How to deal with the festive season - and diabetes


How to deal with the festive season - and diabetes


Hot sunny weather! Time off from work! Festive meals with family and friends! And diabetes. While living with a chronic condition is never fun, it’s particularly challenging during the festive season, when it seems as if treats lurk around every corner. Whether you’re looking at a silly season full of family meals or work functions, day trips or lazy days at home by the pool, it’s tempting to indulge in the kind of food you can usually avoid quite easily… That’s why we’ve compiled these helpful tips.


5 ways to survive the silly season with diabetes


1. Know yourself

Everyone is tempted by different things. Do you see a bowl of ice-cream and melt? Or dive headfirst into a bowl of chips? Once you know what tempts you, you can manage it. It’s up to you to decide if you need to resist all unhealthy food, or if you can afford a few treats. But remember the golden rule:


2. Everything in moderation

While people without diabetes can indulge in a binge (of food or drink) and only have a headache or a sore stomach to pay for it, those of us living with diabetes need to be more careful. Whether or not you’re on insulin, overindulging in the wrong kind of food can be dangerous - there’s nothing less festive than high blood sugar. Headaches, exhaustion, feeling exhausted and grumpy? No thanks.


3. Be prepared

Perhaps the most important tip when it comes to festive feasting is to be prepared. If you know you’re going to a drinks party where only light snacks are going to be served (the kind of light snacks that are loaded with carbs and play havoc with blood sugar), offer to bring a plate of eats. You can take a delicious platter of crudité (fresh chopped cucumber, carrots, celery or peppers with baby tomatoes and sugar snap peas) and dips. No doubt everyone else at the party will appreciate the healthy option too! It’s also a good idea to never arrive at a party hungry - even if it’s a dinner party. If you eat a healthy snack before you go, you’ll be less likely to make the wrong choices when faced with delicious un-diabetes-friendly options.


4. Be informed

You know how important it is to be informed about your condition, and how various foods and drinks affect your blood sugar. This is even more important during the silly season, when there is more food and drink on offer, seemingly around every corner! Be aware if you can drink alcohol - and if you do, which drinks you should choose. In general, mixers are a bad idea (tonic has as much sugar in it as Coke, so opt for gin and soda rather than gin and tonic) and beer is full of carbs. A 340ml beer is the same as eating a slice of white bread...


5. Have fun!


Try not to become obsessed with food and what you can and can’t eat. Remember that this season is all about quality time with family and friends - and time to unwind and relax. Sometimes that’s an ice-cream on the beach, sometimes that’s time spent around a braai, and sometimes it’s simply a cup of tea before the heat of the day kicks in. There are so many ways to enjoy yourself this season, and no reason for diabetes to get in the way of them as long as you keep these tips in mind. 


The greatest reward for good diabetes control is that you’ll feel well and full of energy. Here’s to a wonderful festive season!


Why I appreciate diabetes during the festive season


I know it might sound funny to say it, but I’m always a little grateful to be a Type 1 diabetic during the festive season. Sure, I’d love to be able to eat whatever I wanted without having to think about the carb content, but then I’d probably be indulging in all kinds of things I know aren’t good for me. Diabetes has given me the perfect excuse - and best motivation - to eat consciously. Any time I’m tempted by something unhealthy, I ask myself, “Is it worth an insulin injection?” Sometimes the answer is yes, and sometimes the answer is no, but I know that if I didn’t have that moment of pause I would eat many things my body wouldn’t thank me for. 


Similarly, knowing how wonderful exercise is for blood sugar ensures I put my walking shoes on a couple of times a week and roll out my yoga mat for 20 minutes a day. Would I do that without diabetes? Maybe… Probably not. I think of diabetes as the angel on my shoulder, whispering in my ear how important it is to look after myself: to eat well, to get active, to manage my stress, to sleep enough. If I don’t, that little angel gets angry and spikes my blood sugar until I behave.


I am grateful for the reminder to take care of myself - and even more grateful for how abundantly well I feel when I do!

  • Bridget McNulty


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