Diabetes Management During the Holidays
To Balance Blood Sugar BALANCE is the Key!
The fall and winter holiday season can be both a wonderful time and a challenging time if you have food relationship struggles or chronic illness, like Diabetes. Roughly 12% of the population has some type of diagnosed diabetes, so it is likely that you or someone you know needs to maintain blood sugar balance. The rich sweet treats served during the holidays can be troublesome if you are not careful. Holiday parties and long-distance travel can pose an extra challenge when you have diabetes. With reasonable choices and advance planning, you can enjoy the holidays and manage your condition at the same time.
While I am not diabetic, I have diabetic clients and concerns are always discussed. I grew up with two diabetic parents, as well as several other family members with this disorder. I have helped in finger sticks, insulin doses, and nutrition-based strategies for most of my life. I have seen amputations, vision loss, dialysis, and kidney transplants JUST IN MY FAMILY as a result of diabetes. I have also seen active and long lives.
Courses of treatment and medications are individualized and constantly evolving as medicines and monitoring devices develop as well. From finger sticks to CGM (constant glucose monitoring), oral meds to glucose pumps, I have had to learn about it! Of course, movement and food choice (and timing) continue to be a cornerstone of traditional treatments–which is where I can help in conjunction with medical professionals.
For this tip-based post, I have the pleasure to collaborate with Dr. Liz Kopco, PhD.
Disclaimer: Please understand although I am a certified health and nutrition coach, I am not your coach nor am I a doctor or physician. All content on this blog and website is for informational and educational purposes only. The information provided does not constitute any medical or health advice nor does it constitute or establish any kind of a coach/professional – client relationship by your using any information on this site. Although I strive to provide accurate and helpful information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional, medical, or health advice, and you should not rely solely on the information presented on this site. Always consult with the appropriate professional in the area for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making professional, legal, medical, or financial investments or transactions.
Mindful Eating and Living Strategies
As an Eating Disorder Recovery Coach, I use Mindful Eating as an accessible and effective tool. Mindful Eating can help reconnect us to our natural inner wisdom and we can reestablish communication with our bodies. Hunger and fullness are only two ways that our bodies communicate with us! Mindfulness can be applied to almost anything and here are few ways that mindful eating and mindful living can help in balancing blood sugars and enhance your diabetes management enabling you to enjoy the holidays!
- Listen to your body (and not the external environment) for any cues to eat or to stop eating.
- Eat and enjoy your meals without distractions from technology (sports games, cell phone, TV) and focus on enjoying the food and company.
- A timing tip: Try to eat your carb rich foods towards the end of the meal. This gives your body time to ramp up insulin production so more is present in your body when you eat your carbs.
- Decrease mindless eating by using small plates, drinking from smaller glasses, and simply having more nutrient-dense foods at eye- and arm- levels.
- Build in movement-based activities like family post-meal walks or friendly dance battles! Make it fun and easy for all generations to join in.
- When traveling, ensure you have extra medication (in case of delays) and all of your pertinent info (prescriptions, dosages, doctor’s contact, and insurance information) in case of emergency. Travel with meds in their original packaging and labels!
A mindful eating study has demonstrated that mindful eating education is just as effective in diabetes management as nutrition-based education in decreasing blood glucose and keeping it balanced (Miller et al). The study showed that both strategies are effective in the management of diabetes (blood sugar balancing, insulin as prescribed, and movement). This means that when people can receive general nutrition information and how it applies to diabetes, that tapping into our inner wisdom is one of the best strategies we all can access to have the best quality of life without hyper-focusing on foods, which can lead to disordered eating.
Dr. Liz’s Advice
I always want to share great information and build community with those with lived experience. I am so lucky to have crossed paths with Liz at an eating disorder conference and reached out to her for her best tips! Dr. Liz Kopco, a Latina Health Coach and Advocate, strives to share her experiences as a PhD in STEM (Molecular Biology) to learning how to thrive with type 2 diabetes for well-being of the community. Here, she shares her tips for the holidays:
- Pay attention to your mood: Blood glucose levels can really impact our moods. Higher blood sugar levels can make us easily irritated and frustrated. Low glucose levels can make us feel extremely drained, exhausted, and foggy-brained despite being well-rested.
- Check your pee: Keep an eye on how much you’re urinating and the color. Frequent urination can be a sign of high blood glucose levels. Darker-colored urine can indicate dehydration. Staying well hydrated by drinking at least half your body weight in oz can help keep your blood glucose levels within your target range.
- Eat everything in moderation: Living with diabetes doesn’t mean you have to restrict what you eat. Eating everything in moderation, so individual servings versus eating straight from the bag/container will help you be mindful with your eating, enjoy your favorite foods, and not have extremely high blood sugar level spikes.
- Swap or Keep: You can still enjoy all of your cultural foods when living with diabetes! To be mindful of your blood glucose levels, you can make ingredient swaps like using cauliflower rice instead of white rice in dishes. You can also enjoy your recipes just as they are but be mindful of the portion sizes you are eating. Enjoy that naan or tortillas!
Bonus tip: If you use a CGM, it helps to occasionally confirm your blood sugar levels with a blood glucose meter to make sure it is accurate before making any decisions about your health.
Dr. Liz believes that everyone deserves to live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life. You can check out her website here!
Holidays are for Memories
The holiday season is a time of food, family, and fun. Diabetes, although serious, should not stop you from enjoying the season or a long, wonderful, life. Effectively managing your diabetes lets you enjoy all the festivities of the winter holiday season without compromising your health. Keeping yourself in top condition is a wonderful gift for yourself and your loved ones.
Carla K. Miller, Jean L. Kristeller, Amy Headings, Haikady Nagaraja, W. Fred Miser. Comparative Effectiveness of a Mindful Eating Intervention to a Diabetes Self-Management Intervention among Adults with Type 2 Diabetes: A Pilot Study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2012; 112 (11): 1835 DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.07.036