Food Is Not Your Enemy

How to Thrive During the Holidays
December 11, 2014, 1:17 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle | Tags:

Come December, we often see stories in the media about “surviving the holiday season.” I would prefer to change things up and offer some tips on not just how to survive, but how to actually thrive during the holidays.

The word “survive,” used in connection with the holidays, pushes the mindset that Christmas, Chanukah, and New Year’s are events to be endured, dealt with but not enjoyed, and perhaps even dreaded. We’re shown photos and video of shoppers getting in fistfights over toys at Wal-Mart, made to feel concerned about the economy when Black Friday isn’t as big a moneymaker for retailers as was forecast, and told that holiday travel will be a nightmare. Every other magazine by the checkout counter warns of imminent holiday weight gain, and promises recipes for low-calorie “treats” made with imitation whipped cream. Ugh.

But we don’t have to engage with this narrative. We can instead remember that the holidays are a time of year to slow down, spend time with our loved ones, and express gratitude for all that we do have and all the people who love us. And it’s easier to get into this frame of mind if you take care of yourself as you prepare for the holidays and keep yourself from getting swept up in the go-go-go! mentality of December.

Remember to exercise. Feast on the holiday days themselves, but every other day this month eat as healthily as you can to help counteract all those cookies and party appetizers. Sugar is addictive—the more of it you eat, the more of it you’ll want—so think about having treats with added sugar only on special occasions. Set aside some time each week all for yourself, and spend that time doing as little as possible. Get enough sleep. And enjoy those moments curled up by the fire with your family or spent playing board games at the dining room table while sipping hot cider. Because these are the moments you’ll remember, the moments when you’ll feel like you’re thriving.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Artificial Sweeteners Are Making You Sick and Fat

“Artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, causing metabolic changes that can be a precursor to diabetes, researchers are reporting.”

So began a recent article in The New York Times that delved into why it may not be the best idea to recommend artificial sweeteners as a way to help prevent and/or manage diabetes.

The researchers, using mice and then humans in their experiments, found that Sweet’N Low, Splenda, and Equal all altered the population of bacteria in the digestive system. And this altered “microbiome” then led to changes in the metabolism of glucose—the test subjects’ blood sugar rose higher after eating and decreased more slowly than it did prior to the introduction of the artificial sweeteners into their system. After only one week, the mice given the sweeteners developed a “marked intolerance to glucose,” which is the precursor to such conditions as metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. When the scientists gave the mice antibiotics to kill much of the bacteria in their digestive systems, their glucose intolerance disappeared.

More and more research is demonstrating just how important our gut bacteria is. The right mix of bacteria leads to a stronger immune system and better digestion, for instance, while the wrong bacteria can lead to illness and obesity.

To help the good bacteria proliferate in your gut, move away from not just artificial sweeteners but also sugar, poor-quality fats, junk food, and chemical additives to food; and eat more fermented foods like plain yogurt or kefir, veggies (green veggies in particular), fruits, healthy fats, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Your intestines—and your whole body—will thank you.