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Holiday Cookie Eating

Chasing Health: My Ho-Ho-Horrible Holiday Eating & Exercise Habits

I love the holiday season. In the fall and early winter, it seems like there is something special to celebrate nearly every other week. The list goes on and on, and I can’t get enough of it.

As a holiday enthusiast, I appreciate it all, from decorating, baking, and gift-buying to curling up and watching holiday-themed movies, not to mention mouth-watering smells, twinkling lights, and feeling like you’re in a magical snow globe at the first sight of flurries. Seems innocent enough, right?

Well, when I’m not watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Home Alone 2 for the 80th time, tearing up when “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” comes on the radio, or obsessing over the placement of ornaments on my tree (perfectionism strikes again), you can probably find me eating all the delicious holiday goodies that come along this time of year.

On top of turkey, ham, and the wide selection of casseroles, you get fudge, cookies, cheeseball, cheese dips, and pretty much any other finger food you can imagine. It’s amazing.

This is the time of year a lot of people take a break from their diets and indulge. It’s also the time of year when the days are short and cold, and your couch and TV seem to call your name the minute you walk through your door. (“Nicole, come catch up on The Walking Dead for the next five hours. I already set out your favorite blanket.”) It’s not a good combination.

But there is hope. Whether you overeat because your stress from the holiday grind has reached Clark Griswold level or (like me) you’ve waited all year for your mom’s chocolate crinkle cookies, you don’t have to put your healthy eating and exercise on hold.

I realize it’s hard to control yourself when you’re surrounded by fabulous snacks in every direction. I go into my family’s celebration with the same strategy every year, and it’s not a healthy one.

On Christmas Eve, I skip breakfast, make ham-and-cheese pinwheels (my decade-and-a-half-long contribution to our family’s party), nibble on the ones that don’t quite make the cut, and consider that my lunch.

An hour or two later when I’m extra hungry from skipping two meals, I help my mom set out all our delicious cookies. I’m an expert in taste-testing.

Cookie pic 2
My mom is in charge of chocolate crinkles (my all-time favorite!), peanut butter, and molasses. I’m in charge of the iced sugar cookies.

Once my aunt’s cheeseball and grandma’s fudge arrive, it’s game over. I’m usually not even hungry by the time my dad’s secret-recipe glazed ham is ready. But I somehow rally like a true holiday-eating champion and get through that meal and an equally delicious meal the next day with the other side of my family.

How does the two-day affair almost always end? With a stomachache and a tinge of regret.

Here is the fabulous spread of delicious goodies. Notice the salad and bowl of oranges. Not everything is unhealthy! Full disclosure, I skip right over both of those.
Here is the fabulous spread of delicious goodies. Notice the salad and bowl of oranges. Not everything is unhealthy! Full disclosure, I skip right over both of those.

Holidays don’t have to end in stomachaches or regret. Here are some tips based on my own worst holiday habits to help you stay on track this holiday season.

  • Don’t cut back on sleep before the big celebration. I like to stay up late any chance I get, whether there’s a special occasion or I’m just watching Netflix by myself. I’m no better than the millions of kids staying up to wait for Santa. But research shows that not getting enough sleep can make you crave the not-so-healthy foods, which isn’t good when the not-so-healthy foods are everywhere.
  • Don’t skip meals to overeat at the party later. Sometimes I think skipping breakfast and lunch gives me a free pass to fill my body with chocolate. It doesn’t. It not only puts me in the wrong mindset, but an Ohio State study suggests that doing this regularly can also affect how your body gains belly fat.
  • Don’t stand around the snack table. This is my favorite place to camp out for the afternoon, but it makes snacking a little too convenient. I probably don’t need a 10th piece of fudge, but who’s counting? (This brings me to my next point.)
  • Keep track of what you’re eating. I started tracking what I eat at the beginning of December as part of a headache diary for my migraines, and my snacking has fallen way off since then. I can only imagine how much this tracking system will help me through the holidays. Any kind of food diary can help you see how healthy or unhealthy your eating habits are.
  • Eat something healthy. Sadly, despite what Buddy the Elf tells us, the main food groups are not “candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.” Mix some fruits and veggies into your holiday meals and snacking options, and eat the unhealthier options in moderation.
  • Keep yourself busy with something other than food. Play games (my brother and I are quite the Catch Phrase duo) or set up a tournament. My cousins and I have hosted all kinds of championship events, everything from table tennis to Guitar Hero to rock-paper-scissors (we must have been feeling either really bored or hyper-competitive that year). The more physically active and farther from the food, the better.
  • Keep up your exercise routine (or something close to it). If you fall off, don’t feel discouraged (and don’t eat more cookies to console yourself). Just start exercising again. It’s easy to make excuses, but if you’re like me, you’ll feel better physically and mentally if you don’t ditch the physical activity.

I hope to follow at least some of these tips this holiday season and hope you do, too. I’ve already tried pretending celery is chocolate. It didn’t go so well, but I have high hopes for these other more reasonable tips.

Happy holidays!

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Holiday Safety

Holiday Safety

This week on social media, we gave you helpful holiday safety tips for staying safe this season.

Make sure you carefully inspect holiday lights each year and throw out old or damaged lights that could cause fires.

Holiday Lights

Fresh trees are best for avoiding fires. Fake trees should say they’re fire resistant.

Christmas Trees

 

Always turn your holiday lights off when you leave the house and go to bed.

Outdoor Holiday Lights

 

Never connect more than one extension cord together. Use one long cord. Connecting extension cords increases the risk of fires.

Tangled Cords

 

Never keep open flames near your trees, garland, wreaths, or fabric decorations.

Candles and the Holidays

 

Don’t burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. They can ignite and burn suddenly and intensely, causing worse fires.

Holiday Fireplace

 

Be careful with fire salts that change your fire’s color. Keep out of the reach of children, they can contain heavy metals.

A Fire During the Holidays

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Getting Sleep with Diabetes

Getting Enough Sleep with Diabetes

The Effects of Not Getting Enough Sleep

Over the last decade, the number of hours Americans sleep has fallen fast. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 72% of people sleep 7 hours or less, up 10% from 2001, which can have serious health effects. And getting enough sleep with diabetes is even more important.

“The public is less aware of the impact of insufficient amounts of sleep,” said Dr. Megan Ruiter, lead author of the National Sleep Foundation’s report. “Sleep is important—the body is stressed when it doesn’t get the right amount.”

Not only does sleep affect your body’s stress level, it also affects your blood glucose levels. A 2006 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found people who say they sleep poorly have higher A1cs.

Studies confirm sleep-deprived bodies make an average of 32% less insulin after a meal, leading to higher blood glucose.

Tips for Getting Sleep with Diabetes

Here are some helpful tips for a good night’s rest from Diabetes Forecast.

Set a schedule.

Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. This can help your body establish a healthy sleep/wake cycle.

Avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol.

These substances can disrupt sleep. It’s best to avoid them before bed.

Get in the mood.

A bedtime routine can help you shift from being awake to feeling sleepy. Take a bath or listen to peaceful music just before you turn the lights out.

Exercise earlier in the day.

Active people sleep better. Do your exercise in the morning or right after work for the best results.

Prep your bedroom.

Make sure it’s dark, quiet, relaxing, and at a cool (yet comfortable) temperature. Turn off (or silence) cell phones, TVs, and computers.

Don’t go to bed on a full or empty tank.

Eating a big meal just before bed or lying down with a growling stomach can make falling asleep tricky and can even wake you. If you’re going to eat a big evening meal, eat two hours before bed to give yourself enough time to digest.