Senior Lifestyles: Holiday eating can be bad for your health

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, December 11, 2018

As we know, almost everyone loves this time of year. 

It’s like a month-long party beginning in November with Thanksgiving and lasting through New Year’s Day. For many, it usually includes family, co-workers and friends, and it often involves imbibing in luscious adult beverages and foods.

During this holiday season, people tend to overindulge, not by eating too many carrots or too much lean turkey, but my eating too much food and desserts and drinking too much alcohol.

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The problem, however, is what can happen during that 30-day period of over indulgence, especially among seniors who may be, knowingly or not, pre-diabetic. In fact a study done at the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, found that as little as two weeks of inactivity can “…hasten diabetic onset in seniors.”

It’s difficult for most of us to sustain a workout program throughout the year, and it doesn’t get any easier the older we get. But to compound the lack of exercise with an increased intake in calories, and certainly not those found in healthy foods, contributes to more than just the guarantee of weight gain, but the possibility of triggering a major health issue.

Promising yourself that you’ll either go back to your regular exercise program or start exercising with the New Year is, for many, a way to rationalize our overdoing things during the holidays.

And too many do so knowing that they’re not going to start and stay with an exercise program; but it sure makes that offer of an extra slice of chocolate cake or second serving of candied sweet potatoes harder to resist, and we certainly don’t want to offend our host or hostess, do we?

Here’s the rest of the story about skipping exercise and overdoing it during the holidays, especially if you’ve not previously been exercising consistently.  There are medical studies that have shown that a “…sedentary lifestyle harms brain health and raises the risk of diabetes and dementia in seniors, while other [studies] have suggested that being physically inactive simply makes you age faster.”

In an article published in “The Journals of Gerontology,” participants ages 60-85, some diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and were part of a study in which they were asked to restrict their daily number of steps to fewer than 1,000 per day for a two-week period.”

That’s equivalent to being housebound.

The research revealed that only days after the study started, the participants’ skeletal muscle mass and strength decreased significantly. But more importantly, the researchers also noted that, “…participants who had prediabetes quickly displayed signs of full-blown type 2 diabetes, such as insulin resistance.”  Even returning to a healthy exercise regimen for another two weeks, “…was not enough to offset the harmful effects of inactivity.”

It’s no simple feat to best to avoid both overeating and consumption of too many tempting desserts. However, if you already exercise, don’t stop!  If you haven’t started a regular exercise program, don’t wait for the start of the New Year to begin, do it now and make it a habit. 

Enjoy yourself knowing that all things in moderation is a healthy mantra, and adding a steady “diet” of exercise can make all the difference in the world to your health and longevity.

Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert speaker on issues of aging. He is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease.” He may be contacted at 828-696-9799 or at