Thanksgiving “Vacation”?

It is a common saying within the diabetes community that there are no vacations from diabetes. This seems to be especially true for people with Type 1 diabetes, for whom the pancreas’ inability to produce insulin means there is no way for the body to regulate blood glucose on its own — a situation that can quickly lead to a dangerously high or low blood glucose level if the normal treatment routine is disrupted. Many people with Type 2 diabetes are, of course, in a similar situation, especially if they use insulin or another blood-glucose-lowering drug that requires calibrating doses with carbohydrate intake to avoid blood glucose spikes or dips. As the title of a recent post on the New York Times blog Well suggests, these individuals are often “thinking about diabetes with every bite.”


But some people with diabetes — especially Type 2 diabetes — suffer few, if any, short-term consequences from lapses in their diabetes routine. For these people, a vacation from diabetes may be possible, even if it incrementally raises the risk of certain long-term diabetic complications. Of course, what a vacation entails will be different for every person, and ignoring diabetes completely — by not taking prescribed drugs or completely ignoring eating recommendations — can be dangerous. But once in a while, it is undeniable that many people with diabetes allow themselves some wiggle room in their routine.

So this Thanksgiving, how much wiggle room will you give yourself? Do you think it’s important to stop worrying about what you eat every once in a while, or do you find deviating even slightly from your meal plan too risky? Do you feel guilty when you eat something you “shouldn’t,” or bitter when you skip a treat because of your diabetes? What, for you, is the right balance? Leave a comment below!

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  • Barbara Campbell

    I was diagnosed with Type II in July and am being treated with oral meds, diet and exercise. I don’t feel your generalization that Type II’s

    “suffer few, if any, short-term consequences from lapses in their diabetes routine. For these people, a vacation from diabetes may be possible,”

    is accurate. I am allowed 30 carbs per meal and 15 per snack, but find if I eat more than 10-15 at any one time my blood glucose levels spike and remain high the rest of the day unless I incorporate some fairly strenous physical activity. If I were to eat more than the 30 carbs at one time, I would literally be passing out, unable to function and feeling fuzzy headed the rest of the day. I don’t really call that a “vacation.” I defintely would categorize that as a “short-term consequence from lapses in my (their) diabetes routine.

    I do understand that my medical condition may not be the same as every other Type II out there, but with the millions of diabetic cases, I’m sure I’m not THAT unique.

    I will give myself NO wiggle room this holiday. If I want to be able to enjoy the company of my family,the football games, the parades and fun of the day, I will be even more stringent in my carb-counting and medication regimen. Most of the family may take a snooze on the couch after eating, but I want to be able to wake up.

  • Pat Mooney

    Since I use an insulin pump, I had allowed myself a little leeway to indulge on special occasions and just give myself an extra bolus to cover the carbs.
    However, lately I’ve noticed a correlation between painful leg cramps at night (and even muscle spasms in my hands while ironing clothes) and using more insulin than usual late in the day. By testing, I found it definitely relates to rapid blood sugar drops. So for me, it may not be worth the extra carbs.

  • Ron SOlano

    Diabetic meal management is a very individual process that is taylored for each person. A persons body metabolism is different and there are some people who can “take a vacation” for one day and go off the diet. However, one must consider moderation
    and not overdo it.

  • Judy Slyne

    I have had elevated bood sugar (pre diabetes) for nearly 13 years and have adopted a life style/eating habits change that has guided my meal consumption and kept my blood sugars in check.

    I will taste ALL at the table, eating small and in moderation. It will be wonderful!

  • Amanda Calhounsian

    For my Thanksgiving meal I eat just a very little bit of everything starchy, such as potatoes, dressing, and I fill up on non-starchy vegetables (green beans) and turkey. I usually skip the pumpkin pie, or have just one bite. I have type 2 diabetes and I am on Metformin, 500mg twice a day. My Ac1 is at 6.3.

  • Tom Embleton

    The only constraint rule I have been living under since diagnosis (Feb 2004) is weight. If I am under 25 BMI then I can eat about anything. Otherwise I watch what I eat.

    Currently, due to recent rains and bad weather canceling my tennis and bike rides, I am overweight by 7 pounds . Today is the first nice day and I am leaving on a 16 mile refresher ride in a bit, to toughen up the sit muscles.

    Tomorrow (T-Day) will be grilled pork tenderloin, grilled veggies (onions, squash, zucchini, mushrooms and red peppers), corn on the cob and a romaine and red-leaf lettuce salad (with carrots, grape tomatoes, diced sweet potatoes, and Italian parsley).

    I should end up with about 4-6 ounces of meat and the rest of the plate will be veggies and salad. A pretty nice spread of holiday cheer, even with control.

    Have a Great holiday…

  • Georgina

    I am a Type 2 dibetic, this is my solution..since we cannot take a vacation from diabeties, tis is what I do, I take very small portions of the things I want to try, instead of potatoes, I eat the yams, plenty of turkey white meat and a tiny, tiny bit of the rest and plenty of water..and after thanksgiving, i intend to walk the entire week to burn it out and then i will stay away from anything I am not suppose to eat…since i took a short vacation….
    Happy Thanksgiving all…

  • Robert

    I will enjoy all things at the table with the exception of flour filled cakes. I of course will eat all things in strict moderation. I allow myself 5 servings of carbohydrates per meal and have been off all medication for a little over 1.5 years now. When I first knew I had type II a little over 2.5 years ago, I was on 4 shots of insulin per day. Through diet and very strenuous exercise, I dropped 50 pounds and have been medication free for 1.5 years.

    I will take a one to two mile walk between dinner and dessert which will allow a small slice of apple pie, or one or two chocolate chip cookies.

    Salad, green beans, spinach, broccoli, turkey etc. will be large portions with small portions of cranberries made with sugar and stuffing (a few forks full).

    May everyone have a happy and safe holiday.

  • Becky

    I will be taking my own no-sugar-added cranberry sauce, skip the potatoes and gravy in favor of a couple bites of sweet potatoes, and focus on salad and vegetables. I may allow for one of the whole wheat rolls I am bringing since I will know the carb count, and if I am lucky a slice of pumpkin pie that I make low fat and low sugar and for which I can figure the carb count. I will be taking my insulin with me. This is not my favorite holiday. It is hard to watch everyone else sample all the different pies while I eat a small slice of pumpkin that I don’t care for, but it is the lowest in carbs.

  • Bobbie, RN, Diabetes Ed

    As an DM educator and a person with diabetes I preceive that I am held to a higher standard, whether this is my own personal guilt or truth I don’t know. However, with that being said I think that you have to be realistic about life and any choronic condition that you may be faced with managing.
    The world isn’t going to stop if you are careful with how you address “THE FEAST”. I like the “try a little technique” that I learned from a support group member. Get a tablespoon from the drawer and try a little. This way you get to enjoy all of the family favorite and still practice some control.
    Also, if you’re blessed with beautiful take a walk between dinner and pie. If you eat really early go for another walk after the pie. Of course, don’t forget all that exercise you’ll be getting during Black Friday!
    Remember everything in moderation and enjoy life!

  • Gretchen

    Eeeek! I’ll cook a big dinner tomorrow and will do my best not to eat more than a half cup of my perfectly wonderful stuffing, will have no mashed potatoes at all (my favorite), a little Basmati rice with gravy, all the turkey I want, maybe a tiny bit of cranberry sauce, some green beans and some carrots – and then I’ll walk, and walk, and walk!!! Used to be my favorite part of Thanksgiving was a white bread with mayo and salt and pepper and turkey breast sandwich – no more, or if I relent, maybe a one slice treat!! As long as my numbers can stay down, that’s all that counts. Right?

  • Bob Walls

    After 45 years of taking insuling for my T1 diabetes I have learned that any major deviation is not a good idea. My idea of a “vacation” is perhaps a martini and a “sliver” of pumpkin pie, but only on Thanksgiving or Christmas. I still maintain my “counts” in all the other foods. I have also descovered that, after 45 years I have become a little “insulin resistant” and require a few more units to bring down the minor spikes I might experience.

    Happy Hollidays

  • Bob Walls

    After 45 years of taking insulin for my Type 1 diabetes I have learned that any major deviation is not a good idea. My idea of a “vacation” is perhaps a martini and a “sliver” of pumpkin pie, but only on Thanksgiving or Christmas. I still maintain my “counts” in all the other foods. I have also discovered that, after 45 years I have become a little “insulin resistant” and require a few more units to bring down the minor spikes I might experience.

    Happy Holidays

  • Bob

    I agree with Judy Slyne comments above. I have had Type II diabetes for 12 years and my doctor
    approved for me to take some extra insulin for the meal. We will eat around 2pm. My normal prelunch insulin is 12 units and my predinner insulin is 17 so I take around 25 units and dont eat the evening meal. I watch my portions and only have one roll. I try to take a walk after the meal and that helps on my sugar count also.
    I do not eat any deserts. Maybe a half piece of pumpkin pie tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving and saafe holiday to all.

  • Virginia

    Well, for my husband and me, there is no such thing as a “holiday” from diabetes. Our Type 2 has progressed to Type 1 and we are now both insulin-dependent…so I plan our meals (daily, including holidays) very carefully. We still enjoy the holiday meals – but we certainly don’t have or need the array of foods that we used to eat during our pre-diabates days. Besides at our ages, we don’t need all those extra carbs and calories. We just select which dishes we want for which holiday and are thus able to stay within our respective food plans. Neither of us wants to “indulge” and then have to face the truth (and consequences) of our glucometer results if we have sinned. Hope everyone enjoys Thanksgiving – stay the course and stay well.

  • Tia

    I have type 2 and ate everything I wanted and I’ll do it again next year, too! I refuse to be shackled.

    I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving no matter where on this earth you are!

  • Sandra

    I have been on the needle for almost 30 years – the only diabetic in the family. I am also one heck of a good country cook and miss terribly some of the foods I used to eat in my “youth”. As to Thanksgiving and Christmas I do take a vacation and my doctor knows it! I might have to inject a wee bit more insulin or use a little Humulin R mixed but, by golly, I am going to enjoy the holidays without guilt!! My last A1C taken 2 weeks ago was 6.4 and I work hard to keep it in the low to mid sixes all year long. Desserts? You bet. However, I do serve myself only 1/2 of what would be considered a normal portion and dinner is usually at lunchtime with dessert following instead of supper. It works for me and I don’t have to cast a jaundiced, envious eye on anyone else’s plate because I can’t have what I want. Mashed potatoes I can have any time of year so I forego them and eat a bit of dressing. I eat a ton of other veggies so my fork is busy at all times. My holiday system might not work for everyone but it sure works for me!

  • Barbara Kanegis

    I definetly feel guilty if I eat more than I should or the wrong foods, such as I did on Thanksgiving.
    I have type 2 and take no drugs. I have stopped testing, watching only my A1C, which is at 6.5. I’m (usually) careful about my diet and exercise a lot; work with a personal trainer and do yoga 2 times a week and strenght training 3 days a week and walk a treadmill 5 days a week for one hour each time, at an incline of 6.5 and pretty slowly; only 2.5 miles per hour. So I’m probably not doing too much cardio.
    My only bad readings were first thing in the morning; 140. Otherwise, my readings were about 110-115.

  • susanne

    I personally think that splurging once in a while is not harmful. Everyone needs some time off from the normal regim. But we should at least try to behave a little. Yes I am upset when I have to give up something because of diabetes. Although I have learned to say no, sometimes. I also read somewhere that one meal a week is free. I don’t do it all the time but sometimes it feels good to pig out. But it is important to measure your sugars every day and you will learn what foods are good and what foods are not so good.


  • Nicholas Hohnstein

    Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year. What is the difference between those days and the other 362 days of the year for a diabetic. Nothing. It remains everything in moderation. You still have to have the right ratio of Carbs to Protein to Fats and you can have a couple of small bites of pie or cake. You can take small bites from a small piece of cake to make the flavor last longer and therefore get more enjoyment from a larger number of goodies than taking large bites. I eat small cookies and take small bites to go with my coffee. I will acutually have 5 to 6 bites of a small cookie and savor the flavor with a cup of coffee.

  • Maggie Welch

    I was dx with the type 1 three years ago at the
    age of 42. I went from “normal” to insulin dependent within one week. I was determined not
    to let this disease run my life. So everything
    in moderation! I cooked and baked all week for Thanksgiving and refuse to not enjoy the food. So far my numbers are good and again it’s all in moderation!!
    Next up is baking Christmas cookies which I won’t eat. but I’ll be looking forward to dinner!

  • Jack Bruce

    I have have type 2 and take insulin twice a day.
    I do not follow any prescribed diet but try to watch my carbs loosely. I also am very undisplined
    about the times I eat and what I eat. So on Thanksgiving I had the full feast, two helpings and a bottle of wine (myself) plus other drinks and desert (pie.) As the meal was in late afternoon, I checked my blood sugar at normal dinner time and it was 124, go figure. My A1C was
    5.4 at my last doctor’s appt. in early Nov. It has been under 7 for the last eight years. BTW, I
    have had diabetes since 1988 (and probably longer
    undiagnosed.) I started insulin in 1994. I think
    everyone is different and what works for one person, does not always work for someone else. I refuse to join the regimentation of our lives.



  • Tricia Conner

    I’m only pre-diabetic and I don’t even know what my numbers are… my doctor only told me to stay away from refined sugars and start excercising… from what I found on the internet, I also need to cut carbs, which I have been doing and I’m also trying to lose weight and I think I’ve lost about 15 pounds so far in 2 months… not enough, but I’m a large person so I realize it’s going to take time… but… I found this blog because I was wondering if I was allowed to cheat at all when I go on vacation (I’m taking a cruise in October and all the foods on a cruise are very rich and there’s no way of knowing how much carbs and sugar exactly are in every single item even if I’m making “smart” choices… I’ve also been avoiding sweets like the plague only once in awhile indulging in sugar free items… so on a cruise, would I be allowed to maybe have a bite or two of dessert at dinner each night???) Once again… I’m prediabetic, not full blown diabetic yet but I’m wondering if I’m going to blow my chances of NOT getting diabetes if I cheat a bit on vacation…