Family gatherings are meant to be savored and enjoyed. Unfortunately, when living with type 1 diabetes, quality family time can be physically and mentally exhausting. These gatherings can start to feel more like a chore and less like a positive, nourishing experience. Managing type 1 diabetes and simultaneous trying to enjoy the food and company of loved ones during the holidays is a tricky situation to master.
New foods, new meal timing, new people, and overall new environment all have an impact on a diabetic’s blood sugar. If not approached with the proper care and caution, diabetes can quickly cause holiday havoc. Luckily, with preparation, self compassion, and time, it is absolutely possible to feel unburdened and excited by family gatherings!
Want diabetes content delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for our Diabetes newsletter and receive exclusive news and articles written from our team of diabetes experts.
Unless you are the one hosting the gathering, try to get as much information on what kind of foods are going to be served. Most of the time, meals with family include specials foods that are often higher in fat. Take note of how fat affects your blood sugar. Will you need to adjust how and when you dose your medication? It’s a good idea to consult your doctor about this.
Another matter to take into consideration when it comes to food is timing and serving style. Is it going to be at an earlier time of day or later? If it is going to be later you may want to adjust the size and contents of your earlier meals are (if you plan on indulging). If it’s earlier, then vice versa. You should also consider possibly increasing your basal rate — also something to bring up with your doctor.
As for serving style, it’s important to find out if it’s going to be buffet style and casual timing (over multiple hours of the day), or if it’s going to be one big sit down meal. Eating slowly over a couple of hours is very different on blood sugar than eating one big meal. Eating over an extended period of time usually requires stacking (cumulative doses of medication over time which can make it hard to keep track of what is going on with glucose levels).
If it is buffet style, I suggest keeping track of how much medication you have been administering on your phone or a checklist so you aren’t faced with unexpected, unexplainable highs or lows.
If there aren’t many options for you and you feel like your health will be compromised, don’t be afraid to bring something for yourself or a dish you and others can enjoy. You don’t want to feel like you have to compromise your physical health in order to attend family gatherings.