Danger zone: an area in which there is a high risk of harm, especially where this risk has been officially identified.
This does not sound like a place that most of us would willingly choose to venture, unless the benefits of doing so outweigh the “officially identified risks” associated therewith. Yet, even then, most of us would choose to pass by the danger zone. Unfortunately, a majority of us enter the danger zone every year, right about this time. We don’t realize we’re in it until the door slams shut behind us. Once inside, we think we can handle it and walk through unscathed. Few of us survive. What is this danger zone? The holidays.
You are approaching the season of endless mega bags of Halloween candy that have been on store shelves since August, begging for you to pick them up and bring them home, where, of course, they are devoured well before you hear the tiny voices cry out “trick or treat!” You were tricked, and they did not get treats. After your sugar hangover subsides, it’s turkey time, which by itself is a very healthy food. But what is Thanksgiving dinner without endless appetizers, pre-dinner cocktails, butter-laden mashed potatoes, bacon-greased green beans, mounds of stuffing, pies with whipped cream and endless second helpings. You don’t have time to recover from this event before the next one bursts in the door — holiday parties filled with more fattening appetizers, endless cocktails and wine bottles, cookies, chocolates, and more. You wake up Jan. 1, crawl out of bed, look in the mirror and realize once again that you did not survive the danger zone, wishing you had heeded the warning signs.
This year, follow me, and together we’ll take a detour around the zone, waking up with a smile, shouting, “Woo hoo, me!” on Jan. 1, 2018.
Get fit at work
You have a sedentary job and when you get home, you’re too tired from the day to move, so your home life is sedentary too. Change it with workplace fitness.
a. Walk or take stand breaks if you’re not able to get away from your desk to walk. Try for the recommended two hours standing time a day and 10,000 steps a day.
b. Push-ups against your desk — give me 10 every 60 minutes. Doing 10 every hour, five days a week gives you 1,600 pushups a month.
c. Isometric exercises. Contract a muscle group and hold for 10-20 seconds. Examples are making a fist, contracting your abs, contracting your glutes (aka rear-end).
d. Posture. Sedentary jobs lead to rounded shoulders and back pain. When you stand up (see ‘a’ above), clasp your hands behind your back for a gentle stretch and to open up your rib cage.
e. Look away. Eyestrain, headaches, neck pain and back pain are common when staring at a computer all day. Every 20 minutes, shift your gaze to an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds (20-20-20).
Get some shut-eye
You burn the candle at both ends, especially during holiday time, and sleep time decreases. Sleep is needed to strengthen and repair body tissues (you’ll need it after the pushups), think clearly and resist the urge to splurge, whether it be eating, drinking or overspending. Even one night of sleep deprivation causes levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, to escalate, causing your cravings for sugar and fat. Change it with healthy sleep habits.
a. Take sleep as seriously as your job. Make it a priority and not an afterthought.
b. Find your ideal sleep duration. One size does not fit all. The goal is to fall asleep quickly, stay asleep through the night and wake up feeling rested. (Leave your worries in the garage with your car.) When you meet all three, you’ve found the ideal amount of sleep for you.
c. Work with your circadian rhythms. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool. Buy a “sunrise” alarm clock, which simulates the rise of the sun with a gradual increasing light. A much more peaceful way to awaken than that blaring sound. I have used mine for 15 years. Love it.
d. Have a bedtime ritual. Create a routine 20-30 minutes before sleep to unwind and anticipate blissful sleep. Unplug and read something light-hearted.
e. Stop drinking liquids, especially alcohol, at least two hours before bedtime so you won’t disrupt your slumber with a bathroom trip.
f. Be consistent. We thrive on routine. Try to keep the same bedtime/awake time throughout your week, including weekends.
Make smart choices
You think of appetizers, cookies, cake, pies, alcohol, etc. as “happiness.” Reprogram your thinking. Look at it for what it will end up providing for you if you ingest it or too much of it — a headache, extra pounds, lethargy, waking up Jan. 1 with regret. Seriously, I look at some food as poison even though I love it, because I know too much is dangerous for me. Change your thinking with smart choices:
a. Water. Drink a glass of water before you go to a party or dinner, have one glass of water between each alcoholic drink, have a glass of water at dinner, refilled twice.
b. Vegetables. Choose the veggie tray before you fill up on fattening appetizers.
c. Be picky. When there is a smorgasbord of appetizer and dessert choices, take a small bit of each that you want to try. If it is not the end-all-be-all that you thought it would be, don’t consume it. Discreetly put your paper napkin to your mouth and get rid of it. Unwanted calories equal unwanted pounds.
d. Location. Stay away from the food table area at parties where you endlessly graze. Take a plate and find a spot as far away as possible to enjoy the party. At a dinner, move away from the table when your plate is empty, especially for family dinners when second helpings reach infinity status.•
• Sharon Buechler is an attorney with Riley Bennett & Egloff LLP and a certified personal trainer, health fitness specialist, and life and wellness coach. The opinions expressed are those of the author.