A Wonderful Diabetes Christmastime – by Andy Broomhead
Whilst the festive season is now firmly upon us and we’re (hopefully) looking forward to a few days off work, some presents and some cracking food. Sidestepping the “meaning of Christmas” debate for the purposes of this blog, it is almost by nature an indulgent time of the year these days. We’re happy to eat things we’d probably avoid during the rest of the year – devouring a mince pie or three and picking the strawberry creams out of the Quality Street. We reward ourselves for the hard work we’ve done throughout the year and have those treats we perhaps rarely enjoy otherwise.
As with everything (or at least everything we talk about here), we’re used to the notion that this means any time off from diabetes, or a hassle free time of indulgence. Arguably that’s pretty unfair given how much work we put into just staying on an even keel with our condition – surely we’re entitled to that last slice of Christmas cake as an extra self-congratulatory pat on the back? Well yes we probably (definitely) do, but I think at this time of year, being caught up in the whirlwind of Christmas parties, presents, trips to visit far-off family, it can be easy to let diabetes slip down the pecking order a bit.
I’ve tried to come up with a few tips that are worth keeping in mind, and might be particularly helpful for those embarking on their first Christmas with diabetes. I remember mine coming only two months after diagnosis and feeling fairly fraught so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should’ve. It’s easy for us ‘veterans’ to forget that first Christmas, so hopefully some or all of the below will be useful:
- Stock up. Don’t forget to order enough diabetes kit (insulin, test strips, tablets etc.) before Christmas. Your doctor’s surgery may only be closed for a few days, but don’t leave yourself with only a handful of test strips left on Christmas Eve!
- Pack appropriately. If you’re going away, either for a few days or a few weeks, make sure you’ve got enough stuff to last you, and then chuck another box in for good measure. I keep a spare pump cannula, inserter and box of test strips in the car for absolute emergencies.
- Don’t forget the basics. Christmas food feels like an insurmountable foe sometimes, with carbohydrate everywhere you look. If you’re taking insulin, remember that your ratios don’t magically change on Christmas Eve, so the rules you follow will still apply.
- Remember to count your carbs. If you’re cooking yourself, then hopefully you’ll have a good idea how many carbs you’re using in cakes/desserts and how many potatoes you’ve budgeted for each person. If you’re visiting friends or family (and avoiding cooking and washing up duties!) then try and use resources like Carbs and Cals (the book or the smartphone app), or use good old experience as a guide.
- Be mindful of fat content. We’re all going to cheat on our diets with some lovely Christmas food – it’s unavoidable. But remember that foods with a higher fat content such as chocolate or butter pastry will lead to a slower absorption of carbohydrates, so you may experience higher BG levels a few hours after you’ve eaten. Using one of the multi-wave options on an insulin pump can help here, or further insulin injections later on should limit the impact.
- Keep the packets. Holding onto the boxes/tins/packets for anything you’ve bought in will give you a brilliant reference for carb values. If you’re visiting friends or family, ask them to do the same – they won’t mind!
- Remember to test. This is one of the most obvious ones I suppose, but if it’s your first diabetes Christmas or you’re just not sure about what you’re eating, test often. Your BG meter is one of your best friends at Christmas and it’s reassuring to be able to know how you’re reacting whilst eying up another helping of trifle.
- Enjoy yourself. At any time of year, we’re never going to have perfect BG levels all the time, because it’s almost impossible. Christmas is definitely no exception to that. Don’t fret about trying to maintain perfect control at the expense of actually enjoying the time with your friends, family and brand new iPhone. Use the time to celebrate, have fun, and congratulate yourself on a job well done for 2014 – we all know how hard it is and we all know we deserve it!
Thanks for reading these blogs – I hope that some of the experiences are useful. Have a fabulous Christmas and a wonderful 2015!
With love, Andy