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Holidays Can Take a Toll on Your Health

Washington Hospital Doctor Offers Tips for Staying Healthy

With all the shopping, parties, late nights, and eating and drinking, the holidays can take a toll on your health. But there are ways to enjoy the festivities while staying healthy.

“Staying healthy is the goal year round, but it can be more difficult during the holidays with all the temptations,” said Dr. Lincy Mathew, a local physician who specializes in internal medicine and is a member of the Washington Township Medical Foundation and Washington Hospital medical staff. “You can still have a good time, but make sure you also focus on taking good care of yourself.”

She said exercise is the mainstay of a healthy life. You should do some type of physical activity at least 30 minutes every day.

“That doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym every day,” Dr. Mathew said. “Find some type of activity you enjoy like brisk walking or bicycling.”

Exercising can be difficult during the holidays with so many distractions, she acknowledged. She suggested finding ways to incorporate exercise into other activities you are doing.

“When you go shopping, park far away from the mall or grocery store so you have to walk,” she suggested. “Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Maybe when you have family gathered together for a meal, take a nice walk afterward.”

Exercise can help to reduce stress and improve your overall sense of well-being, which is important during the holidays, she added. It can also help avoid some of the weight gain that often occurs this time of year.

“The holidays can be a stressful time,” Dr. Mathew said. “But if you take time out to exercise, you will feel much better.”

Eat Right

Healthy eating is also critical for maintaining a healthy life, Dr. Mathew said. A healthy diet includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, lean meats and fish, and low-fat dairy products.

“You need to avoid processed foods that are high in salt and fat,” she added. “When you do buy packaged foods, you need to read the ingredient list on the labels so you know what you are eating. You can’t always tell. Sometimes products will say they are low-fat, for instance, but when you read the label, you see they are full of sugar.”

Mathew said it can be hard to eat healthy during the holidays with all the high-fat, high calorie treats that are available this time of year.

“You can still eat the foods you enjoy, but do it in moderation,” she said. “Treat yourself to the foods you really like, but try to avoid overdoing it.”

When you are going to a party or social gathering where you know there will be food, Mathew suggested eating something healthy beforehand.

“Sometimes when people are going to a party, they don’t eat all day,” she said. “Then when they get there, they eat everything in sight because they are so hungry. Try to pick some of the more healthy options that are available.”

Eating late at night can also be a problem for some people, Mathew added, particularly for people who suffer from acid reflux or heartburn.

“Eating a big meal and then lying down afterward can make acid reflux worse,” she explained. “Sitting upright for a couple hours after you eat helps to reduce acid reflux.”

Caffeine can also contribute to acid reflux. You may be tempted to drink more caffeine to keep up with your busy schedule, but she said try not to overdo it because it can raise your blood pressure and heart rate.

Finally, she cautioned against drinking alcohol and driving. It’s important to know when you should stop drinking. If you have had too much, don’t get behind the wheel, she said.

“The holidays can be a fun time to get together with friends and family, but don’t forget about your health,” Mathew added. “Exercising and eating right can help you stay healthy.”

For information about programs and services at Washington Hospital that can help you stay healthy, visit