A friend posted just yesterday that, “when you have your health, you have everything.” It happened that our friend was navigating a family health issue and had good reason for thinking about health just then. If only we could stay conscious of the importance of our health even when times are good. Unfortunately for most of us, most of the time, our health is like our TV remote control: We don’t even think about it until it doesn’t work.

Well now, as the holidays begin, let’s make an exception to that and look ahead to celebrating in a way we won’t be sorry about later.

Let’s Not Be “Philosophical” About Holiday Weight Gain

It’s in the “tickler file” of nearly every news outlet. Somewhere, somebody’s going to print or broadcast or post a story about the average number of pounds Americans gain every year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. What is it now? Five pounds? Seven? Ten? It hardly matters when our response to the news is just, “Oh well.”

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study of holiday weight gain in three countries – the U.S., Germany, and Japan. The results are particular to specific holidays rather than a whole holiday season, like the long-distance feed here in the U.S. But even in the study’s granular view, people in the U.S. and Japan gained 0.7% of their body weight during a national holiday, like Thanksgiving or Japan’s “Golden Week.” In Germany the gain was 0.8%. And the weight typically did not start returning to its previous setting until the following summer.

That means most of us are spending at least half the year weighing more than we think of ourselves weighing. And here’s the worse news. We eventually arrive at an age when the pounds don’t want to come off.

Let’s Start with Portion Control

It’s long been settled that there are ways to cook sweet potatoes without a half cup of brown sugar, but never mind. Let’s try a different thrust and leave traditions alone for now.

If only we can stay conscious of portion size, then we’ve got a shot at getting to the Super Bowl about the same as we weighed at Halloween.

When we get scientific about portions, it becomes harder to remember what to do in the moment when the turkey hits the table. So, let’s imagine a tablespoon or so of stuffing or dressing and maybe a teaspoon of gravy. Let’s consider a polite spoonful of mashed potatoes instead of a gravy volcano of them. Maybe build a more colorful plate with vegetables.

Sound simple? Well it could be, except for a couple of things. Tradition and the presence of family influence, where all the old roles seem to settle over us as if we’d never grown up, make it hard to serve ourselves any differently than we did in the old days.

And food has meaning. In fact, a Madison Avenue executive once briefed his creative team with the words, “Food is love.” Sometimes our host or hostess might attach that meaning to what they serve. There’s no real reason to go along with it. Love is love. Food is food.

Let’s Remember the Nearest, Biggest Threat

Traveling is the biggest risk we take during the holidays, and oddly, the closer we are to home, the more likely an accident. Long distance drives certainly call for all the care we can take, but air travel is still the domain of that truism, “The most dangerous part is the drive to the airport.” Our human wiring causes us to assess threats in illogical ways, so getting conscious of safety everywhere is the right move.

Designated drivers are cool. We don’t just mean they’re a good idea, we mean they’re literally cool. A generational difference in the attitude toward drinking and driving is one of the encouraging signs in the younger generation. In fact, our children are more likely to have a designated driver than we are. Let’s fix that.

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As a family medical and urgent care practice, our lives are dedicated to helping you get the most out of your life. We’d love to be that kind of resource for you. Just call us at 843-815-6468.