Living with Diabetes – Surviving the Festive Season

Monday, 6 December 2021

Healthy choices during the festive season

This time of year can cause a lot of apprehension for people living with diabetes. Making food choices that will keep your diabetes well managed but allow you to enjoy the festive season can be stressful and confusing.

This year the pressure is really on. As we are coming out of lockdowns and returning to some sort of pre-covid normality, the chance to socialise is on people’s minds more than usual. This means the temptations could be even stronger this year.

This may lead to some conflicts. Conflicts about your own individual thoughts on managing your diabetes during this festive season, or how to deal with other people’s judgements on your choices.


Food choices and diabetes

Firstly, life should be still be fun, whether you live with diabetes or not. Does this mean you have a license to eat everything in sight, with no thought about making good choices? No it doesn’t, but this also applies to people who do not live with diabetes!  With some planning you should be able to sample some, or all of the foods that interest you without undoing all the good work you have done during the year to manage your diabetes.

So, how do we do that, you ask? Here are a few ideas:

  • Eat smaller portions of the festive foods
  • Space out the frequency of the festive treats by having healthier choices in between
  • For some, don’t arrive hungry – have a healthy snack prior to attending the festive event
  • For others, ‘bank some food’. This could include a smaller lunch if it’s an evening event or reduce the amount eaten the day after
  • Share the party food with another person

Remember just because you live with diabetes, no foods are off limits unless due to intolerances, allergies or other health conditions. However, for everyone, some foods are meant to be limited and these are often the foods associated with celebrations and the festive season, so choose wisely.


Dealing with judgements

Living with diabetes will sometimes result in well-meaning advice from family and friends about what you should be eating. Statements such as “should you be eating that now you have diabetes?” or “aren’t you diabetic?” or “you will get fat if you eat that”. These statements are unhelpful at best and often hurtful. While you may hear these comments at any time, they are often more common during the festive season or at times of celebration. Let’s explore some ways to deal with these comments.

  • Try to avoid biting back. This can be just us unhelpful as the initial remark.
  • Ignore the comment or respond with a positive comment such as “all things in moderation”.
  • Change the subject. Ask them what’s happening in their life or  if they are enjoying the event
  • If none of these work, perhaps excuse yourself and walk away!


Dealing with exercise or lack of exercise during the festive season

Exercise during the festive season often takes a back seat. So how can you still enjoy the festivities and yet keep some sort of exercise routine going? First of all acknowledge that it is hard, just like making the best food choices at this time of year is also hard. If you end up not doing as much exercise as usual, accept this may happen and is ok. However you don’t want to slack off completely.

Here are some ideas to keep active:

  • Plan a walk or some other physical activity to be included in the planned festivities
  • Get some activity in before you go or after you get home
  • Commit to something with a friend, this will help keep you accountable.

Remember some exercise is always better than none, even if it is still less than your usual exercise routine. Why not try this easy, christmas-inspired home exercise routine?


The bottom line – enjoy the festive season and don’t let your diabetes be in control of you, rather you be in control of your diabetes. Happy festive season everyone.


Malcolm Flood, CDE

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