Okay, so you have not given into temptation and despite all the parties and potlucks, you are not overeating during the holidays. Are you washing your hands regularly and do you have a designated driver, if you party and drink?
The celebratory time of the year also means alcohol is flowing and with flu season there are plenty of germs at the office party and at your relatives’ homes.
Being cognizant of general safety and the potential of passing along sickness is also important during the holiday season, according to Doug Campos-Outcalt, MD, chair of the department of Family, Community and Preventive Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix.
“Of course you should try to avoid overeating during this time of year,” said Dr. Campos-Outcalt. “But it’s also critical to avoid drinking and driving, making sure you are safe when traveling and practicing good hygiene to stay clear of the flu.”
Dr. Campos-Outcalt noted that in addition to being flu season, there are always potential pathogens lurking when groups of people congregate. One such illness is pertussis, or whooping cough, which parents and grandparents can pass on to infants. There is now an adult vaccine that protects against whooping cough.
“It is not too late to get your flu shot and make sure all your family members are up-to-date on all their vaccinations,” said Dr. Campos-Outcalt. “An often overlooked benefit of vaccines is to protect those who are vulnerable to infectious illness due to immune system dysfunction and who cannot be vaccinated or in whom vaccines are less effective. An example is influenza among the elderly.
“One of the best ways to protect grandparents against this leading cause of infectious disease death in the elderly is to vaccinate the entire family,” Dr. Campos-Outcalt adds. “And, while it is difficult for sick family members to stay at home and miss all the festivities, those who are ill should do all possible to avoid exposing others. This can include careful covering of coughs and sneezes and frequent hand washing as well as maintaining some social distancing.
In Dr. Campos-Outcalt’s words, “Do eat (in moderation), drink (but don’t drive) and be merry, (but don’t spread infectious diseases).”
As far as that other overindulgence goes, Gayle McCartney, MPH, a registered dietitian and educator, said “mindful eating” is an important point to remember around this time of year.
“With so much food around at holidays, it is tempting to eat without being hungry,” said McCartney, who has been an educator with the University of Arizona Cancer Center. “The trick is to pay attention before eating and assess your hunger. ‘Eat when you're hungry ... stop when you're not’ is a good rule. Rather than feel guilty, stay "mindful" and eat only when hungry...and stop before that "full" feeling. This helps you control total intake, regardless of what types of food you're eating.”
Among the other advice they give is eat a few bites rather than an entire portion, which saves calories and still lets you eat what you want.
“Like exercise, healthy eating is a matter of choosing what will work for you and implementing it,” McCartney said. “It's a great time to enlist another buddy for some accountability and focus on what you want to do rather than what you want to avoid.”