Hello Dr. Gary, I have had type 2 diabetes for ten years and can't seem to get it under control. I live in a very stressful family with my husband of 41 years, a sister-in-law who is very interfering in our life, a son who is 34 years old and my husband’ sister who is 59 years old and has never lived on her own, just like my son! Then on 9/21/12 my daughter died. My life has never been the same since that night she died. I never ate in the middle of the night, but now I can't sleep and I find myself in the kitchen eating everything even though I am not hungry. What can I do to stop this eating at night, because my sugar count in the morning is very high!
I feel my situation is hopeless. Do you have any advice for me?
Thank You,
Harriet

Harriet, to start I just want to say that I am sorry to know of your loss. I can only begin to imagine what it must be like for a mother to lose her daughter. It sounds like you are experiencing some tension with other members of your household, especially your sister-in-law. You are dealing with a lot. And I can understand why you are finding yourself in the kitchen, even when you aren’t hungry. Let’s take a look at what’s going on in your life.

You’re right, when we lose someone important to us, life is never the same. So I am wondering how you have been dealing with the loss of your daughter. Do you have supportive people in your life, who can just listen and be there for you? I get the sense from what you wrote that you might be going through this alone. Talking is so important when you have experienced a loss, to tell the story over and over. Because each time you tell the story, you help yourself to cope.

And then that stress at home. And the same question. Is anybody watching out for Harriet? It sounds like you are watching out for other people but not getting a lot of support.

One of the first questions I ask a client in your situation is, “How are you coping?” They may be coping in a positive way, or they may be coping in a way that isn’t so positive. Which leads me to the overeating that you described. Food is a way of comforting ourselves when we are unhappy or stressed out. We show our love to others by making them their favorite meals, and it can be a way of showing love to ourselves. And when so much of life seems out of our control, food can be a way of providing kind of a home base. We feel bad. We eat. We feel better. At least temporarily.

Your type 2 diabetes adds an additional wrinkle. To control your diabetes, as you know, you have to control your food intake.

So let’s see what we can do. It could help to set some limits with the people you live with. You can’t control other people, but you can set limits. For example, if your sister-in-law attempts to interfere in situations that are not her business, you can gently but firmly thank her for her input, but let her know that you are handling things and don’t need her help. It’s that simple. And are there other household members who could be pitching in a little more around the house?

You could also use some emotional support. Are you and your husband talking about the loss of your daughter, and helping each other to grieve? Are you talking with him about the difficult relationships in your household? Are there other people in your life that you can reach out to for support? It could also help to talk to an objective person, maybe a clergyperson or a counselor, to talk about the grief and the stress.

I also encourage you to look for some additional ways to deal with all of those emotions. Are there things you enjoy that you haven’t been doing enough of? Are you taking time out for yourself? Getting your emotional needs met might also help to curb the desire to overeat. It might help to set some limits with yourself, as well. Focus on taking the best possible care of yourself during this difficult time. Power yourself up! You deserve it!

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To learn more about this topic:
Is a Hormone Making You Overeat?
Low Blood Sugars and Binge Eating
Discussion: Know Your Danger Zones for Overeating