You have polished off the last of the Halloween candy and the Thanksgiving pie, and now you find yourself contemplating the rest of the holiday season to come. Do you throw in the towel until the New Year or rely on your wavering willpower? According to Doctors James Pinckney and Anthony Lyssy of Diamond Luxury Healthcare in Preston Center, there are ways to ensure your holiday season is a healthy one.
The holidays can be a whirlwind of activity, from traveling to partying to shopping to entertaining guests. It can be a time of celebration, but also a time of stress. The number one health problem doctors see is “Holiday Heart,” an increase in heart attacks and acute cardiovascular disease.
Stress management can help.
Stress takes its toll on the body by raising cortisol levels, which in turn decreases our immune system, inhibits fat breakdown, and stresses the adrenal glands and other hormonal systems. Pinckney and Lyssy recommend deep breathing and meditation for 5-15 minutes per day, or whenever you feel anxiety or stress.
Lyssy uses the Headspace App, which offers guided meditation and deep breathing for 10 minutes a day.
Pinckney works in 5 deep breaths with eyes closed whenever he can. This simple act of deep breathing resets stress levels and increases the likelihood of a restful night’s sleep.
GET MORE SHUT-EYE
One thing commonly overlooked during the holidays is sleep. Recent studies have shown that everyone needs at least 7 hours of sleep for the body to perform best. Pinckney recommends even more, up to 9 hours per night if possible. Sleep improves every aspect of health, including the body’s ability to recover and rejuvenate, remove toxins, and decrease inflammation, as well as your immune system’s strength to fight off bugs.
Exercise relieves stress, improves sleep quality, and increases energy levels. During the holidays, we often stray from our usual workout routines, but it is important to squeeze exercise in. Pinckney suggests blocking out 30 minutes a day. When traveling, he also suggests “hotel room workouts” — quick 15-minute workouts requiring little space that include squats, push-ups, and lunges.
Lyssy likes to do five 10-minute sessions of calisthenics, yoga, push-ups, and sit-ups throughout the day. He also suggests making exercise a group activity when guests are visiting. Whether walking around White Rock Lake or the Katy Trail, mall-walking, or taking a yoga class, having your guests take part can keep you motivated.
Pinckney’s trick for dessert management is to limit yourself to three bites, which he says is enough for the brain’s pleasure center to register that the craving is alleviated.
If your weakness is pecan pie or candied yams, mashed potatoes, or macaroni and cheese, go ahead and partake, as long as you eat healthy most of the time. Both doctors have a rule they abide by. For Lyssy it is the 80/20 rule: if your diet consists of healthy choices 80 percent of the time, most people can eat whatever they want the other 20 percent of the time. Pinckney’s rule is 90/10.
Alcohol is a staple at most parties and get-togethers. Because the doctors practice personalized medicine, they avoid making generalizations about alcohol consumption; due to differences in genetics, some people can handle drink better than others. If you decide to imbibe, the doctors recommend alternating alcoholic beverages with water. Water will curb hunger, detoxify the liver, and help you “stay ahead of game.” Avoid sugary drinks like margaritas, daiquiris, and amaretto sours. Instead choose ethyl alcohols like tequila, whiskey, or scotch, served neat or with a splash of water, to keep your calorie count down. Although red wine is high in sugar, it does offer cardiovascular protection and is a healthier choice than white wine. Lyssy suggests eating before the party to avoid low blood sugar levels that can leave the body craving sugar and carbs.
DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP
If you find you indulged more than you wanted and didn’t exercise, both doctors say not to spend time feeling guilty — just get back to your healthy routine. It’s okay to splurge in moderation, as long as you have a healthy base to return to.