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Diabetes on Holiday

Eating mindfully on vacation

A vacation can offer a break from the monotony and stress of daily life for all of us, including those living with diabetes. Why not use your vacation to take a fresh approach to food? A holiday might be a good time to break from the monotony of boring meals and the stress of eating on the run or potentially making unhealthy, unsatisfying food choices. Your body might thank you for it!

Change your mindset

Maintaining balanced eating and optimal blood sugar on vacation starts with your mindset. Thoughts like, “I’m on vacation, so I’m going to eat as much as I want,” may leave you feeling stuffed and uncomfortable, and even lead to high blood sugar. It’s not necessary to deprive yourself, but consider changing your vacation mindset from “anything goes” to a more mindful mindset of “anything in moderation.”

By switching to a more mindful mindset, you may even enjoy a cruise without going overboard! Here are a few other examples of “typical” vacation thoughts followed by possibly more effective mindful mindsets:

Vacation mindset: There is so much food to eat; I’m going to try everything!
Mindful mindset: There is so much food to eat; I can afford to be really choosy.

Vacation mindset: I’m not going to worry about what I eat this week.
Mindful mindset: I practice self-care no matter where I am.

Vacation mindset: I’m on vacation, so I’m going to splurge!
Mindful mindset: I’m on vacation, so I’m going to enjoy experimenting with new foods.

Vacation mindset: Why exercise? I’m on vacation!
Mindful mindset: Why exercise? I’m on vacation! I can swim, walk on the beach, go dancing, or even try skiing.

Of course, a mindful mindset doesn’t just work for vacations; it applies to any situation where there’s an abundance of food – in other words, nearly every day of your life!

Savor your meals

Instead of using your vacation as an excuse to eat too much, make it a point to slow down and really savor your food. This approach, called mindful eating, is an ancient concept that is proving to be a practical, flexible method for managing your diet, regardless of the current circumstances. You can learn more about mindful eating here.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your dining experience while on vacation (it’s always a good idea to talk to your healthcare team about any changes you may want to make in your meal plan):

  • Instead of eating purely for entertainment, first notice whether you are hungry or not. Eating to meet your body’s needs is more satisfying and less likely to lead to overeating.
  • Decide how you want to feel when you’re finished eating. If you eat with the intention of feeling better when you’re done than you did when you started, you are more likely to choose foods that support your target blood sugar and less likely to overeat.
  • Choose food that nourishes your body and your mind for optimal satisfaction. Skip the ordinary; vacations are a great time to experience new flavors and try new foods. Explore regional specialties, local products, and fresh produce. And remember, there is no need to ruin a fabulous meal by eating so much that you are uncomfortable and regretful afterward.
  • Sit down to eat ­– even if it’s just a snack – and minimize distractions. Although it’s possible to eat without thinking, you won’t enjoy it as much and you are more likely to miss the subtle signs of satiety, or feeling full.
  • Make your meal a multisensory experience. Appreciate your surroundings, the ambience, and the people you’re sharing your meal with. Notice the aromas, colors, textures, and flavors of your food. Your experience, and therefore your satisfaction, will be greatly heightened when you are mindful of the subtle details that make up each moment.

In addition to paying attention to food, consider using your vacation to practice being more mindful during other experiences, like listening to the waves, strolling through a museum, or playing with your children or grandchildren.

Plan your journey

You wouldn’t leave on a fabulous vacation without planning where you’ll go, how you’ll get there, and what you’ll do, right? Consider planning ahead to manage your diabetes, too. Following a balanced diet can be tricky even under ideal circumstances, but it takes even more preparation to manage all the dining out, eating on the run, unpredictable schedules, and limited options you may face while away from home.

To make things easier, try to stick to your routine as much as possible ­– eating balanced meals, checking your blood sugar – while remaining flexible enough to enjoy spontaneous adventures and unique experiences.

Plan to have healthy snacks with you so you don’t feel trapped into buying something from a machine or fast food restaurant while you’re on the go. Of course, you can still enjoy meals out; just focus on balance, variety, and moderation.

When visiting friends or family, instead of just going out to eat, offer to cook a favorite healthy meal together. Suggest an evening walk, dancing, sightseeing, or other active pursuits. Your hosts may welcome the opportunity to keep their healthy lifestyle on track even while they have visitors.

A vacation provides many opportunities to refresh and rejuvenate. But why wait until your next trip? Try these suggestions at home to make every day an experience to savor!

If you’re planning a trip, read about Leighton Rockafellow, Jr.’s adventures around the world living with type 1 diabetes and frequent traveler Stacey Divone’s tips for plane trips while living with diabetes.

Michelle May, MD, is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. May is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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