Are You Ready for the Holidays?

Well, here it comes: The hardest time of year for people with long-term health conditions like diabetes.


How bad can the holidays be? Well, when I worked in emergency rooms, we knew we’d see more strokes, more heart attacks, more accidents, and just about everything except sunburn during the holiday season. The patient list usually included a fair number of people with hyper- or hypoglycemia.

It’s easy to see why. During the holidays, there’s always lots of food, lots of alcohol, and lots of people. Sometimes you’re traveling; sometimes you have guests coming to you. It’s hard to keep on a self-management routine when your situation keeps changing, when it might be harder to find time to exercise and harder to stay on your meal plan.

There may also be emotional issues with family members that can stress you and throw you off. Even people you love can make you a little crazy if they’re fighting with each other, bringing up old issues, or pushing your buttons. Some may not accept your diabetes and go out of their way to make it difficult for you, like when Aunt Helen says, “I made this chocolate cheesecake, just the kind you like,” and implies that she’ll be very hurt if you don’t take a big piece.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just one night. But it’s more like six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. (Nine weeks if you start with Halloween like my family does.) The cookies, candies, and cakes just keep coming. So do the visitors and special events.

For people who don’t have family members nearby, or are not on good terms with them, loneliness can turn the holidays into a sad time. So can lack of sunlight—these are the shortest days of the year. Darkness is depressing, and depression interferes with self-management.

Not All Bad
Holidays can also be times of healing. Families and friends coming together can share love and resolve old hurts. We can gain good feelings and memories that can motivate us for months or years to come. We don’t want to avoid the holidays, but we do want to experience them in the healthiest ways we can.

Maybe we can help each other get through the holidays and get the most out of them. What have been your holiday self-management experiences? What has caused you the most problems? What have been the greatest benefits and joys? What solutions and strategies have you come up with? Share them with us here, and maybe we’ll all have a great six weeks!

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  • Sharon

    I’m the cook for these events so I can at least control the content of food. For years I’ve been paring down the fat and carbs in each dish and have figured out the carbs for a serving of each ahead of time. But I have to make a conscious effort to stop and think when I sit down to eat. Sometimes I have to do that more than once during one meal. Gone are the days when I can just eat and enjoy. Now I have to be deliberate about it all. If I don’t, I end up taking too much insulin or not enough. I get in a walk sometime after the main meal. That helps me keep my wits about me and gives me an emotional as well as physical break from all the excitement. I also check my blood glucose more often than usual and make adjustments if necessary.


  • Zee

    Ah the holidays, the times where smelling is a bit hazardous to my health. I actually haven’t found a way to err, not smell those delicious pies, sweets, turkeys and other questionable yet delectable tid-bits.

    My family is thankfully very understand, at least after the umpteen time when I said in my thanksgiving prayer, “please let most of the food be edible by me or at least not kill me until after I enjoyed it.” My family learned to make more healthy thanksgiving dinners.

  • Lee

    The Holidays have not been a problem for me as a person with diabetes (PWD) since 1957.
    I love the holidays, the prep, decorations – the works!

    The family prepares a healthy, holiday menu . We help one another to shorten the prep time! My exceptions are: use whole wheat flour, fresh veggies and fruits for salads, lemon juice or honey & herbs for salad dressing. Desserts, liquors, wine are the usual and I have one bite/sip and then just ignore them! Too busy catching up on family gossip!!:-))

    No gravies, or potatoes but plenty of w/wheat sourdough bread dressing with herbs. My choice of foods and ingredients are healthy and good for everyone! When I began this routine about 1965 there was some comment & raising of eyebrows-until they tasted the food! They understood immediately and wanted the recipes.

    My joy comes from love of family and friends gathered together.; food is secondary!

    Happy joyous holidays!

  • Ephrenia

    This Thanksgiving will be exceptionally hard on my family. Last year we skipped Thanksgiving because my Dad was in Intensive Care and we were camped out at the hospital. We let him go the next day. This will be our first Thanksgiving without him, and the memories of last year will be extra fresh in our minds.

    Dad was diabetic (as am I) and had developed cellulitis. Maybe its a blessing he died before the amputations began. I know I’m going to be super conscious of the complications.

    I’m sorry if this is a downer. But I do want everyone to take care of themselves.

  • Beth

    Ephrenia, my heart goes out to you. In November of 2000, my mother died quite suddenly. The first Thanksgiving without her was hard. But it got easier each year after that. Although we still miss her, now the sadness is subdued, and the good memories are sweeter.

    Here are two suggestions for staying healthy through the holidays that work for me:

    First, for me, the sweetness of my memories of people now gone actually helps me pas up sweets that are not good for me. I cannot explain how this works. All I can say is that it does. Somehow sharing good memories about the generation that is gone now helps me not care so much about food.

    Secondly, I have a simple rule for myself: During the holidays, I don’t eat anything that I don’t REALLY like. For example, while I don’t actively dislike cranberries, I don’t like them a lot, so I don’t eat them. And mashed potatoes aren’t so special for me, so I don’t eat those either. I save the calories for things I really Like a lot.

  • David Spero RN

    Thanks everyone for these great suggestions. Many of them I have never heard before, and I like them. Maybe someone can turn them into an article or a book!

    Ephrenia, I hope you and your family can find some healing in the holiday/anniversary of your father’s death.