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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Strive to make it a better year for physical and mental health

By Veita Bland, M.D. / December 2, 2022

This Thanksgiving look at ways to decrease the calories count of those old favorite dishes. Make them healthier but still tasty.

As we take time to spend with our family and friends during this holiday season, let’s not forget about our health. I tease my patients by referring to this time of year as the “eating season”. So many people throw away any reserve they may have had about their diet and indulge in all means of increased calorie consumption as if they were on a mission to eat up the world. I see patients gain weight just because of the availability of calorie laden foods with no concern for their future. So, before that fate befalls you, let us stop and take stock.

All of your healthcare providers want you to enjoy the holidays but in moderation and with an eye on your future health. Let’s look at life from a different perspective.

  1. Please remember that COVID-19 is still around, therefore you still must take precautions. Be mindful of your relatives, especially those with compromised immune systems such as older relatives, those with diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, obesity or any chronic disease. Be kind and make sure you are not a carrier of COVID and wear a mask. Take a COVID-19 test 24hrs before joining your loved ones and immediately test if you feel ill. We expect a surge in the number of cases with this gathering season. Try not to be part of the surge. Show your love for Grandma by getting all of your booster shots.
  2. The Flu is alive and well. Remember to protect yourself and family members by getting your flu vaccine. Certainly, isolate if you feel there is a chance you may have the flu. I am sure your cousin will bring you a plate and drop it off at the door.
  3. Remember, there are all kinds of other viruses out there that may not have a brand name behind them. Because people are wearing masks less, they should be passed around the table as much as sweet potatoes.
  4. Remember that the food is important, but the comradery and the sense of family and friends is the real deal. Try not to gain weight. Pace yourself and enjoy the friendships.
  5. Remember that staying physically active is very important during the holidays on many different levels. Exercise is not just about going to the gym. It’s about increasing the time you walk. Walking has been shown to be good for people of all ages. Why not start a walking tradition instead of a napping tradition after that fabulous Thanksgiving meal? Why not jump on FaceTime, walk and talk with your cousins in another city or state just to spend time together.
  6. Look at ways to decrease the calorie count of those old favorite dishes. Make them healthier but still tasty. I am sure you master cooks have that knowledge in you. Watch the sweet tea, sodas and especially the alcohol. Those empty calories are so easy to consume while just sitting and talking. Instead, pick up a bottle of water and remember to keep yourself well hydrated.
  7. Be cognizant that the holidays can be emotionally trying for many. If this is the first or second holiday you are observing since the loss of a loved one, it may be difficult. Certainly, it will be different and may serve as an opportunity to honor your loved one and start new traditions. Celebrate their life and spirit with fond memories. Be open to grief counseling.
  8. Take time to rest and get your sleep. Amid the merriment, remember sleep and relaxation are important. Do not overschedule yourself. Take time for self-reflection and make plans for next year.
  9. Take this time to check in on older family members and friends. Families come in many different shapes and flavors. Loneliness is also in pandemic proportions, and it seems to surge this time of the year. A call to a loved one may mean the world to them. Make sure they are okay. Make sure they have food and heat. Be a little nosy if you must but check in on your family.
  10. To say that the last almost three years have been difficult is an understatement. Give yourself a little grace. Be kind to yourself. Most of you have done the best you could with what you had. Life is indeed different. How many zoom meetings can you stand. Appreciate the fact that you made it. You are still standing. You learned a lot about yourself and the ones around you. Take that knowledge and use it for good.

Enjoy the holidays in moderation. Remember the new year will come. Strive to make sure it is a better year for your physical health, mental health and your waistline.


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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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