Holidays are around the corner. As Andy William’s song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” When it comes to health, holidays are a double-edged sword. While we have a great time to celebrate, to travel, and to focus on family and friends, we may also need to deal with more potential health hazards than usual.
Holiday goodies are hard to resist. People tend to consume more calories around the holidays due to parties, family feasts, and gifts of cookies, chocolates, and cupcakes. It can all be validated by the thought that we should eat whatever we want because it is holidays. Statistics have suggested that the weight gained during the winter holiday season (mid-November to early or mid-January) can contribute to about half of the total weight gained over one whole year. Those who are already overweight or obese often have more holiday weight gain.
Compelling evidence has demonstrated that dietary self-monitoring is an effective way to lose weight and maintain weight loss. It is particularly important to observe your eating patterns during holidays by keeping food logs or diaries that include foods and calories. If you bite it, you write it. The goal of self-monitoring is to increase self-awareness of binge eating and associated factors.
Spare some time for exercise. Exercise speeds up your metabolism to burn the extra calories. You are less likely to be indulged in eating food with high calories knowing how hard you have to work to burn these. For me, the best way to let me put down a chocolate glazed doughnut is to remind me that I need to do 35 minutes weightlifting or run 16 minutes at 8 mph to burn the categories gained from this savory treat.
Holidays are supposed to be filled with joy and love. Ironically, the holiday season is also a period when people feel blue. Many factors can lead to miserable feelings. People who live far from family may be overwhelmed with a sense of loneliness. The fact that other people are celebrating the holiday with their families can generate more bleakness. Winter holidays are also often a time for people to look back at the past year. Various sad or frustrating events during the year can reappear mentally. In addition, high expectations, money woes, a dizzying array of demands—parties, shopping, cleaning, etc. can escalate the stress.
Some simple acts can help you fight the blues and rediscover the real joy of holidays.
–Give some time to a local charity. As Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Giving back to your community can be rewarding and fulfilling. The good deed can turn into good feelings.
–Be realistic and focus on what matters. Holidays don’t have to be perfect. Each year there are some differences—some family members are not around this year or you can no longer afford the fancy gifts that you usually give others. That’s OK. Don’t focus on what is missing, rather, be grateful for the blessings you have.
–Engage in workouts. Physical activities are a great way to cope with stress and improve mood.
— Limit your commitment. You don’t have to participate in all holiday projects or activities. Learn to say no. Over-commitment can lead to heightened distress.
Is drinking a part of your festive tradition? It certain is for quite a number of people. In 2013, statistically, the Christmas to New Year week is the time when more Americans over-indulged in alcoholic excess than any other time of the year. Distilled spirits industry makes more than a quarter of their annual profits from Thanksgiving to the New Year. There are different reasons for binge drinking: to celebrate, to social, or to deal with increased pressure. It is no secret that over drinking can result in many health problems— liver disease, cardiovascular disease, anemia, just to name a few. Besides, the holiday drinking and driving itself is a huge safety issue.
No one wants to see any drinking-related tragedies in holidays. It doesn’t have to be that way. Awareness, control, and plan can help prevent overdrinking.
–Have a plan before attending a party. Set a limit before drinking alcohol. If you are not sure about your self-control capability, ask a friend to help monitor the number of drinks you have.
–Eat first and alternate between alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. You can still be social even without turning to alcohol immediately.
–Don’t feel obligated to drink more than you are comfortable with. Just politely refuse any drinks you don’t want. Tell people you are driving if you feel the peer pressure from others.
Sleeping is not something to be sacrificed during holidays. However, for many people, sleep is at the bottom of their to-do list. During holidays, people’s daily routine change. Late-night party, black-Friday morning shopping, and traveling cross time-zones to visit friends all cause sleep loss.
— Make sleep a high priority. I like the quote from Jim Rohn, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
— maintain a regular sleep schedule. The regularity for bedtime and the sleep duration is important for improving sleep quality. The human body likes rhythm and predictability.
–Watch out for your caffeine intake. People may take more caffeine during holidays by drinking coffee and hot cocoa and eating chocolate bars.
–Put away your smartphone and tablet before going to bed. Is your phone keeping you up at night? People exposed to mobile radiation make take longer to fall asleep and spent less time in deep sleep.
Are you ready for the holidays? By “ready” I mean being ready to beat the holiday hazards. It is not too late to add these in your holiday plan. Wishing you health and happiness this holiday season and in the year to come!