December 10, 2010

Surviving the Holildays--Part 2

Adventist Review editor Bill Knott continues a conversation with Dr. Wes Youngberg, Dr.P.H., begun in last week’s edition.—Editors.    [Read Part 1]

We usually talk as though food—what kinds, how much, how rich—is the only lifestyle element that we need to focus on during the holidays. But you’ve told me that other things may influence our overall wellness even more than the food we consume from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.
We like to believe we can be tireless bundles of energy during the holidays—attending this concert, going to this family gathering, preparing lots of holiday goodies. But the amount and quality of the rest we get doesn’t get much attention. As we prepare for a holiday—let’s say Christmas—we typically sleep in on Christmas morning. Many of us don’t eat breakfast at all on holidays, because we’re expecting to load up on Christmas dinner, where many people consume as much as 4,000 calories. Studies have shown that some people consume as many as 7,000 calories during a single holiday, with rich meals and the added snacks throughout the day.
2009 1535 29That must really stress a person’s digestive system!
When we linger in bed and skip breakfast, we’re so hungry by the time the main meal comes around that we gorge on whatever is available—creating a significant metabolic burden. Recent research has pointed to several factors that help to control food intake on a holiday: (1) get to bed early enough so that you can wake up early—refreshed; (2) eat a good breakfast at the regular time; (3) get some exercise either just before or just after breakfast. Light exercise will improve the digestibility of your first meal of the day, which will help control the calorie storage associated with that meal, and also control blood sugars and insulin levels. Staying on your usual healthful rhythm—a good, normal circadian rhythm—will reduce all those inclinations to indulge in food behaviors you’ll regret.
You said something about a memory device you use with your patients.
You’ve heard of the acronym HALT. These are the things you don’t want to allow to happen because they set you up to make unhealthy choices. H stands for hungry. Don’t let yourself get hungry. In other words, don’t skip a meal because you’re planning on overeating at the next one—and want to save the calories! If you skip breakfast, you’re going to overeat. At the end of the day—and the holiday—people who skip breakfast are going to eat more than people who don’t skip breakfast. The second part of the acronym, A, stands for angry. Don’t let yourself get angry: do your best to avoid irritating situations. Then L stands for lonely. We’ve talked about this already. Don’t let yourself get so busy that you’re not giving time to building good relationships during the holidays. Do your best to ensure that you’re going to spend time with people you love and who cherish you. If there’s no one matching that description in your holiday, volunteer to help people who will be blessed by your efforts in a soup kitchen, or in your home. And don’t forget about T. Don’t let yourself get tired! If you’re staying up late, you’re going to end up overeating because you’re going to feel tired. Anytime we feel tired, we want to change that feeling. We want to alter that sense of disease by consuming a snack or a favorite comfort food.
So the holidays don’t have to be an annual episode of indulgence from which we have to repent?
God has given us wonderful principles for living both every day and every holiday.
You can take control of key features of your holidays that will bring lasting joy to you and those you love. Get adequate rest. Eat meals on your regular schedule.
Enjoy some light exercise. Spend time in bright sunlight. Keep yourself well hydrated. Focus on people, not only on food. Build your relationships with others and with the Lord. Ask for help—God’s help, and that of others who support your goals to honor God in your body. 

This article was printed December 17, 2009.