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Wrapped Up: Your Holiday Survival Guide to Health

December 12, 2013


Gravy, shortbread, and candy canes – oh, my! The holidays are here. And, with it piles of unhealthy foods that once consumed can cause headaches, tummy aches, bloating, tight feeling waistbands, and that “Bah-humbug!” feeling.

That wrapped-up feeling holiday stress can give you, plus poor eating can sure take the joy out of the season. All we want for Christmas is for your holidays to be merry and bright. So, here’s a little gift from us to you. Go on…unwrap it! Enjoy these tips on how to survive the holidays and enjoy health.

It’s the Holidays – Dig In!
The holidays are celebrated with family and friends surrounded by mounds of high calorie foods. With such delicious, irresistible, mouth-watering food around we tend to over-eat and make unhealthy food choices. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Quinnipiac University studied two years of people’s eating habits, and found both the quantity of food and calorie-content increased on weekends and over holidays. Knowing this, perhaps this holiday season we can alter our eating patterns. Try these simple tricks to help you eat healthier at your next holiday gathering: choose a small plate to keep the quantity of high-calorie foods you’re consuming low; try to fill half of your plate with vegetables or fruit; and stick to one dessert per meal.

Stress Causes Weight Gain
Researchers have found that stress is linked to weight gain. When American researchers analyzed nine years of data from 1,355 men and women, they found psychosocial stress related to work, personal relationships, life constraints and finances were associated with weight gain. For men who were already overweight, work related demands had the largest impact on weight gain. Women’s waistlines appear to be effected by not just job-related stress, but by strains on personal relationships and life constraints. In simple terms, when we’re stressed we gain weight. Stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol triggers certain fat cells to release triglycerides offering your body sufficient energy to deal with stress. Other fat cells, such as those in the abdomen, are triggered by cortisol to absorb triglycerides.

The holidays can be stressful – there’s decorating, trimming the tree, present wrapping and baking to be done, plus kids to entertain while school’s out. For a healthier holiday, take a break every day that targets your stress: go for a walk, take a hot bath, practice meditation, deep breathing or yoga. It’s also worth considering a fish oil supplement. According to a double blind, placebo controlled study in Australia, DHA, a component of fish oil, reduces hostility and other negative factors of stress.

It’s cold and flu season. Is your immune system ready? Orange juice, chicken soup and lots of fruits and vegetables will help ensure your body has the building blocks to assemble an arsenal of immune cells to prevent cold and flu viruses from invading your body. Having trouble getting enough vegetables and fruits? Try powdered blends of fruits and vegetables such as Progressive’s PhytoBerry or VegeGreens.

And, we can’t forget about probiotics – clinical trials have shown probiotics help improve the body’s ability to defeat viruses. New research reported in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests some probiotics may reduce the number of sick days one needs to take when suffering from a cold. Probiotic supplements are a great way to keep your immune system ready and you healthy.

Toast the Holidays
Baby, it’s cold outside! Wrapping your fingers around a mug of steaming cocoa is a cozy way to enjoy this time of year. But, be savvy of the calories in your cup – there are many hidden calories in drinks, particularly cocktails, lattes and hot chocolate. Instead, toast with water whenever possible. With the heat on, the indoor air is drier causing our bodies to dehydrate faster. Drink lots of water to keep hydrated and your body will thank you. Headaches, pronounced wrinkles, dry skin, joint aches and constipation are all associated with dehydration. Cheers, to a healthy holiday season and a sensational New Year!


Daily, Week-Part, and Holiday Patterns in Consumers' Caloric Intake Adwait Khare and J. Jeffrey Inman. Daily, Week-Part, and Holiday Patterns in Consumers' Caloric Intake. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 2009; 28 (2): 234

Block, J. et al. Psychosocial Stress and Change in Weight Among US Adults. Am. J. Epidemiol. (2009) 170 (2): 181-192. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwp104

de Vrese, M. et al. Probiotic bacteria stimulate virus-specific neutralizing antibiodies following a booster polio vaccination. Eur J Nutr 2005 Oct;44(7):406-13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15578195

Smith, T. et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12® on health-related quality of life in college students affected by upper respiratory infections. British Journal of Nutrition / Volume 109 / Issue 11 / June 2013, pp 1999-2007

Bradbury, J et al. An adaptogenic role for omega-3 fatty acids in stress; a randomized placebo controlled double blind intervention study (pilot). Nutrition Journal 2004;3(20).

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