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Living with Diabetes

Strategies to avoid mindless eating on Coaches Corner

4/17/2020 by mySugr

Strategies to avoid mindless eating on Coaches Corner

Add some healthy strategies to avoid mindless/boredom eating to your toolbox today with mySugr Coaches Kristen & Maggie in this episode of Coaches Corner with Scott K. Johnson.

Tips to have in your toolkit to help keep your eating on track.

Note: We can not provide medical advice. Please contact your doctor directly for specific questions about your care.


  • Tips to stay on track of eating habits
  • Hydration
  • Quantity mindfulness 



Scott K. Johnson - Hey, great to see you. Thanks for tuning into another episode of Coaches Corner. Listen, so much has changed over the past few weeks. These are challenging and stressful times for almost everyone out there, and we are full of gratitude and appreciation for all of you out there doing your part to get through this. One small way mySugr can give back is by hosting these short conversations with our diabetes coaches to talk about staying healthy in body and mind during these unusual times. Now before we get too far in I have to give the standard disclaimer. We cannot provide medical advice so please contact your doctor and care team directly for specific questions about your care. Now with that out of the way, today I'm talking with Maggie and Kristen about strategies that we can all use to help with the mindless eating or snacking just because of boredom. Let's just jump right in. Hey friends! I am so glad to have you back with me again today, and we are going to talk about something that is, it's hitting me pretty hard. My snack cabinet is now just steps away from me not a walk away like it used to be and I think this is something many many people are kind of wrestling with. Both in the kind of proximity of their snacks but also just passing time and that is mindless eating and boredom eating. It's different now than it was when we were working in an office place right?

Maggie Evans - Mhmm

Kristen Bourque - Yeah, yeah like you said Scott, I think a lot of people are adjusting to the work from home environment, and with that, there becomes a lot of other factors and especially you know again, the stress of everything that's going on, and like you said that pantry is steps away now versus being at work. So again a lot more factors you have to consider these days.

Maggie Evans - Yeah, I think it's a lot harder when those things are literally steps away. So,

Maggie Evans - Yeah. you know if you know it's there sometimes it's easier just to go you know, stop by the pantry and pick something out 'cause I think that definitely

Scott K. Johnson - Totally.

Maggie Evans - gets a lot more challenging.

Scott K. Johnson - Or if you're, you know you've got a housemate or family member who's ya know, munching on something or cooking or whatever and it's ya know, right in front of you instead of put away. So it's different and I'm adjusting to it although it's not coming easy for sure. Can we talk a little bit about why mindless eating or kind of grazing throughout the day is so much harder with diabetes?

Maggie Evans - I think one of the things that tends to be a lot more challenging is, sometimes it's the types of snacks that some people choose to consume, right? So if there is more processed foods like chips and things like that those might hit the bloodstream a little bit quicker especially with like chips and crackers and things like that. So, they can actually affect blood sugar a lot more and it can make it a lot more challenging to manage those blood sugars throughout the day. If we don't pair things together, if we don't pair certain food groups together like having some protein or something like that with that snack, yet again that's going to cause a little bit more fluctuation in the blood sugar and make it a little bit harder to manage throughout the day.

Scott K. Johnson - Yeah it's also for me, I know that one of the things that I use in my diabetes is insulin, and timing plays a big role in mealtime insulin, so, if I'm not giving my insulin and my body time to do its thing and I'm throwing more food on top of the equation my blood sugars tend to just kind of stay floating at a higher average throughout the day than if I were to have a meal or snack and then give my time ya know, anytime that I eat something with diabetes my blood sugar is going to go up and then my medication brings it back down but it takes time. But if I don't give my body and my medicine time to do its thing, then I'm just kind of floating along at a higher blood sugar. So timing plays a role for me, for sure.

Kristen Bourque - And that brings up a good point Scott, is that a lot of times with mindless eating we're not thinking about it, we're not planning to eat, right? So again going back to is timing and medication like you said, you are just going to grab something willy nilly throughout the day. So having that structure even though you are at home is very important not only to help us to stay on track but also to help keep that blood sugar balanced.

Scott K. Johnson - Yeah, for sure. And another thing, and I know we'll get into this in a moment with some of the tips, but my mindless eating becomes really hard to quantify, right? So if I'm just grabbing a handful of chips or ya know, I pass by some leftovers that a family member made and I take a bite or two or whatever, like all of a sudden it becomes really hard to count how many grams of carbohydrates I'm eating or quantifying that food which then makes it much harder to to deal with from a medication standpoint or even just a logging and record-keeping standpoint, so, that's something we'll talk about a little bit. And maybe with that, let's dive right into some tips and tricks for, how do we deal with this new normal for us, right?

Maggie Evans - I think one of the best things that we can try and do is, as best we can, keep to that schedule of regular meals and eating you know I've been trying to recommend this as much as I can to patients and clients and things like that, that you know if we can set that structure with meals throughout the day that does make it easier to kind of manage medications and manage blood sugars throughout the day and kind of focusing on you know, having those balanced food groups with each meal kind of thinking about that my plate approach whether there is a little protein, some carbs maybe high fibre vegetables, things like that. Those can really help, not only feel not only with the balance in blood sugar but also feel satisfied throughout the day, right? If we skip a meal I am going to be much more likely to go into that pantry and grab chips and things like that throughout the day just to kind of keep myself going but if we have that set structured meal time that can make it a little bit easier to kind of avoid the mindless eating in the first place.

Kristen Bourque - Yeah, I'd actually had one of my sugar users mention that she is still actually preparing her lunches the night before and putting 'em in a little container cause again the idea especially working from home, it's very easy to not take that scheduled lunch break because again you are not having the normal schedule. So, I love that suggestion. Also was that, that also kind of helps to be you know, put it in, this is my lunch, this is my time and kind of setting that apart and like Maggie said it's to kind of give yourself more balance in that meal and help you to stay on track a little bit more too.

Scott K. Johnson - One of the things that I don't think I really appreciate enough until I'm not doing it as much is, Maggie you mentioned that how mixing in a protein source along with the carbohydrates I might be eating can really slow the digestion and therefore slow the peak or rise in my blood sugars, so I'm so glad that you mentioned that, and that also it just really kind of emphasizes the importance of that balanced, the balanced meal approaches or balance snacking even.

Maggie Evans - Yeah, and protein is actually really helpful to to just help reduce you know kind of feelings of hunger throughout the day in a way, so if there is any hint of hunger that is driving that kind of maybe more snacking throughout the day, by having adequate protein throughout the day, you are actually going to help kind of quell those hunger you know, cues in between those meals. Of course, if we are hungry I always say eat, please eat, but if we know that by balancing our plate and getting that protein kind of consistently throughout the day, that's just going to be another kind of tool in your tool kit that can help you out to throughout the day.

Scott K. Johnson - That's great. What about hydration? Staying hydrated. I know that's another big point that I hear a lot about, how does that fit in?

Kristen Bourque - Yeah, I think it's so important because again not having that normal schedule, right? And not kind of doing our day to day things so it's very easy to not only not make the best food choices right now but to also forget about hydration. So, same thing like you would do at work you know, having your you know, your water bottle and kind of at your workspace. You can also kind of, some people track their water intake throughout the day if that helps you, but I think it's very important because often time we can mistake hunger as thirst, or did I say it wrong? The other way around, but thirst for hunger. Excuse me. And that's also important too is making sure we are getting that water intake in throughout the day. And that's also going to help, kind of to keep our snacking at bay a little bit as well.

Maggie Evans - And to kind of play on that too not you know I love Kristen's recommendation of having that water bottle with you. Also recognizing too that we can get hydration from other fluids as well. So, for me just in my little work from home set up, I've been really appreciating a lot of like herbal teas just having something hot and kind of comforting. Especially with some of this colder spring weather that we're having right now. It just kind of helps me stay, kind of on top of my fluid as well, just having a little bit more flavor you know even flavoring

Kristen Bourque - More variety.

Maggie Evans - your water, can be really helpful. So I know a lot of people struggle with just plain water it can get really boring after a while, so just kind of finding those ways you know of kind of making your hydration a little bit more appealing for yourself.

Kristen Bourque - Love that.

Scott K. Johnson - I love that. I also think that, you know we've talked about stress, and the stresses that we're all going through in these times and having like just that, it sounds so nice and comfortable right now to have a nice warm mug of tea or coffee or something like that, that you can turn to as well. That's great. So we talked a little bit about like, the quantification and stuff. How can I, you know instead of snacking right out of the bag or something like that, which is hard to quantify, what are some things I can do to make it a little bit easier.

Maggie Evans - Go for it Kristen, you do it.

Kristen Bourque - Especially if you are again like you said Scott, trying to be mindful and aware of your carbohydrate intake, it's very easy to have, not realize the amount that you're consuming when you are eating out of a bag. So, we always recommend this, whether working from home or not, is always kind of portioning out, because you can always go back and get more but the idea is, majority of the time you're going to eat a lot more because again, we're just not aware of how much we're eating. So, putting it in a little container actually brings more awareness, but also will help us be more mindful of the carbohydrate content.

Maggie Evans - I always try and encourage people too, to kind of know the quantities of their current bowls and cups and things like that. So if you have a smaller bowl or you have like a cereal bowl, you kind of know the differences between the amounts that those two bowls can hold 'cause it can sometimes feel a little clinical to bring out that little measuring cup.

Kristen Bourque - Yes.

Maggie Evans - Maybe we don't all want to do that, but kind of, you know knowing the difference between okay if I do this smaller bowl that's probably going to be like half a cup or between a cup for this one. And that can just kind of help. It's pretty simple little tool that you can use for yourself just so you don't always have to bring out that measuring cup or spoon as well.

Scott K. Johnson - Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I, there's something about measuring my food that just kind of makes me, angry is much too strong of a word for it, but it just, I push back against it because I feel like it's you know, I don't know, I just don't want to I don't want to do that, it makes me feel too clinical. I think that's a very good way to do it. Something that I've done to help me with that is, and I think this is really where your tip comes in is if I measure my home stuff once or twice, and get a rough idea, I might not be measuring exact, but having a rough idea is so much better than having no idea at all.

Maggie Evans - Mhm.

Scott K. Johnson - I can get much closer to where I want to be, so that's a huge, a huge help. And it also, if I only have to do that once or twice and then kind of refresh my measuring guages.

Scott K. Johnson - Eyeball it. Yeah, then I can just eyeball it from then on. That helps, that helps quite a bit. What about the boredom aspect of it? What are some strategies that we can put into place when we might be eating just because we're bored or we need something to do?

Maggie Evans - I always suggest having just kind of like a tool kit of different activities, different things that you can do whether, you know and I think a lot of this falls along with that stress management piece, and kind of keeping ourselves occupied during this time, but could be calling a friend, could be making that cup of tea, could be journaling, listening to music, playing a game, having just kind of like a couple go-to activities that you can pick from to kind of help just distract yourself in a way, so then maybe you know, if there isn't an actual hunger going on if you distract yourself long enough you'll kind of forget about it. So I always suggest having you know just kind of like three top things that you can pick from really easily that you just go to right away as a way to just kind of help distract yourself in the moment.

Kristen Bourque - And I think that's a great point Maggie, because I think a lot of times when we're in that moment were not kind of really aware of you know, oh let me do this or that. So I love the idea of having a few things kind of like you said in your tool kit that way if that time does come, you have other kind of options. I also think for boredom, if you do feel like you end up kind of grabbing and it's simply just do-do kind of you know, having a little bit too much time on our hands or just watching shows, and just not keeping our hand occupied. You've probably seen so many things right now going on that just are fun activities, but also can help just to have some sort of a project you know again, like you said Maggie, having some things in your tool kit, but maybe if it's a coloring book which can also help they say with stress some sort of project like knitting a blanket or mailing cards to friends and family. So something like that can also be therapeutic, but help with that boredom snacking and things as well.

Maggie Evans - Another thing too, kind of playing on that is just sitting with it too. Right? When we find that boredom and some of these things might be uncomfortable for us because we just, we're always distracted, and we're always doing something, so even another practice could be just sitting with that feeling, and just saying like Okay, where is this coming from? Why am I feeling bored? Why do I feel inclined to go eat during this time? Jotting those feelings down, kind of sitting with that feeling I think is really powerful 'cause it really kind of encourages you to dive deeper into kind of what's going on, what's the real kind of discomfort? That can also be another piece too, to think about.

Scott K. Johnson - I think that's really really powerful, and and sometimes very scary, right?

Maggie Evans - Oh, it sucks, it's terrible.

Maggie Evans - Yeah. I do it sometimes and I'm like, "Oh god this is awful", but it's a good practice too.

Scott K. Johnson - It's such a good practice. You're so right. You're so right about that. Some of the things that I do in in my life that, that fit very well in, in what you're describing, I will chew gum. I am a big fan of like these they're super over the top kind of sweet, but sugar-free flavored gum, right? So it gives my mouth a little something to chew on, and play with. When I find that, that's not enough and it's more a hand thing I might try, and distract my hands with a video game or something on my phone. I love the idea of the coloring book or something like that. Those things, they can become really, really powerful in getting you through those urges. Sometimes though, I can't fight the snack urge, and I recognize that. And one thing that I've tried with that is figuring out okay, what can I snack on that satisfies my snack cravings, but doesn't totally destroy my blood sugars, and for all of us it will be a little bit different, right? But I found that if I can make a little bag of some like kettle corn microwave popcorn or something like that. It's, it's for me, helps me get that mouth and hand, snacky sensation going on and I am able to deal with it blood sugar wise pretty, pretty well too. But that comes with a lot of just trial and error, and figuring out what fits you, and your individual care plan and health plan. Diabetes wise and also overall health-wise too.

Kristen Bourque - Yeah I think, Scott, you bring up a great point is that you know these are all a number of suggestions, but everyone is different. So you have to kind of look at you know how best that you can kind of make modifications or cope with it. And I think that's a really great thing that Maggie brought up, is just being able to identify kind of how you're feeling in that moment, and again kind of work from there. It's not an easy thing, to accomplish right? In one sitting. So, it does take time, but I think it's great that any time if someone's able to recognize how they're feeling when they're eating is very valuable. So, another tool we talked about is even tracking food, and Maggie even mentioned tracking emotions can be very helpful to start paying attention if there is certain triggers or certain times of day, things like that. And that kind of helps to give us you know, a way to modify because as we know food and emotions are so directly tied, so anytime we can learn something from that is helpful too.

Maggie Evans - And I think just normalizing it too, right? So, I don't think there should be any shame or guilt associated with mindless or boredom eating 'cause it happens to everyone, and just kind recognizing that like if it does happen just looking at that, in that kind of nonjudgmental curiosity. Just like what's kind of driving this, in a way. 'Cause I think there can be some guilt and shame associated with it, and yet again it's a very normal behavior, but if it's something that we find you know, is we want to change then yes, of course we can start applying some of these practices, but just yet again the normalizing of it that everyone does it at some point, right? No one's immune.

Kristen Bourque - We do it too.

Maggie Evans - Yeah exactly.

Maggie Evans - Yeah, that's a good point. So I always think that's kind of important just to bring about too for people to recognize.

Scott K. Johnson - Super important and Thank you. Thank you for that. Especially with everything going on, the last thing we need is more stress and worry and things like that. So, well this has been awesome. Just a great, great discussion of why this happens, how it affects diabetes, and some strategies, and tools, and tips, and tricks we can play with to start building a tool kit to deal with it in a healthier way. Anything else that you guys want to talk about that we haven't covered yet?

Kristen Bourque - I think if you're struggling with this and you want a you know, additional support, feel free to message your coach and we're happy to kind of, again provide more insight and you know again just know like Maggie said, we are all kind of struggling with these same emotions and if we're able to ya know again, provide any additional support during this time or like you said Scott, maybe some suggestions for helping with blood sugar management, and things like that. Know that we are a message away, so.

Maggie Evans - Yeah and it's so individual for everyone, so it always can help having kind of someone in your you know, in your court helping you out. So always feel free to message, message your coach as well.

Scott K. Johnson - Awesome. Great, thank you so much, and we will see you both soon for another installment.

Maggie Evans - Thanks!

Scott K. Johnson - All right, there you have it. Please let us know if you're also struggling with the mindless eating, if any of these ideas might help. Mandie, you asked about snacks. I talked about popcorn, gum, some other things I turn to, handful of nuts, I love olives. I'll turn to cheeses. Some of the things I have to be careful with because they are so calorie rich that if I eat too much I get myself in trouble. We just also put up a blog post in the links as well. But it's hard 'cause you like you want to turn to the same things you used to. I'm totally guilty of that as well. So we'll track down some more resources for you as well, but for now have a great weekend, and I hope you'll come back on Monday where I'll talk with Kristen and Maggie again about ways to stay active while you're at home so much, and then later on in the week we've got a couple of eating healthy at home, and recipe demonstrations that we'll put up as well. So I hope to see you there. Until then, thanks for doing your part to help. Stay well, and we will see you next time. Bye.

The mySugr website does not provide medical or legal advice. mySugr blog articles are not scientific articles, but intended for informational purposes only.
Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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