My Top 10 Tips for Managing T1D at Family Gatherings

A version of this blog post originally appeared on Hugging the Cactus on November 23, 2017. I’ve decided to share it again today (with some slight updates) because I felt like I needed a reminder as to what a successful game plan looks like heading into a food-centric holiday! Read on for more…

Holidays that are centered around gratitude and eating…what’s not to love? As much as I enjoy the holidays, though, I can’t quite say that my diabetes feels the same about them. Fortunately, I’ve developed a bit of a game plan as to how to handle diabetes when family feasts come rolling around – here are my top 10 tips for making the most of eating-centric holidays with diabetes!

The only thing missing from this picture is the massive pre-bolus that I’ll likely be taking before sitting down at a major meal.

10) Don’t skip breakfast in the morning. This helps me avoid over-eating when dinner is served later in the day. Breakfast doesn’t have to be a huge thing, maybe just a bowl of oatmeal or a piece of fresh fruit – anything that will sate me for a few hours.

9) Volunteer to prepare a couple of dishes. If I’m going somewhere for the feast, I like to know what my host needs me to bring. If I have creative control over the dish, I prefer to make it something that I know won’t be too hard on my blood sugars, such as a side of veggies or a sugar-free dessert.

8) Familiarize yourself with what’s being served prior to sitting down for the meal. Before my family sits down to eat, I like to know what exactly we’re being served so I can plan accordingly. I can usually get away with strolling around the kitchen to get an idea, but sometimes the chef (my aunts or my mom) kick me out while they finish cooking dinner!

7) Don’t feel pressured to try everything. It all looks and smells so good, but I have to remind myself to use some restraint when piling my plate with food. I’ll add staples like turkey and green beans (both of which are low-carb!) and take smaller portions of the heavy things, such as stuffing and potatoes.

6) If it’s necessary, extend my bolus. This all depends on what my blood sugar is before the meal, but sometimes, I’ll extend it in order to prevent lows or highs post-feast.

5) Check my blood sugar often. I’d rather have an idea of where my blood sugar is headed than leave it to chance and guess incorrectly.

4) Go for a walk or organize another outdoor activity. The weather doesn’t always cooperate with this idea, but I’ve found that dragging my cousins on a 20-minute walk after eating helps my blood sugar and provides us all a chance to hang out while our uncles take control of the TV and our aunts chitchat over cups of coffee.

3) Wait a bit before having seconds or starting on desserts. I try to indulge a bit on the sweets, but I know that it never works out for me if I help myself to desserts too soon after consuming the main course. So I avoid the temptation by staying busy after eating dinner – my mom and aunts always appreciate an extra set of hands to assist with clean up!

2) Look up carb counts if I’m struggling to come up with them on my own. Sometimes, I can’t quite determine how many carbs are in a serving of pumpkin pie – I’ll guess too low and end up high, as a result! But I know that there are tons of carb counting resources at the tip of my fingers, thanks to my smartphone.

1) Remember what the holiday’s all about: being thankful! Enjoy the day and time with loved ones! Whether you’re part of a large family like mine, a small one, or choose to spend the day with friends or a partner, just relish it for what you want it to be.

Traveling with T1D: During the Trip

A few days ago, I wrote about what it’s like to prepare for travel with diabetes. It may have surprised you to learn how many steps are involved! But the work doesn’t end when en route to the destination…

It doesn’t matter if I’m going to be stuck in a car for several hours, flying on a plane, or – my worst nightmare – waiting in the airport for a delayed flight: There are additional steps I like to take when traveling to help ensure my blood sugar is steady and I’m adequately prepared with my supplies.

These steps include:

  • Checking my blood sugar often. I don’t like to rely completely on my CGM; after all, it can be inaccurate from time to time. So I tend to perform more blood sugar checks than usual while I’m waiting at the airport or sitting shotgun in a car. But if I’m the one driving, I (obviously) wait to check at rest stops as time allows.
  • Seeking healthy snacks. It’s definitely easier for me to find healthy options when I’m on a road trip – I can simply pack meals and snacks ahead of time. The airport is a little trickier for me, though. Sometimes, I’m tempted by candy or chips – comfort foods – because I’m not a huge fan of flying and like to do anything to take my mind off it. Luckily, though, even if I don’t make the healthiest choice, everything I’m consuming does have a carbohydrate count that’s easily accessible. This helps me take the correct insulin dosage and removes some extra thought from the process.
  • Getting as much movement in as possible. If this means taking laps in an airport terminal, so be it. I know that my diabetes responds well to exercise throughout the day, but it’s next to impossible to get movement in when cooped up in a car or plane. So what if I look kind of weird at a rest stop doing jumping jacks next to my car? At least I know I’m doing my body some good.

One thing I’d like to note is that the airport comes with some added fun: the TSA!!! (Insert sarcasm here.) That means I also have to be prepared for going through security. Some PWD have reported terrible experiences with the TSA, which is why I’ve devised a protocol for myself when traveling so I can (hopefully) avoid a bad interaction.

This plan consists of:

  1. Having my ziplock bag of diabetes supplies at the ready in my carry-on in case I’m asked to remove it,
  2. Telling the TSA agent conducting the body scan that I have T1D, and pointing out the locations I’m wearing my pod and CGM sensor,
  3. Knowing that I’ll probably be asked to touch my sites (over my clothing), and
  4. Allotting for the extra time it takes to get my hands swabbed.

So far, so good with this little strategy of mine. I’ve found that it works best to stay cool, calm, and collected throughout the whole TSA process. It’s a miserable one at best, but I might as well not exacerbate it by getting in a panic about my diabetes supplies.

After all that, what do I possibly have left to do once I actually arrive at my destination? Be on the lookout for my third and final post in this little series of travel procedures – but certainly not my last on traveling with diabetes, in general!