Trying to stop a diabetic binge is like trying to keep your hand on a hot stove—it’s very difficult and against your natural instinct. Our body’s natural instinct is to withdraw the hand when we feel the heat; your body’s natural instinct when your blood sugar is low is to eat. Therefore, if your blood sugars remain low even after you eat the brain gets hijacked. As discussed in my previous blog “The Diabetic Binge.”
Even when you know you have counteracted the hypoglycemic reaction (with food, a glucose tablet, or juice, for example), it is difficult to make yourself stop eating—because your brain is still receiving that “hungry” message. Your body and brain remain on high alert in an effort to raise those blood glucose levels, pushing you to eat in the same way that the brain tells the hand to pull away from the hot stove.
Diabetic Binge Prevention
The first way to reduce diabetic binging and the quantity of hypoglycemic reactions is to maintain well-controlled blood glucose levels. The more your blood glucose levels fluctuate, the greater the impact reactions will have on the body’s natural process to keep it fueled—and the higher the risk of hypoglycemia.
To prevent binge eating during a hypoglycemic reaction, you should realize what a difficult task this is and that willpower will be a major part of the equation. There will most likely be times that one will end up binging despite having a strong will.
You need to have a plan for when it occurs. First take care of your reaction as you normally would. I suggest orange juice; drinking the quantity your body normally needs to get back to a normal blood glucose level.
If you feel yourself wanting to eat more, then have a low carbohydrate snack that you can follow-up with and eat slowly.
Vegetables are a good snack to curb the hunger. Make sure what you pick is something that you will really enjoy (if your cholesterol is normal, some dressing to dip them in would be good to satisfy the cravings). Be creative.
A low carbohydrate protein would be another good choice. I tend to favor an 1/8th pound of tuna fish salad that I eat with a small fork. Eat your snack slowly. Have it ready. I get pre-made tuna fish salad at the grocery store. If I don’t have a reaction during that week, I have it for lunch before it goes bad.
Another option is to get a second small glass of orange juice or, for variety, have a small glass of lemonade (or other sugary drink) that you can sip while waiting out the hunger.
Distract yourself by calling a friend or watching a TV program you like or anything you can do to take your mind off the reaction. Do NOT go to sleep.
The biggest problem with binging is the destabilization of your blood glucose levels. Let’s work on preventing this.
When you end up binging, now what? Now you have one important task to do during this period of time. Keep paper and a pen on the refrigerator door. When you take out the big tub of ice cream or whatever you are choosing to eat, scoop out or take out one serving at a time and write out the carbohydrates you’re eating as you go along. Do not eat out of the tub or package. Total the carbohydrates after your binge ends.
Next, take Rapid-acting insulin to match the carbohydrates you just put in your body. You may feel sick from eating too much, but when everything is said and done, you will hopefully end up with a glucose level in your targeted range instead of 400 mg/dL or greater.
There are two ways to handle the binge:
• Binge Prevention Techniques can be used to suppress the false messages of hunger that are caused by low blood sugars.
• Harm Reduction allows the binge to occur but utilizes carbohydrate counting and matching insulin to maintain normal blood sugars after the binge and reaction subside.
Diabetic binging is a physical response to the brain when it receives conflicting information about the status of the stomach and the need to eat. Messages of hunger hijack the human brain as long as your blood glucose levels remain low.
Overall, binging is not good for anyone, but it may happen during hypoglycemic reactions. You can find comfort in the fact that it is a physical issue and not fully in your control.
All the advice included in this blog is therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Prior to making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.