
The new habits you develop are meant to become the operating system that life runs on, so they should not be overly complicated or randomly changed because we are bored. Keep it simple and focus on healthy, nutritious, unprocessed foods, and eat only until satisfied. This is like any new habit–it feels demanding at first–and then it becomes easier because we stick with it. The most helpful thing to do is to be mindful as you choose, prepare, and eat food.
- That means ditching a fast-food habit.
- That means choosing not to distract yourself when you are eating.
Please understand that the food industry preys on emotional eaters who have used food in the past to calm down. Your food life does not have to be manipulated like this. You can eat in healthy ways without developing a “fear of food” mentality.
If I could stand near a mirror with your younger self and guide her in how she thinks about her body, I would encourage her to be kind. As an adult who is now learning what to do to solve her prediabetes diagnosis, I’d recommend that you value your new and powerful self-care intentions. Goal setting can be a structure to help you spend your daily time in productive ways, including time continuing to educate yourself about what healthy food and activity look and feel like.
Let’s look into that mirror now and reframe how you describe yourself: Relieved to have a new chance. Determined. Active. Grateful. Brave.
I know that the diagnosis of prediabetes is a health situation that requires a sustained effort to solve. Looking into your mirror every day is no more a magic solution than is popping a pill or drinking vinegar. Yet, you can start to find a solution by using kindness and new ways of thinking about the beautiful body that has been given to you. I stand in your corner and encourage you to have hope.