Amanda Donohue shares her tips for staying healthy during the festivities.
I’m a 23-year-old graduate student and public health enthusiast living in New York City, and I have type 1 diabetes. I love traveling, staying active and exploring the endless lineup of restaurants the city has to offer. My puppy, Luna, is my favorite snuggle buddy. I’m a big NY Giants fan and Boston Red Sox fan (weird — I know!). My friends and family would describe me as an optimistic person. I’m proactive, a go-getter, and I always look for the silver lining.
But when I was a newly diagnosed ten-year-old, my outlook wasn’t so positive. My having type 1 diabetes was crushing news for my parents and me.
My time in the hospital still runs in slow motion in my memory: I remember the smell of alcohol swabs and the sting of constant needle pricks all over my arms. The amount of information dumped on us was overwhelming. In a span of a few short days, my life had changed. I was burdened with the kind of responsibility no child should experience. Once the shock settled and I mostly understood what the doctors and nurses were telling me, I decided I would take control. I recognized that a healthy, “normal” life was still possible — but it would require a lot of work.
I’ve had type 1 diabetes for nearly 14 years. There have been some highs and some lows. There have been some nights where I feel like ripping out my insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM), stuffing them in a drawer, and never seeing them again. But there have also been amazing successes — learning to understand my body, predicting blood glucose trends, and guesstimating the number of carbohydrates in a milkshake successfully!
Surviving the Celebrations
The holidays are difficult time for someone with type 1 diabetes, primarily because the winter holidays are a time filled with food-centric events. Counting carbs and remembering to give insulin before you eat is sometimes really difficult when you’re mingling with friends and family.
Here are my favorite tips for staying healthy while not letting diabetes get in the way of holiday fun.
- Check your blood sugar levels more frequently on days with a lot of food or snacking. This will help you get an idea of a “trend line.” In other words, more data points will help you predict if your blood sugar is rising or falling. This is super-easy if you have a CGM. Just take a peek at your number every hour or so. You can set a reminder on your iPhone.
- Don’t consume more than 30 carbs in one sitting if you are above 180-200 mg/dL. This will prevent extreme blood sugar spikes. Wait to have that Christmas cookie until you’re closer to 150 mg/dL or so. Knowing that this is a part of your plan may even encourage you to stick to my first tip so you CAN eat those cookies whenever you want!
- Try to bolus less than 15 minutes before any food hits your mouth! Insulin and carb consumption take different amounts of time to affect your blood sugar. Fast-acting insulin usually takes less than 30 minutes to start working in your body. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, start to affect blood glucose in about 15 minutes. By blousing early, you meet the active times in the middle and hopefully prevent a carb-induced spike.
- Take a post-meal stroll. Walking is one of the best ways to prevent post-meal blood sugar spikes. Invite family and friends, bundle up (depending on where you’re celebrating this year), and walk around for 30 minutes. This is a good idea whether you have type 1 or type 2.
- Be kind to yourself. The holidays are often tough for many of us who have lost loved ones. Stress can impact blood sugars, too. On top of dealing with the usual emotions we experience around the end of the year, we also have to be mindful of how they impact our blood sugars and overall health. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. And that is good enough.
I hope you all have a peaceful and happy holiday season! Follow my adventures on Instagram: @thediablog, or on my blog: www.thediablogsite.wordpress.com.