Are You Worried about How to Manage Diabetes During the Holidays?
The holidays bring a sense of joy and excitement, and are the seasons to relish special holiday goodies with friends and family. However, they come with a significant amount of stress too, and for many diabetics, there is the constant worry of gaining weight, spiked blood sugar levels and even developing type 2 diabetes. Here’s how to properly manage diabetes and still enjoy the festive period.
Managing Stress Levels During the Holidays
When living with diabetes, it is important to be realistic about your limits in order to prevent a stress overload. If you are invited over for a function or requested to get involved with something you just can’t work into your schedule, feel free to politely decline.
However, depriving yourself of too many of the joys of the holidays might end up being more stressful than giving in. So, try to find a healthy balance of activities, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Managing stress levels during the holidays involves doing one or the more of the following:
- Keep stress triggers at bay.
There is a high chance of stress from the added demands of the holidays, and stress affects blood glucose levels. Feelings of fatigue and getting wound up leads to an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone responsible for insulin resistance. You can lower cortisol levels naturally by simply pausing to take a few deep, slow breaths, or doing some relaxing yoga poses like child’s pose. According to research, yoga releases GABA, a neurotransmitter which has been linked to lower anxiety levels.
Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once. Save some time to just be with family and loved ones, to play board games, sit around the fire and talk or go for a hike in the woods.
- Prioritize sleep.
A generous amount of sleep is still needed, even during the busy holidays. Studies show a high chance of obesity among people who get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep.
In addition, being constantly tired increases your chances of making poor decisions about food, so that controlling your blood sugar is more difficult. You might find yourself reaching for sugary or carb-heavy treats to quickly boost your energy.
You cannot afford to deprive yourself of sleep, especially during this period. In fact, only two days without proper sleep and your body starts to experience higher glucose and lower insulin levels.
- Remember to workout.
A regular exercise routine helps to keep your stress levels, weight and sugar levels in check. So, during the holidays, ensure you are not slacking on your exercise routines. When you wake up in the morning, try simple doing exercises like push-ups, jumping jacks and jumping rope for about 15 minutes.
Find creative ways to fit an exercise into your busy day. You could even make shopping a fitness activity by walking up and down the mall while carrying your heavy, gift-filled bags. Another option is to park at the far end of the mall parking lot and take brisk walks to and from your car.
Managing Food Intake during the Holidays
During the holidays, you can indulge in some treats in little quantities. Fighting the urge or forbidding a food might only increase your desire for it to the point that when you finally give in, you can overindulge.
The secret to managing your food intake during the holidays is to use portion control and don’t feel guilty.
You should plan ahead for holiday events, and bring some diabetic-friendly appetizers or main dish to share with your friends and family. This is a great way to ensure there is something at the party that works with your meal plan. Consider practising the following during the holidays:
- Pick portions wisely.
Classic portion-control advice works great for holiday food – choose larger portions of healthy items and small portions of the other calorie-dense, nutrient-poor stuff. Take a minute to see the available foods, so you can choose your favorites without unnecessarily loading your plate.
Implement a one-plate rule, or pick only three food items at a time. For example, reach for more salad, lightly seasoned veggies and white-meat turkey, and less stuffing, rolls and potatoes. You will be able to prevent the effects of a glucose surge by balancing high-fibre vegetables and protein with small portions of starches and sugar-laden foods.
- Eat healthy in restaurants.
There is a greater chance that you’ll eat out a lot during the holidays. Just be sure to carefully watch what you eat, and you’ll be fine. Many restaurants offer healthy options not written on the menu, so you should always try asking for options with less sugars, fried foods or saturated fats. Make substitutions where you can: olive oil with fresh pepper for butter, sweet potatoes for white potatoes, hummus for onion dips, and so on.
Whether you are home for the holidays or abroad on vacation, be sure to have your health care personnel on speed dial so that you can ask questions if you are unsure about anything on the menu.
- Cook healthy versions of your holiday meals.
If you are doing the cooking, use healthy ingredients to make your best festive meal a guilt-free treat. Keep your glucose and appetite in check with stevia, which is a great alternative to sugar and a good part of a diabetes diet.
Instead of an apple pie topped with ice cream, choose a baked apple with low-fat Greek yogurt and a cinnamon stick added to it. Also, you can bake your stuffing in muffin tins to save fat and calories instead of cooking it in the bird. Other healthy tricks are replacing a whole egg with two egg whites, using turkey sausage instead of pork, and choosing barley for a whole grain, high fibre alternative.
Managing diabetes during the holidays can be difficult, especially with all the activities, parties, cooking and shopping to be done. As long as you stay smart with your food choices, avoid stress and remember to throw in some exercise, you’ll handle the season just fine.