Accessible Diabetes Management Strategies for Enjoying the Holidays
When you think of the holidays, what are some associations that immediately come to mind? Most likely, you would think of family and friends, giving and receiving presents, and perhaps religious observances of some sort or other. There is often a common thread running through all of these associations: eating! Who can resist Grandma's famous peanut butter pie, or Aunt Myrtle's scrumptious noodles? How can you possibly say no to your boss when he brings fudge to work, or a colleague who offers you a homemade chocolate chip cookie?
For most people, the holidays add a few pounds and cause some discomfort when putting on dress clothes for the yearly office party--a situation that can be rectified by a trip to the local gym on January 2, along with a New Year's resolution to get healthy once again. For a person who deals with diabetes, however, the problem is a bit more complex.
Many of the holiday treats that we all love to partake in bring with them unwanted carbs, causing a diabetic's blood sugar to soar into the stratosphere, not to mention other unwanted ingredients such as high amounts of sodium that further impede a person's ability to live a healthy life. So what is a person with diabetes supposed to do? Avoid all of the holiday foods around them? Not at all. It is important, however, for a diabetic to make some wise choices as to what, and how much, they will eat. Below are some suggestions for navigating the holidays as someone with diabetes and a visual impairment.
Counting the Cost: Resources for Healthy Choices
In the year and a half since I was first diagnosed as a type-2 diabetic, I've been constantly surprised at just how inaccurate I can be when it comes to estimating how many grams of carbohydrates (carbs) are in the food I am about to eat. Does that tiny little donut really contain 58 carbs--almost the amount allotted for an entire meal? Can I really have four peanut clusters as a snack for only 15 carbs? What I need is a way to keep myself accountable and get the straight scoop on what I am really putting into my mouth. For me, an invaluable tool is MyFitnessPal. This "free calorie counter, diet tracker, and exercise journal" has both a website and iOS app that are easy for me to use.
MyFitnessPal also has an app on the Google Play store, but I have no experience with using it. With MyFitnessPal, I can easily look up information for my favorite foods in order to find out how many carbs, calories, and grams of sodium a food contains. I can enter my weight as well as exercise information into the app, and set weight and exercise goals for myself.
At times, stopping what I am doing to enter information into MyFitnessPal is tedious, and I don't always maintain records as well as I should, but the app and website are there when I need them. MyFitnessPal is free, with purchased upgrades available to, among other things, get rid of advertising.
A quick book search on National Braille Press's website turned up several books relating to healthy recipes including a book on desserts for those with diabetes, as well as a carb counting reference. For those like me who enjoy a good reference book and don't always want to fiddle with an app, a good book might be an excellent tool to add to your arsenal. NBP offers books in hard copy and electronic braille, as well as books in electronic formats including Word and DAISY.
Finally, In the August 2016 issue of AccessWorld, I reviewed the I.D. Mate Galaxy from En-Vision America, a stand-alone device that scans product barcodes, and reads packaging information aloud to the user. At over $1,000, this product is a significant investment, and many will prefer to use an app on their smartphone for this purpose, but I have found the Galaxy to be a wonderful tool to help me make healthy choices when it comes to eating at home.
You Can't Sit Still and Stay Healthy
I once had a nutritionist tell me that everyone should eat like a diabetic. In other words, being healthy is something we should all strive for. If it is true that we should all be healthy eaters, then it stands to reason that we should all get plenty of exercise. This is especially true for someone who is diabetic. Holidays can certainly bring both negative and positive stress to a person's life, and exercise can help reduce that stress, lowering blood glucose levels, and improving heart health, just to name a few benefits. In the June 2017 issue, AccessWorld featured BlindAlive, a website created by Mel Scott that provides exercise programs tailored for blind and visually impaired people. Along with easily understood exercises, BlindAlive offers podcasts and blog posts on a variety of health topics, healthy eating being chief among them. While diabetes may not always be mentioned specifically, any diabetic with a visual impairment will certainly gain something from paying frequent visits to this site.
Taking Extra Steps: Medication and Diabetes Management for People with Visual Impairments
In the February 2017 issue of AccessWorld , I chronicle the start of my journey into managing diabetes as a blind person. In that article, I talk about my use of oral medication to treat diabetes. The Prodigy Voice from Prodigy Diabetes Care is still the blood-glucose monitoring device I use today, and I currently do not need to give myself injections of insulin. I spoke with a blind person who uses insulin regularly for this article, however. In answer to my questions, she told me that she uses insulin pens that she disposes of when they are empty. Each pen contains 300 units of insulin, and she is easily able to give herself the correct dosage of insulin by counting the clicks that are easily detectable--one click for each unit of insulin. When the pen is empty, no more clicks are detectable. Pens are used until they either run out of insulin, or there is not enough insulin left for a full dose. She is able to count clicks to determine how many units of insulin are left in a pen, and a new needle is used each time an injection is given. She does not prefer one brand of insulin pen over another, and has no trouble counting clicks with any of the pens she uses. Since it takes both hands to hold the pen and inject herself, she finds it easiest to use her abdomen as the injection site.
In the article mentioned above, I also mention talking blood pressure monitors. I do not have experience with these, but talking blood pressure monitors are still available from the sites mentioned in that article.
Nobody wants to be the person at the party who can't have any fun. Fortunately, even as a diabetic, you don't have to fit into that category. There may be some foods that just aren't healthy, and you may opt to either turn them down altogether or find healthier options. In other cases, portion control may be a perfectly valid option. Whatever route you decide to take, there are plenty of accessible tools to assist you as a blind person in making an informed decision. With that in mind, have a happy, healthy holiday season!