Healthy Holidays

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    Make sure to keep exercise and activity an important part of your weekly routine over the holiday season. Starting in October, add a few extra minutes of activity to your daily routine, and keep it up throughout the holidays. Walk to a coworker's office or desk instead of calling. Push the grocery cart back into the store instead of leaving it in the outside cart return. If possible, take the stairs instead of an elevator. Every extra step counts.
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    Don’t keep sweets around for weeks after the holiday season if you want to avoid gaining weight. Take them to work, other events or gatherings. Also, this is not the time to take advantage of sales on leftover candy. Instead, buy a nice decorative item for the house that you can enjoy for years to come, with a far lower caloric cost.
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    Avoid keeping candy and sweets around the house if you want to avoid gaining weight over the festive holiday season. Buy items only a few days prior to holiday celebrations instead of a week or more before. How many times have we bought in advance before Halloween or Christmas and needed to repurchase throughout the month for trick-or-treaters or stockings? If it isn’t available, you will not be as tempted to consume.
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    During the holidays it can be tempting to forgo your usual diet and exercise routine, but there are ways to maintain your weight without putting a damper on the festivities. Start by weighing yourself once or twice a week. Studies show that people who weigh themselves regularly are better able to maintain their weight. By stepping on the scale you'll notice as soon as a few pounds start creeping up on you and you can make a changes to lose them right away. Weigh yourself in the morning after you wake up and before you've eaten breakfast.

    If you don't want to restrict eating during the holidays, exercise longer and harder than usual. If you typically do 30 minutes of cardio, increase it to 45 minutes. When you lift weights, add more reps or choose heavier weights. If you exercise three times a week, increase it to five.
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    Contrary to a long-held myth, poinsettias pose little health risk to young children. However, other plants can be harmful. Don't decorate with these holiday plants if you have little kids (or pets):
    • Mistletoe (highly toxic white berries)
    • Holly (highly toxic red berries)
    • Bittersweet (often used in wreaths and floral arrangements, but the entire plant is poisonous)
    • Boxwood (often used in wreaths and swags; twigs and leaves are toxic)
    • Pine (ingesting large amounts can be toxic and handling pine may cause skin irritation)
    • Jerusalem cherry (commonly used for Christmas decorations; berries are highly toxic)
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    To safely use decorative lights:
    • Use only lights that have been tested for safety. Make sure they have a label from an independent testing laboratory.
    • Check each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Discard or repair damaged sets.
    • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Newer LED lights allow more strands to be strung together, up to 216 total watts on one 15-amp circuit.
    • Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights can short and start a fire.
    • Keep "bubbling" lights away from children. The bright colors and bubbling movement can tempt children to play with them; if they break, children can be cut or harmed by drinking the liquid.
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    To stay safe around the Christmas tree this season:
    • Make sure artificial trees and greenery are fire-resistant.
    • Live trees should be fresh when you put them up. Check needles to make sure they bend rather than break, and that they don't easily fall off tree limbs.
    • Cut off about two inches of the trunk before you place it in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water.
    • Don't set up your Christmas trees (or other greenery) near a fireplace, radiator or other heat source. It will dry out faster and become a fire hazard.
    • Place the tree where young children can't get to it easily. If you have a crawling baby, consider using a tabletop tree that your little one can't reach, or surround the tree with baby gates.
    • Anchor the tree to prevent children or pets from knocking it over.
    • Hang breakable or sharp ornaments or those with small removable parts on high branches, out of reach of small children or pets.
    • If small children are around, don't use trimmings that resemble candy or food, which they may be tempted to eat.
    • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant tree trimmings.
    • Avoid decorations that may have lead in them.
    • Dispose of trees and greenery when they start drying out.
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    Exercise is very important for overall health and a sense of well-being. During the holidays it can be especially important as we are often tempted with unhealthy food options. Also, some individuals feel down during the holidays, and we know that regular exercise helps to fight depression. You should aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as a brisk walk, five or more days a week.
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    During the holidays, women often feel pressure to plan, shop, cook, decorate and coordinate seasonal rituals, gifts, mailings and parties. They try to do too much for too many people in too little time. The holidays may also stir up sad feelings by bringing on memories of losses -- of loved ones, friends, homes, relationships, health, jobs.

    Women in particular should try to avoid holiday stress. Women suffer stress-induced depression more often than men and are more likely to experience depression from seasonal affective disorder caused by reduced daylight. Research also shows that death rates from both cardiac and noncardiac causes peak across the United States in December and January, regardless of climate. Holiday stress is one reason why.