November 2011

How To Handle Holiday Hype

We are heading towards the big three holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah, and New Years. We have all seen the movies. You know the ones. The ones with scenes where there are mild, funny conflicts and then everyone makes up and there is a happy holiday ending. Wouldn’t it be great if life worked that way? I am not saying that holidays cannot be fun and happy. However, when families’ get together there is usually some element of drama and it can be stressful.

When expectations of a wonderful holiday are not fulfilled many of us are tempted to self medicate with food, alcohol and even drugs. That is why it is so important to learn productive ways to deal with holiday stress. Eating a healthy diet, exercise and deep breathing and meditation techniques help. Finding a funny movie as a diversion might take the edge off as well.

Life is rarely as bright and fun-filled as it seems in the movies or on television. We all have our “stuff“ regardless of how it looks from the outside looking in. That is something I have learned as a physician and the keeper of people’s secrets. Even those who look like they have everything, have issues.

Many people look to the holidays as the time when those issues may be resolved or at least put aside. If that does not happen and you find yourself upset, rather than reaching for the cookies when you feel family pressures go for a walk around the block. A quick trick is the 4-7-8 breathing method. Inhale for a count of 4 hold your breath for a count of 7 and then let it out for a count of 8. Do it for a cycle of three 4-7-8’s and you will find yourself calming down.

Stay healthy over the holidays by making positive choices when faced with stress. You will feel better and develop some good coping mechanisms to handle difficult situations now and in the future.

Healthy Junk Food

There are many foods we hear about that are considered junk food and often on the “forbidden” list, but they really aren’t bad for you. Here are a few that may surprise you – just in time for the holidays!

Sour Cream

It is true that sour cream is 90% fat. However, it is usually only eaten in small quantities. A serving of sour cream is two tablespoons and is only 52 calories. This is less saturated fat than is in a 12-ounce glass of 2% milk.


Coconut is packed with saturated fat. However half the fat is lauric acid. A recent review has found that lauric acid can increase the LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels, but it boosts the HDL or “good” cholesterol more. The rest of the fat is made up of medium chain fatty acids, which are neutral. A pinch of unsweetened shredded coconut can make a nice snack, or at least can add some flavor to another snack. Just don’t overdo it as it is high in calories.


Chocolate has been given a bad rap in the past. However, dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids. These compounds (also found in green tea and red wine) have been found to reduce inflammation and relax blood vessels, improve blood flow, and even improve your mood. Three ounces a day can decrease blood pressure. Once again, moderation is the key when it comes to eating chocolate. The recommended amount is the equivalent of 2 Hershey kisses a day.

Pork Rinds

Pork rinds are made from fried pigskin. Sounds fatty?! However, a one-ounce serving contains 9 grams of fat, 17 grams of protein and NO carbohydrates. Almost half the fat is unsaturated and in the form of oleic acid (the same healthy fat found in olive oil); the rest is saturated fat that is in the form of stearic acid and considered harmless. The key, if you like these, is not to go overboard.

Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is often thought to be high in preservatives and not particularly healthy. However, it doesn’t have to be unhealthy if you get the right brands. It is a great high protein snack that won’t raise your insulin levels. The key is to find it with all natural ingredients (without MSG, sodium nitrate and chemicals). For variety and omega-3 fatty acids, make sure to get grass-fed beef or give salmon jerky a try!

Resist Stuffing Yourself During the Holidays

The holidays are on their way and the urge to stuff ourselves along with the turkey will be a temptation. What can we do to avoid the pitfalls?

Nutritionists and scientists have long tried to unlock the secrets of overeating. But some of the best information is coming from an unexpected source: marketing experts! It turns out that even the most self-aware individuals are subject to mindless eating.

Most of the research comes from a marketing professor, Dr Brian Wansink, from Stanford University. He wrote a book called Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.

Interesting things to know

* Package size counts
In one study, two groups of people were given free, but stale (five-days old) popcorn while watching a movie. Half of the group got a medium-sized tub; the other got a large tub. The people with the larger tubs ate 53 percent more than those with the medium tubs. They ate the popcorn regardless of taste (five-day-old movie popcorn? YUK!) because it was there and they were distracted by the movie.

* People use visual clues to stop eating
In another study, Dr. Wansink rigged a soup bowl to continuously fill with tomato soup essentially making it bottomless. The eaters with the rigged soup bowls ate on average six ounces more soup than those with a regular bowl. This means that most people ignore how full they feel and eat until they clean their plates.

• Our eating is influenced by color
People will eat more M&M’s when they are multicolored than when they are all one color. People also eat more in a yellow or red room (think about the colors at McDonald’s), and eat less in a blue room.

• We are influenced by those who eat around us
People are more likely to eat faster (and larger amounts) if those around them are shoveling food into their mouths.

• Sound and distraction matters
Playing fast music while eating will cause you to eat more. And every parent knows that kids (and adults) eat more when in front of a TV.

Some tips to help you avoid overeating:

* Eat slowly (or pick a slow eater to sit next to at the next dinner party). It takes ten to 20 minutes for your brain to register that your gut is full.

* Use smaller bowls and plates. Since we all have a tendency to clean our plates and bowls, start small and use smaller utensils as well.

* Never eat directly from the box or bag (think cookies and chips). You can’t see how much you’re eating, which means you won’t remember how many calories you’re consuming.

* Beware of buffets. Use a small plate and only put two items on the plate at a time.

* Be aware of your surroundings. Always sit down to eat and try not to eat in front of the TV. When you choose restaurants, gravitate toward the quiet ones that are painted blue!

Mindless eating contributes to the gradual weight gain that many of us experience as we age. By being aware of some of the cues that trigger overeating, you can turn gradual weight gain into weight loss!


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