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Don’t Deprive Yourself During the Holidays

One of the things I resent about the holidays is that of all the times of the year, news outlets and others, always seek to tell us that we need to be on a restrictive diets during the holidays: eat right, make good choices, eat whole grains, eat fruit… and then they couple that with ‘you can still be happy during the holidays, if you make the best choices.’(Then when that segment is over, they cut the camera to someone making a 2,000 calorie dessert.)

These folks are well meaning, but in my perspective, somewhat misguided. While there is nothing wrong with trying to make a favorite dish healthier, there is everything wrong with trying to police the food choices of obese people or of people with diabetes during a big holiday event, like Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, or Christmas Day. Instead, we should focus on healthful living through the year – so that the weight of our overall choices are what carry us, and not the need to deprive someone of a slice of cake on their birthday, or a portion of mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving.

The problem is that diabetes is NOT a black and white disease; it is not merely the act of eating less and moving more. We should move away from that thinking. Permanently. Diabetes is a psycho-social disease as much as physical disease and it will affect our family relations and interactions with others. It can make us feel deprived or slighted, completely judged, isolated and often patronized by others about our own condition and our choices, and this can seriously hamper the progress we make for the long term. The long term, because one does NOT want to take the attitude one takes into a 6 month diet plan into the managing of a life-long chronic health condition. This condition is a MARATHON, and the best way to run marathons is to prepare psychologically for the long haul, with mini oases, and refreshments along the way. A 200-meter dash and a marathon are two completely different sports; let’s not treat them like they are.

It has taken me my first 5 years of living with diabetes to learn this – that dietary perfection is NOT the way to manage diabetes, and teaching it and expecting it are misguided. Holidays are not days for being on strict diets; they are diabetes oases along the way.

We need to make reasonable changes and changes which will translate to better nutrition and cardiovascular health, but we also need to make changes that will translate into better mental health, and better brain pathway management of our habits. Food is not just simply a means to an end – fuel for activities – but it is also an essential component of our social bonds and interactions with others in our family and within our communities.  Some of our best memories are had around food, and this is an element that must be recognized by those attempting to help people living with such an insidious health condition as is type 2 diabetes.

So, this holiday season, enjoy your grandma’s apple pie. You don’t have to eat all ‘fat free,’ or all salad, or all whole grain. Simply practice moderation… not deprivation. You’ll be surprised by how far it takes you.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.