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Summer has arrived, and for many, that means it's time to take that long-awaited vacation. Visions of sunny beaches, gourmet meals, mountain resorts, adventurous excursions, and campgrounds dance in our minds. The word "vacation" is typically a synonym for "letting it all go." No worries. No cares. Just pure indulgence. But for people with diabetes, an upcoming vacation can bring on anxiety and stress. For many of us, our disease thrives on routine and predictability, and vacations do not adhere to our everyday lives.
My family and I take one or two vacations each year, and I have found this to be true: A little planning goes a long way. Much to my surprise, the past few vacations have resulted in controlled blood sugars and sustained body weight. Did I indulge in local seafood and specialty desserts? Of course! Did I follow my regular exercise plan? Not always. But upon reflection, I realize that my careful planning paid off. I was able enjoy my vacation and return home rejuvenated without wreaking havoc on my body.
How is it possible to control one's diabetes while vacationing? Let's examine the three "F"s: fitness, food, and fun.
Fitness: If you're going to stay in a hotel, I suggest doing some research. I only choose hotels with fitness facilities. Ask what the fitness center's hours of operation are, what equipment is available, how much equipment is available, and if all of it is in working order. If you are used to lifting weights and the hotel has none, take a resistance band, which travels well and can offer a workout similar to free weights or weight machines. If you like to swim, find out the depth and length of the hotel pool and the hours of operation. (Talk to your doctor about foot and skin safety before using a public pool.) The other option is to find out of there is a gym near your hotel that is open to vacationing guests.
If you are going to be staying with family or friends, find out if there are any local parks (for walking and running) or pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, or if your host has any fitness equipment you can use. Of course, if you are camping or staying on a beach, you can enjoy the great outdoors. Take advantage of nature's beauty by hiking, swimming, biking, or walking.
Food: If you are staying in a hotel, ask what specific foods are available for meals and what the cost is (if any). Also, find out which meals are available and when. If the meals offered do not meet your dietary needs, bring your own easy-to-carry foods, such as oatmeal packets, fruit, granola bars, or nuts. My family and I always reserve a hotel room that has a mini-fridge for snack and insulin storage. You can also research local restaurants and take along your carbohydrate counting guide.
Staying with family members or friends can be beneficial to your diabetes because you can participate in grocery shopping, meal planning, and meal preparation. Take some of your favorite recipes along to share or, to thank your hosts, offer to make an entire diabetes-friendly meal for everyone to enjoy.
Fun: Keep in mind that you'll probably be doing a lot of walking on your vacation, which can lower your blood sugars. I have found that my blood sugars are usually more controlled on vacation than when I'm at home because I'm constantly on the move, visiting attractions (museums, parks, monuments) and shopping at outlet malls. If you are trying an activity that is new to you or is increased in intensity, you might need to check your blood sugar more frequently and take breaks accordingly. Before your vacation, ask your doctor about adjusting your medications or dietary plan to match your increased activity level. Always wear your medical identification bracelet, carry extra diabetes supplies, and tote snacks, glucose tablets, and water. And it's always a good idea to inform your hosts, traveling companions, instructors, and others of your diabetes and how to respond if there is an emergency.
Increased sleep can be a benefit of a vacation. However, your sleep patterns might be disrupted depending on your accommodations, your planned activities, and any time or weather changes. If you are staying in a hotel, ask for a room that is far from elevators and ice machines. Earplugs and eye masks are another option. I have found that turning bright alarm clocks away from me helps me sleep better, as well as taking my own pillow. Sleep changes can impact your blood sugars, so making yourself comfortable, whether your bed is in a tent or in a luxury resort, is important.
Wherever you find yourself this summer, happy trails to you! May you arrive home relaxed, refreshed, and just as well controlled (or better).
0 comments - Jul 3, 2010
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.