From the Archives: Fall 2005 Lupus Now magazine
Eat First, Party Second, and Other Tips for Dodging Holiday Weight Gain
by Emily Wojcik
As the air takes on a frosty nip, thoughts naturally turn to the holidays. What could be better than gathering with family for a traditional dinner-with all the trimmings! Or, a caroling party topped off with rich hot chocolate? During these colder months, the temptation to throw common sense onto the Yule log is especially great. Who wants to think "moderation" -- never mind exercise -- when there are turkeys to stuff and eggs to nog?
Unfortunately, holiday revelry can result in more than a headache. With all that alcohol and fatty food, it's not surprising that the average American gains seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's. For people with lupus, abandoning a healthy routine can leave you vulnerable to bigger problems.
"Food that's high in fat and sugar can exacerbate symptoms in autoimmune conditions," says Stacy Shaul, a certified clinical nutritionist based in Los Angeles. "With a disease like lupus, excess calories may increase the chance of a flare, and lead to heart disease and obesity."
But this doesn't mean that you have to give up your favorite traditions. Balancing fitness with the excitement of the season means paying more attention to how you care for your body, says Shaul. "One of the most common pitfalls is 'throwing caution to the wind' at social functions, and eating foods that may worsen a health condition."
Try these tips for a happy and healthy holiday
Avoid saturated fats. According to Shaul, "The saturated fat coming from both dairy and red meat causes an inflammatory response, which is exactly what people with autoimmune diseases should avoid." Load up instead on fruit, vegetables, and lean meats like turkey.
Don't celebrate on an empty stomach. "Just as one shouldn't go grocery shopping when hungry, it's best not to go to a party hungry," Shaul says. A nutrient-rich snack -- such as a handful of Brazil nuts, which are high in anti-inflammatory selenium -- takes the edge off and prevents hors d'oeuvres overload.
Go potluck. When preparing that pre-party snack, why not make enough for everyone? "Offer to bring a healthy item, such as a green salad, so that there will definitely be healthy items available," Shaul suggests.
Try something fishy. Fish oil can combat depression, which may be especially acute around the holidays. After consulting your doctor, Shaul says, "Try to eat more fish such as salmon and sardines, which offer the omega-3 fatty acids proven to relieve depressive symptoms and reduce inflammation."
Make room for exercise. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, moderate exercise increases flexibility, muscle strength, and cardiac fitness, and may help depression. If your regular exercise routine feels too time-consuming, try breaking it up to fit your holiday schedule. The American College of Rheumatology reports that three 10-minute increments of exercise, which can be done in several short walks throughout the day, have the same effect as one 30-minute routine.
The holidays are full of potential pitfalls, but with a bit of planning, you can make all your holidays bright.