Halloween might be the worst holiday for diabetic kids, but as an adult, I consider it a preview for more difficult days to come. Sure, I’ll sneak in a few Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on October 31st (because they’re delicious and wonderful and no one should have to go through life without them), but I’m normally pretty good about cutting myself off.
But Thanksgiving is a different story. I think it’s less about what we eat — though I do love stuffing — and more about the ritual of the holiday itself: the entire family coming together around a centerpiece of food. Where, exactly, does diabetes fit into that scene? It’s like the family member you wish you didn’t have to invite — it sits next to you for the whole meal, criticizing you for everything you put in your mouth, and then while everyone else is blissing out in a post-dinner coma, it gets up and starts screaming in your face. For me, the conversation typically goes like this:
Diabetes: Why did you eat that stuffing?
Me: Because my grandmother made it and it is delicious.
Diabetes: You are a horrible person.
And then, whoops, I quickly fall into a state of post-holiday guilt. Even worse, I’m soon faced with concrete evidence that I’ve made a mistake: frustratingly high blood sugar (the whole carb-plus-fat thing doesn’t work so well). But who wants to go through Thanksgiving without a bite of stuffing? And what kind of holiday would it be if you completely abstained from food? What’s more, my birthday is November 25th — always right around Thanksgiving — which means I’ve usually already tired out my willpower by skipping birthday cake. Am I really going to deny myself that tempting bite of mashed potato?
No, my friends. No, I am not. What’s more? That bite is coming covered in butter.
For me, the trade off is usually worth it in the end — I know ahead of time that holidays like Thanksgiving are not going to be perfect blood sugar days, and I do my best to limit my indulgence to a few bites of truly problematic dishes. (And then I take a walk after.) But it does highlight a bigger issue with diabetes: the way it can interfere with things that go far beyond food. A holiday meal is the centerpiece for something much larger — it’s a gathering of your family, a chance to slow down, a time to reminisce, and a continuation of tradition.
A holiday should not, in my opinion, be about carb-counting and insulin dosing and finger pricking, which is why I find diabetes to be particularly frustrating this time of year. I still enjoy the holidays, but I feel a barrier between me and the festivities around me, since I’m required to maintain a level of awareness and self-restraint that the other guests don’t have.
With that said, I’m really looking forward to seeing my family, and I’m not about to let the old DM get in my way of a nice time. This year is going to be a difficult one — my beloved grandmother died this summer and it’s our first holiday without her. In addition to just plain missing her, we’re also down a very important player: she always did the cooking. Now my husband and I are in charge. This being my husband (a man who is wonderfully supportive — but, when I go out of town, will eat a salad bowl full of pasta just to indulge his own carb cravings), we’re going to have holiday traditions/diabetic disasters like mashed potatoes and some sort of pie. But I’m also planning some side dishes that will be both delicious and easier for me to enjoy. Like brussel sprouts with bacon. And salad. And long-cooked greens. And, for that matter, copious amounts of cheese.
Because you know what? Brie has no carbs.
Now that’s something to be thankful for.