When we started Smart Diabetes Solutions in 2015, I set out to help people who were overweight or obese move toward a healthier way of living. After working and talking with thousands of people with diabetes over the last three years, I was able to help some people put their type 2 diabetes into remission (completely come off medications and get their A1C to normal range.)
But I wasn’t able to help everyone. In some cases, it was because they were dealing with other medical issues, but for most, it was because I wasn’t able to help them transition mentally to accept the idea that they, too, could put their type 2 diabetes into remission by choosing to take back control of their health.
I knew I needed to go deeper and analyze the stories of those who succeeded through our programs. Why were some able to put their type 2 diabetes into remission while others struggled to gain control?
The truth is, must of us know what we should and shouldn’t be eating/drinking. We know that sugary drinks and carbs spike blood sugar levels and lead to weight gain. We know vegetables and exercise are good for us. We know that portion control is important in managing weight.
So why do we continue to give in to the urge to binge eat, grab the candy bar at the grocery store, or order comfort foods at the restaurant when we know this is hurting us? Here is what I discovered:
The number one reason we eat what we do is that it is what we have grown up on.
Combining comfort food with nostalgia provides an extremely powerful burst of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that literally makes us feel good. This is the reason we continue to gravitate towards the same foods through the majority of our lives.
How many times in your life have you said, “this tastes just the way my mom used to make it” or “that was my favorite treat as a kid”? As an adult, you are in control of what you decide to eat… which means you can eat your favorite comforting foods as often as you’d like. Most of us stick to the recipes we grew up on simply because it’s what we know.
How do we combat this issue? Why do we make a pot pie or order pizza when we know we know we should be making something like chicken and brown rice with veggies instead? What is holding us back from choosing the healthier option?
Before I answer that, let’s look at another culprit that is working against us.
Our Comfort Zone
Routines and habits are extremely hard to break. Once we get settled into them, they tend to run our lives on autopilot. Regardless if our daily routines are good or bad, they become who we are. These routines turn into our comfort zone. This is why many of us gravitate back to the things we have always done.
Count the number of times you have tried a new diet, workout program or anything that takes you away from the things you normally do. Now ask yourself how many of those things have you stuck longterm?
Our minds hate change. And the more we have always done something the more our minds will struggle to accept a new standard or a new norm. Your mind keeps you in this comfort zone to keep you safe not to keep you healthy. But you already know this, you just maybe haven’t looked at it that way.
Becoming overweight or developing type 2 diabetes doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a relatively long time – months to years – and the degree of physical damage that has been done is based upon how often you have chosen your comfort zone over an alternative.
One of the things we talk about at Smart Diabetes Solutions is how to create new habits and routines. In time, your comfort zone will change as well.
When I was younger my diet looked something like this:
- Peanut Butter
- Hot Dogs
- Home Fries
- French Fries
- Little Debbie Treats
- Ice Cream
- Home Baked Brownies and Cookies
- Caramel Frappuccinos
I’d be lying to you if I said I don’t ever eat anything from the above list. However, it is no longer my norm, no longer my comfort zone. I eat lean protein like chicken, a complex carb like whole grain brown rice and a vegetable for just about every meal. Whenever I eat anything from the above list I literally start thinking about how to balance it out by eating healthier or doing more physical activity. I never thought like that when I was overweight.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ” —Aristotle.
The Prevalence of Sugar & Caffeine
Modern day challenges have also made things more difficult. Our minds have essentially been hijacked by sugar and caffeine. Real and artificial sugars have been inserted into just about all processed foods over the last 30 years. Regardless if companies intended this or not, it is an absolute fact that sugar addiction is real, and most people don’t realize they have it.
Remember, the release of dopamine in our brains triggers us to want more of that food. Sugar spikes the release of dopamine in an extremely unnatural, leading us to crave more and in turn become addicted to sugar in all forms.
Caffeine is addictive as well, but not in a physically damaging way like sugar. The problem occurs when caffeine is combined with sugar, as it is in so many drinks that are marketed to us today.
Think about the offerings at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. They cater to our sugar addictions by creating drinks like Frappuccinos, which are filled with sugar, dairy, and caffeine. These drinks are one of the main reasons I gained so much weight back in 2010. I used to drink two of these a day, which added about 1,000 calories to my daily intake, along with a crazy amount of caffeine and sugar intake. After about a year of this, I had lost control. I had gained 45 pounds, and I was in an extremely bad state of health, both physically and mentally.
It took me almost 2 years to get back to what I considered my ideal weight and change my eating habits. Changing those habits took completely changing my perspective on food. I realized losing weight has a lot more to do with your mental state than most people could imagine.
There are many other reasons why we continue to eat the things we eat and do the things we do. I will highlight in the coming weeks while I develop a program that focuses mainly on the mental side of fighting diabetes.
But for now I will leave you with this:
- Change Your Comfort Zone, Change Your Life.
- Focus on the Process.
- Repetition Leads to Consistency – Consistency Leads to Habits.
- In Time You Can Put Your Type 2 Diabetes Into Remission, Manage Your Type 1 Diabetes, or Lose Weight.
- Start Simple and Let The Smart Diabetes 21 Day Challenge Be Your Guide
I will explain these in detail in the next post…stay tuned!
Hi I’m Kyle Jensen the Wellness Coach at Smart Diabetes Solutions. Through poor eating habits and an inactive lifestyle I put myself in a bad state both physically and mentally. After years of retraining my mind and body I decided to take my newfound understanding of health and help others in their journey. I remember the struggle and how many times I almost gave up. Now I want to help others who are overweight or have Diabetes live a happier more healthy life.