Eating Thoughtfully for the Holidays
By Dr. Tim Fargo, Chiropractor
Having practiced for 40 years, I have had ample opportunity to observe what happens to people after the holidays. They are usually lamenting the fact that they have gained 5 to 10 pounds. They have every susceptible joint hurting worse than before the holidays, and they tend to feel lethargic and depressed. It is one of the reasons our weight loss program (Ideal Protein) sees a surge in demand after the first of the year. The holidays are unquestionably a time for celebration with friends and family, and with such celebration comes an increase in eating and drinking. Even with that, there are still things you can do to enjoy yourself and not compromise your health too significantly.
Let’s talk a portion control. Yes, there is a turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, ice cream, beer, wine, spirits, etc. It is tempting, when confronted with such a cornucopia, to cast all caution to the wind and eat to the point of being sick. Alternatively, what I try to do is simply take a little bit of everything that I enjoy but try not to overdo it. Perhaps you don’t go back for seconds, or you have two slices of turkey and not four, or half a piece of pumpkin pie and half a piece of pecan. You get the idea. In Okinawa, Japan, there is a concept that is very helpful for maintaining long-term health, and it is particularly pertinent in this discussion; it is known as “Hara Hachi Bu”. As pointed out in Dan Buettner’s book, Blue Zones, Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, this concept, Hara Hachi Bu, means that you eat until you are 80% full. I think this is a good rule of conduct for everyday eating, but it also pertains especially during the holidays. If you eat until you are 80% full and then push away from the table, you will feel better both today and tomorrow and perhaps you won’t need to do our weight loss program after the holidays. As a final note on this topic, for you to effectively apply this principle to your eating, you will need to take more time and eat more slowly. Eating more slowly allows your body to begin to process the food you’ve already eaten and will give you a feeling of being satisfied before you are compelled to take that second or third portion.
Another thing to discuss is the mix of macronutrients in what you eat during the holidays. To translate, that means the mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Holiday food tends to be very high in carbohydrates, what with cookies, cake, pie, candy, and alcohol in its various forms. Nothing fattens people up faster than carbohydrates. Of course, we also eat plenty of fat, but, honestly, that is less of a problem than carbohydrates. My suggestion is to make sure that you have plenty of lean protein, vegetables, and fresh fruits, and drink plenty of water. If you put more of an emphasis on those things, you will have a little less room for sugary snacks and desserts. I am not advocating that you be an ascetic, like a hermit who lives in a cave, but I am advocating that you eat and drink thoughtfully.
Make sure, as much as possible, to use fresh ingredients. Of course, it’s always nice if you can buy organic produce and meats from animals that have been raised without antibiotics and hormones. I have found that using fresh ingredients allows me to add less sugar and salt to the foods I prepare.
I think we all have to decide, not just during the holidays, but throughout our lives, whether we are eating to live or living to eat. This may sound overly simplistic, but it is actually a critical distinction. Your health today and your health future are largely determined by whether you are doing the former or the latter. If you live to eat, and that is the predominant theme in your life, then you are more likely to reap a life of progressively declining health and increased susceptibility to disease. Conversely, if you choose to eat in a manner that is cognizant of health consequences, then you will more likely craft the life that you desire, one unencumbered by disease and full of vitality.
Enjoy your holidays, particularly your time with family and friends, and eat and drink thoughtfully and with an eye to the way you feel and your long-term health goals. Please let the doctors at Chiropractic Health and Wellness know if we can assist you in any way.