Faculty Research Offers Health Tips for the Holidays

December 6, 2016

Don’t try to lose weight over the holiday season, spend time with your family, and make a New Year’s resolution or two. These tips – and a few others for your well-being – are based research by University of Scranton faculty members.

Holiday ‘diet’ goal is to maintain your weight

Joan Grossman, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise science and sport at the University, says the holidays provide us with increased choices of high calorie and high-fat foods with numerous gatherings with family and work that we don’t typically experience throughout the remainder of the year, except perhaps for one’s birthday.

And so the goal during the holidays is weight maintenance – not weight loss.”

“As a registered dietitian, my professional advice is to avoid beginning a weight-loss program between Thanksgiving and New Year’s as one’s chances of success are not favorable,” says Dr. Grossman. “Success with one’s body weight during the holidays is to maintain your weight from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, as the average American typically gains seven pounds during these few short weeks.”

Only pack what’s important this holiday

Engaging in religious activities and spending time with family can increase your sense of well-being and positive emotions during the holiday season. This sound advice of Carole S. Slotterback, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University and author of “The Psychology of Santa,” is based on the analysis of 1,235 letters to Santa over a six-year period from boys and girls ages 2 to 13.

“What’s important is to pursue activities that are meaningful to you, and that you don’t try to do too much, which would increase your stress levels,” says Dr. Slotterback. “Take the time to sit down and discuss with your family what is most important for them during the holiday – establish priorities.”

The answers given will be surprisingly simple, according to Dr. Slotterback, who, in addition to the children’s letter, has analyzed diaries and correspondence of soldiers serving overseas during the holiday season to see what really matters most to them when “they are away from everything they know.”

“If families just focus on the important things, this simple action will reduce your stress,” says Dr. Slotterback.

Resolve to make a New Year’s resolution

Research by University of Scranton Psychology Professor John C. Norcross, Ph.D., internationally recognized as an authority on behavior change and psychotherapy, indicates that you are 10-times more likely to change a desired behavior if you make a New Year’s resolution than if you don’t.

According to his research, 46 percent of those making a resolution were successful at changing their target behavior after six months, compared to only 4 percent of adults desiring to change their behavior who did not make a resolution.

“Forty to 45 percent of adults in the United States will make New Year’s resolutions, and two-thirds of these resolutions will concern life-threatening health behaviors,” says Dr. Norcross. “This tradition presents a valuable opportunity to increase the effectiveness of self-initiated change that affects the health of the U.S.A.”

Dr. Norcross, author of “Changeology: Five Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions” and dozens of other books, has researched New Year’s resolutions and self-change for three decades. 

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