December 18, 2015

Diabetes and the Holidays


Seasons greetings, my dear Lyfebulb community! I hope you are planning to spend some special time with your loved ones. And for those of us with type 1 diabetes, it’s important to remember that our medical condition comes along for the ride too. Here are some tips on keeping things both festive and healthy:

Count Carbs: This is a tricky item on our list of holiday challenges.

When I’m not cooking, weighing, and measuring in my own kitchen, there are two things that I try to keep in mind:

1) Make your best guess.
While eating away from home, estimation is my key to success. I look over what I’m about to eat, and tap into my inner dialogue:
“That’s about a half cup of beans. I’ll call it 20 grams of carb.”
“I could count this cornbread the same as sandwich bread. Let’s say, 25 grams.”

I’ll often taste dishes to inform my decisions:
“The sauce probably adds another 10 grams.”
“This tastes like it has more fat and protein than I thought. I’ll count it as 16 grams instead of 30.”

I also try to consider whether there will be dessert, and how many carbs I should add to the list for that.

2) Remember to make your best guess.
Sometimes I get caught up in socializing, and it’s harder to focus on what/how much I’m eating. Taking a moment to slow down and size up my food is critical.

 Ask for Help: When you have an issue, it doesn’t hurt to explain your situation to the people around you.

I arrived at a bar recently, only to discover that my blood sugar was low. Thanks to Karin Hehenberger’s tips on drinking alcohol, I knew that I needed to bring the blood sugar up before ordering a drink.

The bartender seemed confused when I asked for a half cup of juice. “Uh. What kind juice?”

“I don’t care,” I told him. “I have diabetes, so any juice would be great.”

“Say no more!” He told me, grabbing a bottle from the fridge. He refused to charge me for the juice, telling me that diabetes runs in his family. “Cheers,” he said, passing me the glass.

 Accommodate for Travel: The inactivity of traveling long distances tends to push your blood sugar higher than normal.

To compensate for this, I often make some adjustments before and during a trip.

Driving from New York to visit family in New Hampshire was going to take about five hours. This is a lot more sitting than I’m a costumed to! So here’s what I did:

1) I took more basal insulin.
An hour before getting in the car, I set the basal rate on my insulin pump to deliver 130% of the normal dose, for the next four hours.

2) I ran intervals.
Since my dad was driving, we agreed that I could get a head start on foot. While everyone else finished packing the car, I threw on my sneakers and ran sets of sprints. They picked me up twenty minutes down the road, refreshed and ready for the trip.

3) I monitored my blood sugar.
While sitting in the car, I kept a close eye on my blood sugar. If it started trending up out of the target range, I’d make small adjustments by insulin dose. If it started trending down out of the target range, I’d make small adjustments by snacking.

Be Patient: Of course you do your best, but you’re not a superhero.

When diabetes throws me a curve ball, I try to stay calm. I consider the circumstances, think resourcefully, and plan my next moves. I also try not to blame myself for making mistakes, because it only adds stress to an already difficult situation. “Oh, Diabetes,” I think. “You’re keeping me on my toes!”

One time I was staying with my cousin, Matt, for a long weekend, and I realized I hadn’t packed enough insulin. When we got to the pharmacy, I learned that a fresh bottle would cost $250. Yikes!

Recognizing my distress at this news, the pharmacist shared that we could probably find a generic insulin at a cheaper price a few blocks away.

Matt then remembered that his buddy also has diabetes. They talked briefly on the phone. His friend was happy to help out, and he joined us for dinner that night. Not only was it a relief that I didn’t have to buy more insulin, but I had a really nice time sharing stories and tips with a fellow diabetic!

Wishing you all a wonderful, healthful holiday season!
What challenges do you experience with diabetes and vacation? Feel free to leave a comment and check out more of my articles on twitter @Robinrjsmith.