Suffering from ‘Diabetes Burnout’? Be Empowered For Control Today.
Learn more about ‘Diabetes Burnout’ here! (Click to expand)
Diabetes Burnout is a natural and rational response to living with this demanding, long-term condition. It affects 44% of people diagnosed with diabetes and, has been consistently linked with higher HbA1c levels. Symptoms can include:
- Feeling overwhelmed and defeated by diabetes.
- Worrying about not taking enough care of your diabetes but unmotivated or unwilling to change.
- Not caring about blood sugar levels.
- Reverting to unhealthy behaviors e.g. poor diet.1
Food is fundamental to life. But, food does more than nourish the body. Life and celebrations revolve around food and eating. Having diabetes puts the brakes on our usual way of eating, living and celebrating by governing what, when and how much we can eat.
Most individuals with diabetes have some sense of what they should avoid and maybe some sense of what they should eat. But, keeping to the guidance day after day, 365 days of the year is extremely hard. No wonder despite all the red flags and the well-meaning nagging of family and friends, 1 in 3 people with diabetes are non-compliant2. Hunger, temptations, taste fatigue and inconvenience are few of the reasons why people with diabetes experience day-to-day diet disasters. Learn more about how you can defend against these real obstacles to glycemic control.
“Polyphagia” or excessive appetite or eating is a well-recognized symptom of elevated blood glucose. The poorer the glycemic control, the hungrier the individual feels, leading to overeating. In addition, many patients with diabetes report fear of the hunger pangs and eat in anticipation of being hungry.
Why? When an individual has diabetes, the body either cannot produce insulin or does not use insulin properly. So, the glucose absorbed stays in your bloodstream longer and is urinated out instead of going into your body’s cells to provide energy to function properly. When this happens, your cells signal to the brain that you should continue to eat so they can get the glucose they need. So, patients with poorly-controlled diabetes experience excessive hunger. In addition, note that episodes of low blood sugar are dangerous minefields for a hunger rampage of your larder.
Breaking out of hunger. This viscous cycle can only be broken by getting blood sugar down within the acceptable range. Here are some practical tips to succeed:
- Consult your healthcare team and, follow guidance. Your physician may temporarily step up your medication.
- Start or get back to your exercise regimen as, exercise helps to make the cells more sensitive to insulin.
- Get back your personalized diet plan, taking care to measure out portions. Include low GI and fiber-rich choices as they help improve the feelings of fullness. Select items that are low-calorie and require more time to chew and swallow such as fresh salads, fresh fruit, and, plain popcorn as they are more satiating.
- Drink plenty of fluids to fill you up and help you stay hydrated.
- Keep a food diary so that you are more mindful of your food choices, portions, eating occasions and emotions.
- Share your challenges with family and friends so they can help comfort and even, distract you from the thought of eating excessively.
Singapore is often called a food paradise. With hawker stalls, restaurants and vending machines everywhere, temptation to eat and overeat abound making life for people with diabetes very difficult. The new eating joints flaunt delectable foods that are high in simple sugars, highly refined carbohydrates, full of fat especially saturated fat, and, or high in salt making the lure even more difficult to stay away from.
Why? While everyone is tempted to over-indulge when there is such an abundant display of delicious foods, people with diabetes have it harder. It is a classic case of the proverbial forbidden fruit – as anything forbidden seems doubly tempting.
Resisting temptation. Overcoming temptation requires a multi-pronged approach. Here are some practical tips to succeed:
- Eat to plan. When you are sufficiently full, you tend to have a greater ability to prevent yourself from overeating or shopping for things you do not need.
- Avoid temptations, if possible. Know your weaknesses. Understanding your reasons for indulging will help you protect yourself from eating the wrong foods or indulging in generous portions. For e.g. If walking past a cookie shop is irresistible, take a longer route back home.
- Don’t surround yourself with food or foodies. Buy just enough. Keep food out of sight. And, find friends who have a variety of interests rather than a clique that goes food hunting.
- Allow for some treats. Plan a controlled portion of a treat or two into your weekly eating plan. When you feel empowered to indulge a little, the overwhelming feeling of being deprived will not have a strong sway over you.
- Be creative. Learn new recipes that are very delicious and attractive but, healthy as well. Adjust portions eaten to ensure you do not experience glycemic swings.
- If you fail, do not give up. Time and again, you may give into temptation and have a blood sugar surge. But, that’s not the end of the world. Get back to your regular eating routine and, your blood sugar will stabilize soon.
Healthy menu ideas tend to front bland and plain foods. Most diet plans start with the proverbial ‘2 slices of whole meal bread or a bowl of oats cooked in water’. Lunch and dinner are anchored by ‘brown rice, steamed fish and, green leafy vegetables’. So, as they try to live with the plan 365 days in the year, many people with diabetes experience taste fatigue and, this leads to them abandoning their prescribed diet regimen.
Why? Presented repeatedly, such menus and recipes while being very nutritious and healthy, tend to be rejected simply because there are few elements of delight nor variation. And, the diabetes burnout syndrome will set in, amplifying self-pity to a point that the patient with diabetes rejects the entire eating plan.
Overcoming taste fatigue. Healthy food does not have to be bland or boring. Here are some practical tips to prevent taste fatigue:
- Speak up. Tell your healthcare team about what you are experiencing. Ask your Dietitian about ways to add variety, flavor, texture and color to your meals without having your sugars rage out of control.
- Be knowledgeable. With the right knowledge, you can make diet swaps with confidence. So, never stop reading and learning to keep the joy of eating.
- Be creative. Learn to cook. Look for attractive and interesting recipes, even healthy desserts – which may have been a ‘no-no’ in your initial plan. Spices and herbs are allowed in a ‘diabetic diet’. Experiment with different cooking methods to make your staple foods interesting and delicious. Keep on trying till you perfect your recipes and, fine-tune the portion for your diet until you have a wide repertoire of foods to eat.
- Shop with care. When shopping and eating out, look for healthier choices. Food labels of some foods highlight the Healthier Choice Symbol or GI symbol. You can buy these foods with confidence but, you need to work out the portion allowed for your meals or snacks. You may need to study nutrition information panels and ingredient lists to avoid foods loaded with ‘added sugar’ or high is refined carbohydrates, fat or sodium.
- Eat out with confidence. Most people enjoy eating out, and, you can too. Be brave – try the many cuisines available. Study the menu, ask questions to select healthier items, you can ask for the sauces on the side to be used as needed and, eat just enough. Any extras can be bagged for another meal or another day.
Shopping, buying, cooking with healthy eating in mind takes effort. While many not-so-healthy choices abound, it takes careful planning and some effort to eat to a healthy plan.
Why? Look around. Most people do not eat with health in mind and, maybe because they do not have diabetes, they do not feel compelled to do so. As healthier foods are not the most popular choices, there are fewer varieties on the supermarket shelves. Long queues at popular food courts and restaurants often are strong signals for tasty foods, that most likely are not healthy choices. So, it is true, it is harder to find and buy and eat healthier options.
Overcoming inconvenience. It just takes a bit of planning to overcome the inconvenience of healthy eating for glycemic control. Here are some practical tips to prevent taste fatigue:
- Research. After you have learnt about healthy eating for good sugar control, you will be on your own. Continue to read and learn from credible sources of information. Check your conclusions with your healthcare team. You can also go on-line to identify and even, order healthier foods and beverages to cut down the need to travel around to purchase them.
- Plan. Know what you need to get your meals and snacks organized. Think through your shopping list and, buy the right foods and, in the right amounts. If you are eating out, check out the menu before you select the restaurant. You can pre-order your menu to make sure you get what you need.
- Portion. Ultimately, it is what you eat and how much you eat that can impact your blood glucose level. So, if you do not have a weighing machine or a measuring cup to portion out your food, learn to estimate food portion from memory.
- Take ownership. Where there is a will, there is always a way. Your health is in your hands. If you are positively focused and engaged in achieving healthy eating for good blood sugar control, you can make it happen.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Family and friends will rally around you to help you succeed. Involve them in your quest so that they too will benefit from your healthy eating efforts.
Learn how you can be empowered with Diabetes Specific Formulas (DSFs)!
Eating healthy and well-balanced meals and snacks that are carb controlled and made up of low GI foods is the right way to get your diabetic diet on track and, enjoy and sustain it over time. However, if you are struggling with hunger, battling temptations and taste fatigue or just finding it hard to put all the guidance together, a diabetes specific formula as part of your individualized meal plan may help you achieve better glycemic control with greater convenience and confidence.
Designed for people with diabetes, diabetes specific formulas deliver complete and balanced nutrition, and, are scientifically designed with slowly absorbed carbohydrates to be low GI as well. Here’s how you may include it in your individualized meal plan:
- Swap A Snack. Tempted by the calorie and carb laden curry puff or kueh lapis? Replace unhealthy, high GI snacks with an equal calorie portion of diabetes specific formula. This special formula may also provide a steady source of energy between meals through the day and, the night.
- Do a Partial Meal Replacement. A favorite meal choice sending your blood sugar out of whack? Eat only half the portion and top up the remaining allocated calories for the meal (if any) with a diabetes specific formula.
- Replace an Entire Meal. Want to lose weight effectively to attain good blood glucose control? Find that you are either missing a meal or giving in to temptations at a meal time? How about giving up your roasted chicken rice meal (534 calories*) for a controlled portion of diabetes specific formula to save 309 calories immediately. Sustained over time, you will see the extra pounds peel off.
*Source: HPB’s ‘Energy & Nutrient Composition of Food’ website
1Source: Accessed on 23 November 2019 at https://www.diabetes.org.uk/Guide-to-diabetes/Life-with-diabetes/Diabetes-burnout
2 Epidemiology and Disease Control Division. Ministry Of Health. National Health Survey 2010.