7 Myths about Celebrating the Holidays with Diabetes
November is National Diabetes Month. It’s also the start of the holiday season. Are you dreading the coming months of celebrations, wondering how you’ll manage the holidays and diabetes? Read on for 7 myths about celebrating the holidays with diabetes and tips to conquer these common misconceptions.
Myth 1: Having diabetes takes the joy out of holiday feasts
It doesn’t have to. It really doesn’t. Many special homemade dishes are prepared just for the holidays, and you can definitely partake. Choose small portions of your favorites, eat mindfully, and enjoy every bite. Eating slowly is important, and you will enjoy it more if you savor it. Try putting your fork down between bites. Another option is to bring your own favorite dish that’s healthy and delicious. Try my seasonal salad. You can feel good about sharing healthy food, and you’ll guarantee there’s a good option for you on the table. Last, but not least, focus on the people around you. Celebrating holidays together is about showing the people you care about just how much you love them. Taking care of your own health is one way you can show you love your family – that you are committed to being around for more of life’s celebrations.
Myth 2: Sweets and sugary drinks make it impossible to manage diabetes
This is a tricky one since chances are you will encounter sugar cookies and hot chocolate at some point during the holiday season. However, that doesn’t mean they have to derail you from managing your own health. If it’s something you love, have a small portion, combine it with protein and fiber to help blunt the blood sugar spike if you can (e.g. a handful of pistachios or almonds), and adjust the carbohydrates you have in other meals that day. If you can find a healthy nosh to replace something sweet, even better. As an alternative to sugary drinks, I honestly think clean plain water is so underrated. It’s so refreshing, and there’s even preliminary research suggesting drinking water half an hour before meals helps you eat less.
Myth 3: Artificial sweeteners are the best way to satisfy your sweet tooth
Foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners that won’t raise blood sugar (e.g. Stevia, Splenda, Sweet ‘N Low, Nutrasweet) are an OK option if that’s what’s right for you, but I prefer to recommend a long term solution of training your palate to prefer naturally less sweet tastes. Another concern, based on early research published in 2014 in the journal Nature, suggests that artificial sweeteners affect the body in a way that leads to diabetes. Keep in mind that this research is far from conclusive; still, there are many compelling reasons to manage diabetes with natural, whole foods.
Myth 4: There’s no time to exercise during the holidays
There’s always time for exercise, but what is sometimes missing is motivation or opportunity. Assuming you are motivated, let’s look at how to provide opportunity. The time just after a meal is a great time to go for a walk with those you’ve just dined with. You can also just help clear the table. Another idea is to make your holiday plans active. For example, plan a group hike for the day after Thanksgiving and make an event of it (or join a local turkey trot).
Myth 5: It’s OK to go out of your target glucose range during the holidays
I think you already know the answer to this one. Of course it’s not OK. The good news is you can use the tips and tricks in this article to help manage blood sugar while still enjoying the holidays. When you keep your blood sugar in its target range you’ll feel better (good for you), which in turn makes you better company (good for your loved ones). Even short-term dips and spikes can quickly escalate to hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, or diabetic ketoacidosis. Long term, out of control blood sugar can damage blood vessels that go to important organs, leading to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and vision and nerve issues. There are so many reasons to get diabetes under control – just look in the mirror and all around you. Everyone who loves you wants you to be healthy and around for years to come.
Myth 6: You are all alone dealing with diabetes
Whether you are staying local or traveling this holiday season, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a local CVS that offers diabetes support. A CVS MinuteClinic is a great everyday resource to help you manage diabetes between doctor’s visits. MinuteClinic can also help screen you for high blood glucose, which is how diabetes and prediabetes is diagnosed. This is especially important because 1 in 3 Americans have prediabetes, but 90% of those have no idea. Prediabetes has few symptoms, yet puts a person at risk for developing diabetes. Getting screened sooner rather than later could mean being able to prevent diabetes. Check out a local CVS MinuteClinic for more information. MinuteClinic also has heart-healthy recipes, great for the whole family with new #FoodieFriday recipes each week.
Myth 7: Flu affects people with and without diabetes the same way
The holidays overlap with flu season. Coincidence? Could all the stress, over-indulging, and travel during the holiday season make us more susceptible to flu? Scientists don’t know for sure, but what we do know is that it gets even more complicated for people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2), whose immune systems have a harder time fighting off infections. Even if diabetes is being well-managed, there’s an increased risk of serious flu complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, and ear infections. To add insult to injury, being sick makes it harder to control blood sugars.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that anyone older than 6 months with diabetes gets a flu shot. The CDC says the shot is safe for people with diabetes, but to bypass the nasal spray option. Since flu is highly contagious, getting a flu shot isn’t just good for you, it’s good for the friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues you come into contact with. It’s easy to get a flu shot at your local MinuteClinic or CVS. Bonus: there’s a good chance it’ll be free with your insurance.