Dealing With The Holiday Pitfalls

Now that Thanksgiving is over, most of us are thinking of the upcoming Christmas holiday (especially we teachers that get 16 days off!). However, this time of the year is generally bad for your health. Well, perhaps I should say that the choices we often make during these days are bad for our health, which, when coupled with certain naturally occurring conditions (like winter), make matters worse. There are a few things I think we should all keep in mind as the season of holiday parties and treats approaches.

First, let me start with a little philosophy. As a Catholic, I believe that life consists of both feasting and fasting. Christmas (which, as a Church holiday, begins on December 25th) is a time of feasting. Advent, which runs roughly four weeks before Christmas, is generally a time of restraint and simplicity, and in some traditions, fasting. So keep in mind as I share some of these ideas, that I most certainly believe in both fasting and feasting properly!

– The first pitfall to watch out for is gainig too much weight around the holidays. The average person gains 7 to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is really quite a lot of weight to pack on in such a short time, and stresses the body physically and mentally. We have compiled ways to lose and maintain weight that are applicable any time of the year, including the holidays.

– The second pitfall is holiday-related stress. Money, travel, family visits, etc, all create stress, and this is in addition to the daily stresses we encounter. Studies show one solution to stress is to simply smile. Using the facial muscles necessary for smiling tells the brain that it is happy. You may look crazy randomly smiling, but you’ll be happier.

– The third pitfall is winter depression. Winter is a rough time for a lot of people. Add holiday stress, and holiday eating to this, and many people are less than joyful around Christmas. One way to beat the winter blues is to get some sunlight. As simple as it sounds, it is true: sunlight triggers the brain to produce serotonin. Unlike Vitamin D, whose production requires sunlight to hit the skin during a limited range of months, simply looking in the direction of the sun with one’s eyes closed triggers serotonin production. This can even be done from the inside. In the winter, I make it a point to go to the window and soak in some sun during planning periods.

Merry Christmas 2008

I absolutely love Christmas. Ever since I was young, I have enjoyed everything about Christmas: late-night Church services, Christmas lights, Christmas presents, family gatherings, Christmas carols, Christmas cards, etc. This year is no different. Tonight we went to Christmas Eve Mass (not midnight as usual…but my brother has a baby now) and a lessons-and-carols service at my dad’s church. Tomorrow, on Christmas Day, we will get up early, have some nice peppermint coffee, and have a big lunch with the family. After that we will open presents, and maybe if the weather is nice, Jonathan and I will go out and toss some football. Tomorrow night, we will travel the area, looking for nice Christmas light displays. We usually hit a few big displays. One is so big you can drive through it, and a little bit down the road is a business building that has no outside lights, but in two rooms on the second floor are old fashioned Santa and Frosty light-up figurines. We call it the “eerie Santa” display.

We are eating well, but trying to keep our calories and activities in check so as not to gain any weight during the holiday break.

I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas!

eerie santa

Image of my parents’ Christmas tree above. Bottom image is a photo of the “eerie santa” (and an eerie Frosty) building