Don’t be a Grinch

Published 11:34 am Friday, December 10, 2004

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Cassopolis Vigilant
CASSOPOLIS - We can be our own worse enemies and this is especially true during the holidays when those extra nibbles at the dessert table end up on our hips. Gaining weight over the holidays is just one form of stress we can take steps to avoid.
Brenda Harris, fitness coordinator at the Cass County Council on Aging (COA) in Cassopolis, along with Dona Billey-Weiler, life enrichment and adult education director, led a discussion Monday afternoon on ways to beat holiday stress.
Harris offered tips such as using yogurt instead of sour cream in holiday dips, and watching how much alcohol we drink at parties can help keep calories down. Salty foods cause us to drink more.
We also aren't always aware how much we are eating and drinking at parties. You need "self-control and to make good choice," she said.
Having a mint or piece of gum right after eating can help us skip seconds," she added.
With a normal weight gain of 10 to 15 pounds over the holidays, it is also smart to start exercising now, instead of as a New Year's resolution. "It is easier to put on, than put off," Harris said.
With so many things on our to-do lists, it is important to de-stress ourselves - "and not by food," she added. Other choices are take time to read, take a nap, or soak in a tub. Good nutrition will help and so will getting enough sleep.
Stress also comes from the feeling of obligation to produce wonderful Christmas gifts for friends and family.
Marj Federowski of Cassopolis limits the cost of her gifts and goes to Sheltons Farm Market to make-up a gift box of Michigan products for her family.
She doesn't buy toys for her grandchildren, but instead chooses books or clothing. Her youngest grandson was thrilled with a flashlight, which he uses each night when he walks the dog.
Though not everyone felt Christmas has lost its true meaning, some thought advertising has gotten out of hand. The early onslaught of sales flies can add weeks to the stressful period.
All agreed the emphasis at the family gatherings should be on sharing, playing games together and enjoying the family dinner and grandma's cookies.
It's all a balancing act, said Billey-Weiler. "What you eat can affect how you think," she added.
Older people, who may be isolated from them family, can also become depressed. Traditions have changed when when they were young and when their own children were small.
She always enjoys going to Chicago each year with her husband and they hand out McDonald's gift certificates to the homeless.
It is important for people to get out and be with others. Even taking a drive to see Christmas lights can ease depression. "Call a friend, play Christmas music, or writing cards or letters," she added, "but know your limits and budget, and keep it simple."
The COA, she agrees, offers a perfect chance to share meals, play games and learn about new ways to enjoy life.
Next Wednesday, Dec. 15, the COA will present the last of its Healthy Living Seminars, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Depression and Older Adult Suicide, with national experts, John McIntosh and Robert Raster. Moderator is Gloria Cooper. Call the COA at 269-445-8110 to register.