Ready or not the holidays are here again and, if this year is like other years, as the big events approach so the stress seems to increase. I for one dislike the amount of domestic and psych calls that seem to prevail this time of year. Fitness routines are pushed aside and good food choices take a back burner to all the holiday fare and events. As we drift further from our routine wellness endeavors our bodies will drift further from its state of equilibrium too.
There is a diagnosable condition that occurs around the holidays called holiday heart syndrome. This occurs as folks eat and drink all sorts of goodies with a blind eye to the consequences of consuming massive amounts of sugary foods, hidden salts and alcohol. This calorie bomb actually causes drastic spikes in blood pressure and can lead to flash medical issues such as pulmonary edema and strokes. Our friends, family and community do not make it easy either; walk in for roll call and this time of year there are seemingly endless tables of food bombs for us - their way of saying thanks for your service. While the thought is nice the end results are not.
There is a theory that has been floated around for years called creeping obesity. A few times per year (holidays, birthdays) we consume such massive amounts of food and drink and take in such an extreme amount of calories that we actually reset our metabolism, and not in a good direction. Essentially we consume such an extreme concentration of high calorie foods and drink that the base thermostat in our body, our BMR or basal metabolic rate, is actually reset slower which over the course of your lifetime can lead to obesity and medical issues.
Since we all want to have a little bit of the goodies to satisfy those taste buds but we do not want the negative side effects, there are some simple things you can do to avoid overeating.
Take a small sample of the things you like. By only having a small percentage of those foods and drinks you still have the satisfaction of eating it without the calorie load of having the whole thing.
Use a small plate. This one is the best trick I teach officers. Instead of a big dinner plate use a smaller plate. Only eat what you can fit on the plate and do not go back for seconds. I promise you that after 15 minutes of finishing that smaller plate you will be full and will have protected yourself from overeating.
Work it off. With holiday schedules, travel and family, many officers will put exercise off when it should become your focus; not only for stress relief but to burn it off before you put it in. Go for a long walk, play some ball, hit the gym before those big meals. As I have said for years, If you do the Crime, you have to do the time. If you eat that big plate or all that bad food, you had better schedule the time to burn it off.
Flush it out. A great tip to keep those sodium levels down is simply to dilute it. Drink a lot of water, especially when you eat for the simple fact that it makes you feel full quicker.
Eat more green. Vegetables and fruits are naturally healthier than sugary treats and are often higher in fiber which makes you feel full quicker. An additional benefit of extra veggies is that, as Americans, we consume way too much protein and that is not good for us. Eat your veggies first and by the time you get to the other stuff there is not as much room in your stomach.
Cut down on the white. As a rule of thumb, if it's white it's not very healthy. Cream sauces, breads, milks, sugars, potatoes are all white and are all simple sugars and bad fats. Simply avoiding these foods will drastically cut down on the empty calories that sneak onto our plate this time of year.
Toss it. While I always appreciate the thought and effort to pack the tables around the time clock with home cooked goodies I also never thought twice about trashing it either. Even better donate it to the local soup kitchen; they need it more than we do.
As sworn professionals you owe it first to yourself and secondly to the community to lead by example. Wellness and fitness never take a holiday. Be fit, stay safe and especially be healthy this holiday season.