The holidays are upon us, a time when we gather with family and friends who are family, to celebrate, after all, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” or so the song says.
In reality, the holidays also mean end-of-year work deadlines; self-imposed impossible standards to make the holidays picture perfect while attempting to stay on budget, and the mixed emotions that holidays bring with them. Now add diabetes to the mix it can be overwhelming!
Here’s what I do when it comes to handling diabetes and everything that comes with the holiday season!
Realize And Accept That Perfection Is A Myth
Repeat for those in the back row: PERFECTION IS A MYTH. Don’t buy into the hype of holiday perfection and diabetes perfection. Once you accept that perfection is a myth in all dimensions, it makes things a lot easier!
Acknowledge All The Emotions
This is the time of year when we’re all supposed to be happy and jolly — but that’s not the case for everyone. For many, this time of year is an emotional rollercoaster — especially for people dealing with depression, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), or struggling with the loss of loved ones.
Depression impacts our blood sugars and our diabetes management. When I find the holiday blues coming on, then I use the following tricks to help me deal.
- Acknowledge how I’m feeling and why
- Remind myself that I’m not the only one who is struggling
- Scheduling a therapy appointment for a tune-up
- Helping others. Helping people makes me feel better. I’m on a tight budget, but I always put a little extra cash aside during the holidays to purchase extra groceries and toys to donate to local food banks and toy drives
- Practicing Self Care: For me, self-care includes all of the above, and also making time for things like exercise and cooking healthy homemade meals — and not because exercise and healthy food are good for my blood sugars and diabetes management, which of course they are. Exercise and making sure I make healthy meals for myself, helps me manage stress, releases endorphins. Also, I’m worth it!
Alleviating The Stress of Overspending
Stress negatively impacts our glucose. Debt is a major stress monster. Set firm spending limits with family and friends during the holidays and stick to them!
This year my family (who will be gathering for the first Christmas together since 2019), instituted a “no gifts,” rule. Instead, we agreed to “be present” with one another. We’ll be spending 3 days together, cooking; laughing, hiking, watching movies, and playing charades. I CAN’T WAIT.
My friends and I don’t exchange holiday gifts, instead, we have a potluck dinner the fourth Saturday night in January cooking; eating, laughing, and toasting our friendship!
Speaking of Delicious, Yummy Food…
Holidays mean more challenging foods when it comes to managing our glucose levels.
Luckily, diabetes technology in the form of apps, glucose meters, CGMs, insulin pumps, pens, smart insulin, etc., help us navigate our diabetes while enjoying holidays meals in the process!
Don’t label foods as good or bad; utilize your diabetes tech, enjoy the season and have fun!
But What About All The Holiday Desserts?
What about them? When bake, I allow myself a few treats, do what I have to do re: my diabetes management, box up the majority to give away, and stash a few cookies in the freezer to have for a rainy/snowy day.
I do the same thing when I receive baked goods as gifts — keep half a dozen cookies in the cookie jar and freeze the rest to enjoy throughout the winter and into the spring. It’s a win-win situation!
Navigating the holiday carb and alcohol festivities with diabetes can be done! Here’s how I deal with it:
- The day of the party/gathering – I eat meals that don’t challenge my blood sugars.
- The night of the party, I put on an outfit that makes me feel like a million bucks and head out to the main event. The first thing I do when I arrive is spending some time with my host(s) and meet the other guests, hopefully reconnecting with old friends and meeting some new ones in the process!
- Before I head over to the food, I check my blood sugar, scope out the food spread, and bolus accordingly.
- For the record, pre-bolusing 15 to 20 minutes before a meal is what works for me and my diabetes, your diabetes may vary.
- I fill my plate with protein, veggies and if I’m lucky, a side dish made with potatoes and cheese and dig in!
- Later, when I’m ready for a tasty treat, I check my blood sugar again, bolus for dessert, and enjoy a few fancy sweets!
In my opinion, beer requires too much Diabetes Math, so I keep it simple and stick with either wine or vodka and club soda.
Since I’m usually driving, I limit myself to 2 drinks early in the party and drink water or club soda for the rest of the night. Every now and then I check to see what my blood sugar is doing, the rest of the time, I’m having fun!
COVID Sidebar: With the Covid Omicron Variant spreading, and even though I will only be attending a few small holiday gatherings where everyone in attendance must be vaccinated – I will be bringing and wearing my mask – the same goes for carrying and using my own hand sanitizer!
Hopefully, you’ve found this article helpful. Thanks for reading and wishing everyone good health, a holiday season low on stress, heavy on joy, and bolus-worthy treats!
Kelly Kunik has turned her broken pancreas, (a.k.a. her type 1 diabetes) into her greatest strength and biggest passion – advocating for people with diabetes via her blog diabetesaliciousness, since 2007.
As a daughter, sister, cousin, niece and aunt to people living with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, she has a unique perspective re: life with diabetes in all dimensions.