3 Ways To Manage Diabetes Hunger | DiabetesTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up Log in
Resources
About DiabetesTeam
Powered By

Diabetes Hunger: 3 Ways To Manage

Posted on August 22, 2023

Managing hunger when you have diabetes can feel like walking a tightrope. On the one hand, you want to feel full; on the other, you want to control your blood sugar.

To further complicate things, diabetes can make you feel hungrier than usual. Low insulin levels and increased insulin resistance (low body response to insulin) prevent your body from processing sugar into energy. As a result, your cells don’t get the energy they need, and your body continues to send hunger cues. This problem, called polyphagia, should improve with treatment, but managing hunger is important when keeping track of your diabetes and making dietary or exercise decisions.

Finding reasonable ways to manage your hunger is essential for living with diabetes. This article will review three ways to manage your diabetes hunger in a healthy way.

1. Embrace Healthy Eating Habits

Eating a balanced diet is key to managing diabetes and hunger. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a balanced meal typically includes:

  • Nonstarchy vegetables (high in nutrients with fewer carbs)
  • Lean protein, which contains less fat and is generally healthier than other forms of protein
  • A small portion of food higher in carbohydrates, like whole grains or butternut squash.

Although there’s no perfect one-size-fits-all meal plan for people with diabetes, health experts recommend certain lifestyle changes to control blood sugar levels and hunger. These include:

  • Eating more high-fiber foods, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds
  • Consuming fewer foods and drinks containing simple carbohydrates, including soda, sweet tea, fruit juice, white bread, white rice, and sugary cereal
  • Drinking water first when feeling hungry since people commonly mistake thirst for hunger
  • Eating lean protein at every meal, like chicken, salmon, beans, or nuts
  • Eating healthy snacks, like vegetables with hummus or fresh fruit with peanut butter

High-fiber foods slow your body’s sugar uptake, keeping blood glucose (sugar) stable and helping you feel full longer. Your body absorbs simple carbohydrates more quickly than complex (high-fiber or high-starch) carbohydrates, so they tend not to keep you full as long. High-protein foods keep you fuller than foods high in fat or carbs, and they prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) between meals.

Members of DiabetesTeam often discuss eating tips. Regarding nighttime snacks, one member said, “When I HAVE to have a night snack, I am trying to eat healthier items like almonds and/or half an apple.”

Another member adds, “The less processed a food is, the better it is for you. So off the fresh produce shelf is better than from the frozen section, which is better than in a can which is better than some microwave meal.”

Here are six recipes and cooking substitutions for diabetes.

2. Practice Mindful Eating

Mindful eating comes from the general concept of mindfulness — focusing on feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations in the current moment. Mindfulness teaches people to notice, but not judge, how they’re feeling. Eating mindfully allows people to appreciate their physical and emotional experience of food.

In the book Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, authors Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung outline seven practices for mindful eating. They include:

  • Acknowledging and honoring where the food was grown and who prepared it — and eating without distractions
  • Noticing food characteristics like the sounds, colors, textures, and tastes, using all the senses
  • Eating smaller portions to prevent overeating and waste
  • Taking small bites and chewing food completely before swallowing, giving yourself time to savor the flavor
  • Eating slowly, which helps you recognize when you’re full and thus prevent overeating
  • Eating around the same time every day — and not skipping meals — so your hunger doesn’t build to the point that you make quick, unhealthy choices
  • Consuming mostly plant-based foods, both because animal-derived products can be high in saturated fat, which increases heart disease risk, and they have a higher negative impact on the environment

Physical Hunger vs. Emotional Cravings

Mindful eating can help with diabetes because it helps you better distinguish between what physical hunger feels like compared to emotional cravings — that is, the desire to eat in response to stress, anger, shame, boredom, or even happiness.

Physical hunger tends to build slowly following a meal. On the other hand, food cravings triggered by emotions come on abruptly. Additionally, whereas physical hunger subsides once you have a full stomach, emotional hunger continues to linger.

Other indications that your hunger is physical and not emotional include:

  • Physical sensations such as hunger pangs, a rumbling tummy, or a headache
  • Moodiness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty with focusing
  • Openness to lots of food options, rather than having a craving for something specific

To help determine whether your hunger is physical or emotional, the ADA recommends using a hunger-satiety (fullness) scale. The scale ranges from 1 to 10, where one is starving, and 10 is stuffed to the point of feeling sick. The ADA recommends eating when your hunger-satiety rating is between 4 and 6.

If you find yourself experiencing sudden cravings that likely aren’t physical hunger, consider these alternatives to eating:

  • Drinking a glass of water
  • Pausing a few minutes to reflect on what may be triggering your hunger
  • Writing about your feelings in a journal
  • Calling a friend or loved one
  • Playing with a pet
  • Taking a hot bath
  • Reading a book
  • Taking a walk or engaging in another form of exercise, like running or swimming

3. Physical Activity

Physical activity is another pillar of managing diabetes hunger. Research shows that aerobic and resistance exercise reduce hunger and increase feelings of fullness for people living with type 2 diabetes. Aerobic exercise includes running, swimming, and walking, while resistance exercise includes doing pushups, weight lifting, and stretching.

DiabetesTeam members often discuss their exercise plans. One member shared, “I walk 10 to 15 minutes immediately after eating each meal. That lowers the post-meal glucose spike. Walking works for many.”

In general, health experts recommend regular physical activity to help manage diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical activity benefits include:

  • Increased body sensitivity to insulin
  • Improved control over blood glucose levels
  • Healthy weight management
  • Better sleep
  • Improved blood pressure control
  • Lower cholesterol and reduced risk for heart disease

For safety, health experts recommend that people with diabetes check their blood sugar before, during, and after exercise. This practice helps prevent hypoglycemia while you exercise. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include shakiness, sweating, fatigue, and dizziness.

It’s important to have glucose tablets or juice on hand while exercising so you can treat hypoglycemia immediately if it occurs. Health experts also recommend eating a small snack before exercise to prevent hypoglycemia.

DiabetesTeam members also share tips for preventing shakiness. One wrote, “I used to get the shakes really bad when I hit the gym. Taking a protein shake before a hard exercise prevents the shakes from happening during my extreme workouts.”

Talk With Your Doctor

Managing diabetes safely and healthily is a team effort. If you have type 2 diabetes, discuss your management plan and safe exercise practices with your doctor. A registered dietitian can also be a valuable member of your health care team by helping you make meal plans that can supplement your ongoing diabetes care.

Find Your Team

On DiabetesTeam, the social network for people with diabetes and their loved ones, more than 132,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with diabetes.

Are you living with diabetes and looking for ways to manage your hunger? Do you have tips that work for you to stay full and keep your blood sugar controlled? Share in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on August 22, 2023
    All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

    Become a Subscriber

    Get the latest articles about diabetes sent to your inbox.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
    Kiran Chaudhari, M.B.B.S., M.D., Ph.D. is a specialist in pharmacology and neuroscience and is passionate about drug and device safety and pharmacovigilance. Learn more about him here.
    Chelsea Alvarado, M.D. earned her Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. Learn more about her here.

    Related Articles

    In a recent survey of DiabetesTeam members, respondents discussed the impact diabetes can have on...

    Survey: 64 Percent of DiabetesTeam Members Say Diabetes Interferes With Quality of Life

    In a recent survey of DiabetesTeam members, respondents discussed the impact diabetes can have on...
    Living with type 2 diabetes requires you to carefully consider the products you consume, includin...

    Cough Medicine and Diabetes: 5 Things To Look For

    Living with type 2 diabetes requires you to carefully consider the products you consume, includin...
    Pizza is a favorite meal for young and old alike. Whether it’s a birthday party or the end of a l...

    Eating Pizza With Diabetes: 5 Tips

    Pizza is a favorite meal for young and old alike. Whether it’s a birthday party or the end of a l...
    Have you ever considered donating your blood to a local blood bank? It’s like giving the gift of ...

    Can You Donate Blood or Plasma if You Have Diabetes?

    Have you ever considered donating your blood to a local blood bank? It’s like giving the gift of ...
    Potatoes have gotten a bad rep for being “high in sugar,” but how about their orange counterpart,...

    Diabetes and Sweet Potatoes: How Much Is Safe?

    Potatoes have gotten a bad rep for being “high in sugar,” but how about their orange counterpart,...
    Even the best accommodations at work sometimes aren’t enough to help you keep your job when you h...

    Can You Apply for Disability Benefits With Diabetes?

    Even the best accommodations at work sometimes aren’t enough to help you keep your job when you h...

    Recent Articles

    Welcome to DiabetesTeam — the place to connect with others living with diabetes. This video will...

    Getting Started on DiabetesTeam (VIDEO)

    Welcome to DiabetesTeam — the place to connect with others living with diabetes. This video will...
    Diabetic macular edema (DME) can be categorized as center-involved or non-center-involvedCenter-i...

    Center-Involved Diabetic Macular Edema vs. Non-Center-Involved: Differences and Management

    Diabetic macular edema (DME) can be categorized as center-involved or non-center-involvedCenter-i...
    Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a relatively common vision problem in people with diabetes.Optica...

    Diagnosing Diabetic Macular Edema: What Is OCT?

    Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a relatively common vision problem in people with diabetes.Optica...
    If you have diabetes, you probably already know that it can cause problems in many different part...

    5 Ways Diabetes Affects Your Eyes and Vision

    If you have diabetes, you probably already know that it can cause problems in many different part...
    Diabetes, eye surgeries, and aging — what do these all have in common? They’re three of the 10 ca...

    The 10 Causes of Macular Edema

    Diabetes, eye surgeries, and aging — what do these all have in common? They’re three of the 10 ca...
    If you’re living with diabetic macular edema (DME) and type 1 or type 2 diabetes (diabetes mellit...

    4 Diabetic Macular Edema Treatments To Know

    If you’re living with diabetic macular edema (DME) and type 1 or type 2 diabetes (diabetes mellit...
    DiabetesTeam My diabetes Team

    Thank you for subscribing!

    Become a member to get even more:

    sign up for free

    close