Ask Dana: Can I have better diabetes management over the holidays?


I look forward to the holidays every year but they always seem to derail my efforts towards my diabetes and healthy eating.  No matter what I do, I seem to not only gain weight over November and December but I also seem to have consistently higher blood sugars related to overeating.  Do you have suggestions to help me manage a bit better over the holiday season without taking away too much from my enjoyment of this time of year?

Cindy Kipp, Cincinnati, Ohio


Dear Cindy,

Every year I get a lot of questions just like this.  Enjoying the holidays does become a bit more stressful when you throw diabetes management along with weight loss efforts into the mix.  Try not to set unrealistic expectations this time of year – staying “weight stable” is a good goal so as to still enjoy this festive time of year.  Of course, that does take some effort as well.

Setting up a few measurable goals for yourself over the holidays is an important step towards keeping your health goals.  Consider monitoring both your activity and eating over the holidays.  Often, things we can monitor, we can also control.  This can be done through a food diary or smartphone app.  Monitoring can also be done through meal planning or even taking pictures of the food you eat.  Aim to schedule time for exercise and healthy activities in your calendar throughout your schedule of eating activities.  Ideally, family and friends are willing to take part in walks and other activities that are out of the house or off the couch.

In preparation for holiday meals and events, prepare healthy snacks for yourself beforehand.  I often have a hearty snack of high-fiber vegetables and lean proteins before events so I don’t overindulge and I am able to keep my hunger (read: blood sugars) under control.  If you are not sure of healthy options at an event, bring one to share.  If you bring fresh berries or sorbet for dessert, I’m sure you are not the only one who will be happy to have a healthier option at the end of a large meal.

Accountability during the holidays can also be a good tool to have in place. Find a friend or family member who also wants to eat healthy and manage their health during the holidays.  An “accountability buddy” can help you stay honest to yourself and keep track of the healthy choices you are making.  If you don’t have a local friend or family member to lean on for accountability, try the online community or an app to help you stay true to your goals.  You are not the only one who struggles with staying healthy over the holidays.

Managing stress and getting enough sleep is another way to help you manage blood sugars and cravings for processed carbohydrates.  This is, of course, true even when it is not a busy time of year.  Despite it is being easier said than done, remembering that both stress and sleep impact your diabetes management can often be a nice motivator to decrease your “to do” list or get to sleep early following a late night.

And, as with all things related to diabetes management, give yourself grace.  Aim to enjoy the holidays in a balanced way with some indulgence but more of the healthy choices.  One  “cheat” meal will not impact your overall health and weight goals.  However, if you don’t feel comfortable with your efforts and your strategies towards healthy eating, give us a call.

Our IDS team of educators can help you navigate the holidays with a bit more guidance if you need it.  Happy Holidays!