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Food for Thought for the Holidays

By Eugene Y. Chan, MD

The holidays are approaching us fast and typically there are two big fears that confront us:  (1) how do I not gain weight? and (2) how do I survive my holiday party?  Thanksgiving and the holidays are synonymous with gluttony, binge eating, and over indulgence.  Furthermore, there are numerous holiday parties that you need to attend, whether out of obligation or for fun.  Given the joyous time of year, there is plenty of opportunity to get carried away.  Fortunately, there is time to prepare.  

First, regarding weight gain, there are several key realizations.  The first is that the stomach has unique properties.  It is an expandable container, made of smooth muscle.  If it is in a compact state for weeks prior to your binge eating episode, you will feel full faster and will not consume as much.  On the flip side, if you occasionally have large meals, you stomach will have lost its elasticity, very much like a balloon that has been inflated and deflated multiple times, and you will be able to consume a lot more.  Second, your stomach and digestive tract secrete enzymes that require a certain time of upregulation, through gene expression and protein translation.  Without certain key enzymes, the nutrients of certain foods do not make it into the body.  So you could utilize this to your advantage.  If you avoid fatty foods routinely, it is unlikely that a single meal of fatty foods will lead to significant weight gain.  The lesson here in understanding the anatomy of your stomach as well as the molecular response of it to food is simple:  if you eat healthy and in small portions on a routine basis, the impact of a single large meal is unlikely to have significant impact on your daily trip to the scale.  Of course, it all goes without saying that you should continue to remain active and exercise often.

Ok, what should you do about those holiday parties?  Holiday parties tend to be a great time to network, build camaraderie with your colleagues, all through a relaxed atmosphere.  Part of this is a liberal amount of beer, wine, and cocktails that loosen up even your stiffest co-worker.  The key here is moderation for you.  Since you don’t want to be the individual that gets talked about the day after, setting a drink limit and goal for yourself prior to the party is most important.  Discussing your goals with a colleague of similar professional mindset would help you solidify your resolve.  In the event you did have one too many, how do you make it to work?  The answer is simple:  drink plenty of water and take a product designed for post-celebration recovery.  The key is to get your Kreb’s cycle back up and running since an excess of ethanol builds up NADH, which signals the Kreb’s cycle to slow down.  As you know the Kreb’s cycle is central to generating ATP, your body’s main form of energy.  By supplementing key cofactors for enzymes in your Kreb’s cycle, you can get it back up and running in no time, and feel great in the process.  

With that, good cheers for the holidays and be well.

 

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