7 Smart Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

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Weight Gain Image Design 1 - 7 Smart Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

The holiday seasons are just around the corner. This is the time everyone on a diet or attempting to even consider losing weight panics. It is a perfectly normal response. The holidays are the time for people to gather together, eat, and drink everything in sight.

Plus, you just must look at how unhealthy Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners can be. They are full of fattening sides, sugar-filled desserts, and bubbly alcohol. Is it really that surprising that we have this worry that we are going to pile on the pounds? Is it that surprising that most people will wait until the New Year to lose weight?

It is time to avoid the weight gain. You can do it without sacrificing the fun in the holidays. Allowances can be made for certain days of the year. The rest of the time, you can stick to a healthy eating plan and avoid the excess pounds in a short space of time. Here are seven smart tips that will let you avoid the holiday weight gain but still have fun the whole time.

Choose Smart Snacks the Majority of the Time

Choose Smart Snacks the Majority of the Time - 7 Smart Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

One of the biggest issues with the holiday season is the snacking. Companies push all types of festive theme treats and snacks. We see chocolate boxes created in a larger size purely for “sharing,” when they know that we’ll just end up eating everything ourselves. There is the focus on grazing throughout the day, but people forget about all the extra calories they end up consuming.

While there is no need to completely avoid snacking, it is worth being smarter about it. Do not just graze for the sake of it. Chances are that you are not snacking because you are hungry, but because you are bored.

Before you even think about grabbing a candy bar or the slices of Christmas treats, consider whether you are hungry. Is it time for a meal? If so, do not snack and make yourself a healthy meal instead. Could it be just a craving because of boredom or because you are thirsty? Try grabbing a glass of water first and then see if you are still hungry.

Find something else to do to avoid the boredom eating. Do not give the feelings, whether happy or sad. By cutting down on the snacking, you will reduce the calories you consume to help keep them within a manageable range.

But you do not just want to ban all snacks, do you? Of course not! Snacking is a part of the festive season; at least it seems that way. When you do snack, think about the type of snacks you are eating. Focus on healthier alternatives to the sugar-laden sweets, chocolates, and cookies. Opt for more filling snacks like nuts and seeds, fruit segments and vegetable sticks. The smarter snacks will help to fill you up while adding more nutrients to your body.

Also become more mindful of your snacking. Do not just pour a bowl of nuts and eat them until they are gone. You will only need a handful of nuts to fill you up as a snack. Pull that out of the packet and store the rest for later. Avoid snacking when watching the TV as you are more likely to eat more than you really need to!

Keep an Eye on Your Portion Sizes

Did you know it is not quite the type of food that we eat that causes holiday weight gain? It is the amount of food we consume. This includes both unhealthy and healthy food! You can snack on all the fruits and vegetables you want, but you will eventually consume too many. The extra calories will be stored, just like they are when you consume too many snack foods!

Our portion sizes are continually growing. Plate sizes have increased by at least 3 inches in the last few decades. Psychologically we feel like we need to fill the plate, or we are not eating enough. This then leads to overeating and consuming far more calories than our bodies need.

It is time to take a step back and really consider your portion sizes. There are high chances you are serving way more than you should and your body would be satisfied with a little less. Start by changing the size of your plate. Opting for a slightly smaller one will help you fill the plate with less food, so you still get that psychological feeling that you are eating plenty.

Practice mindful eating whenever you eat a meal during the holiday season. When you have eaten half of the food on the plate, put the cutlery down and listen to your body. Does it really need more food? Give yourself time to consider whether you are still hungry or if you are satisfied. If you are still hungry, eat half of the food left on the plate and repeat.

There is nothing wrong with not eating everything on the plate. As you learn more about the amount of food your body needs, you will be able to reduce the amount of food you cook so you do not waste it all!

Reduce the distractions when you do eat. Many people in the holiday seasons will sit around the TV while they eat a meal. The movie or TV show is taking up their attention, rather than focusing on the amount of food they eat. It is possible to eat too fast and cause problems for your digestion. You also end up eating more than you need without realizing.

What about seconds? There are high chances that you do not actually need to eat them. Just because the food is there does not mean it has to be used. Opt for storing the food in the fridge or freezer instead. You can reheat most dishes you make, offering easy and quick meals towards the end of the festive season.

Keep Your Stress Levels to a Minimum

Keep Your Stress Levels to a Minimum - 7 Smart Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

The holidays are full of stress. You want to get the dinner just right. You need to brace the shops with all the other Christmas shoppers. It is a struggle to get everything done that you need, especially when work puts on extra pressure to wrap up for the year. Stress is considered a normal part of the holiday season but that does not have to be the case.

The stress is causing your weight gain for a variety of reasons. When you are stressed, you will increase the amount of cortisol and adrenaline in the body. The immune system’s inflammatory response can be kicked started, causing a dip in the metabolism and pain. As the metabolism slows, your body burns fewer calories, but you do not counter that by eating less food.

At the same time, those who are stressed are more likely to eat more. You have likely heard of the term “stress eater.” People gain pounds within moments because of their eating decisions when stressed. You are more likely to consume junk food to help feel good when stressed. This does not actually work. All you do is increase the negative hormones further, so you create a difficult cycle.

Handling your stress in a different way is important. Try to make healthier choices when it comes to snacking. Opt for yoga and meditation to help manage your stress levels.

The main aim should be to reduce your stress. This will not just help avoid weight gain, but you can also improve your health. Stress raises the blood pressure and causes many other health problems. Learn how to manage how stressed you feel in situations that you cannot control, such as deep breathing and exercise. You will be surprised at the difference in the way you feel!

Opt for More Protein and Fiber in Your Meals

Having a balanced diet is important, especially during the holidays. Most of festive food is high in carbs. Sure, you get protein from the turkey, but think about the refined carbs in the cookies and cakes. Consider the carbs in potatoes and stuffing. We are surrounded by carbohydrates and we know they are not the healthiest way to get our energy.

While getting some carbs is important, we cannot overlook the fact that some metabolize in the blood and cause major health problems. They also lead to weight gain. We are not filled as well as we would be with other food groups, so we end up snacking more.

It is time to get more protein and fiber in your festive diets. Both are excellent for breaking down into the body slower, helping you burn calories over the course of a day without the physical need to snack. When you feel full, you are not going to feel like you are missing out on the festive fun.

Protein is especially beneficial for weight loss because it helps to build more muscle. The metabolism needs to work harder when there is more muscle, so you end up burning more calories throughout the day. You do not just need to eat meat for protein. You can get excellent sources through quinoa, soy, and other similar plant-based foods.

Fiber will help to improve the digestive system. The festive season can cause trouble for this part of the body. We tend to forget about the fiber count in foods, so we can be left constipated and bloated. When we eat more fiber, our bodies push the waste out better and help improve the absorption of nutrients in our meals. Not only do we feel full and reduce our weight gain, but our immune system is further supported. You can get more fiber by eating more fruits and vegetables during the day. Nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes are also excellent sources.

Do not forget about the healthy fats. Fat is not the major culprit in weight gain that it is always been made out to be. The fat does not turn into fat in your body. It is a crucial component in a healthy body. Of course, you want unsaturated fats rather than saturated to protect your heart and arteries.

When you get more fat in your diet, you will support the health of the liver. This helps to boost the metabolism, especially if you have a lower carb diet. Fats will also help you feel fuller, so you do not consume as many calories through the day. Your diet only needs to be around 10% fat. There are more calories in a gram of fat than the other macronutrients, which can lead to overeating and weight gain.

Savor Your Desserts and Alcohol

Savor Your Desserts and Alcohol - 7 Smart Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

If fat is not the reason for weight gain, what is? Well, the sugar industry will not admit it, but it is sugar (especially refined sugar) that causes the weight gain issue. When we eat sugar, our whole body is affected. The metabolism must store the calories from other sources while its deals with the sugars in the bloodstream. You end up with sugar crashes, which leads to more sugar cravings. Sugar is more addictive than heroin!

So, does that mean you need to avoid all desserts? Not at all! What it means is you need to choose your desserts a little better. While Christmas cake, ice cream, and cookies may be popular, there is no need to consume them with every meal. You can get dessert in a much healthier way.

Look out for sugar-free dessert recipes. Find ways to use natural flavorings to create that sweet taste without affecting your health. You may be surprised to find that the desserts are not just better for you, but leave you feeling more satisfied after eating them. They do not cause the crash later that leaves you craving more of the delicious food.

When you do eat dessert, savor each bite. It is tempting to demolish it in one sitting, just to go back for seconds. Before you know it, the bowl of ice cream is gone, and you are stocking up on more sugar. Be more mindful of each bite you take, so you give your body chance to feel full and satisfied. You will consume fewer calories, so you do not gain as much weight over the holiday season.

Likewise, reduce the number of liquid calories you drink. This is not just actually about alcohol, but alcohol is one of the biggest problems. We tend to drink more over the Christmas period and it is no surprise that drinks driving increases during this time of year.

Alcohol is full of empty calories. Even wine and beer are not going to be favorable to your waistline. Our bodies do not recognize the calories in drink form, so end up pushing you to consume more. The sweet taste of most drinks will also encourage more drinking. Not only are you putting your liver at risk, but also your weight. A glass of wine with dinner is fine, but keep the excessive drinking to a least.

And watch out for sodas, sweetened drinks, and similar beverages. They are also packed with empty calories. They offer no nutritional benefits but will be packed with calories and chemicals that can make it harder for your body to absorb necessary minerals for a strong and healthy body. Have a drink now and then, but do not make it a regular thing.

 Get in More Exercise

The last thing you want to think about is exercise over the holiday period, but it could be one of the best things you do. This does not mean you have to push for your gym to open on Christmas Day. Nor do you need to create a training plan that will help you get buff in the New Year. You just want to get a little more active to burn a few extra calories.

Exercise is a wonderful way to boost happy hormones and reduce the stress levels. This will help to curb the snacking and emotional eating, so you can focus on healthier snacks and meals. The exercise will also help to burn more calories throughout the day, helping to create a calorie deficit so you lose weight.

At the same time, you build muscle. Muscles will burn more calories, helping to further that calorie deficit. You will also feel better mentally. It is not just the stress hormones that a removed, but the other negative hormones. It is easier to bypass the winter or Christmas blues and find more enjoyment, reducing the snacking and cravings.

Exercise will also give you something to do. You curb the boredom to curb the snacking.

Get the whole family involved. Go out for snowball fights, enjoy a walk in the park, or build a snow sculpture. You will be surprised at the workout you get. And yes, even shoveling the drive will count!

Plan and Stick to It

Plan and Stick to It - 7 Smart Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Finally, it is all about a plan. Create a plan to handle the Christmas period and you will find it much easier to work with. Weight gain will be the last thing on your mind because you are taking active steps to boost your metabolism, reduce calorie intake, and still enjoy the time.

The tips above will help you create this plan of attack. You can set out recipes for the holiday season, both on the day and around the big day. Plan out the snacks you will buy and make. Try to avoid the calorie-filled, sugar-filled snacks and opt for something healthier for the whole family. You are supporting the overall health and not just the waistline.

Of course, now you need to stick to it! This is often the hardest part, especially when one day goes wrong. Do not worry if you do not stick to the healthy eating plan for the day. One difficult day does not mean the whole holiday season is a write-off. Get straight back to the plan the next day and work your way through it without the guilt.

Planning will help to manage the stress. You know what you need to do and when. It is easier to manage the gift buying, recipe making, and dinner preparation when you have a plan of attack to follow.

Make This Holiday Season Successful for Your Weight

There is no need to give in to the idea that the holiday season is a time to gain weight. For many people it is, and it may have been something that happened to you in the past. However, with a few changes, everyone can either keep or lose weight throughout the festive periods. It does not matter whether you are a meat eater or vegan. There are recipes that will help to keep you feel full, bring in the festive cheer, and reduce the excess calories you consume.

Try this year to create your festive plan. This is not just about the meals you will make, but the way you will tackle every element of the season. Keep the stress to a least, opt for healthier and smarter food choices, and listen to your body. You will find the season far more enjoyable than you ever thought possible!

How to Beat Holiday Cravings Quickly and Easily

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Holiday Cravings Image Design 1 1 1024x562 - How to Beat Holiday Cravings Quickly and EasilyLet’s get real here for just a minute.

There’s nothing simple or straightforward about “staying on course” when it comes to your maintaining a healthy eating habit when the holiday season rolls around.

This is a time for fun, family, and for food – and with so many different dishes, desserts, and treats offered you throughout the holiday season it would take almost superhuman willpower to avoid those extra snacks and keep yourself on course.

There’s a reason why so many of us find ourselves more than a little bit of the course during the holiday season when it comes to our healthy eating habits. It’s natural. It’s a tall task under any circumstances to turn away delicious desserts, but when you’re talking about the added pressure of the holiday season and all your friends and family snacking on those delights, it goes to an entirely different level.

Thankfully though, there are definitely some things you can do to significantly reduce the number of holiday cravings you suffer from and a whole host of different tactics and techniques we are going to share with you below that allow you to destroy those cravings when they come up so that you never have to worry about being pushed off course of your diet ever again.

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Each one of the tactics shared below is going to allow you to take complete control over your diet and you’re eating habits without causing you any stress, any worry, or any a headache. You’ll still be to enjoy most of your favorite holiday foods and snacks, though you’ll be doing so in moderation and consciously – rather than just going belly up at the dessert tray on Christmas Eve!

Ready to get right into the heart of this quick guide to?

Great. Let’s rock and roll!

Power Yourself on Predominate Protein

According to recent reports from the scientific community, by flooding your body with plenty of protein on a daily basis (we are talking about a daily diet that is close to 40% or more protein here) you’re going to be able to kill a significant amount of your cravings – especially those that are powered by your sweet too.

Protein is going to work wonders to provide your brain with a “neural reward,” the same kind of reward that Sugar and sweets give your brain and only on a slightly smaller scale. This is going to eliminate the cravings that you’re feeling for foods that can be ridiculously destructors, all while flooding your body with a critical building block that allows you to rejuvenate and repair your body much faster.

It’s also been scientifically proven that when we are eating a regular diet that is deficient in protein, we deal with cravings that are not only more frequent but also much more aggressive. When the protein level in your bloodstream is low (we’re talking about almost embarrassingly) you’re going to have an almost overwhelming urge to binge on candy and sweets, just something to take the edge off.

Protein dense foods are the perfect way to improve the amount of protein you’re eating a daily diet, but if you’re in a pinch protein powder (high-quality protein powder) is a perfectly suitable alternative that’s quick, easy, and tasty.

Plan All Your Meals

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Even though science has pretty much conclusively debunked the concept of “starvation mode” and the importance of spacing out your meals so that you keep your metabolism running all day (that’s just not the way the human body works in reality), you are still going to want to do your level best to eat as many of your meals around the same time every day and also planned them out intelligently and strategically as often as you are able to.

For starters, planning to eat your meals every 4 to 6 hours is going to give you a lot of extra control over your daily diet that you just wouldn’t have enjoyed otherwise. Not only that, but you’re also going to be to space out your “feedings” so that you don’t have to worry about cravings popping up seemingly out of nowhere.

In fact, if you eat on a routine and regular basis evenly spaced throughout the day you may never have to worry about cravings ever again. And any that eventually pop up are going to be incredibly weak, and you’ll be able to blow right through them without any trouble.

Find the right meal timing schedule for your specific needs, and you won’t have to worry about falling behind the eight ball when it comes time to enjoy a healthy snack. You have already scheduled that snack time in advance, and so you are much more likely to reach for a delicious AND healthy food rather than pop open a candy bar and just kind of go to town.

Eat Plenty of Fiber

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There is a tremendous amount of reasons behind why you want to add a line of extra fiber to your daily diet, but the biggest one must be the ability to “stuff” yourself without having to consume a scary number of calories along the way.

When you eat foods that are high in fiber, you’re able to really kind of front load your calories, making sure that you feel full without having to overindulge in food that would only way weigh down and add to your waistline.

Fiber-rich foods are also going to keep you even more regular than the German public transportation system. You’ll be able to evacuate plenty of waste and toxins on a pretty much consistent basis, and that means that you don’t have to worry about feeling overloaded, overstuffed, tired, or full because you’re carrying around “garbage” that hasn’t been removed yet.

Stop Grazing Forever

One of the biggest reasons people succumb to cravings – especially around the holiday time – is because day grazes all day long like they are out on a farm somewhere.

This is easy to do on a day to day basis (all you must do is reach for snacks whenever you feel like diving in), but it is almost effortless to do when you are dealing with the holiday season. There are always going to be parties going on with all kinds of treats and sweets, and that means that the temptation to overindulge is going to exist on a near constant basis.

Grazing – eating without even thinking about it, and “just because” – goes part and parcel with holiday entertaining. Most people don’t even realize that they are going above and beyond their traditional dietary intake of when they are hanging out at a holiday party, and that’s 90% of the trouble right there.

By eliminating grazing altogether (mostly by recognizing that you have the potential to do so in the first place), you allow yourself to go to ANY holiday party without ever having to worry about overindulging whereas you may have in the past subconsciously.

This is a total game changer and something that you’re going to want to implement ASAP!

Drink a Lot of Extra H2O

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Whenever you feel a craving coming on for yourself a glass of water, and you may never again have to worry about cravings controlling your life.

Water has the unique ability to completely flood your body with a life building, repairing, and sustaining fluid but also to stuff your stomach and kill of your cravings without adding ANY extra calories into the mix.

Not only is water a critical component of building, rebuilding, and repairing your body (which is exactly why you should be drinking a lot of water on a regular basis anyway), but it’s also going to help you feel a life full are throughout the day – and that means a lot less snacking.

Drinking water (and only water) when you have the chance to try out so many special holiday beverages (especially hot cider, hot chocolate, and all the cocktails your family wants to share with you) can be a real tough task. But with a little bit of commitment and a focus on getting at least two glasses of water into your body every other war while you are at a party you’ll have no trouble whatsoever killing cravings before they ever get a chance to take you over.

Sleep Really Does a Body Good

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Most folks have absolutely no idea (or appreciation) for how important a good night’s sleep is when it comes time to fight back against overindulging, overeating and holiday cravings.

And while most of us would gladly tell everyone and anyone that asked the holiday season is a time for reflection, appreciation, and caring for those closest to us as well as complete and total strangers, the truth of the matter is it’s all of those things as well as one of the most stressful and hectic times of the year as well.

When you are dealing with a mountain of stress squeezing down upon you you are much more likely to reach for unhealthy snacks and emotionally eat at least a little bit. A little bit of extra sleep goes a long way towards helping you walk away all that extra stress, pressure, and anxiety, giving you the ability to rest and recover from sensory overload but also helping you to fight back against holiday cravings, too.

By getting in at least seven hours of high quality and uninterrupted sleep you’ll be able to eliminate your cravings altogether (just about), fast for a considerable amount of time each day – that’s going to help you lose quite a bit of weight all on its own, and give your body every opportunity to recuperate and recover from the day to day wear and tear it is subjected to.

Pop a Piece of Chocolate when You are Struggling

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Scientists of the world over were absolutely overjoyed when they discovered the fact that a single piece of dark chocolate has a transformative impact on our bodies and our biochemistry when it comes to cravings and defeating them without too much extra effort.

Believe it or not, a single piece of dark chocolate (preferably something organic with no more than 5 g of sugar per 100 cal serving) is going to provide your body with a rush of healthy biochemical reactions that not only worked to release endorphins – fun feelings – but also a lot of other enzymes and chemicals that shut down feelings of cravings (even if those cravings were for something savory as opposed to sweet like dark chocolate).

This is always going to be fantastic news for those that love chocolate as it is, but it’s a total game-changer for those that didn’t really have a reasonable answer to those cravings that just kind of came out of nowhere and threatened to push people’s healthy eating habits right off the tracks during the holiday season.

Plan for the Worst While Hoping for the Best

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Diets and eating habits that fail 100% of the time are those that are overly restrictive and focus predominantly on sacrificing all your favorite foods – something that none of us are all that excited about doing at any one point in time (especially for an extended amount of time).

Understanding this right off the bat, and appreciating that you are going to have to deal with cravings at some point in time in the future, gives you an almost unfair advantage when it’s time to fight back against cravings during the holiday season while keeping your eating habits right on track.

You see, you need able to plan and create “cheat meals and cheat days” then let you pick and choose when you are going to run right off the rails and overindulgent foods you probably should. This not only helps you feed into the feelings that your cravings are trying to drive, but it allows you to do so in a controlled and strategic way.

You don’t have to sacrifice forever (only most of the time) and you are able to reward yourself for all of your hard work during the holiday season with a couple of “blowout bashes” where your evil to eat pretty much anything and everything you want for a 24 hour span of time before getting right back into it.

It doesn’t get much better than that!

 

Holiday health

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The summer holidays are coming, which means many of us are dusting off our swimsuits and making lists of holiday essentials – passports, sunglasses, travel adaptor plugs. But all too many people put themselves at risk of a highly unwelcome holiday souvenir – coming back with an illness caught abroad. Read on to avoid being one of them.

Immunisations

If you’re travelling anywhere outside Western Europe, North America, Australia or New Zealand, you may well need travel immunisations. Nobody likes needles, but a simple injection will often protect you for years against potentially fatal illnesses.

Your practice nurse will be able to advise you which diseases you need immunising against if you tell her where you’re going. Ideally, you should make an appointment eight weeks before you travel – but she may still be able to help if you’re planning your trip within the next two months. Hepatitis and typhoid vaccines are needed for many countries, and you may need a yellow fever vaccination if you’re going to Africa or South America.

Do ask your nurse about boosters, because different vaccines protect you for different lengths of time. For instance, 

Malaria

Many parts of Asia, South America and Africa pose a high risk of malaria. Tablets need to be taken from one day to two weeks before you leave until one to four weeks after you return, depending on where you’re going. Different tablets are needed for different countries. They aren’t available on the NHS but your GP can issue a private prescription. You can’t afford to stint on this expense! Even if you’re taking tablets, it’s still important to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes to reduce your risk even further.

EHIC – the NHS in your pocket (well, almost!)

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives you access to emergency medical care anywhere in the European Economic Area, and you’re entitled to the same care as someone covered by that country’s ‘insured’ medical scheme. Don’t forget that this won’t necessarily mean no charge at all, and it certainly won’t cover bringing you back to the UK if you’re taken ill abroad – do get comprehensive travel insurance too. You can apply for an EHIC by phone on 0845 606 2030 or online at www.applyehic.org/ – the card will cover you for five years.

Regular medications

Don’t forget that you’re not the only one going on holiday. Many GP surgeries are short of staff during the holidays, so it may take a little longer than usual to order a repeat prescription. Do make sure you have enough of all your regular medications to last for the whole holiday. Ideally, you should carry regular medications in your hand luggage – getting replacements if your luggage gets lost could be a major headache. However, don’t forget that some countries are strict about taking medications on board a plane with you. This may be a particular issue if you need to carry injections (eg, for diabetes or allergy). If in doubt, check in advance with your airline. They may advise you to get a letter from your GP with a list of your medication.

First aid kits for holiday health

Minimise the stress of holiday accidents with a little forward planning. The contents of your first aid kit will depend very much on where you’re going (you may feel a bit daft turning up in Tenerife with a full intravenous kit). Common essential items include:

  • Antidiarrhoeal tablets (available from the chemist) for adults and fluid replacement powders for young children.
  • Insect repellants and antihistamine cream.
  • Plasters, non-stick sterile dressings, tape, tweezers, safety pins and a bandage or two.
  • Paracetamol and indigestion remedies for the morning after the night before!
  • A good first aid book.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Don’t let your ears ruin your holiday!

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If you’re reading this while taking a break from packing, the last thing on your mind is probably your ears. But your ears are more likely to give you a painful reminder of their presence on summer holidays than at any other time. Forget sun and sand – it’s sea, skies and swimming that make your ears vulnerable at this time of year.

Aeroplane ear can get your holiday off to the worst possible start. Some people are more prone than others to acute ear pain when their plane comes down to land. If you never give your ears a moment’s thought as a rule, you may not even have heard of your Eustachian tubes – but these tiny channels between your middle ear and the outside world, via the back of the throat, keep pressure the same on both sides of your eardrum. If they’re blocked, your ears can’t adapt to the changes in pressure as the plane descends. The result? Your eardrum gets pushed inwards by the pressure, causing the same symptoms as a middle ear infection.

Anything from a cold to hay fever can cause mucus to build up, blocking the Eustachian tube. To avoid cancelling your trip or suffering, try sucking sweets or breathing out while holding your nose as the plane descends. Both of these can help get air into the middle ear. Antihistamine tablets, decongestant nose spray or air pressure regulating earplugs can help.

Then there’s the holiday itself, and that tempting swimming pool or azure sea. But hot, humid weather, sweaty conditions and swimming all make you more prone to the itchy, sometimes painful condition of otitis externa, or outer ear infection. Your ears can also feel blocked, you can get swollen lymph glands in your neck and you may get a nasty-smelling discharge from one or both ears.

While an old fashioned regulation swimming cap may not be the sexiest look on the beach, it could save you from days of misery. A tight-fitting cap or silicone earplugs keep water out of your ears, and this is thought to be the main cause of otitis externa. If you do get water in your ears, never give in to the temptation to ‘dry them out’ with cotton buds or the pointy end of your towel. At best, this will push water further in; at worst, you can scratch the delicate lining of the eardrum, making you more prone to infection.

If you are going abroad, make sure you have health cover. The EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) is valid in all European Economic Area countries. It entitles you to healthcare at reduced, sometimes free, rates, as if you were a citizen of the country you’re in. But it’s not an alternative for travel insurance, so do check what’s covered and what isn’t – some risks just aren’t worth taking!

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

How to stay well on holiday

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Summer has arrived and whether your fancy is a sun-kissed beach, the wind through the trees on a sun-dappled lake or soaking up the culture on a historical tour, holiday excitement is everywhere. Sadly, as a GP, I’ve lost count of the medical miseries I’ve heard about that could have been easily avoided.

Nobody expects to get ill on holiday, but it does happen. The EHIC European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles you to the same state-provided medical treatment as an ‘insured’ local resident if you get ill in the European Economic Area. It’s still worth taking out travel insurance as other countries don’t have the same ‘free’ NHS treatment. Get an application form at your post office, ring 0845 606 2030 or apply for one online.

Fortunately, with a few sensible precautions both before and during your holiday, you should be able to ensure that the only mementoes you bring back from holiday are happy ones!

Hangover holiday hell

You’re in the holiday mood and of course you want to let your hair down a bit. But don’t forget that a hangover can ruin your fun as effectively as any tummy bug. Beware spirits (it’s easy to underestimate your intake); alternate alcoholic drinks with soft ones; and don’t drink until the evening. Best of all, find out if your hotel serves non-alcoholic cocktails – just as much fun without the side effects!

Tummy bugs

Tummy bugs are even more common if you’re outside Western Europe, the USA or Australasia. The mantra for food:

  • Avoid buffet food where possible in hot countries – germs multiply with terrifying speed in warm temperatures
  • You may think you’re avoiding drinking the local water, but that’s exactly what you’ll do if you put ice in your bottled drink!
  • If you’re not absolutely sure of the food, boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it
  • Don’t let your guard down where food precautions are concerned because you’re in a smart hotel. The kitchen may be clean and hygienic but the flies that settle on the food don’t care where they are.

Jetlag

You’ll be fine if you’re holidaying in Europe, but anywhere further abroad can bring jetlag as a consequence. Your body clock finds it harder to adjust to shorter days than long ones, so you’ll suffer more when you travel from West to East (when the clocks go forward). Top tips to reduce the effect include getting plenty of sleep before you go; going to bed earlier on the nights before you travel East; having a stopover en route if possible; avoiding alcohol and caffeine, but drinking plenty of other fluids on the journey; and staying outside in daylight as much as possible when you arrive.

Staying safe on the plane

Although not common, clots on the leg – deep vein thrombosis, or DVT – are a risk if you’re flying for more than four hours. To cut your risk, drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids; avoid alcohol, which can dehydrate you; and get up regularly and walk up and down the cabin. Every half hour, turn circles ten times with each ankle to keep circulation flowing in your calves

Exotic locations – make sure your memories are happy!

If you’re going to a far-flung destination, it’s highly likely you’ll need travel immunisations in addition for those recommended for everyone living in the UK. Even if you travel regularly, it’s worth checking with your practice nurse if they’re up to date at least eight weeks before your trip – it can take eight weeks for some immunisations to work.

As well as precautions to avoid jetlag and holiday tummy bugs, be aware that malaria is a real risk in some countries. Your nurse can advise if you need to take tablets – do complete the course. In addition, take steps to avoid insect bites – cover ankles and arms with loose-fitting clothes, especially in the evenings; sleep under a mosquito net if one is provided; and use insect repellents containing the chemical DEET (ask your pharmacist).

With thanks to ‘My Weekly’ magazine where this article was originally published.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

This Coconut Caramel Candy Is Insane. (Raw, Guilt-Free Holiday Treat!)

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Krystal Vrba

Krystal Vrba is a Whole-Food Nutrition Coach co-founder of Refresh Natural Health. She is the creator of the 3-Day Glowing Skin Diet and the 14-Day Liver Reset Program. After spending years battling her own health challenges, including multiple autoimmune diseases and chronic fatigue, Krystal works with clients and develops programs to make healthy living easy and fun. Please visit www.liverreset.com for more information on Krystal and her healing journey.

Gluten-Free Spiced Holiday Ginger Cookies (dairy free)

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With the Holidays in full swing it is hard to avoid the casual indulgence of a cookie (or 5) here and there. But, if your like me, you are not only challenged by the inner struggle to maintain your waistline but also the struggle to avoid Gluten riddled sweets and treats.

Although I am not celiac, I react very strongly to Gluten. For those of you that do not know, Gluten is a protein found in Barley, Wheat, Rye, Kamut, Spelt, and Oats (that are contaminated during processing).

Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together, giving your bread that elasticity and chewiness.

It has a similiar effect on the villi and microvilli in our digestive system that are meant to stand strong and filter and absorb nutrients from the food we eat. Gluten acts like a glue, preventing these tiny, finger-like projections from doing their job. Over time, certain symptoms can lead to disorders such as leaky-gut and celiac disease.

Personally, my body reacts to gluten, almost instantly, by making my hands and fingers swell (seriously, my rings won’t fit), my skin turn dry, red and scaly, inducing a heavy brain fog and making me instantly yearn for a siesta, and making my digestion sluggish.

It has been a blessing and a curse this year to have to avoid gluten in all its devilishly sneaky and hidden forms. Learning to navigate the company potluck or a friends cookie exchange at this time of year has been a learning curve…but a good one.

Food sensitivities can last in your system for a few hours or even for a few days.

To be honest, they may not even rear their ugly little head for a 2-3 days either! This makes it really hard to figure out what caused a reaction in the first place sometimes, so it is best to just avoid it!

Gluten seems to be hidden inside every convenience food out there!

That being said, I also need to satisfy my sweet tooth and have a little fun this Christmas season so last night I buckled down and did what I do best – get creative in the kitchen!

Here is a recipe I just created for delicious…

GF Spiced Holiday Ginger Cookies.

They bake in under 12 minutes and are ridiculously chewy and soft thanks to the cream of tarter. With these little Betties I won’t feel left out this year when the rest of the family is dunking cookies in milk by the fire waiting for Santa to drop gifts down the fireplace…because I’ll have my own sweet indulgence to enjoy with my almond milk!

Ingredients:

Yield: approx. 24 soft and delicious GF cookies

Combine:

  • 1 cup Blackstrap Mollasses

  • 1/2 cup honey

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar or organic cane sugar (you can substitute dates if you prefer, but will have to play with adding more flour)

In a separate bowl combine:

Directions:

Combine wet ingredients. Set aside. Combine dry ingredients. Stir well. Add to wet ingredients and stir until reaches a consistency that can be rolled into 1 inch round balls. You may have to play around with adding a little more flour. It is better to add too little then too much and just wet your hands before rolling to avoid sticking. Roll each ball into the ground walnuts or sugar. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet 2 inches apart and press down with a fork. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Bottoms should be golden brown and tops of cookies light golden brown and soft in the middle. Let cool and enjoy!

Side note: cream of tartar is a type of potassium salt of tartaric acid and contains no grains that have gluten.

How to achieve holiday harmony

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If you’re like most people, stress and the holidays go hand in hand. With so much to prepare, do, and recover from, it’s amazing you have a moment to really enjoy the season. That is why December is National Stress-Free Family Holiday Month–it’s an opportunity to take control of stress to make the holidays more enjoyable. This year, approach the holidays with less stress by keeping these tips in mind.

First, and foremost, think positive. Let go of that need for perfection and enjoy the holiday season for what it is. If something doesn’t get done, let it go. Think back to previous holidays when things didn’t go as planned, but everyone still enjoyed themselves.

Avoid colds and flu. Nothing can hinder your holiday harmony like being sick. Try these tips to stay healthy.

Drive safely this holiday season. Accidents, tickets and vehicle issues can put a damper on the spirit of the season. Be smart and stay safe.

Stay within your budget during the holidays. Finances can create a lot of unnecessary stress; try to enjoy your holiday without breaking the bank.

Be grateful for all that you have rather than concentrating on what you don’t have.

Pamper yourself. Plan a spa day, enjoy a manicure or pedicure, get your hair cut, buy a new holiday outfit, take a relaxing soak in your bathtub—do an indulgent activity to help ease your stress.

Read. The comfort of a favorite book can be a good escape from the hectic holidays.

Laugh. You’re probably familiar with the adage “laughter is the best medicine.” Well, it is! Laughter can reduce stress and increase happiness. Watch a funny show or movie, spend time with someone who makes you chuckle, or play a game with family or friends.

Exercise. Physical activity promotes brain-pleasing chemicals that can increase feelings of well-being.

Sing. Listen to your favorite music (or holiday songs) while singing along. Cheery music can boost your mood and alleviate stress.

Sleep in. Sleeping is both a relaxing and restorative activity. Extra sleep may also increase your energy to conquer your to-do list, further reducing your stress.

Cuddle with your spouse, kids or furry friend. Physical interaction with those you love promotes relaxation.

Check out these additional resources to help you stress less during the holidays!

For Health Advocate Members

If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to the wellness coaching component of our Wellness Program, call your coach for more tips to keep you healthy during the holiday season.

Tips and resources for healthier holiday meals

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ThinkstockPhotos 170083079 605x465 - Tips and resources for healthier holiday meals

12.22.2015

One of the best parts of the holidays is all the delicious food. But if you’re trying to eat healthy and watch your waistline, all of these seasonal meals and treats may present a challenge. Before you start baking or cooking, check out these tips and resources to help you eat healthier during the holidays!

One way you can ensure there’s something nutritious to eat at a dinner or party is to bring a healthy dish to share! Here are some resources for making healthier holiday fare:

General tips to eat well during the holidays:

From all of us at Health Advocate, we hope you and your loved ones have a happy and healthy holiday!

Don’t let family squabbles ruin your holiday cheer

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ThinkstockPhotos 80402787 605x465 - Don’t let family squabbles ruin your holiday cheer

12.15.2016

Four tips to keep the peace during family gatherings

The holidays are a time meant to be spent with your family and loved ones. But what fun is spending time together when it feels like every get-together ends in an argument?  Below are four simple tips to help you prevent family feuds through the holiday season.

  1. Have a plan for problematic family members. Maybe it’s an Uncle Scrooge, or a cousin Grinch that seems to always be involved when the bickering breaks out. Having a plan ahead of time for how to deal with this family member can make or break how the day could go. Planning family games or putting on a favorite holiday movie is a good way to keep the mood light and cheerful. For a more direct approach, you could discreetly let the family member know, before they arrive, how their actions are hurtful or disruptive and ask them to save their issues for another time other than the holiday.
  1. Set rules ahead of time. If you’re hosting, letting your family members know about certain rules ahead of time can help keep everyone on the same page. Not allowing certain conversation topics like politics, religion, or finances is a common rule, and can help avoid conversations taking a turn to a shouting match. Also, setting a time for everyone to leave can help people from delving deep into conversations that may cause an argument.
  1. Keep the spirits limited. If alcohol seems to be a main cause for quarrels, limiting how much alcohol you serve at your party can keep anyone from over-imbibing. You can still serve holiday cocktails like warm apple cider and eggnog–just don’t add any alcohol, or only add a small amount.
  1. Airing of grievances. If a confrontation is unavoidable, take part in a Festivus-style tradition and have the real problem brought to the surface in a calm manner. If an argument gets out of hand, have the bickering members (or yourself) resolve it by sitting down and calmly telling each other exactly what the problem is, without being accusatory or confrontational.

For Health Advocate members

  • If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life Program and have issues with stress this season or any time of year, talk to your Health Advocate Licensed Professional Counselor. You’ll receive free, confidential help, and if needed, referrals for additional support.
  • If you’re a Health Advocate member with our Advocacy services, contact us to speak with a Personal Health Advocate who specializes in behavioral health. The Personal Health Advocate can help you identify resources for help.