BACKGROUND: Despite well-established guidelines to treat diabetes, many people with diabetes struggle to manage their disease. For many, this struggle is related to challenges achieving nutrition-related lifestyle changes. We examined how people with diabetes describe barriers to maintaining a healthy diet and considered the benefits of using a harm reduction approach to assist patients to achieve nutrition-related goals.
METHODS: This is a secondary analysis of 89 interviews conducted with adults who had type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Interviews were analyzed using a content analysis approach. Themes regarding food or diet were initially captured in a "food" node. Data in the food node were then sub-coded for this analysis, again using a content analysis approach.
RESULTS: Participants frequently used addiction language to talk about their relationship with food, at times referring to themselves as "an addict" and describing food as "their drug." Participants perceived their unhealthy food choices either as a sign of weakness or as "cheating." They also identified food's ability to comfort them and an unwillingness to change as particular challenges to sustaining a healthier diet.
CONCLUSION: Participants often described their relationship with food through an addiction lens. A harm reduction approach has been associated with positive outcomes among those with substance abuse disorder. Patient-centered communication incorporating the harm reduction model may improve the patient-clinician relationship and thus improve patient outcomes and quality-of-life while reducing health-related stigma in diabetes care. Future work should explore the effectiveness of this approach in patients with diabetes.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: Registered on ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02792777. Registration information submitted 02/06/2016, with the registration first posted on the ClinicalTrials.gov website 08/06/2016. Data collection began on 29/04/2016.
Gentsch, Alexzandra; Reed, Megan; Cunningham, Amy; Chang, Anna Marie; Kahn, Stephanie; Kovalsky, Danielle; Doty, Amanda; Mills, Geoffrey; Hollander, Judd; and Rising, Kristin, ""Once I Take that One Bite": the Consideration of Harm Reduction as a Strategy to Support Dietary Change for Patients with Diabetes" (2024). College of Population Health Faculty Papers. Paper 189.
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