Metabolic Health in a Holiday Environment

Thanksgiving DayIt is already starting. Here in North America, the weather is becoming crisp and winter holiday preparations are underway. The traditional feast of Thanksgiving is coming upon us next week. So a recent analysis of copious continuous glucose monitoring data from a small group of diabetes patients offers relevant insight into the challenge of metabolic health in this holiday environment.

All but two of the 14 patients whose data they analyzed had a spike in adverse glycemic events during the winter holidays. These are all people with type 1 diabetes who are taking care to monitor and control their blood sugar. So motivation is presumably not an issue. The issue is a challenging environment at odds with healthy patterns for eating.

In other words, we can stop blaming ourselves and start figuring out how best to cope. For all the good they bring, these holidays also bring certain stresses.

An Objective Data Source

This study, conducted by Prajakta Belsare and colleagues, tapped into the growing resource of data that patients routinely collect for the purpose of self-monitoring. They presented their paper at the international conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society. They analyzed three months of continuous glucose monitoring data from these 14 patients. The data spanned three months which included Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years holidays.

Statistical analysis of glucose control during holiday versus non-holiday weeks found significantly more readings of blood glucose that were outside the desired range. They saw individual variations in the difficulties these patients experienced, but almost all of them faced more problems in holiday weeks.

Realistic Expectations

This brings us to the question of how to cope. For that, we find some excellent perspective from psychologist Gary Foster in Psychology Today. He writes:

“It’s crucial to acknowledge that your regular routine may be disrupted during the change of seasons and holidays. It is not a normal time of year, so don’t expect things to go the same as they do in other, less busy times of the year. It is how you adjust your routine and mindset to the holiday reality that matters most.”

Self-compassion and gratitude for the pleasures of the season can also be quite helpful, he says. That self-compassion comes from a recognition that a holiday environment creates challenges for keeping up with metabolic health goals. So we cope as best we can while enjoying the season.

Click here for the full study from the IEEE meeting and here for further data on glycemic control during holidays. For Foster’s perspective, click here.

Thanksgiving Day, Curt Teich postcard, artist unknown / Wikimedia Commons

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November 18, 2022