By Anita Rafael
Some people just barely survive the holiday season, feeling worn, cranky, and tired, while others seem to glow day and night with joy and levitate with inner peace. We had to ask—is there a secret to feeling well, looking great, and celebrating every moment? Searching for answers to not be among the stressed out from now to New Year’s, here’s what we learned from the pros.
Dr. Keith Michl
Keith Michl, MD, FACP, of Manchester Center, is an affiliate of MDVIP, providing tailored, comprehensive wellness plans. Dr. Michl’s practice centers on preventive cardiology, nutrition, weight management, and integrative health.
“This advice is not just for the holidays, since my whole practice is about helping people feel great all the time. I’d like you to think about the span from Thanksgiving right through January as a season to calibrate your lifestyle and effectively tune into winter. Project what you want for yourself beyond that list of resolutions you make on New Year’s Eve. We all experience some degree of holiday stress because we are trying too hard to make everything ‘Martha Stewart perfect’ by finding the right presents, doing the decorating, being superb hosts, and being ideal guests, but there are medically proven ways to tone down how your body and mind will respond to it. As winter and darker days arrive, many mammals hibernate. They slow down, which is normal. Just the opposite, we rev ourselves up for stimulating winter sports, marathon shopping sprees, big dinner parties and celebrations, and hectic family vacations. You can definitely control how that pressure affects you.”
Dr. Michl’s Advice
- Twenty minutes of easy to moderate strength training, even at home with small weights, three or four days a week gives you a reserve of energy.
- An hour outdoors in the bright morning light, even in the cold, improves your mood.
- Sitting still and meditating for at least 5 minutes every day settles your busy mind. An easy way to do it if you are not experienced: sit in a comfortable chair, half-close your eyes, breathe through your nose, and count to 100, silently and slowly, five times.
- It is cookie and candy season, after all, so tally the extra sweets you eat and try keeping your sugar intake low. Rein in the breads, pastries, and cakes made with enriched wheat flour because too much in one day whacks your blood glucose as well. A roller coaster blood-sugar level makes you feel sluggish, which
then drives you to eat even more sweets.
- Seven or eight hours of sleep is the best happiness treatment you can give yourself. The 20 minutes of weights, the 5 minutes of meditation, and the hour of outdoor daylight contribute to better sleep.
Rachel Rodney, MS
Rachel Rodney MS, RD, CDE, METS-1, is a registered dietitian at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and the Vermont Blueprint for Health. She is from Wilmington, Vermont and has a passion for helping clients improve their lives through healthy eating and behavior change.
“I want everyone to know that I practice what I preach! I am an avid athlete and a two-time Ironman finisher, thanks to a healthy lifestyle. When it comes to the holiday season, I don’t change anything. Thanksgiving dinner at our house is just another meal. Turkey is healthy food, and I prepare the side dishes as I usually do for any dinner. In my consultations, I suggest to my clients to fill up one-half of their plates with non-starchy vegetables first, and then serve themselves the meat and potatoes. But I know how it is—you sit down at the table around noon and then eat until it’s time to go to bed. You could end up consuming 4,500 calories with more than 200 grams of fat at just one holiday dinner with your family and friends. It’s funny, but I now have clients who, before they go down the buffet line or order from a restaurant menu, say, ‘What would Rachel do?’ That’s their strategy. I am in their heads.”
- Bottom line, resolutions to lose weight or drink less alcohol after the holiday binges usually don’t last long. In fact, she is somewhat anti-resolution. Instead, she wants us think about gradually adopting a healthier lifestyle weeks before the party season starts, actions we can sustain based on realistic goals. Her motto: Diets are a short-term solution to a longterm problem, so why stress out over dieting? Therefore, don’t diet—she says to move gently toward real change.
- If the big holiday celebration includes a splendid five course dinner, don’t skip lunch that day to try to compensate for what you plan to eat later. By dinnertime, you’ll be so hungry (and stressed out, there’s that word again!) that you cannot help but overeat.
- Every dinner table has healthier food on it somewhere. Browse every dish that is being served and make the best choices before you start putting food on your plate. And before that, give yourself this little quiz to rate your hunger on a scale from 1 to 5: How hungry am I right now? (P.S. You know there’s going to be lots of leftovers for later!)
- Cooking classes are a great gift for everyone. Learn how to prepare healthy meals using real ingredients—to love cooking again and to learn to crave the food we make ourselves more than restaurant meals and fast food.
Dr. Janel Kittredge
Janel Kittredge, MD, is a board certified emergency medicine physician with a special interest in dermatology and skin care. Her specialty practice in Manchester Village, known as Sterling Aesthetics, is dedicated to advanced skin care, non-surgical cosmetic procedures, and gentle restorative therapies. She is a wife and mother of four.
“While I cannot eliminate all the anxieties and stress that bogs people down during the holidays, there are things you can do to make it look as if none of it bothers you. As a busy mom, my strategy is to keep my four girls focused on what they can give or share with others, rather than what they are expecting for presents. This keeps their thoughts focused on something other than themselves. Adults typically think only about what others need and want during the holidays, while not caring enough for their own wellbeing. With a little advance planning, you can schedule procedures that can improve your appearance, so much so, that the face you see in the mirror won’t look tired, but rather as rested as if you just returned from a long vacation. Studies have proven that if you think you look great, you will actually feel great. And, it is not a coincidence that the anxiety that comes with all the extra holiday activities and social events manifests itself in illnesses and accidents. I see more of both in the emergency room throughout these weeks.”
Dr. Kittredge’s Advice
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Use moisturizing creams and emollients with sunscreen to fight the dry air outdoors, as well as the even drier air in your heated home. Drink plenty of water, too—dehydration makes you look tired and unwell even if you don’t feel that way.
- Take steam showers and steam baths. A schvitz provides deep-pore hydration, and is relaxing and detoxifying. Steam keeps your mucous membranes from drying out, which is important in wintertime.
- Dr. Kittredge uses Obagi skin care products in her practice. “They contain prescription medications that do much more than common drugstore products,” she says.
- Keep warm. It’s a fact: no one can be beautiful or handsome while on the verge of frostbite. Her best man/woman/child advice is to splurge on the right gear for the weather and dress well to prevent the skin damage that cold climates invariably cause.
- Save the date! Schedule 4 to 6 weeks in advance of your biggest celebrations for laser and more comprehensive treatments; 2 weeks ahead for Botox or injected fillers.