Moments of Weakness
Navigating the challenges of the holiday season.
By Kerri Sparling
November 2007 — It starts with that bowl of unwanted Halloween candy, sitting lost and forlorn in the office break room. My rationalization process shifts neatly into overdrive.
"Okay, well I tested and I'm 72 mg/dl. That means I need to eat something before the meeting so I don't bottom out. A snack-sized Three Musketeers bar will do the trick. And it's not technically cheating, because I need to eat something, right?"
In goes the candy bar, justified as a "special occasion." On goes the meeting. And so starts the trend.
With the holidays upon us in full force, there's a higher incidence of dinner with friends, holiday parties, and festive family gatherings. More "special occasions." Before I know it, almost every weekend is crammed with these out of the ordinary circumstances, my mouth is full of crme brulee, and I am eight pounds heavier.
It's a definite challenge for me to keep my diabetes management reigned in during the holiday season. I love eating out at restaurants with my fianc. I can't get enough of steaming hot cappuccinos in the company of friends. And I enjoy toasting the holiday season with my college roommates over a few glasses of wine.
Having lived most of my life with type 1 diabetes, I am accustomed to handling the holidays with some sugar-free savvy. My beloved Grammie used to bake up some sugar-free apple pies for me on Thanksgiving, and my friends are good about making sure my latte is the one with Equal in it, or a shot of sugar-free syrup. But with my wedding less than six months away and my desire for exceptional blood sugars at a frenzied peak, I need to do more over the holidays than just say "thank you" for the low-carb desserts.
There are challenges that come along with this determined mindset, but there are ways to negotiate such tricky moments. With my and my fianc's parents divorced, we're with four families to visit on the holidays instead of two. This can also mean four meals. This past Thanksgiving, I found myself eating at every table, only making small plates of turkey, green beans, and corn instead of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. (Even though it's sugary, cranberry sauce from the can blows my mind because it retains that can-shape through even the toughest of table circumstances. Even when you poke it with a fork, that sauce doesn't shift. Impressive.)
And then there's the whole exercise thing. Since my fianc and I live away from our home state, there is travel involved with every holiday. Instead of working out five or six times a week, we find ourselves trapped in the car for hours on end. Scraping for exercise opportunities, we've found ourselves at gyms in our hometowns, taking advantage of post-Thanksgiving promotional memberships, and going for long walks in our neighborhoods. Exercise is a crucial part of my diabetes management, and I see the effects of its absence sooner than I'd like to admit.
But my biggest challenge, without fail, is the "special occasion" caveat. One glass of wine? Okay, it's a special occasion. One slice of strawberry-rhubarb pie, or one high-fat cappuccino, or one cheese fondue dip? Special occasions all around! This mentality works when the occasions really are special (you can bet I'll be sampling the cake at my wedding), but in a season when every weekend holds something unique and celebratory, it's time to for some serious willpower.
A truly occasional indulgence works fine in my plan, but I need to keep the bigger picture in focus. The holidays are truly reasons to celebrate because they bring me together with my friends and family. I need to make sure I'm healthy, as being here for decades to come takes higher priority over a slice of "special occasion" pie.
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dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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