Contributor: Jeanne Jacoby, FNP-BC, CDE (and person with type 1 diabetes!)
In partnership with
Holidays can be stressful…shopping, cooking, wrapping, socializing…oh, and self-care! For those of us with diabetes, you can add blood sugar checks, insulin doses, pill organizers, pump site changes, beeping CGMs and that smell of insulin mixed with the sweet aroma of eggnog and the earthy scent of pine!
To your credit, you manage these activities independently all year long and work hard to keep these extra activities from affecting your friends and family. When it comes to the holidays, many loving kin suddenly turn into the “diabetes police” as they decide to show their love by making sure you are taking care of yourself. I have met the diabetes police several times in my life both as a person with type 1 diabetes and as a health care provider. I have heard stories from patients, and I have warned newly diagnosed patients about the phenomenon. Crimes according to the diabetes police include: eating sweets or other rich foods, drinking alcohol, relaxing for a day without exercising…you know, the typical everyday activities during the holidays!
“Are you allowed to eat that [insert holiday food item here]?”
“Doesn’t that make your blood sugars go high?”
“I didn’t think diabetics are allowed to eat that!”
“Shouldn’t you be exercising more?”
“Are you really allowed to have that glass of wine?”
I’m sure you have heard these comments, and they can sometimes feel hurtful…like you are being punished for having diabetes. It is important to remember, though, that your loved ones are not saying these things to show disappointment or judgement. Instead, it is likely that your loved ones are reaching out to show their love. They want to join you in your everyday struggles, and they want to help.
First, it is okay to feel hurt by the comments, because you are doing your best and wish that was good enough for your loved ones. It is good for you to acknowledge these feelings. And, depending on how hurtful these feelings may be, you might need to sit with them for a few minutes before taking this next step. It is okay to take a break from a big family event. Go into a quiet place (the bathroom will suffice!) and take some deep breaths. Reconnect to yourself. Try to be mindful of your own goals and what things make you feel better.
Once you are feeling a little better, you can address the comments or questions. This might be a great opportunity to teach your friends and family about diabetes and how a “diabetic diet” is really a diet of moderation. A “diet” that all people should follow. And the exercise they were asking about? Why not get a group together to go for a walk or have a dance party (which is healthy for everyone, not just people with diabetes!). And finally, take that glass of wine and toast to good health for everyone!
While you don’t need to take on the job of resident diabetes educator, you should feel empowered to teach your family things that you have learned through either your experience or your diabetes education classes! If that is too much work, and you just want a holiday, my recommendation is to say, “Thank you for your concern. I’d be happy to talk about this later. Right now, I’m focused on enjoying my holidays with you and our whole family!”
Cheers to you and yours during this holiday season. Hang in there and be strong (like you are all year!).
Jeanne Jacoby is a nurse practitioner CDE who has been working in diabetes for the past 12 years. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 21 (5 days after graduating from college), she later went to nursing school, and started her career as an inpatient diabetes nurse practitioner. As she cared for hospitalized patients with diabetes, she wished that she could help patients to manage their diabetes before they were admitted to the hospital. She took a position at an outpatient practice where she developed a passion for diabetes technology. She is currently working for Voluntis as the Manager of US Diabetes Medical Affairs helping to develop algorithms based on clinical evidence. This position allows for her to reach an even bigger population of patients with diabetes! She is excited about the future of diabetes treatments and therapies including all of the new technology available. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Peter, and their two daughters.