When you are navigating the holiday season with type 1 diabetes, it can often feel like you are caught in the middle between choosing to enjoy your favorite seasonal treats or managing your blood sugars. Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve walked into holiday parties and gatherings with friends and family where just the pure amount of food options were overwhelming and paralyzing. I would often find myself in a situation where I was either restricting the foods I really wanted to enjoy or just letting loose without a care in the world about diabetes. In this blog post, we are going to discuss ways that you can find a happy medium between prioritizing your blood sugars while indulging in your favorite holiday foods- no matter the holiday!
Widen your Lens
When living with diabetes, it can be easy to find yourself wanting to stay in between two lines 24/7. If you are on a CGM, you’ll understand that means keeping your blood sugar within a defined target range. As you are rolling through the motions of everyday life, it can be easy to find yourself in the habit of keeping this tight range during the holiday season too. But during the holidays when there are different types of foods, different routines, different environments and many other variables coming into play- why would you put the same standards on yourself? Everyone’s goal is to manage their blood sugars as best they can, but at the same time we want to make sure that those goals are realistic and achievable. This is where widening your lens can come into play. With this concept, you are able to give yourself some grace to not expect perfection in high variable environments. This can be by changing the alarms on your CGM for the day to a higher range or mentally being okay with a higher range. Widening your lens doesn’t mean that you aren’t caring about your blood sugars, but you are setting realistic expectations and boundaries around where you are going to place your energy and when you will take action.
Choose Your Minimum Viable Commitments (MVC)
When navigating the holiday season, you may be met with new challenges when you are out of your usual daily routine and comfort zone. It can easily become overwhelming trying to fit your typical daily habits into high variability environments. Instead of feeling like you have to wake up, eat a healthy breakfast, give a 15-20 minute prebolus for every meal, get in a workout, drink enough water, sleep at least 8 hours, and all that you usually do on a daily basis can often make you feel tied down to diabetes. So instead of choosing to do everything, choose to set a minimum viable commitment. This is one thing that you can do to support your blood sugars throughout the holidays or high variability moments. That way you get the benefits of supporting your blood sugars without feeling consumed by the pressure to stay in a perfect routine. Whether it is prebolusing at least 10 minutes before a meal, taking a walk around the block in the morning, or simply just drinking enough water during the day all of these actions can support your blood sugar in the moment to get you through that week, weekend, or season without feeling consumed by your blood sugar management.
Choose One Area of Focus
When it comes to interrupting your blood sugar data, it can be challenging trying to figure out what you should be prioritizing. When you pull up your Dexcom Clarity or Freestyle Libre reports, you see a bunch of lines and numbers, but don’t really know what they are telling you. The first thing you’ll want to do is try to identify one area that you can focus on for your blood sugar management.
With Dexcom Clarity, running the hourly statistics report can be really helpful because it will outline the time in range, average glucose, and standard deviation for every hour throughout a 24 hour period. This can be really helpful with allowing you to see which area would need your focus by choosing the times with the lowest time in range or highest standard deviation.
With LibreView, running the Glucose Pattern Insight report can help you gain clarity about which times of day you have the highest risks for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), and whether your median glucose has exceeded your defined goal. This report shows what a “typical” day looks like and can be helpful in showing you which times of days may report additional focus.
If you do not utilize a CGM, don’t worry! Glooko is an app that can connect to your blood glucose meter that can generate similar reports. Under the AGP report, you can view a detailed look of glucose data for options of bi-hourly, time of day or day of the week buckets. When you select one of these buckets, the data will be displayed for which percentage of readings were very high, high, in range, low, or very low.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Reviewing Data
No matter how you are reviewing your data, it can be a really powerful tool to interrupt what the data is telling you. But at the same time, it can be really overwhelming if you don’t know what questions to ask or what information to look for. Consider asking the following questions when you open up your CGM reports:
- Are my blood sugars consistently elevated after mealtimes?
- Do I need to focus on my insulin to carb ratio or timing of my boluses?
- How was the nutritional content of my meals this week?
- Did I have any high fat meals that I need to utilize a different bolus strategy for?
- Do I need to put more time into my carb counting accuracy?
- Am I feeling rushed during decision making?
- Am I rage bolusing frequently?
- Am I afraid of taking too much insulin?
- How were my stress levels this week?
- Did I get consistent sleep?
- Were there any changes in routine or physical activity?
Being able to utilize your data as a tool can be incredibly empowering. In the beginning, you may find yourself challenged into wanting to blame or guilt yourself into doing better. When you are able to take just one piece of information and look at it without judgment you are going to be able to implement new changes and behaviors week after week. Your blood sugars may not be perfect, but focusing on these three factors can help you maneuver through the holidays with clear boundaries, expectations, and predictability so you can spend less time worrying about your management and more time making memories with loved ones.
If you’re feeling stressed out about the upcoming holiday season, check out Episode 9: Three Ways to Prioritize Your Blood Sugars During the Holidays Without Feeling Overwhelmed available now on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.