4 Key Tips for Socializing with Type One Diabetes – Type One Style
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Guide: Key strategies to improve mental health for people with type one diabetes

4 Key Tips for Socializing with Type One Diabetes

Published: 22 Dec 2023, Author: Charlie Cawsey

Your Type One Diabetes (T1D) is perfectly compatible with enjoying a brilliant social life.

Whether you’re a natural star who’s the soul of the party, or a wallflower who enjoys the occasional quiet drink with friends, socialising is important.

Being sociable has a huge impact on our mental health and happiness. It can help prevent conditions like heart disease, stroke, and dementia. But, with T1D we know it is often more stressful and time-consuming.

Below, we’re going to help you find a balance between managing your T1D and nurturing a healthy social life. Here are our proven strategies to give you extra confidence to go to any event you want – and have the best possible time!


How to feel better about going out with Type One Diabetes

What’s your mood as you think about the event? A lot will depend on the event itself: it could be a post-work happy hour, a student party, a busy family gathering, a big office party, or a crazy Christmas blow-out with friends. The thought of some of those may delight you or terrify you!

First, a lot depends on who you’re going with. Are you excited because you’ll be flanked by your besties or surrounded by your close family, who know all about your T1D? Or are you worried because you’ll be mixing with new colleagues or student friends who aren’t that clued in on your T1D yet? You might even be worried of other people seeing your Dexcom G6 or other continuous glucose monitor out on display; this can be really stressful for those who aren’t quite ready to “tell the world” yet.

But, social events are mostly about letting go and having fun. For many people with T1D, it helps to have someone there you can talk to - and even joke with - about your T1D. Having people around to support you and look out for you will make all the difference. You’ll also have peace of mind that they will know what to do if you have a hypo, hyper, or other issues with your blood glucose levels.

As soon as you feel comfortable, tell your new co-workers, fellow students, housemates, or acquaintances about your T1D; you’ll be amazed how understanding and supportive they’ll be. Help them understand the demands of diabetes management, as they will be worried and fearful of “the unknown” in regards to Type One Diabetes.

Make sure to coach them on what to do in the event of a hypo while you’re out together for their reassurance, and also yours. You’ll feel more at ease and more confident about accepting invitations or rolling up to an event with them after that.

It’s also a very good idea to carry ID (like a medical bracelet) when you go out – in case you are separated from your friends and have a hypoglycaemic event. If you’re on your own, you don’t want people to mistake a hypo for being drunk.

Crucially, try not to venture off alone; always try to bring someone with you and make sure someone knows where you are, and exactly what to do if you haven’t returned in, say, 5 minutes.

If you’re worried about overdoing it, maybe make a pact with a friend to help you have fun and hold each other accountable? If you hit a happy hour together, maybe plan for a walk or a trip to the gym together later. If you’re going to a party in tandem, agree to control portions by splitting your treats!

When you’ve got your friends on side with your Type One Diabetes, enjoying the night suddenly becomes a whole lot easier.

Strategies to help with blood sugar lows or highs when you’re going out

The lack of control associated with social events can complicate how you monitor your food and drink intake. It can be hard to say “no” to someone offering you delicious food or buying a round of drinks! But remember, there is no shame in saying “no”; stand on the table and scream it if you have to – Type One Style will always have your back!

Find a “going out” testing routine that works for you

Unfortunately, going out doesn’t put our blood glucose levels on pause! Have a plan to help you manage it through wherever the night takes you.

  1. Think about the type of event it is, how long it will last, and plan your testing accordingly. Will you have access to somewhere discreet to finger stick, and do you need that? That sort of thing.
  2. Test your blood sugar levels before heading out the door, and as soon as you arrive.
  3. Alcohol; this is quite a big topic, but you’re going to get the “pizza effect” with this. Alcohol is notorious for causing massive hypoglycaemic events a few hours after it is consumed; be super aware of that, and plan for it.
  4. Have a couple of good friends “know the drill” and arrange for them to check in that you are testing, and brief them on your plan before the night.
  5. Very important: when you get home, test your blood glucose levels again before you go to bed.

Afraid you’ll accidentally forget to check your blood glucose levels? If you don’t already have one, maybe this is a good time to ask your doctor about a continuous glucose monitor (CGM)?

CGMs, like the Dexcom G6 rtCGM, make diabetes management easier as they monitor your levels in real-time without you having to think about it. They are portable and most connect to a smartphone app, so you can check your glucose level quickly and discretely – even in the middle of a fabulous party! Crucially, they will send you notifications, or sound an alarm, if your sugars start dropping either rapidly, or to a certain low value (say 3.3mmol). Plus, with Type One Style’s patches, you can be confident it is securely attached in place and won’t get knocked off on the dancefloor.

If you don’t use a CGM and you’re going to a club, call in advance to check that they will let you in if you’re carrying sharps.


13 essential tips to help control food and drink intake when you’re out with T1D

When socializing, eating and drinking is part of the fun. There’s no need to completely miss out on certain foods and drinks but be mindful about what you’re choosing. A little planning will free you up to have a great time. You can eat whatever you want, but sometimes it’s just not worth it; that’s something for you to bear in mind and run with how you see fit.

Going to a happy hour with work colleagues?

  1. Set a timeline and stick to it.
  2. Make sure to order sugar-free drinks. ALWAYS use your blood glucose monitor and a test strip to check your drink is actually sugar-free (yes, that works – it’s saved us many times! Don’t trust strangers/bartenders!).

Celebrations usually include food that you wouldn’t regularly eat. They are usually high in saturated fat, have more added sugars, and are saltier than our everyday food. Quite often, those small and “harmless” canapes are a trap. Time for our ten party food commandments:

  1. Offer to bring food of your own.
  2. If you’re hosting and guests offer to contribute, recommend diabetes-friendly dishes.
  3. Going to a restaurant? Take the guesswork out of ordering! Look up the menu online ahead of time to scope out healthy, balanced choices. Substitute a green salad or steamed veg for fries. Or, get your burger “in the grass” - eliminate the bun to cut your carbs.
  4. Fill up on available vegetables – be aware of added sugars (e.g. honey, dressings).
  5. Remember condiments can be full of hidden sugars and slow-release fats.
  6. Keep an eye on portion sizes.
  7. If you’re having pudding, stick to one portion and consider what it’s served with.
  8. Limit your intake of processed meat (eg pigs in blankets, gammon, hams, pâtés, and cured meats).
  9. Snacks are your friend, if you don’t know what the food situation will be. Have a stash in your car, bag or briefcase - just in case.
  10. As always, keep some fast-acting sweets or other snacks on hand to treat a sudden hypoglycaemic event.


Key things to know about Alcohol if you have Type One Diabetes

Social gatherings almost always involve alcohol. Alcohol can affect people with T1D in different ways. Deciding whether or not to drink if you’re T1D can be tricky. Speak to your healthcare team as alcohol can make symptoms of some health conditions worse, and might even interfere with your medication.

Alcohol is notorious for causing massive hypoglycaemic events hours after it is consumed (often when we sleep), as the fats are converted to sugars slowly over time. If you know about “the pizza effect”, then you’re at a good starting point.

Here are our five top strategies to ensure you can enjoy yourself:

  1. If you drink, don’t do it on an empty stomach as it increases your risk of hypos.
  2. Always eat food while drinking to help keep blood sugar levels steady and avoid high blood alcohol content levels (really important if your medication affects your insulin sensitivity).
  3. Rather than choosing sugary, high-calorie drinks, opt for light beer or drinks with low-carb counts. But, beware spirits; the high alcohol content is a signal of that delayed hypo effect to come.
  4. Alternate between alcoholic drinks and water to stay hydrated and give your body time to metabolise the alcohol.
  5. Drink water and keep properly hydrated! You can never drink enough water!

Make sure to test your blood glucose levels regularly, and don’t forget! (This is so important we’ve included it twice!)

It’s essential that you continue to monitor your blood sugar levels. Eating different types of foods and participating in different types of activities can change your levels — sometimes without you realizing.

Alcohol and disruptive party environments often send us straight into a sensory overload, so signals we might rely on to “know we are going low” are likely to be completely missed or warped.

Be kind to yourself if you over-indulge!

If you overdo it at a social gathering, don’t guilt yourself too much! Life happens! Enjoy it! Treat it as a learning experience and get ready for next time.

Don’t skip meals later in the day to make up for it either (this could make you overeat at your next meal and mess up your blood glucose levels later on).

Do your best to maintain your usual routine going forward: eat regularly, stay hydrated, check your blood sugar levels frequently, and take your medication as normal. You’ll be back in the routine in no time.

It’s really important that you give yourself permission to unwind.

However you choose to have fun: a happier you will be a healthier you!

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