Guilty pleasures are certainly in abundance between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. However, if you are a person with diabetes, too much guilty pleasure may make your A1C resemble something less pleasant than a picture print by Currier and Ives.
With the holiday season upon us, there will be more turkey, mashed potatoes, Hanukkah gelt and gift boxes of chocolates than you can shake a lancet at. But does having diabetes mean you have to refrain from seasonal indulgences? Must you toe the line and watch while your family and friends without diabetes eat all the goodies?
When They Pass Around the Coffee and Pumpkin Pie
Linda Nourie, who has type 2 diabetes, says she “takes a holiday” from her eating routine every holiday season.
“Absolutely! [People with diabetes] deserve special meals just like everyone else. There is no reason I can’t enjoy a special meal—just within reason. I’m ‘good’ the rest of the time.”
During the holiday season, Nourie says, she saves up a few extra calories every day so she can “splurge” a little.
“And my blood glucose may be a little higher than usual, but as my doctor says, ‘One day once in a while won’t hurt; just don’t overdo.’ “
Sandy Fields, a type 2 from Ross, Ohio, used to associate holidays with anguish, distress, agony, torture and martyrdom.
“No more!” proclaims Fields, who, after 10 years of having diabetes, has become accustomed to smaller portions. “I no longer have the urge to eat a lot. Therefore, I can go ‘off-line’ without disaster. A tablespoon of cranberry relish, two of stuffing, yams, and corn pudding with a very small piece of pumpkin or mince pie (skip the crust) and of course some turkey, ham, carrot salad, and greens make up more than enough of a meal. Followed by a nice stroll around the neighborhood—and voila.”
Vicki Abbott, a type 1 from Portland, Oregon, doesn’t change her eating routine during the holidays.
“On Thanksgiving, I’ll have a little bit of ‘forbidden foods,’ including stuffing, yams and pumpkin pie. But I’ll skip the pecan pie—too sweet! I’ll have larger portions of turkey, salad and veggies.”
Michael Warren of Nashua, New Hampshire, reports that he eats whatever is put in front of him during the holiday season. A type 1 for 12 years and an insulin pump user, Warren believes that he can compensate for any indulgences by counting carbs or with a correction bolus.
“I have a lot of freedom with my pump.”
For all the sitting around that also comes with the holiday season, Warren tends to increase his basal rate and sometimes—but not as often as he needs to—uses extended bolus options, “especially at dinner if I totally overeat.”
Sonny Jones of Alexandria, Virginia, is approaching his second holiday season as a person with type 2. He intends to watch the portions and foods he eats during the holidays.
“I know the consequences of trying to make up for it afterward,” he says. “Last year, my weight control was wrecked by the holidays. I regained probably 12 to 15 pounds of what I had lost the preceding summer, and that influenced my eating after. So, altogether, I’m now 20 pounds over my best weight in mid-2001. I don’t want a repeat.”
Jeffrey W. Wiggs, a type 1 from Knoxville, Tennessee, admits that at the beginning of the holiday season he gets a craving for chicken and dumplings, and it does not stop until the season is over. His secret for staying in control during the holiday season is exercise.
“More walks, biking and parking farther away from buildings where I am going. I also check my blood glucose much more often—10 times or more each day.”
E.T. Whynot, a type 2 from The Villages, Florida, would like to see the holidays focused more on family and not so much on food. Regardless, he notes that his secret to having great holiday meals and keeping his blood glucose in check is to substitute.
“For example, instead of mashed potatoes and gravy, I use sweet potatoes or yams. I serve mostly fresh green vegetables, not in any type of sauce. A small piece of pumpkin pie that has been made with fresh pumpkin and skim milk and served with fat-free topping does not change my glucose levels.”
A Variety of Attitudes
Annette Klein of Baltimore, Maryland, resents that people without diabetes can overindulge and enjoy themselves while she has to watch every bite.
Abbot says it doesn’t bother her at all that other people can eat foods she chooses to avoid.
“I just think of how I’m not going to get diabetes complications from indulging indiscriminately, and I’m perfectly happy,” she explains.
Agnes Moore, a type 1 who was diagnosed two years ago, avoids hanging out during the holidays with people who “pig out on things I can’t have,” as she puts it.
“That’s just torture. When I go to a pot luck, I try to choose what I think fits into my meal plan or just take small portions so that I don’t feel so out of it. If people encourage me to take more, I say that I simply can’t.”
Dawn K. Reimer, a type 2 from Walled Lake, Michigan, uses her diabetes and willpower during the holiday to her advantage.
“There is nothing more rewarding when January rolls around than knowing that you have made it through a month of temptations. And the best feeling of all? Losing weight in the process!”