A seasonal syndrome that pops up between the last week of November and the beginning of the New-Year. It is classified by rapid weight gain, mental sluggishness, systematic fatigue and is often accompanied by bloating, headaches, food cravings and immune compromise.
Holiday Syndrome is a combination of factors that basically challenge your body systems collectively. Triggers for Holiday Syndrome swarm in a combination:
- More Stress
- Less Sleep
- More Sugar
- More Alcohol
- Less Exercise
- Poor Hydration
- Limited Free Time
Let’s start by observing and honoring the traditions of the Holiday Season. The intent of sharing love and quality time with your family and the inner circle is beautiful. There is nothing negative about the family tradition of special celebratory food or dessert. While we honor tradition though, if we are being health-minded, it might suit us well to honor moderation as well. Is there anything wrong with enjoying a Holiday cookie? Not really. Is there anything wrong with enjoying a whole tray of cookies…. in one sitting … after a full meal and before alcoholic beverages … At 10:30 PM? Well…maybe. I guess the real question is what are your expectations? Sugar promotes the progression of all diseases.
All 3,700+ diagnoses that can be made in medicine are connected to one thing, Inflammation. Sugar drives inflammation and so if your expectations are to maintain health during the Holiday Season, maybe a strategy should be put in place to moderate consumption of sugar. Please do not forget that alcohol is sugar. When adding all things together you can see the challenge at hand. Sugar is EVERYWHERE!
With Health in mind, here are some of the more successful Holiday Strategies that I have observed in 21 years of clinical practice. Everyone responds to a different perspective, maybe one of these will help you approach this season with more balance:
- The allowance of enjoying the season. You are allowed to enjoy the Holiday. For some people, just being told that they are allowed to have fun makes them less interested in throwing in the towel and just taking the whole month of December off. The “I’ll just get healthy in January” approach is a rather dangerous and slippery slope.
- Pick two times a week where you will celebrate. Look at your social calendar and allow yourself two meals in the week where you have some fun. The day that you decide to have an un-healthy celebration meal, cut out most of the carbs of the day. Eat the smallest amount of grains, carbs, fruit and sugars that you can. You will be having your fill that night at your “cheat meal”.
- You can still have fun without over-doing it. Some people can enjoy one drink and a nice meal. Or a favorite meal and just a few bites of a dessert. Share your dessert with a friend or family member instead of having your own plate. Have an alcoholic drink but have a full glass of water before you decide to order another.
- Eating slowly can work. Some people find that taking more time enjoying conversation and eating a meal slowly feels the same as eating two servings of a meal. Pace yourself and actually take smaller bites and don’t feel required to clear your plate. Strategically drinking more water at a meal can slow the gobble mechanism too.
- Avoiding the “bad influence” crowd. Some people have friends/acquaintances who are aggressive in making sure that everyone is enjoying the celebration as much as they are. The glass is always being filled, the table is always overflowing, guilt and pressure are commonly used to motivate unhealthy behavior and every time you spend time with this crowd you wind up sick the next day. Maybe this season you respect that your health is more important to you than this relationship. Maybe not. Food for thought; if they make you feel bad about yourself if you can’t keep up with them at the table and bar, they are not real friends.
- Try to maintain sleep and hydration. These are two critical pieces of maintaining immune function. Alcohol can dehydrate you so it is extra important to hydrate well the days that you enjoy alcohol. Shooting for 50% of your body weight in ounces of water is a great goal. Getting sick during the Holiday can be a bummer.
Give yourself the gift of Health this Holiday Season by avoiding Holiday Syndrome. Health during this stressful time of year starts with Moderation. Remember that health is a choice!
Warm Wishes for a Healthy Holiday & New-Year to come!