Top Tips for Managing Diabetes During the Holidays
As someone who worked in diabetes the past several years I have been able to see firsthand all the concerns and distress can come from managing diabetes during the holiday season. These tips can serve as a guide to balance blood sugars throughout your days while celebrating. I think the most important thing overall is to listen to your body- what does it need, what does it feel better to skip out on, what can you do to feel your best physically and mentally.
It’s easy to say eat perfectly all day everyday but that’s not sustainable for anyone and it’s especially difficult to stick to a restrictive diet during celebrations. If you can’t enjoy yourself without feeling obsessed with food and planning meals then it might be time to take a step back and ask yourself what you relationship with diabetes nutrition truly looks like right now, what do you want it to look like in 5 years, 10 years, etc. If the meals and snacks you are consuming to manage blood sugars is not a meal plan that can be carried out long term then you are setting yourself up for failure.
Feelings and emotional health will always impact our mental health. Physical health is also shown to be negatively affected by poor mental health. Overall wellness can not be achieved if you aren’t making healthy behaviors sustainable long term! All of that being said, the first tip is about managing expectations.
Managing Diabetes During the Holidays
Don’t set expectations too high
It’s important to have realistic expectations and not aim for perfection, something that you might not be able to achieve. Don’t start off the day dreading how you will manage diabetes, or get worked up if unexpected things happen that force you to modify, or even cancel some of your plans.
Make the best of the situation and take joy from the little things. Be in the moment and take care of yourself. Know that blood sugars might be higher due to irregular diet, stress of the holidays, etc.eliminate guilt and shame around food- this will only increase stress leading to even higher blood sugars.
Take in the all the food options before filling up your plate. Make a conscious decision to choose your favs and skip ones you don’t enjoy. Stay on schedule with blood sugar testing and meal timing- avoid skipping meals and don’t miss medication doses.
- Fiber up
Veggies FIRST! Get the fiber your body needs to keep blood sugars stabilized, your digestive system happy, and overall feeling good.
Example: add cauliflower to mashed potatoes (or instead of to increase nutrition density)-If you’re looking for more inspiration you can sign up for my diabetes healthy holiday swaps guide via my newsletter
Fit in movement
The focus doesn’t need to be on weight, instead let’s build healthy behavior.
Sleep is a very underrated part of healthy living and managing blood sugars. Get enough sleep prior to and after the holidays
Manage stress with self care
When you’re experiencing physical or emotional stress, hormones are released that increase your blood sugar. Cortisol and adrenaline are other primary hormones involved- think “fight or flight” situation. The problem becomes more complicated if you’re consistently under stress- your hormones and sugar will continue to surge.
However, it is suspected that a high level of stress can also exacerbate diabetes. High anxiety can result in the release of sympathetic hormones that can elevate both cortisol and glucose levels, decrease insulin release, or affect the sensitivity and resistance of insulin.
A lot of times, doctors believe that type II diabetes has a lot to do with medication noncompliance and failure to adhere to lifestyle modification. Unfortunately, they fail to realize that stress and anxiety, as well as other mental problems, can also exacerbate the rising glucose level. With this in mind, doctors can better consult their patients by advising them to consider stress reduction exercises like yoga, meditation, or seeing a counselor to help reduce their stress and anxiety levels. (PMID: 31485387; PMCID: PMC6710489.)
Why is water important? Staying hydrated is extra important in diabetes. Since blood sugars are already higher than normal your kidneys work overtime to filter and absorb the excess sugar. If your kidneys are working too hard your body expels the excess sugar in your urine, which in turn makes you urinate more, making you more dehydrated.
Suggestions to make water taste better or more exciting are in this post. Also don’t forget that if you are drinking- you need to stay extra hydrated and pair your alcohol with food.
Prepare a diabetes friendly dish or dessert to share
Preparing a higher protein or fiber filled dish to balance out the typical quick acting carbs we have at most holiday meals is sure to help. For example: homemade spinach artichoke dip, plant protein like hummus and veggies, black bean dip, trail mix, etc.
Holidays are about spending time with the people you love and being grateful for everything you do have… while having diabetes during the holidays makes things more difficult there are so many other great things in life that we can be thankful for and truly appreciate.
These can be very important times for the family, quiet times for reflection and remembrance, for sharing feelings and finding peace. It is important to give thanks for those things that you do have.
For more tips on managing diabetes during the holidays- check out my diabetes holiday survival guide and toolkit for sale right now. For 25% off through the rest of 2022- use code DISCOUNT!