November is National Diabetes Month. It's a fitting time of year for us to increase our awareness of preventing and/or managing diabetes, given that the holidays seem to be a good excuse for people to throw their healthy habits to the curb and indulge freely between Thanksgiving and the New Year. However, the reality is that nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes, and another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes (ADA).
Much of the yo-yo dieting that occurs as a result of the holidays can disrupt hormones and cause changes in metabolism (think reduced muscle mass), which may result in fat gain to the abdominal area, which is the most dangerous place to accumulate fat. Belly fat reduces one's ability to properly control blood sugar, and may also increase the risk for heart disease and cancer.
All that said, the good news is that you can get ahead of all that by having a plan to stay healthy through the holidays and keep your blood sugar in check. Here are a few of my tips.
- Plan to maintain; not gain: If you go into the holidays surrendering to the typical holiday weight gain, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Sure, weight loss may not be realistic, but why not just plan to maintain? Stick to 3 healthy habits a day (e.g., exercising 30 min/day, incorporating a veggie/green juice at breakfast, or making sure all your grains are whole), and allow yourself a little wiggle room, be it consciously indulging in a small piece of your favorite kind of pie or having a glass of wine. Not only will you have wiggle room, but you'll feel more empowered about your decisions.
- Find healthy alternatives to your holiday favorites. If you are going to a party and are asked to bring something, find a fun new recipe that puts a healthy twist on your favorite dish. This gives you a healthy choice upon arrival and also exposes your friends and family to the fact that healthy food can taste good. Here are a few of my favorite recipe sites: Nutrition Stripped, Deliciously Ella, and Lexi's Clean Kitchen.
- Pick one. I know this one may seem hard, but if your favorite dessert is pumpkin pie, then plan to consciously indulge in the pumpkin pie, and leave the rest. This allows you to enjoy yourself without feeling deprived, which also stinks.
- Portion control. This is also a difficult one, but when you sit down to dinner, aim for the veggies and turkey first. See how you feel after that - maybe you'll even feel full! But if you want a taste of stuffing or mac and cheese, then keep those to smaller portions (1/4 of your plate or less).
- Have a snack before you get there. The hungrier you are when you arrive, the more likely you are to hit the chip and dip table. Plan to have a balanced healthy meal or snack prior to your arrival (think fiber, protein, and healthy source of fat; hint: apple with almond butter), so that you can better manage your appetizer and dinner choices. You may even choose to hit the veggie platter!
More likely than not, if you personally do not have diabetes, you know at least one person who does. If you will be spending the holidays with a loved one who may have diabetes or be at risk of developing it, you can help them manage it by employing some of these tips. Most importantly, though, this is a time to enjoy time with our friends and family, and not beat ourselves up over a few indulgences. I hope this helps you stay happy, healthy, and successful through the holiday season!
Happy Thanksgiving, my turkeys!