AskNadia: Cheating My Diabetes for One Day During The Holidays

Dear Nadia,

Labor Day is coming up, and after Tuesday it will be one party after another for me. Sept to December is the hardest time with my friends and family who do not understand diabetes. They pressure me into “cheating.” One day here, one day there. They are not keeping count of all the cheat days they want me to take. They have no idea how hard it is to keep my blood sugar in the normal range. My last A1c came down from 7.8 to 7.5.


Dear Elisabeth:

I want to congratulate you on bringing your A1c down. Take a moment and think about the changes you were willing to make to achieve a better A1c level. Often, we move on to the next issue focusing on what is not working before we appreciate the efforts we have put in to create change. Write this down in a book, so when you have bad days, you remind yourself that you are successful in creating new habits.

Change is never easy. Be it good or bad our brain likes a predictable routine. Anytime your brain thinks it’s going to be hard to create change; it will try to go to the default mode because it prefers pleasure.

The holidays are tough for everyone. With or without diabetes.

Holiday Weight Gain

If you choose to indulge and take insulin to keep your blood sugar balanced, you may put on weight since insulin is a growth hormone.

Despite what we have read for years, holiday weight gain is a lot less than what we were lead to believe. One research study showed participants in a holiday weight gain study assumed that they gained four times the weight then what the scale reflected. To their surprise, the scale showed less than a one pound gain. A higher weight gain, five pounds or higher for some, was associated with participants that already had excess weight and were classified as obese.

Get the Holiday Weight Off ASAP

What is important to understand about weight gain? Have a scale, weigh in more frequently and do not keep excess weight after the holidays; a key to decreasing weight that can build up over time. One to two pounds a season adds up, making it more difficult to lose weight later.

Eating During The Holidays and Your Blood Sugar

If you take a type 2 medication- over indulging during holidays may not cover the excess rise in blood sugar; making you susceptible to ketones.

When the body’s blood sugar is balanced, the brain, organs and cells use the sugar for energy to carry out its normal functions.

A high blood sugar may prevent these functions from naturally occuring. To utilize what is is available , it will turn to the fat in the body for energy. Ketones is when the body metabolizes fat for energy to sustain the normal bodily functions.

My Holiday Party Tips to Avoid Overindulging

As you already know too well- eating foods that shoot up your blood sugar and stress your body will not make you feel good in the long run. It’s essential to have a strategy before you go to any social gathering.

Over the years I have been disappointed with my lack of discipline. Beating myself up, silently counting all the foods I have  eaten at a party generally makes me feel bad. Even worse, my feelings of not being successful seems to spill over in different aspects of my life, making me doubt myself when feeling more vulnerable.

Now I have a strategy before going to holiday gatherings. This has been perfected over the years allowing me to stay on my diet when friends and family pressure me to eat or drink party foods that will not help me maintain a normal weight.

I consider this is a lifestyle choice. I love attending gathering and do not want to limit the occasions because of my lack of discipline. It’s also an exercise in being comfortable in saying “No” and setting boundaries with well intentioned people.

Here Are My Tips for You

Tip Number 1: Before you go to a party or any gathering that involves food and drink, eat protein just before you get there. I eat a handful of raw almond before I arrive at such events. This has proven to be helpful in sticking to my  diet because if I arrive hungry, I am more likely to overindulge.

As a person who is susceptible to low blood sugar; left to my own means while feeling low; I am less discriminating with my food choices when feeling anxious from hypoglycemia.

Feeling full from the handful of raw almonds before I arrive at a celebration- allows me to cultivate proven and reliable habits.

Tip Number 2: You can always say you had a late lunch or early dinner, modify to the occasion when being pressured to eat. This way you are sending the message that you are full right now. Not excluding the upcoming time at the party. It’s just a “No” right now.

Tip Number 3: If someone insists on you trying something- Say oh that looks good. I wish I could have some but my medical dietary needs restrict me from doing so. As good as it looks, it will make me feel really sick in the long run.

I find giving a lengthy explanation puts people in a mild trance, making them less likely to keep pushing me to eat something that is not beneficial to my over all health.

Tip Number 4: Always test your blood sugar before during and after parties. Testing used to be expensive. But now you have so many low cost alternatives, making it easier to take a blood sugar test.

Even when you think you are making good food choices;  ingredients are not always identifiable by taste. Sugar in a balsamic and olive oil salad dressing for example may not taste sweet but it will affect your blood sugar.

One reason for taking your blood sugar reading is to see how foods affect you. If your blood sugar needs to be treated, you can treat it with insulin as instructed by your healthcare professional.

For non- insulin or non-medication- people living with diabetes, ask your healthcare professional how to manage a high blood sugar after a glucose test when attending holiday gatherings.

I hope these tips help you with all the upcoming holidays as they continue to help me.


A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain

Weight Gain over the Holidays in Three Countries


Nadia’s feedback on your question is in no way intended to initiate or replace your healthcare professional’s therapy or advice. Please check in with your medical team to discuss your diabetes management concerns.

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AskNadia (ranked #1 by Google), named “Best Diabetes Blog for 2017 by Healthline and with 24 nominations, Nadia Al-Samarrie’s efforts have made her stand out as a pioneer and leading patient advocate in the diabetes community.

Nadia was not only born into a family with diabetes but also married into one. She was propelled at a young age into “caretaker mode,” and with her knowledge of the scarcity of resources, support, and understanding for people with diabetes, co-founded Diabetes Interview, now Diabetes Health magazine.

Nadia has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, and other major cable networks. Her publications, medical supply business, and website have been cited, recognized and published in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal, Ann Landers advice column, former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca, Entrepreneur magazine, Houston News,, Brand Week, Drug Topics, and many other media outlets.

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