Surviving the Holiday Season

The holiday season is here! This time of year, is often filled with a mix of excitement and dread. If you have diabetes, you may experience additional stress as you figure out the best way to keep your diabetes under control while managing a day-to-day routine that is likely to be thrown off by holiday parties and family gatherings.

Tips to help keep you on track this holiday season:

  • Make a tentative plan

Advanced planning can make challenging situations more manageable (it is ok if things don’t go exactly as planned). Things that you may include in your plan:

    1. How will you handle holiday parties and eating away from home?
    2. How will you manage extra treats in the workplace?
    3. When will you have time to exercise?
    4. How will you maintain your weight (or prevent weight gain)?
    5. How will handle alcohol?
  • Holiday parties and eating away from home
      1. If the holiday party is a potluck, offer to bring a dish that you consider to be a healthy option.
      2. Before you eat, take inventory of what is available. This will help you plan for how you want to fill your plate.
      3. To help with portion control, use a dessert plate instead of a dinner plate (dinner plates are usually larger than dessert plates).
      4. If you are uncertain of what is going to be offered at the party, have a small (healthy) meal/snack ahead of time. If you come to the party feeling famished it will be harder to avoid tempting foods.
      5. Allow yourself at treat. Decide which indulgence you want the most and that you feel is worth the extra calories.
      6. If you are going out to eat, look at the menu ahead of time to see what healthy options are available.
  • Extra treats in the workplace
      1. Do your best to steer clear of the kitchen area. Keep the following in mind: “out of sight out mind”.
      2. Keep healthy snacks at work (i.e. nuts, seeds, cheese sticks, fresh fruit, air popped popcorn).
      3. Challenge your coworkers to bring in healthy snacks instead of high sugar junk foods. Lead by example. Instead of bringing in leftover cookies, bring in extra cut-up veggies with dip.
  • Finding time to exercise
    1. It may be challenging to keep up with your exercise routine during the holiday season. Consider the following suggestions:
      1. Exercise before work
      2. Walk on your lunch break
      3. Plan a holiday party that includes an activity (other than eating) such as: bowling, indoor putt-putt golf, ice-skating, etc.
      4. Put exercise on your calendar. Scheduling exercise will help you put time aside for exercise.
      5. Ask a friend to join you at the gym. Knowing that someone else is counting on you can help make you more accountable.
  • Maintaining your weight and preventing weight gain
      1. The holiday season is likely not the best time to try and lose weight. Maintaining any previously lost weight may be a more realistic goal.
      2. Keep a food journal. Documenting everything you consume will allow to you become more aware of hidden calories and situations that may trigger you to over indulge.
      3. Avoid excessively weighing yourself. If you need to know your weight, allow yourself to get on the scale once per week.
      4. Keep yourself well hydrated by always having a water bottle on hand. Thirst can be confused as hunger.
  • Handling alcohol
    1. Alcoholic beverages are commonly served at holiday parties and family gatherings. Keep the following in mind when consuming alcohol:
      1. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks all contain carbohydrates that may elevate your blood glucose. Lower carbohydrate options include: light beer, red wine, and mixed drinks made with a diet beverage.
      2. Alcohol can lower your inhibitions and enhance your appetite, making it easier to get off track and eat extra calories.
      3. If you manage your diabetes with insulin, avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach, as there is a greater risk for a low blood sugar while drinking and for up to 24 hours afterwards. Symptoms of intoxication and low blood sugar can be similar. Extra blood sugar monitoring may be necessary and should be discussed with your physician.

Take home point: The holiday season is about spending time with family and friends. This should (in my opinion) always be the main focus, not the food!

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