Health and Happiness throughout the Holidays

November / December 2016

By Lauren Sullivan, PA-C

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are filled with cheer, treasured time with family and friends, reflections of the past, and dreams of the future. Unfortunately for many of us, the joys of the holidays are so overshadowed by the stressful pressures of financial expenditures, travel time, holiday junk food, and mall traffic, that we lose sight of what makes us feel love and happiness during this special time.

 

As a health care provider, every year I witness a holiday cycle in which a patient has the best intentions at New Years to have a great, healthy start following a total holiday sabotage of what they worked so hard to maintain throughout most of the year. Does this sound familiar to you? At the end of the year, most people have likely gained more weight compared to the previous year or they are completely back to square one.

In fact, data from 2007-2010 collected by the National Nutritional Health and Nutrition Survey conducted by the CDC indicates that, starting in one’s 20s, most people gain an average of 2 pounds per year until age 50. Studies have also shown that most weight gain takes place throughout the entire year, so as the year wraps up, it is an excellent opportunity to shed a few pounds and enter the New Year without having to repair all of the damage that was done the year before.

Stop becoming a statistic and maintain a healthy body for life! One way to intercept this unhealthy cycle is to stop succumbing to all of the unnecessary habits we get into throughout the holidays. Here are some recommendations to help you maintain your health and experience more joy this holiday season!

Food and Merriments

Eat more turkey, even the dark meat. Studies show that dark meat has more bioavailable nutrients than white meat; it also contains higher amounts of taurine, which is protective to the heart. Don’t worry about the saturated fat content in turkey, studies now show that healthy saturated fat has no effect on your body’s cholesterol and can actually raise good cholesterol.

Skip the carbs and sugar, instead find some healthy options or just take one bite. Load up on vegetables, healthy fats and protein to keep your blood sugar stable and prevent those sugar crashes after a meal.

Eat a healthy meal before you head out to a party. If you are tempted by all of the treats at the holiday parties, consider eating a healthy meal before you go so you can just graze on some of the healthier choices.

Limit the alcohol to one drink or don’t drink. There is no faster way to raise blood sugar than alcohol. Raising blood sugar promotes inflammation and storage of body fat. Be responsible with alcohol and don’t drink and drive. Detox between Thanksgiving and Christmas if you totally fall off track. Consider a healthy low-glycemic, food-based detox program between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or after New Year’s if you need some structure to get back on track.

Quality Time with Family and Friends

Celebrate the reason for the season! Attend church events and stay in remembrance of what the holidays are all about. Pray and give thanks.

Try a vacation or staycation. Take some time off of work, if you can, and head to a destination or just stay home and enjoy your family.

There is no greater gift than giving. Consider giving to those in need over the holidays, and it does not have to be money; volunteering your time to a good cause can make a huge difference in the lives of others.

Spread cheer to your neighbors. Take a plate of food over to an elderly widow down the street or plan a little get together with neighbors to spread holiday happiness in your neighborhood.

Get kids involved in the kitchen. A lot of our time is spent in the kitchen during the holidays, get your kids involved in making some great food. And it’s not just about the presents - limit it to just a few. While we love to watch our kids get excited about opening presents, try not to make it the center of the holidays. Have them make or be involved with giving to others.

Plan some fun events with friends and family! Create or carry on some fun family traditions. Kids are more likely to remember the annual Christmas play or zoo lights trip you take them to, rather than the latest addition of Pokémon to their toy collection.

Reduce Holiday Stress

Avoid the mall! Unless you just really love shopping amidst crazed last minute shoppers, try to avoid the crowds and do some shopping online.

Set a budget and stick to it. Nothing is worse for your stress level than to be in debt. Set a budget of what you want to spend over the holidays and stick to it.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to recreate every Pinterest idea during the holidays, remember to unwind a bit and not overwork the details.

Take a few days off before the holidays to prepare so you can enjoy yourself. If you have too many last minute things to do to get ready for the holidays or you are preparing for company, think about taking a few days off prior to the events so you can avoid some of the procrastination and enjoy more on the day of the event.

New Resolutions

Set goals for the New Year: What would you like to see improve in your health? Where can you grow spiritually? Do you need to spend more time with loved ones? Set a plan to meet your goals.

Perhaps the reason we all love National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the fact that we have all been there at some level. Through all of the hilarious moments in the movie it really has a great message: keep the holidays simple, reduce unnecessary stress, and enjoy the good company. Happy holidays and cheers to your health!