While living with diabetes presents a host of challenges, social gatherings often rank near the top of the list, especially for those who have been recently diagnosed. Learning to manage diabetes amid the happy occasions that make up our lives is challenging. Still, a new normal can be achieved with consistency, support, and effective management strategies.
Practising an attitude of moderation, balance, and acceptance of living with diabetes is difficult at times, but it becomes much more straightforward with some planning and supportive tools.
Ahead of the summer season, consider to make your social experiences as successful and pleasant as possible by reading this article beforehand.
Planning takes a bit of time and energy. Still, understanding the event, goals for your behaviour, and a plan for necessary support can make the experience a lot more positive.
Plan Ahead: The “What” and “How Much” of Eating
The first and most important task in planning ahead is to ask your host what they’ll be serving. While this may initially seem awkward if you’re accustomed to showing up at events without any knowledge of the menu, asking ahead allows you to deliberate on what items are truly worth it and which once you’re not feeling as keen on. Most importantly, prior knowledge of the menu allows you to consider the impact of the various offerings on your blood sugar and how best to manage it at the event by consuming a balanced meal.
Suppose you are currently using or are planning to use technological support like Diabetes:M app. In that case, this is an excellent opportunity to practice using an app to predict the impact that certain choices may have on your blood glucose, and then assess the accuracy of your prediction afterwards. Keep in mind that it’s not unusual, especially for newly diagnosed, to experience some trial and error with sugar management, which makes effective tracking vitally important.
Aside from tracking the “what” of eating- tracking the “how much” is important. Doing your best to judge portion sizes accurately helps ensure that your logging is as effective as possible, allowing you to manage your blood sugar without an elevated risk of highs or lows. Once you’ve been able to determine what will be served, decide what items are easiest to include from the standpoint of glucose management. For those difficult-to-manage items, please take a moment or two to consider how worth it is to consume them.
If you’ve had a more challenging time maintaining an even sugar level, it may be in your best interest to steer clear of dishes that may throw your sugar out of balance. Non-starchy vegetables and lean proteins are almost always favourable in maintaining an appropriate sugar level and are often available at barbecue events.
Do your best to avoid the following, unless you’re able to fit them into your daily carbohydrate allowance. Check your app if you’re unsure as to whether an item works for you on any given day.
- Fatty or cured meats
- Refined grains or starches
- Caloric beverages
- High sugar sauces
- Dessert items
Certain products may impact you more than others. Caloric beverages often have an extreme impact on blood sugar, so consider favouring one of the following:
- Unsweetened iced tea
- Club soda
- Infused water
- Zero sugar sports drinks
- Diet soda or other zero Calorie beverages
Consider tracking your fluid and dietary intake to better assess how these factors work together to impact your feelings. If you’re the host, consider providing healthy options for everyone. Seafood, chicken breast, and lean ground turkey are all great options that can be put to work in a variety of cookout-friendly recipes.
Still trying to figure out where to get started? Consider utilising the Diabetes:M recipe library. Download the app from here.
Regardless of whether you’re hosting or enjoying your time as a guest, be careful not to get so swept up in the merriment that you begin to graze or eat mindlessly. While it’s easy to dismiss a handful of chips or a bite or two of your partner’s dessert, those choices do make a difference in blood sugar management.
If you’ve been using mindfulness strategies, consider utilising your time at the event as “in session” practice.
Mindfulness around eating and testing can improve the odds of an enjoyable, diabetes-safe event, so be sure to maintain your regular testing schedule. However, if you find yourself feeling off, be sure to test: you may have misjudged the carbohydrate content of a specific choice, been a bit more active than you’d planned, and/or not given yourself the right amount of insulin.
Checking your app and making necessary adjustments as soon as possible increases the likelihood of preventing any sort of unfavourable spells or experiences that might otherwise impact what should be a fun time.
Regardless of whether this is your first or fortieth summer working to navigate social events with diabetes, you’ve likely had some level of experience with peer pressure or social misunderstandings. Remember that it is your job to politely but assertively take care of what you need to do to be safe and well.
Luckily, most well-intentioned friends and family members are happy to help once they know what it is that you need and what’s most helpful to you in managing your condition successfully. There will, unfortunately, be situations where encouragement is lacking. This is why it is incredibly helpful and reassuring to find support from other people living with diabetes, who have likely been in your shoes and can offer advice or a listening ear.
It can be incredibly cathartic to converse with like-minded people having a shared life experience.
Tips and anecdotes from other people living with diabetes provide a meaningful connection that might otherwise be missing in your life. With lived experience comes many useful strategies that you might have yet to consider in your own situation – local groups near you, or connect with others through the Diabetes:M app for an easy, on-the-go option.
Just like any other chronic health condition, living with diabetes requires care and management over a lifetime, and having support as you move through that journey will improve your experience of various social events and life as a whole, regardless of the season.
Morgan Medeiros is a Clinical Nutritionist located in Seattle, Washington, having earned her Master’s Degree from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Specialising in bariatric medicine, weight management, and chronic disease prevention, Medeiros is passionate about health and wellness, taking a curious, hands-on approach to her work. Utilising a solid science and behavioural medicine framework, she believes in educating and empowering patients to take an active role in their wellness.