The holidays are tricky. There's food fest after food fest, germy travel, and Uncle Al's mysterious eggnog.
Through all these obstacles, you want to avoid gaining winter weight (because, no, we don't hibernate), dodge whatever virus is spreading through the masses (without turning into a hermit), and not spend the holidays dead (in the words of Ellen Griswold from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation) so you can do it all again next year.
Here's your guide to the holidays. There's a right and a wrong way. Follow these tips and you won't end up fat, sick, or dead come January 1.
Use Thanksgiving Day Tactics
Okay, if you made it through Thanksgiving without slipping up on your diet regimen, don’t drop the ball on Christmas and New Years. Precede dinner, dessert, or any meal you feel tempted to clear your plate—and the table—with a creamy protein shake. According to a 2013 study from the British Journal of Nutrition, the thicker and creamier a protein shake is, the more it will curb your appetite, making you feel fuller longer.
Avoid These Blacklisted Foods
If a fitness expert wouldn’t indulge in these, then it’s a safe bet you shouldn’t either. "Everything in moderation" can be a gray area. Sometimes old sayings are comforting. Sometimes they make you gain five pounds.
Drinks: Soda, Energy Drinks
Appetizers: Pigs in a Blanket, Multi-layered Cheese Dips
Dinner: Corn Pudding
Dessert: Cheesecake, Specialty Holiday Coffee Drinks, Red and Green Treats, Cookies (in excess), Fruitcake
Don't Drink Yourself Fat
Give a toast, just don't drink yourself fat before the New Year. The average partygoer guzzles nearly 4,000 calories in liquids during the holiday season, according to a Cancer Research UK poll. A glass of hot-spiced wine here and a seasonal six-pack there add up. Just how much? Approximately 30 glasses of wine and 22 pints of beer. Remember that, you lush, you.
Avoid the Aisle Seat
You know how you always pine after the aisle seat when you book a flight? Yeah, stop. Passengers who sit in aisle are exposed to more people in the cabin as fellow travelers walk by. When they hold onto the aisle seats for better balance, it increases your odds of picking up bacteria and viruses, a microbiologist from the University of Arizona found; this research confirms findings from an older study on the transmission of viruses on airplanes. The window seat offers the best protection and the best view; that’s a win-win for enjoying your travels and not bringing the flu to Grandma's.
If you really want to relieve holiday shopping stress, protect your body from infections during your travels, or reduce cold symptoms, hug more.
That’s right, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University say a good cuddle, squeeze, or embrace prevent and relieve ailments. People who feel well supported by family and friends are less likely to fall victim to infections brought on by stressful situations, and those who feel supported and receive more hugs experience less severe illness symptoms regardless of stress levels.
The apparent protective effect of hugs may be due to the physical contact, which provokes feelings of closeness and encouragement. We’ll take hugs over flu shots any day.
Go Easy On The Nutmeg
Measure your nutmeg very carefully if you’re eating cookies and beware the heavy hand when topping holiday cocktails with the spice. The New York Times recently reported toxicologists have encountered nutmeg poisoning.The culprit is actually a chemical called myristicin, which naturally forms in nutmeg seeds and is used to make strong psychotropic drugs. Don’t panic, though. It takes two tablespoons or more for people to start exhibiting symptoms, which include an out-of-body sensation, sluggishness, intense nausea, dizziness and dry mouth. Some have even compared it to a two-day hangover. Yikes.
Don't Break Your Heart
Cardiac-related deaths increase almost five percent on Christmas Day, the day after, and on New Year’s Day. David Phillips, a sociologist at the University of California's San Diego campus observed millions of death certificates nationwide, and suggests indulging in holiday treats, imbibing too much booze, and cold weather (especially the hours you spend shoveling) all add stress to your heart. Tread lightly this year.
Pop Some Ibuprofen
A new study from the Buck Institute for Age Research in California says Ibuprofen may do more than relieve your migraine—which was probably brought on by the in-laws treating your house like the Holiday Inn—it may add 12 extra years to your life. In a series of experiments, the popular painkiller extended the life of yeast, worms, and flies by 15 percent. Even better, each extra year was rated as good quality and healthy. Though it’s not clear how the drug slows ageing, the dosage is similar to those taken by millions of people every day to treat muscle aches, headaches, and the flu.