The scariest thing about Halloween? The sugar.
I promise, I don't mean to take ALL the fun out of this spooky, silly, and fun holiday.
But for diabetics, even one night of indulging on fun-size candy bars—let alone grazing at the leftovers for weeks afterwards—can throw off so much progress.
More importantly, Halloween usually kicks off a whole SEASON of eating and indulging, from Thanksgiving stuffing to holiday parties to cookie trays to champagne on New Year's Eve, if you partake.
Today, it's worth remembering that for your diabetes, instead of a season of indulgence, this has to be a season of deliberate, mindful, and yes – still FULL – enjoyment.
Let’s Talk About A1c
Most of us know that HbA1c is an important measure to tell us how well our diabetes is being controlled. We understand that it represents our average blood sugar over about the last 3 months – therefore it gives us much more information than just finger-sticks.
We are appropriately alarmed when the number gets high, which is greater than 9% or 10% (average blood sugar 212-240). Yet sometimes, we get relaxed when it’s “close”: an 8% (average blood sugar 183) doesn't strike with the same fear. This can be especially true for persons managing diabetes for a long time and are “burned-out” trying to stay below 7% (average blood sugar 154 and below).
The DCCT (Diabetes Control and Complications Trial) study confirmed that lowering HbA1c by just 1% can result in a risk reduction of:
· Retinopathy (eye damage) by 38%
· Nephropathy (kidney damage) by 28%
· Neuropathy (nerve damage) by 28%
· Cardiovascular (heart attack or stroke) event by 57%
Add in regular preventative tests, and you have the power to slow or stop the progression of devastating diabetes complications.
A Last Hoorah
Many people approach this time of year with abandon – it's the holidays! That may be especially true this year, when we're finally able to enjoy some safely-planned, pre-pandemic-like activities with friends and loved ones.
But enjoying the back-to-back holidays of this amazing upcoming season does NOT have to come with a total derailment of your nutritional or exercise goals. Above, I mentioned the words deliberate and mindful – that's the key.
Our nutrition and fitness expert, Kathleen Ruggeri, reminds us that enjoying holiday festivities doesn't have to be a setback as long as you are making thoughtful choices:
Alcohol will deliver sugar to your bloodstream faster than Amazon Prime will deliver your last-minute gifts. But for special occasions, it's hard to skip on the cocktails. Try this old trick: make yourself a "fancy" non-alcoholic option, like 0-sugar sparkling water with floating cranberries, diet ginger ale with a lemon wedge, or a flavored seltzer with a sprig of fresh herbs. This technique puts a festive, icy, colorful drink in your hand. This does double duty: keeps that hand from snacking, and makes you feel a part of the toasts and merriment. Minus all that sugar.
Movement is your friend. Seek ways to move at every gathering! Stay standing and mingle instead of finding a chair right away. While the host is busy in the kitchen, volunteer to take the kids outside for a quick game of tag football or frisbee, even if you're just the 'coach' standing and clapping on the sidelines. After pie and coffee, suggest a stroll around the neighborhood to see your neighbors' light displays. All of these small efforts will allow for the things you decided to indulge in during the party. (Pro tip: Wear a step counter and see how it adds up!)
Pick your pleasures. You don't have to have the wine, AND the cheese, AND the bread, AND the dessert at every gathering. Plan ahead! If your mother-in-law's pecan pie is the best you've ever tasted, decide before you go that her house will be the pie house – you'll skip rolls with dinner and drink only water so you have room for that once-a-year slice of heaven. If your friend's gathering a week later is where the good beer will be, commit to no desserts there so you can have that second pumpkin ale. Want to really level-up this trick? Plan for a brisk walk the morning of every holiday event, and have a low-carb or no-carb breakfast that day.
These tips and many more can get you through the holidays without putting on the pounds and losing control of your blood sugar.
Need more guidance? Reach out to Kathleen to find out about Pro+Active, our nutrition and fitness program that offers 1:1 coaching.
The Opportunity of Glycemic Control
It can be challenging to reach and maintain an HbA1c below 7%. In fact, blood sugar is affected by at least 42 factors – including what we eat, stress, activity, and much more.
But if you look at it right, this is an opportunity – 42 factors means that there are 42 areas to which we can consider changes and new habits in order to lower A1c.
Let us help you.
Diabetes is a progressive disease, and therefore how we treat it has to be continually evaluated for the most effectiveness. We may need to think about a medication change, monitoring differently, increasing daily movement, eating changes, providing support, addressing financial concerns, and more.
Now is a great time to make an appointment with your primary care provider, or with me, your in-house Diabetes Care and Education Specialist at CMMD and Associates. We can discuss your current treatment plan and techniques that will work for you to improve your glycemic control.
Seize this moment.
It’s Halloween today – a day when some people hide their identities behind a funny costume for a thrill. Maybe you've also spent this month (or more) hiding... testing your sugar less often, or avoiding your annual check-ups. Maybe you've skipped your eye exam or your urinalysis, because you just don't want to deal with it yet. You'll do better in 2022.
I believe you will do better in 2022, but information is your ally! Let's get our numbers out in the open, and stop hiding from what's happening in our bodies. Instead of waiting until 2022 to jump start your diabetic health, let's set our goal to lower our HbA1c to less than 7% by the new year, and start 2022 feeling great. You can do this!
Ready to discuss your nutrition plan for your diabetes? Schedule an appointment with me at any time to discuss personalized goals. Send me a message in the patient portal, request an appointment here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.