How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays
December 4, 2020
Does Thanksgiving leave you feeling stuffed? Does December make you fear becoming stuck halfway down a chimney or halfway up your jeans? Do you feel not so jolly after the year’s end? Does the promise of a New Year’s resolution seem unreal or unappealing?
We want you to know that your health through the holidays can be better, you can minimize your weight, and your situation does not have to be so depressing.
It is true that many, if not most of us, have gained 5-10 pounds since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. The reasons are multiple: stress for one, which leads to comfort eating and less sleep, less sleep which alters our fat metabolism, less exercise due to closed gyms and highly-toxic outdoor air and less diet restraint, probably from a “who cares, the world is falling apart” attitude.
First, please forgive yourself. The stress we’ve all felt is real, and nature seems to have us eat and store fat as a defense against this stress. Second, think of what you have done in the past that helps you deal with stress, food excesses, weight, and low energy. You know you have helped yourself in the past. Third, look for help from those around you, your physicians, counselors, clergy, and since we are in the 21st century: Apps. As a way to get started, here are just a few suggestions.
The Physical Activity Guide for Americans recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Not enough time in your day? It’s less than 3% of your waking hours. Does it still seem like too much? Use any form of movement (dancing counts) for any duration you can for even small amounts matter and help with weight, blood sugar, strength, and endurance. The trick is to find a way to do more this year than last, more today than yesterday.
Wait, what about the weight? Weigh yourself at least twice per week. Decide on how much weight you will gain through the holidays and track your effort. Have one too many cookies? Walk it out. One cookie is 30 minutes (or an hour) of extra activity. Avoid having store-bought sweets but plan to sample the homemade sweets your family leaves at your doorstep (hopefully no porch-pirates) or sends your way.
Alcohol? We thought you would never ask. As magical as it seems, alcohol, especially in excess (the healthful limit for men and women is now considered one drink). It will not make you feel better if stressed, anxious, or depressed. Alcohol can make you feel worse, much worse. Don’t drink if you cannot stop once started. Please seek help if alcohol keeps you from doing what you want to in life.
Wishing you good health and good holidays,
Seema and Alan
About the Authors: Drs. Policepatil and Kelton are board certified in Internal Medicine and provide services at University Medicine Associates. They hold faculty appointments with University of California, San Francisco in the UCSF Fresno Department of Internal Medicine.
For more information about University Medicine Associates, please click here.