Holly and Humbug: The 5 Unhealthiest Holiday Traditions

Medically reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, RN, CRNA, COI on December 15, 2016Written by Leah Campbell

‘Tis the season for … overeating and hangovers?

OK, so that’s not how the song goes. But sometimes it’s reality. For as much as there is to love about the holidays (the food, the presents, the time with friends and loved ones), there are also things that can dull your spirits (the calories, the money spent, the crazy family dynamics).

Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays, especially now that I’m a mother. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t succumbed to a few unhealthy traditions myself in the past. And it doesn’t mean you haven’t, either. In fact, science points to these five downfalls as being common this time of year.

Here’s where we’re overdoing it along with some healthy tips for how we can all stay well until New Year’s, from Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, RN, CRNA, COI.

1. Overeating

overeating

Everyone knows the holidays are for eating. And most everyone jokes about that holiday weight gain. The good news is that research shows most people don’t gain nearly as much over they holidays as they might assume. The average holiday weight gain is 1 kilogram or about 2 pounds. But that doesn’t necessarily mean what you’re eating, or how much of what you’re consuming, is good for you. If you’re feeling sick at the end of the night, it’s probably because you enjoyed Grandma’s pie selections a little too much this year.

So to be clear, anything in excess is bad for you. Especially the sugary and high in fat foods that seem to be staples of the season. Gingerbread cake and spiced rum balls, I’m talking to you.

2. Spending

spending

We are a nation of spenders, and nothing brings that out in us quite like the holidays. This year, the American Research Group reports that shoppers are planning on spending an average of $929 on gifts. That’s up $47 from last year. And that doesn’t include what individuals and families are spending on elaborate meals, holiday events, or travel. Basically, it’s the most expensive time of year.

As long as you’re spending within your means, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Unfortunately, plenty of Americans are putting that spending on credit, and adding to ever-increasing debt, which probably isn’t the healthiest choice.

3. Family dysfunction

family dysfunction

Of course, we love our families, even with all their quirks. That said, there is something about the holidays that seems to bring out peculiarities and petty disagreements in many families. Sometimes just the reminder of old issues that haven’t quite been resolved can get to people this time of year. Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression include acknowledging your feelings and knowing that sometimes it is OK to feel sad. Set aside differences and try to accept family members and friends as they are. At least wait to bring up grievances until a more appropriate time.

If you’ve got an amazing family that glides through the holidays without incident, good for you! But for many Americans, simply booking that holiday plane ticket to visit family can be a tad stressful and unhealthy in and of itself.

4. Drinking

drinking

A glass of wine here and there is no big deal, but drinking to the point of inebriation can be. And for some reason, that seems to happen a whole lot more around the holidays. In fact, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more people are likely to drink beyond their limits during this season than at any other time of the year. Maybe it’s all the holiday parties where the booze seems to be so freely flowing, or maybe it’s all that family dysfunction driving people to drink. Whatever the reason, drinking in excess can have plenty of negative consequences. And those include that brutal hangover and choices you might regret. There’s also the increased risk of drinking and driving to consider.

Be smart about your holiday drinking. Pace yourself by having one nonalcoholic drink between drinks with alcohol. Keep in mind that you should not have more than one standard alcoholic drink per hour and no more than four for men and three for women per day. Know your limits, plan a designated driver, and leave your car keys at home.

5. Skipping out on sleep

sleep

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but with all the excitement, your sleep schedule might get thrown off. Between parties, traveling, and staying up until midnight wrapping gifts, you can easily get run down fast. Most healthy adults need seven to eight hours a night, but that might be hard to come by when your kids are waking you up at dawn all month asking if it’s Christmas morning yet.

6. Bottom line

The key to a “merry and bright” season is moderation. Enjoy a drink or a little something sweet and stay an extra hour at your friend’s amazing holiday party. Just be smart about it, and know when to cut yourself off.

Know your own limits and enjoy a happy, healthy, humbug-free holiday season!

Leah Campbell
CMS Id: 114084