The most effective methods for managing a chronic illness like diabetes involve making lifestyle changes—controlling diet and activity levels, and taking medications as prescribed.It can be difficult to make necessary changes to behaviors in order to successfully manage a chronic illness like diabetes. You can seek advice from your doctor and nutritionist. According to Lisa Uebelacker, PhD, a clinical psychologist in the Psychosocial Research Department at Butler Hospital and an associate professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior for the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, there are many factors that affect what we eat, why we eat, how much we eat, and when we eat.
Factors affecting eating behaviors:
- Eating is often tied to social occasions and interactions with family and friends.
- Enjoying food is a part of many cultural traditions.
- Eating can be affected by our emotions. If we do not have other coping strategies for feelings of anxiety, stress, or sadness, we may eat to in order to feel better.
- Foods with poor nutritional value, like fast food, are often easier and cheaper than healthier foods.
- We live in a "supersized" society – where large portions of food are readily available and often served in restaurants.
Overcoming Obstacles to Change:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – a type of psychotherapy -can help you overcome the obstacles to making short-term and long-term lifestyle changes.
- Seek the support of a psychologist, therapist, or behavioral health specialist who has experience working with patients with medical illness. They can help you take the knowledge you have learned from your physician, nutritionist, and other members of your healthcare team, and translate that knowledge into manageable, achievable goals.
- Seek support of family members, friends, and others who understand your illness via community support groups.
Behavioral Health Specialists – The Missing Link in Successful Diabetes Management
The psychological needs of people living with diabetes are often unmet, making managing a disease that requires many behavioral changes difficult.
When health-related behaviors are difficult to manage, a behavioral health specialist can help you sort out the complicated factors that affect behaviors. Behavioral Health Specialists, such as psychologists and therapists, specialize in helping people to:
- Identify the obstacles to changing eating and exercise patterns
- Set achievable goals for changing behaviors
- Break down complex goals into smaller and more manageable pieces
- Develop a personalized plan
- Learn how to sustain new, healthier behaviors in the future
Whether you've been living with diabetes for many years or are just diagnosed, seeking the support and expertise of a behavioral health specialist can help light the way to a healthier you.
More About Nutrition and Mental HealthOther Resources
Both diabetics and non-diabetics benefit from maintaining stable blood glucose levels and eating a healthy diet. Watch NBC10 Interview with Butler Hospital expert Jocelyn Sherman, RD, about how nutrition impacts mental health.
How Glucose Levels Affect Mood
Depression and Diabetes
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