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Don't be holidazed

By SUSAN ASCHOFF, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 26, 2002

The holidays are here, the joyous time of year when more tempers fray, vehicles collide and waistlines expand. But the season need not be bad for your health. Here are some tips to keep mind and body well while celebrating.


To avoid catching a cold, wash your hands often and keep them away from your eyes, nose and mouth.


No matter how hectic the days, get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Sleep relieves stress, boosts immunity, fuels energy and engenders goodwill.

PUMP rum pum pum pum

The more muscle a body has, the more calories a body can take, says personal trainer Johnny Oye of Gold's Gym in New Port Richey. His charges take "spinning" classes, which is resistance cycling set to music. They also go on zigzag diets with different fats, carbohydrates and proteins each day, including two "cheat days" per week. Change shocks the body's metabolism into working for you, Oye says.

Embrace another year

Read Aging with Grace by David Snowdon (Bantam Books, May 2001), the story of 678 Roman Catholic nuns who not only informed but inspired the scientists who studied them for lessons on aging and good health.

But who's counting?

On average, a person gains two to five pounds over the holiday season. It takes 3,500 extra calories to put on one pound: Two slices of turkey with skin (320), one slice of cake (350), a handful of mixed nuts (250), two glasses of mulled wine (490), six chocolate candies (270) and a cocktail wiener (60), and you're halfway there.

'Tis the season to be . . . depressed

By far the largest complaint heard in the emergency room over the holidays is about depression, says Dr. David Orban, chief of emergency medicine at Tampa General Hospital: "We see a lot of potential suicides." Under the feel-good heading, the average count of 200 patients a day at TGH's emergency room drops to about 90 on Christmas Day, says Orban, theorizing that people stay safe at home.

Low-fat latkes

Hannukah begins Friday, and though this recipe from Steven Raichlen for may not fully evoke the oil-in-the-lamp symbolism of the traditional dish, it is undoubtedly less fattening.

3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes

1 medium onion

1/3 cup matzah meal or unbleached white flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup egg substitute, or 2 eggs plus 4 whites

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil or olive oil spray

Place a couple of nonstick baking sheets in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Peel potatoes and onion, and coarsely grate. Grab handfuls and squeeze tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Place grated mixture in a bowl and stir in matzah meal, baking powder, egg, parsley and plenty of salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil on baking sheets and spread with a wooden spoon. Spoon small mounds of mixture onto sheets to form 21/2-inch pancakes, leaving 1 inch between. Bake until golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes per side, turning once with a spatula onto oiled space. Serve immediately with applesauce or low-fat sour cream.

Psych yourself up

Find ways to banish the blues in The New Mood Therapy by Dr. David D. Burns (Mass Market Paperback, $7.99).

Make your Christmas tree childproof

Anchor the tree to a wall or column. Move all breakable or choking-hazard ornaments to higher branches. If your child is particularly daring, surround the tree with low bookshelves to create a wall or encircle it with a baby gate.

Changing lanes

Thanksgiving kicks off the most dangerous time of year on highways, a designation largely due to accidents caused by drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Plan now for a designated driver for your holiday parties.

Currier & Hives

Although real Christmas trees, evergreen boughs and other plants can bring irritating mold and pollens into the house, artificial decorations carry dust and other contaminants. Real and artificial trees can be sprayed down with water; some ornaments and decorations can be washed with warm soapy water after they have been stored.

Who's dysfunctional?

Dolores Curran, in her book Traits of a Healthy Family, says that no family is perfect. The healthier ones listen to and respect one another, allow privacy and share responsibility, play together, and affirm and support one another.

Tough love

A rash of injuries from falls off bicycles, scooters and skateboards left by Santa reminds parents to enforce a no-exceptions rule: Wear your helmet.

Child-proof your guests

Guests at a party or relatives staying for the holidays may bring purses and suitcases containing medicines lethal to children. Prescription pills for diabetes, blood pressure, heart conditions, depression, diarrhea and others can be "deadly in a dose," meaning one mouthful or one pill can kill if swallowed by a child younger than 3, says JoAnn Chambers-Emerson, a registered nurse and educator with Poison Control. In an emergency or for answers to questions about poisons, phone the toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Go walk it off

A brisk, hour-long walk burns about 700 calories for the average man.

Indulge -- strategically

Pick one or two of your favorite holiday treats and make them, fattening ingredients and all, advises Cynthia Sass, a registered dietitian at Morton Plant Mease Wellness Centers. Cut fat and sugar in the rest of your diet to compensate, but don't deprive yourself of what nourishes your soul.

Dangers unseen

Carbon-monoxide poisoning -- from faulty space heaters, gas furnaces and malfunctioning fireplaces -- accounted for at least two serious medical emergencies last holiday, says Orban, TGH's chief of emergency medicine. Another family was laid low by food poisoning after eating the undercooked stuffing in their turkey.

Drink sensibly

. . . and that means water. Your body needs it, your skin loves it, and the calorie count cannot be beat.

Catch your breath

Several experts say that deep breathing is the simplest way to destress. So if all you can manage is a couple of minutes, slowly breathe in to the count of three, hold for three, breathe out for three. Close your eyes, if possible, and focus only on the process.

Come, they scold him

Most people sit after they eat: football on the TV, card games or visiting. Instead, organize a family Olympics in the back yard, says Sass, the registered dietitian at Morton Plant Mease Wellness Centers.

How to keep a turkey from exploding

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays says that a safe turkey is one with no more than four eggs in the stuffing (eggs expand as they cook and can force the stuffing out of the bird) and several inches of space in the cavity to allow for expansion.

Alone again, unnaturally

"The most vulnerable people are people who have lost someone," says Dr. George Warren, a Clearwater psychiatrist. "The best thing they can do is be with other people." Grief-induced depression makes you want to hide. Force yourself to be around other people. "Look people in the eyes and say good morning," from store clerks to neighbors, Warren says. And if someone you know is blue, don't just invite them over; go and get them.

Booby-trapped buffet

Children younger than 3 can easily choke on peanuts, popcorn, hard candies, chunks of raw carrot and other foods typically filling an unsupervised table. Alcohol left in partially finished drinks can be poisonous to small children. Three cigarette butts ingested by a child can cause convulsions, says Poison Control educator JoAnn Chambers-Emerson. She reminds parents distracted by hectic schedules or tempted to assume that someone is watching the children at a holiday gathering to maintain their vigilance.

I can see clearly now

The elderly, in particular, tend to engage in negative what-if thinking: What if their plane is late? What if John doesn't like his gift? What if my arthritis acts up? Dr. Marcia Wagaman of St. Petersburg, a retired neonatologist with a Ph.D. in psychology, says to put it in perspective. "You have to realize there are annoyances, there are problems, and there are crises." Know the difference.

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