Once again, we are in the midst of the holiday season which extends from Thanksgiving to New Year. Homes, stores and offices are already decorated for the season. Parties and family get-togethers will soon abound. Smiles are more common and children’s eyes are alit with glee and anticipation. It is easy during such a time of joy and goodwill to neglect our health. What follows are just a few suggestions of ways in which you can maximize your health while enjoying the season.
- Make certain your vaccinations are current, particularly for the flu. With holiday travel, we are often exposed to a greater degree than at other times of the year to a variety of viruses, influenza being among the most common. It is recommended that all persons six months or older should receive the flu vaccine annually. If you or someone you know is one of those who don’t get vaccinated because “I never get the flu!” Please reconsider this not only for your health but the health of those with whom you come into contact. Flu can be a devastating illness for the very young as well as the elderly. Discuss this and all matters related to your health with a physician.
- Don’t let your weight get out of control. Although we frequently hear that the average American gains five to ten pounds during the holiday season, it isn’t that extreme. Excellent research demonstrates that while the average American does gain weight over the holidays it is only one to two pounds. That’s not so bad but unfortunately, for the majority of us, that extra weight is not lost in the following year or the year after that. Two pounds a year soon starts to add up. The cause of this weight gain is that most of us while enjoying the holidays let our guard down with regard to how much and what we eat (the temptations abound) and we frequently reduce our exercise and other activities.
Here are a few strategies for surviving the season without gaining weight. If you are disciplined you can come out on the other side even lighter. But why not set the goal that you will not gain anything? If you do lose, weight it is even better.
- Stay active! If you exercise regularly keep it up. If not, start a program of walking daily. Always consult a physician before beginning an exercise or diet program!
- Never go to a party hungry: Don’t skip meals prior to a celebration and have a low calorie protein snack and low calorie beverage before arriving at the party.
- Stay hydrated: We often mistake dehydration for hunger which can result in overeating. Sufficient water and other low calorie beverages can prevent this. Alcohol can compound the problem so be sure to drink alcohol in moderation if you must but don’t forget to include the calories from the alcohol in your daily total.
- Enjoy your favorite treats but in moderation: Use the “one a day” trick. Give yourself permission to enjoy a reasonably sized portion of one of your favorite holiday treats everyday thereby avoiding a sense of deprivation.
- Get enough sleep (at least 7-8 hours daily): Lack of sleep negatively impacts our metabolism and frequently results in increased hunger and weight gain.
- Forgive yourself: If you slip up. Don’t dwell upon it but rather assess what happened and make modifications to avoid it in the future. We are all human!
- Eat slowly: We have hormonal mechanisms that tell us when we are full. It takes approximately 20 minutes for our brain to recognize the signals hence eating slowly will work to your advantage.
- At a party, survey the food offerings prior to eating and start with low calorie, high fiber selections such as fruits and vegetables. Proper food choices are essential to health and weight control and these will fill you up more rapidly thereby reducing the amount of high calorie foods you consume.
- Weigh yourself daily. I strongly encourage this throughout the year as it allows each of us to keep track of our weight and make necessary modifications to our diet and activity to lose any extra weight we may gain. It is much easier to lose two pounds than it is to lose twenty!
- Feel empowered to say “No.” With the best of intentions, friends and family frequently offer us treats that we know will adversely impact our weight. Not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings or appear ungrateful, we accept the offering even though we know it will sabotage our diet. We would have no hesitation in declining if we were allergic to it or it violated our religious beliefs. Similarly, in these situations, we should decline respectfully but firmly.
- Finally, believe in Santa Claus. When you stop believing in Santa Claus you get socks and underwear for presents!
These are just a few recommendations which, as many of our patients will attest, allow you to avoid holiday weight gain while increasing your self image as well as confidence in your own self control making this wonderful time of the year even more special. Additionally, you will start off the New Year ahead of most.
Please feel free to use our interactive calorie and exercise counter found on the home page of our website (www.hateyourweight.com). It is free to all! Don’t hesitate to see us for other techniques and further assistance with your weight and health.
Benton Baker III, MD, FACS, FACOG, 200 River Pointe Suite 115, Conroe, Texas 77304
936-756-THIN (8446) www.hateyourweight.com