Time off from work, out of your daily routine, coupled with an endless buffet of holiday feasts and treats before, during and after all the football bowl and playoff games, can leave people starting the New Year unhealthy and unfit.
But, it doesn't have to be that way. There are many ways to keep people from looking like Santa Claus after the holidays.
Air and water are polluted. Many diet medicines and foods are loaded with artificial ingredients and hormones. Americans are fat and do not exercise. Yet we are living far longer than our grandparents did. Why?
This is the American Paradox. The answer is simple: Hygiene, from improved sewerage to personal hygiene. How do we beat the paradox? There are simple and easy ways to stay young and healthy, focusing on the principals of health: good hygiene. That includes mental hygiene, sleep hygiene, physical hygiene, brushing your teeth, and avoiding the "foul four" foods that hijack your health.
Many of us eat too much, too many calories, too much fat, too much salt and too much sugar. And those elements make up the 'Foul Four' dietary villains.
*Salt -- Excessive salt intake raises your blood pressure and can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It has also been linked to cancers of the stomach and esophagus. Throw out your salt shaker. You don't need to add any salt to your food. Salt is not the only spice. We should all make much better use of pepper or other spices. When cooking, leave out the salt, or cut the amount in half. After a period of time, your sensitivity to salt will change. Your taste buds will accommodate to the normal salt diet, and soon you will find you don't need it anymore.
*Sugar - We eat way too much of it, and the wrong kinds of it. Whether it's in the form of table sugar (from sugar cane or sugar beets), or high fructose corn syrup, the average American eats about three pounds of sugar a week. That's too much.
*Calories -- Those three pounds of sugar are equal to 3,312 empty calories per week. No vitamins, minerals, fiber... just 3,212 calories. That will convert to four pounds of fat per month. No wonder obesity in America is epidemic.
*Fat -- The last of the Foul Four is fat. Fat is another endless supply of calories. USDA "Dietary guidelines for Americans" says we should limit total fat to 20% to 35% of our RDA for calories. Most Americans get more than that. Fat, especially the "bad" fats (saturated and trans) are linked to obesity, heart attacks and cancer.
One major fallacy to avoid this holiday season is the idea that any member of the Foul Four is somehow made healthy because it's organic. Not true.
At the end of the day, with all the choices we have with our diets today, clearly we can all agree that avoiding or at least minimizing these Foul Four foods is a good start.