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In the Season of Plenty: A Gift For Me And a Gift For You

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Dr. Deborah Gordon.WELLNESSWatching for winter and watching store windows for that perfect gift, we relax from holiday shopping only briefly before we head out to a holiday party! Lucky indeed are those of us who can find kindred souls, warm homes and savory meals, but for many people it is also the season of broken resolutions, over-indulgences, and the lurking dread of a long, slow recovery initiated by a few punishing weeks at the gym in January.

Is there a way to avoid the holiday dive into decadence without sacrificing the truly lovely treats to be enjoyed this time of the year? I would suggest that there is, but that it’s a balancing act, with a different script to be written for each person. I have a few strategies that you might consider if you want to welcome the New Year feeling better than ever before!

Put on your own oxygen mask first. I’d suggest you put two gifts for yourself at the top of your to-do list. One is to schedule clear exercise time; if you can, find an activity that involves friends and takes you all outside. The sunlight this time of the year won’t build your vitamin D stores (it has to be able to pinken your skin to do that), but it will perform some wonderful magic deep inside your brain. Our moods and sleep are carefully regulated by our hypothalamus and pituitary glands, and they respond powerfully to the simple input of bright light. Even at this dark time of the year, true sunshine lights up our brain more than any indoor lighting scheme. The special lights built for people with seasonal affective disorder (winter blues), are brighter, but they require you to sit directly in front of them to absorb the light. Walk or hike, ski or skate if you can, under the biggest piece of sunlit sky you can find. Those who can spend time in the sun every day rarely have trouble with sleeping or melancholy. For your second personal gift, it’s a great time of year for a little pampering: will it be a massage? A movie only you want to see? A visit to the spa? A swim and hot tub at Jackson WellSprings is an affordable treat that can go on for hours!

Now you are ready to make two more choices.

How will you take care of your internal body during this season? No matter how healthy you are, your body takes a “hit” when you indulge excessively in sugary treats. I’m not talking about pounds gained that you plan to lose in January, that’s doable; I’m talking about swinging you over to that half of our population that is insulin resistant, moving towards diabetes if not already there. Trust me, and look for a column early next year about insulin resistance.

Decide how to schedule your indulgences and savor each one when you do eat it. If you want to sample every cookie at the buffet, share a plate with a couple other people so it’s just a bite of each one. Chew that bite slowly and decide who would most like the second bite. If you know you want a piece of decadent chocolate cake, eat it close to a real meal so the blood sugar spike is blunted. At a holiday party, alternate sips of eggnog with questions to learn more about the person standing next to you. Navigate the holiday season wisely and you will love every taste treat and not need a rescue operation in January.

And finally, your gifts for others: which of your healthy choices would you share with your loved ones? Gifts of massages are always welcome, or invitations to a homemade dinner and movie. Food baskets can be made up of healthy choices instead of every kind of cookie imaginable. Give the gift they remember: a pasture-raised ham or a subscription to six weeks of pasture-raised eggs. Promise to walk a friend’s dog on a weekly basis, with or without them.  

If none of these ideas work for you, tell me yours, and tell me your special and clever ways of celebrating health for yourself, health for your loved ones, during this holiday season. How will you bring light to the darkest time of the year?

Happy holidays everyone, see you next year.

Read more of Dr. Deborah’s healthy insights at www.DrDeborahMD.com.


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