Your usual workweek routine is a fond memory these days. While we’re all doing what we can to slow the spread of COVID-19 by working from home, that doesn’t mean it’s easier to make healthy decisions.
As people with type 1 diabetes, we really can’t afford to let this new lockdown situation lead us to gain 10 or 20 pounds, or throw our entire routine out the window.
Here are seven tips to help you build a healthy routine for the next few weeks (and potentially months) of this stay-at-home lifestyle without letting it negatively impact your daily blood sugar management.
Remember, your basal rates are based on normal life patterns. If you don’t have kids and you’re now suddenly able to lay in bed all morning, don’t. Those lazy hours in bed will knock your entire day off track — including your background insulin needs.
There’s nothing quite as helpful to type 1 diabetes management as consistency, so sleeping in every day means your insulin, meals, and activity levels will all be out of whack. Which of course means blood sugars will follow by going haywire.
Sleeping in too late also makes it more likely that you’ll stay up late, which is the easiest time of day to mindlessly munch on junk food calories you don’t need. And you can be sure those extra calories will impact your blood sugar the following morning.
So try setting your alarm for a reasonable time in the morning and getting yourself back into bed before 10:30 p.m. This is an essential first step to keeping your health on track when the boundaries of your usual work routine are gone.
So the gym is closed and that’s fallen out of your weekly routine, right? “No gym” doesn’t have to mean “no exercise,” especially when our blood sugar management is used to a certain degree of physical activity.
If you stop exercising altogether, you’ll easily find your blood sugar creeping upward and need adjustments to your insulin doses. Needless to say, it’s best to find a way to stay active at home.
If you start the day off with 2 hours of Netflix in your pajamas on the couch, you’re pretty likely to continue that theme throughout the day, lacking energy and motivation to make healthy choices. But if instead you start the day off with 20 minutes of dancing in the kitchen to your favorite 90s pop hits, or practicing your at-home workout moves, you’ll find your energy and your enthusiasm for a healthy day.
It doesn’t have to be the same workout you would’ve done at the gym. Just move and connect with your body.
What impacts our blood sugar levels more than practically anything else? Food. Similar to the issue of Netflix and pajamas, a junky breakfast will lead to a junky lunch which leads to a junky dinner, and very little motivation to exercise or eat healthy food. Try starting your day with vegetables and healthy protein!
A big salad and eggs and sausage? A big bowl of microwaved frozen veggies and bacon? Say yes to veggies. Making good choices at breakfast means you are set up to make good choices at lunch.
As people with type 1 diabetes, we cannot afford to start baking cookies and cakes every day. Occasional treats, sure, but keeping our daily intention of eating mostly whole foods and plenty of veggies at most meals is more important now than ever.
This extra time at home is a great opportunity to study the impact on your blood sugar of a homemade meal versus what you might usually be buying in terms of packaged foods or restaurant take-out.
Have you felt “I just don’t have time” to cook my breakfast at home? If you’re used to stopping at the Starbucks drive-thru for a pastry and sugary coffee, use this extra time in your schedule to practice some new healthy breakfast habits.
Many of us are likely to gain an extra 30 minutes (or more) in the morning and 30 minutes at night because we aren’t driving to and from our office. Now that we have more flexible mornings, we can use them as an opportunity to try preparing some new breakfast options.
You might discover that cooking three eggs and microwaving a big bowl of veggies takes far less time than stopping at Starbucks every day. For ideas, see What to Eat for Breakfast with Type 1 Diabetes.
This is a big one for those of us with T1D because whether we like it or not, every French fry or cupcake must be accounted for with adequate insulin.
Without the structure of your work schedule, it can feel like you have no reason to keep your nutrition structured either. But this isn’t an “all or nothing” thing when it comes to making healthy decisions around food.
Whether your favorite indulgence is potato chips, take-out, or chocolate, it’s a great idea to make a plan for when you’ll enjoy that indulgence rather than letting junky choices take over your entire day. If chocolate is your preferred treat, then try being proactive about planning to enjoy that treat once per day or once every few days.
Don’t let being cooped up over COVID-19 lead you to overeating junk. Instead, use it as a motivation to practice disciplined choices for most of the day while leaving room for a treat once per day. Your blood sugars will thank you!
Nobody needs to drink alcohol 7 days a week — even during COVID-19 social distancing. And yes, red wine is supposed to offer a few health benefits, but it’s still alcohol, which promotes the storage of belly fat.
A little alcohol easily leads to craving more junk food in the evening, as well as having less energy the next morning, which encourages a vicious cycle of poor choices → skipping exercise → higher blood sugar levels → less energy → weight gain… yada yada yada.
Whether you try limiting yourself to two glasses of wine every other day or two servings of alcohol on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, the point is to limit. The idea is to give your body a break from having to process all that alcohol, and you’ll inevitably give yourself more daily energy, too.
We’re all anxious right now, especially those of us with diabetes. There are so many unknowns, and it’s stressful just getting into the grocery store to grab basic items. Where are COVID-19 germs hiding? On the grocery basket? On the keypad in the checkout aisle?
Try turning off the news and social media feeds for a few hours a day, and taking a deep breath. Another batch of cookies is not going to fix this and it’s not going to make your stress disappear. Plus, it will leave its mark on your CGM graph and your overall insulin needs.
Instead, think about going out for a walk. Or follow a yoga video on YouTube. Dance in your kitchen. Hug your kids. Take another deep breath. And if your jaws still desperately need to nosh on something, try some gum.
As people with type 1 diabetes, we cannot afford to simply “let go” during this stressful period of time, while we wait for life to get back to normal. Our daily blood sugar levels thrive on routine and consistency. So let’s all do our best to establish our own new routines within the space available to us.
At the end of the day, it’s about creating a new structure for our lives while we all strive to minimize the damage of this virus.
Ginger Vieira is a type 1 diabetes advocate and writer, also living with celiac disease and fibromyalgia. She is the author of “Emotional Eating with Diabetes: Your Guide to Creating a Positive Relationship with Food” and several other diabetes books found on Amazon. She also holds certifications in coaching, personal training, and yoga.