Diabetes and the Holidays: Words of Advice from Ryan, Torin, Rachel, and Deanelle

More DPAC Champions share their advice for navigating the holidays!

Ryan DeWald:

It's understandable that holiday gatherings can be distracting. Stacking insulin with smaller boluses is a prudent strategy to manage blood sugar levels during meals. Just continue to stay aware of your glucose levels, and if needed, check periodically to make adjustments. Having a continuous glucose monitor really helps allowing you to take your mind off diabetes and enjoy friends, family and the meal. Incorporating strenuous activity like a bicycle ride in the morning before a holiday meal is a proactive approach. It not only helps burn calories but can also enhance insulin sensitivity, making it easier to manage blood sugar levels. Balancing physical activity with mindful eating is a smart strategy to enjoy holiday meals while maintaining overall health. Managing alcohol with type 1 diabetes requires careful consideration. While alcohol can initially raise blood sugar, it may lead to a subsequent drop. It's crucial to monitor your levels and not overcompensate with insulin, as alcohol can affect glucose metabolism. Remember to stay hydrated, consume alcohol in moderation, and be mindful of your blood sugar levels throughout the drinking experience.

I hope these insights and tips are valuable for managing diabetes during the holidays. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season filled with joy, good health, and memorable moments with friends and family. If you ever have more questions or need assistance in the future, feel free to reach out.

Torin Saltos:

The holidays are the time of year when you spend time around the dinner table with family and friends feasting on seasonal treats and food that normally are not available throughout the year.

Sometimes a member of the family makes a tasty unique dish or bakes a special dessert. They should be enjoyed and celebrated, it's a festive time of year and we should all enjoy our time together. There is also a lot of snacking during the holiday season before any big meal. Plenty of nuts, trail mix, candies, fruit and veggies snacks. There are also a lot of seasonal beers, and egg nog treats, along with coquitos and ciders.

There is plenty to enjoy but these are all things that can spike your blood sugar levels. The thing most PWD are actively trying to avoid on a daily basis. I love all these things but it's also very stressful to manage your levels. We need to make sure our A1C is good during our next lab visit.

During these times of year, I make sure to be extra careful as to what it is I eat in the days leading up to a holiday feast. I track my intake and also monitor my numbers. I fast the day before and I check my blood sugar throughout the day. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes almost four years ago. I do not have a monitor, so I check my numbers manually.

This year, on Thanksgiving day I went for two rides on my bicycle. Each ride was about a half hour and I was able to cover six miles per ride. That helped keep me in check. The weather was very nice and I had a chance to see the neighborhood activity and witness folks putting up Christmas decorations. The season is definitely upon us.

I was able to maintain most of the day. I am not ashamed to admit that I did have a spike later in the evening. This was due to the two slices of pumpkin pie I had, HaHa! I could not resist! It was very tasty.

I try not to feel guilty during the holidays as I may feel at other times through the year when I may have a bad food day or have higher numbers than normal. I am happy to have a good support group around me who were checking up on me... I.e.: "Can you eat THAT?!"

I hope all of my fellow PWD have a happy and safe holiday season and I hope everyone is able to enjoy good food and good company.

Rachel Gartner Clark:

If your holiday traditions are anything like mine then they revolve around food. And I mean, a lot of food! Something that isn’t the easiest when living with type 1.

Sitting down for holiday feasts with my family have given me some of my fondest memories. These times often came with sustained high blood sugars, so I’ve learned to be more aggressive and proactive in my bolusing regimen. For me, leaning into devices like my CGM can allow me to set alerts a bit differently to help me bolus on lower readings that show I’m trending up than I would do outside of the holiday meals. While you won’t find Turkey on my plate - a controversial practice, I know - you will find apple pie and other holiday treats! Proactive bolusing helps me maintain tighter control without compromising my favorite food.

While the holidays are challenging to navigate, they hold such a special place in my heart. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 20 years ago on Thanksgiving. A shock in my teenage years, but something I can now say comes with gratitude.

Deanelle Thompson:

Navigating diabetes during the holidays can feel like a comedic challenge, but fear not – you can absolutely indulge in festivities without turning your pancreas into a grinch! Embracing the holiday spirit means embracing carbs, and trust me, that's perfectly fine in the diabetes game plan.

Living with diabetes means being flexible and also taking smart actions too. And the first thing is determining what is for yourself you want to do to make the holidays as fun and carefree as much even with diabetes. I never go into the holidays without a plan or just winging it, I never liked Ultimate frisbee. For the holidays, I always keep a mental list of five of the most important things for me based on what I want from myself going into the holiday season.

So, here are my top five festive survival tips:

1. Staying active. This does not mean going to the gym. With reconnecting and making time for my family and friends, I find that making that time to go to the gym difficult, but thank goodness for apps and chasing my six year old nephew, right, lol. Haha, for a six year old they have tons of energy and will help you without even knowing much or even doing much. And thanks to the adidas app, while I’m not playing with my nephew, I get my sweat in.

2. Giving myself grace. Managing diabetes is a lot and one way I maintain sanity is by not putting pressure on myself to expect perfection because for me that’s a root for an unhappy time during the holidays or even during any season. So, cut yourself some slack.

3. One day will not mess your A1C or time in range as much as you think. It’s okay to have a non diabetes day. Give yourself that mental and emotional break you need.

4. Snack wisely, but don’t be a snack Scrooge. Yes, you can enjoy that cookie, just be savvy about what accompanies it. And if you're with understanding family and friends, request some diabetes-friendly sweet treats. Trust me, they won't mind accommodating your snack preferences – it's a win-win for taste buds and blood sugar.

5. Learn the art of saying no - it’s the best feeling ever. You don’t have to play charades with every dish your grandma or momma insists you try. Setting boundaries is a game changer and makes a huge difference in keeping the holidays joyous. Politely decline (or not, you can be naughty if you want to!), what doesn’t align with your diabetes gameplan - your body will thank you.

Having diabetes doesn’t need to be a holiday buzzkill. It’s more like adding a little extra spice to the festivities. So, embrace the fun, enjoy the treats in moderation, and let your diabetes be the sidekick to your holiday adventures. Cheers to a season filled with laughter, love and controlled blood sugar levels!

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