Maintaining Your Health During the Holidays

By Patti Geil, MS, RD, CDE, and Laura Hieronymus, DNP, RN, MLDE, BC-ADM, CDE | December 17, 2007 12:00 am

To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.

—Philip Andrew Adams

What does the holiday season mean to you? Is it a special time for family gatherings, gift-shopping, and spiritual renewal, or a traumatic time of out-of-control blood glucose levels, extra pounds, and fatigue and stress from trying to engineer the picture-perfect celebration? If you’re like the typical American, your holiday experience is probably a combination of both. According to a recent survey from the American Psychological Association, one in five Americans worries that holiday stress could affect their physical health, and 36% say they either eat excessively or drink alcohol to cope with holiday stress.


When you have diabetes[1], it’s important to maintain your good health while enjoying holidays and special occasions, as well as coping with the stress that often accompanies them. The easiest way to do that is to plan ahead. The more you know about where you’re going and what you’ll be doing, the better you can plan for good diabetes care. (For tips on staying healthy during the holidays, see “Bah Humbug to the Flu Bug!”[2])

Eat, drink, and be wary

Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life, particularly when it’s shared with others, and it tends to play a major role in most holiday celebrations. However, contrary to the popular belief that a person gains 5–10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, research shows that the average person gains only about one pound each holiday season. But that pound often stays on after the holidays are over, so eventually a person may gain 5, 10, or even 20 “holiday” pounds.

The holidays are probably not the best time to attempt a serious weight-loss program, but it is realistic to set a goal of maintaining your weight and blood glucose control during the holiday season. Here are some tips to help you get started:

On, Prancer and Dancer!

Staying physically active during the holiday season can relieve your stress, improve your mood, lower your blood glucose levels, and help with weight control. While your busy holiday schedule may not allow you to participate in as much daily physical activity as you might like, there are ways to stay active, and these tips can help:

Keeping spirits bright

Overscheduling, overdoing, overspending…holiday preparations often lead to stress rather than serenity and satisfaction. Stress can affect blood glucose levels in several ways. The stress of overdoing and overscheduling may lead you to neglect your usual self-care plan. The body also reacts to stress by producing hormones that cause the liver to release a surge of glucose, leading to high blood glucose levels. On the other hand, if you are too busy to eat properly, your blood glucose can drop too low.

What tips should you have in your holiday stress survival kit to avoid fluctuations in blood glucose? Here are a few of them:

What’s your reason for the season?

Focus on your reason for the season. Is it the decorations, the spiritual aspects, the music, or the time spent with family and friends? Perhaps this is the year you start a new tradition, such as serving a holiday meal to those less fortunate or escaping to a warm, sunny vacation spot. Do something you’ve never done before. With a bit of planning and attention, diabetes won’t stand in the way of your finding the true spirit of the holidays.

  1. diabetes:
  2. “Bah Humbug to the Flu Bug!”:
  3. “Lightening Up Your Holiday Favorites”:
  4. “Give the Gift of Good Health.”:

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