Contributor: Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES
Hello December! I can't believe the end of 2020 is here, and I hope you are staying healthy and safe in this era of COVID-19. With all we've dealt with over the last eight months, I bet I'm not the only one who is exhausted! It is challenging to do everything differently - wearing masks, working from home, virtual school, remembering to stand 6 feet apart, and keeping ourselves safe. Then there is the stress of managing diabetes when the motivation to fix healthy food and go out to exercise may not be there. Let me say right up front - IT IS OK! Let's give ourselves a little leeway during this time, without throwing all our good habits out the window. Let's talk about making the holiday season festive (which I think we all need) while sneaking in some healthy treats or activities!
Let us start by "talking turkey" about the big celebration foods. Christmas time around my home revolves around special treats that we only make during this time of year. It starts with the Chex Mix that we make and distribute to neighbors. Next comes days of cookie making! Then there is the large Christmas dinner with all the wonderful sides. And there is also the day-long buffet of appetizers leading up to the dinner. With all this, my diet is tested to the extreme over the holidays. But over the years, I have developed "tricks" to lower my risk of completely blowing it!
- Gift the goodies - My biggest trick is to go ahead and bake the goodies, but then give them away. While I do keep some of the treats at home, I put them away because, for me, out of sight is out of mind.
- Offer some healthier options - To help with the endless appetizer buffet, I always bring fresh vegetables and fruit. I accompany these with lighter dips that use healthier ingredients such as low or no-fat Greek yogurt as the base instead of cream cheese or sour cream.
- Use the Plate Method - At a big dinner, I work with the Plate Method and fill half of my plate with vegetables like salad or Brussel sprouts or green beans. (I avoid the creamed spinach and green bean casserole). The other half of my plate is split between the protein (turkey, ham, beef) and starch (potato, roll, stuffing). Believe it or not, these easy tricks make a huge difference in keeping me on track. My father, who lives with diabetes, has maintained his A1C over the holidays since we implemented this plan about five years ago.
- Don't deprive yourself - For me, this is the most helpful tip. Since some of these foods only happen once a year, I have a small amount. I don't feel like I've missed out, and I don't feel like I "failed" in my quest to be healthy.
- Stick with your exercise routine - Between work, getting ready for the holiday, baking, shopping, wrapping, it is easy to say there is no time for exercise. But try to stick with your routine. Physical activity not only helps blood glucose management, but it also helps to keep your mental wellbeing in a better place.
- Sneak in activity with the family - This year, we need to look for things where we can be socially distant and, if possible, outside. There are different "winter walks" in my area - at the zoo, botanical gardens, or parks where you can get out and enjoy seasonal decorations. How about a game of flag football after the holiday meal, or sledding or skating? Too cold for an outdoor activity? How about using the new virtual reality goggles your kids got for Christmas to play games with the family or go old school with a game of twister! You just snuck activity in on the whole family and maybe started a new holiday tradition!
- Continue monitoring your blood glucose and taking your medications - In our pharmacy, we try to help patients make the most of their insurance benefits at the end of the year. If you can, get a 90 day supply of medications in December - this will help decrease the amount of money you will have to spend in January when deductibles start again. It might be too late for this year but think about getting a one-month supply of medications in late November or early December and then get a 90-day supply on December 30th or 31st. If you are traveling for the holidays, do not forget to pack enough medication for your entire trip, plus an extra week or two just in case you need to quarantine! And remember, if you are flying, your medication should be in your carry-on baggage, not in your checked luggage!
I wish you all a very happy holiday season. And I look forward to leaving 2020 behind and having a very Happy New Year in 2021!
Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES received her bachelors from Purdue University (’94) and her Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Oklahoma (’96). In 2000 Dr. Norman added to her credentials by becoming a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. She is currently the Clinical Coordinator and staff pharmacist for Martin’s Pharmacy. Dr. Norman is a national faculty member for the American Pharmacist Association, teaching certificate programs in both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. She serves on the advisory board that oversees development and revision of these programs. Along with teaching and development responsibilities for APhA, Dr. Norman serves as a peer reviewer for research grants and publication submission. Dr. Norman has also spoken for Abbott, Bayer, Lilly, Mannkind, and Lifescan as a diabetes specialist.