Every Month is Diabetes Awareness Month!

Written by Nancy Sayles Kaneshiro

I’ve been reading a lot recently about Diabetes Awareness Month. And while the focus is generally on the word “diabetes,” I’m kind of interested in the whole concept of awareness, especially as we approach the holidays. Thanksgiving is the one that gives me fits. I’m the one who makes the dinner – and let me tell you, it’s one of my signature meals. Turkey and stuffing, yams (with little marshmallows, of course), green bean casserole…the works. Impossible-to-resist pumpkin pie…oh God.  Not exactly dietetic or diabetic-friendly. (My sister-in-law brings the pies…and I send her home with whatever is left over!) So even though I leave out the butter called for in every Thanksgiving recipe I’ve ever seen, how do I get through it without gaining 150 pounds or making myself sick—or both? That’s the question of the day.

I think that “awareness” is the key word here, at least for me. First, there’s the concept of NOT eating until your zipper pops right out of your jeans and flies backwards around the room.  I mean, being so stuffed that your zipper feels like it could pop, is that really a good feeling? Certainly, not for me. So the key  to avoiding that sick, stuffed feeling is paying attention—being aware—of what goes into my mouth.

At the same time, Thanksgiving and the other holidays of the season should not be a time of deprivation. Diabetes should not be looked at as a lifestyle of deprivation. We can help ourselves survive the effects of both the disease and the season by being aware. We all learned how to eat when we were diagnosed with diabetes, each of us with our own set of “rules,” depending upon if we were type 1 or type 2, whether we’re on insulin or oral meds, whether or not we’re overweight and if so, by how much. All of these things affect our daily lives, our overall health and maybe just how much fun we’re going to have over the holidays.

So let’s go back to the practice of awareness.  First, let’s promise ourselves not to fall into the bad habit of mindless eating. That means do not sit around the hors d’oeuvres table and eat multiples of everything on the platter. Take a small plate or even a napkin and decide which tasty tidbits you want to sample. Then do it, and quit. There’s much more food to come.

When you get to the Thanksgiving table, resist taking enough food on your plate to feed the Fifth Army. Sample a little of everything that you know you’re allowed. Enjoy it. Savor it. Pay attention to it. That will go a long way toward avoiding any feeling of deprivation when you bypass stuff that will just make you sick. And admit it, you’re not really hungry anymore. You’ve been sitting there, visiting with friends and family, having a good time and eating for two hours. Take a breather.

Then, as everybody else at the table is holding their stomachs and unbuttoning their pants, you are feeling just fine, not stuffed, not on a sugar trip that you’ll have to pay for later, not pining for a rich dessert that will derail you. You’ve made your own rules and you’ve followed them. You’ve got your head in the game. It’s called awareness, and for us it’s diabetes awareness, not just in November, but all year long. Enjoy Thanksgiving, I mean, really enjoy it!  Stay well and I’ll see you next time!