Well, we are at the time of year again. In a few days you will be gathering the family around the Thanksgiving table, sharing a sumptuous feast. You will also be starting the holiday trend of overeating, which will probably last from this Thursday through New Year’s Eve. So, as a physician, what is my recommendation? Deprive yourself of these special occasions and the food delights that go with these traditions? Not at all. Enjoy yourself. Eat well. Spend time with your loved ones. Make this time of year a great holiday season. But, how about trying something different and protecting yourself as you go through this holiday season?
Remember my earlier warnings. On an annual basis, Americans eat 133 pounds of flour, 140 pounds of sugar, 150 pounds of meat, and 193 pounds of GMO foods. As a comparison, think 1900. Back then, the average American ate around 15 pounds of sugar, 20 pounds of meat, and no GMOs. Remember too my warning about high levels of animal-based protein. The average American currently eats a diet that consists of around 26% of animal-based protein. But, ideally, you want your animal-based protein to be less than 10% of your diet. Why? Because high levels of animal-based protein can “turn on” those genes that cause cancer.
So, what can you do? Enjoy that turkey. But can you try to make those pieces of turkey a smaller portion on your plate than some of the other dishes? If the answer is no, then how about balancing your Thanksgiving feast with healthy eating the rest of the day? Eat a healthy breakfast with steel oats oatmeal and fruit. At night, if your Thanksgiving feast was midday, how about skipping those leftovers and try to eat some vegetables and fruit. If you overloaded yourself with animal-based protein at the midday meal, simply balance it earlier and later – so that the 26% (or higher) of animal-based protein is reduced by bedtime. Come on, don’t you want to turn off some of those cancer-activated genes?
Some people turn to exercise. A nice walk after that Thanksgiving meal is actually a healthy idea. But remember that 80% of your health (and weight) comes from what you eat; only 20% of your health (and weight) is impacted by your degree of daily exercise. Still, why not combine both approaches? At the start of the Thanksgiving weekend, create two priorities for the rest of the holiday season. First, eat more color, more vegetables, and more fruit (than you typically eat) at all your other meals. Second, try to incorporate more exercise. Instead of one walk per day, how about slipping in a second walk (or some other form of exercise). Together, with balanced eating and increased exercise, they can maintain your health and your weight.
As I have shared before, I am not as obsessed with your weight as many physicians. I worry about those people who find themselves at the extremes. You cannot afford to be morbidly obese. You will die decades prematurely. However, slightly overweight people live longer than underweight people. So, take a break over the holiday season from stepping on the scales. Instead, focus on health eating (between the special meals) and focus on increased exercise. As for the later, in the spirit of the holiday season, how about more walks (or other physical activities) with your spouse or your child? Since the typical parents spend only about 4-20 minutes per day talking 1:1 with their child, aren’t the holidays a great time to greatly increase your time together? Why not make it a healthy time? Sitting down (again, outside those holiday feasts) for some nutritious, colorful meal? Or a nice long walk, talking about shared memories. For this season, don’t just focus on feeding the stomach, focus on feeding the soul.
Want to know a hidden advantage? What comes right after the holiday season? The flu season. Why does it hit at the same time each year? People have not eaten in a healthy fashion; people have not exercised as much as they should have exercised; and people’s immune systems are impaired, not enhanced. The wrong genes have been turned on, not off. My recommendation? Avoid the flu shot (as there are some studies that link increased vaccinations of any type with an increased risk of dementia). Instead, fight off the flu by following the above eating and exercise suggestions. You will be doing yourself a favor. You will be doing your children (family) a favor. After all, isn’t that one of the purposes of this time of year? To give and share? Give them good health – so there will be more time, not less time, to share in the future. Not that is great Christmas present.