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Don't Let Diabetes Ruin Your Holidays

Don't Let Diabetes Ruin Your Holidays

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From the American Association of Diabetes Educators

With nearly 1 in 10 Americans having diabetes, many families will be dealing with the disease during the holidays. Travel, stress, irregular schedules and extravagant dinners and parties can present special health challenges at this time of year for those with diabetes.

Planning ahead can help you minimize stress, manage blood sugar and make your holidays more enjoyable, says the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE).

"Troubleshooting before the holidays can help you be better prepared to take what comes. Then when the holidays arrive, just try to be in the moment," said Veronica Brady, PhD, CDE, a diabetes educator and nurse practitioner with the Reno School of Medicine, Nevada. "Don't stress about tomorrow, or worry about how much weight you might gain. Enjoy the conversation with your seldom-seen aunt, savor each bite of food, take in the sights and the smells of the season."

The AADE recommends these tips to help ensure your holidays are successful:

  • Practice mindful eating. Eat slowly, paying attention to the experience by savoring the taste and texture of each bite. Relish the green of the asparagus, the orange of the sweet potatoes. You'll eat less and enjoy more. Putting your fork down between bites will also help slow you down.

  • Put away your phone. Make a pact with your friends and family to ditch the cell phones during the meal so you're not tempted to peek every time the phone dings or buzzes. Put your phones on silent and leave them in another room. That will ensure you are present and enjoying the moment.

  • Monitor your blood sugar levels. If you wear a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and have been eyeing the pumpkin pie or biscuits, try a few bites, wait five minutes and look at your CGM to see how your body reacts. If your blood sugar is stable, try a few more bites. Share those high-carb treats with a friend so that you eat less and enjoy the deliciousness together.

  • Know your alcohol limits. If you're going to consume alcohol, remember your limit: two drinks for men, one for women. When you hit your limit, switch to water. Try carbonated water with a lime to make it more festive. Be sure to drink alcohol with a meal or snack to prevent low blood sugar.

  • Get a move on. Lace up your sneakers and go for a stroll before or after a big holiday meal—either with your dinner guests or alone to help you de-stress. Most people with type 2 diabetes find that their blood sugar levels will decrease after doing some exercise. So, make sure you take the time to walk, do some yoga or go for a bike ride. Keep a reminder to be active on your calendar each day to help manage your blood sugar and decrease stress.

  • Think of others. There are many volunteer opportunities during the holidays, from collecting food and clothing for homeless shelters to manning a soup kitchen. Giving back can put you in a Zen-like space, which is good for the soul.

If you travel:

  • Simplify security. Before you go through airport security, tell the TSA agent that you have diabetes and ask to have your carry-on bag (including your diabetes-related medications and devices) checked manually versus being X-rayed. The X-ray can interrupt device settings (such as insulin pump and censor). This process may go smoother if you have an explanatory letter from your doctor.

  • Call your doctor well in advance. Doctors take vacations, too. If you need a medical note when traveling (such as to ease going through security) or are running low on insulin or medication, call your doctor's office well before you travel to get what you need. Also, be sure to pack extra supplies, especially extra medication, in case your trip gets extended.

  • Don't panic about your pump. If you use an insulin pump, don't worry if you push your pump and nothing happens during takeoffs or landings. Just as your ears can get plugged, these devices won't work when under pressure. Just wait until the pilot announces the plane has reached cruising altitude and try again.

  • Wear a medical ID. If you have any problems during your trip, a medical alert ID will let people know you have diabetes (rather than thinking you've over imbibed). You can wear it as a bracelet or necklace. Some people even have the information tattooed on their wrist or neck.  

  • Check before you drive. If you're planning on driving, check your blood sugar levels before you get behind the wheel. If your blood sugars aren't at least 90, let someone else take the helm. The stresses of driving can cause your blood sugar to drop and lead to confusion and even loss of consciousness.

Share your diabetes triumphs, challenges and tips below and through your favorite online platforms. It's a great way to be supported and give others ideas to help manage their diabetes.

Before the holidays are in full swing, consider making an appointment to see a diabetes educator, who can help you figure out how to best manage your diabetes during the holidays so you can fully enjoy the season.