Tis the season for...snacking!
It all starts with Halloween. Leftover candy brought in by co-workers leads to the oh-so-tempting pumpkin muffin meeting, followed by the non-stop Christmas cookies that typically appear on Mondays after weekend home bake-offs!
Research shows that nearly all Americans snack at least one time a day. Over the last 30 years snacking patterns in the US have changed. The average number of snacks has doubled, from 59% to 90% of adults consuming at least one snack per day. Registered dietitians recommend snacking as a way to control hunger or maintain stable blood sugars during the day. However, many of us don’t just eat snacks for nutritional reasons.
According to the 2014 Nielsen Global Snacking Report, more and more snacks are eaten for emotional or non-nutritional reasons. Sixty-four percent of global respondents eat snacks to improve their mood, 53% as a reward and 44% because they are stressed.
Managing your diabetes in the workplace can present unique challenges: high-stress levels, co-worker munchies, sitting at the desk for long periods of time and irregular meal schedules among them. Add to this equation, high sugar, high-calorie holiday office treats, and it’s a formula for disaster.
A study done in Physiology and Behavior found that normal-weight adults gain about 0.5-1 kg (1-2.2lbs) during the holiday season. Overweight adults gain more weight, around 5 pounds. The bad news is that both normal weight and overweight adults never seem to lose those extra pounds after the holidays are over.
Don’t let the office environment take a toll on your blood sugars. Below are seven strategies to help you keep your diabetes in check and avoid seasonal weight gain during the holidays.
#1. Stick to a Routine
Diabetes self-care management is all about creating healthy habits. Checking blood sugars, counting carbs and remembering to take medication, are all habits people with diabetes develop over time. From personal experience as a person with type 1 diabetes, my control is always better when I have a routine. “Make sure to have breakfast, lunch, and regular snacks," says Chris Ring, nurse practitioner and diabetes educator at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Florida. “Having a routine allows people with diabetes to be more constant in their management and removes the unpredictability in diabetes life.”
#2. Be Realistic
The holidays are a time to celebrate with family and loved ones. Part of this includes enjoying staple holiday dishes or childhood favorites. Holiday celebrations, however, don’t give permission for gluttonous eating. The holiday season is probably not the best time to start an extreme diet or be overly restrictive. Instead, be realistic and know this time will come. When we create an unrealistic expectation, we are more likely to feel frustrated and give in. "Don’t conquer the world, conquer what you eat every meal,” advises nurse Ring, ARNP, CDE.
#3. BYO Snacks
Bring in your own healthy, diabetes-friendly,pre-measured snacks which will make insulin dosing easier and remove the guesswork. Have your snacks nearby to ensure you have an option when temptations arise. Lori Zanini, RD, CDE, and creator of the 7-Day Diabetes Meal Plan, recommends stocking your desk with foods that do not require refrigeration. “One of my favorites is homemade trail mix that contains two tablespoons almonds, two tablespoons pumpkin seeds, and one tablespoon unsweetened, dried cherries.”
#4. Be Mindful
Snacks are meant to satisfy hunger and to give us energy until the next meal. As many as 75% of the world's population eats snacks for enjoyment or to satisfy a craving, according to Nielsen's Global snacking. Practice mindful eating by analyzing hunger cues and asking yourself these questions: “Am I hungry or stressed? Am I hungry or thirsty? Try having a glass of water first before digging into the cookie.
#5. Take a Walk-Break
Sitting for long periods at your desk is associated with not only extra weight gain but also higher mortality risk and less productivity at work. Research in Diabetologia found that taking short but frequent breaks at work improved insulin sensitivity and other metabolic markers in people with type 2 diabetes. Plus, a quick stride after lunch can help lower post-meal blood sugars and keep your diabetes in shape.
#6. Focus on Hydration
Have a bottle of water on your desk at all times. “Whether sparkling or still, staying hydrated throughout the day will increase your awareness of your hunger levels, which can prevent unnecessary snacking,” says Zanini. Try other non-caloric drinks like green tea to help with anxiety and hydration. Green tea has also been shown to decrease body weight, waist circumference and blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes.
#7. Don’t Restrict But Have a Plan to Accommodate Indulgences
The most prominent pitfall is to have an “all or nothing attitude.” When we think of “diet,” we think of restricting, which is innately an adverse reaction. Instead, focus on what will happen if you do indulge in that office snack. Can you add an extra 30 minutes of activity? Walk during lunch break? Have an extra serving of salad at dinner and no carbs? Have a specific action plan that will allow flexibility but also include strategies to get back on track.
The holiday season is a time to enjoy with your loved ones, not to add stress. You can still enjoy office holiday parties without sacrificing your health. Change your work environment, so it works for you not against you. Above else, practice mindfulness and be mindful and be grateful for your health this holiday season.