STAYING FIT AND HEALTHY DURING THE HOLIDAYS

With the holidays coming up, the highlight for many people during this season is gathering with family and friends and enjoying favorite holiday treats. Here are some tips that will help you enjoy your holidays to the fullest while not increasing your waistline.

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MAKING AND KEEPING NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS

Only 8 percent of individuals achieved their resolutions in 2016, according to Statistic Brain. This is likely due to most people having unrealistic expectations about the speed, ease and consequences of the resolutions they make. People attempting self-change rarely succeed the first time; most need five or six attempts, according to a paper published in American Psychologist by Janet Polivy and Peter Herman. The authors suggest false hope syndrome is the cause for failure.

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HEALTHY HOLIDAY OPTIONS

The holidays are a wonderful time to gather with family and friends to celebrate. These celebrations often consist of many delicious treats and hardy meals. You can still maintain a healthy diet with a little thought and planning in advance. Research from a recent Web-based survey found 18 percent of people feel they cannot eat healthily during the holidays because they don’t want to miss out on their favorite foods. You can still eat the foods you enjoy this season, just in moderation.

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Ornaments are often passed down through generations, but many older ornaments were decorated with lead paint. Wear gloves when handling vintage ornaments. Try making home-made ones from paper, fabric or cardboard. Check out www.care2.com for inspiration and instructions.


Lights are another safety concern because lead is a common component in vinyl, which is used to coat wiring and bulb sockets. A report from Cornell University found detectable levels of lead in Christmas tree light cords that exceed the limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HealthyStuff found 54 percent of tested lights have more lead than regulators allow in children’s products – some with more than 30 times those levels. These chemicals are often found in household air and dust, so it may be better to string holiday lights outdoors only. Wash your hands immediately after handling lights and don’t allow children to handle them. Or get LED strands that claim to be lead-free.

DON’T LET TOXIC DECORATIONS DAMPEN YOUR HOLIDAY SPIRIT

ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela is a staff writer for Health & Wellness magazine.

more articles by Angela s. hoover


“These products are being used as a dumping ground for old plastic waste, which is loaded with toxic chemicals,” said Jeff Gearhart, a researcher with The Ecology Center. “We estimate a single year’s inventory of Mardi Gras beads may contain up to 900,000 pounds of hazardous flame retardants and 10,000 pounds of lead.”


Some people think artificial trees are more environmentally friendly. Americans spent $1.19 billion on them in 2014. Artificial trees are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a fire-resistant plastic used in construction pipes, toys, medical devices and car interiors. PVC uses metals such as lead, tin or barium as stabilizers. Sometimes PVC contains phthalates. It also releases gases known as volatile organic compounds that can irritate the eyes, nose and lungs. Products made from PVC tend to release more harmful gases as they start to degrade. If you purchase an artificial tree this year, remove it from the box outside and let it air out for as long as possible before bringing it indoors. Look for PVC-free trees made from polyethylene, generally considered safer and not known to leach harmful chemicals. Your safest bet would be to decorate a living, pesticide-free tree, bush or houseplant.  

Many beloved holiday traditions and products can be toxic. Home decorations are largely unregulated and may legally contain lead or phthalates in quantities the Consumer Product Safety Commission prohibits in children’s products. If a product is not labeled as intended for children, it is not subject to lead, cadmium or phthalate restrictions. Lead exposure is an established risk factor for hypertension, infertility and diminished IQ in children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asserts there is no safe level of lead exposure. Phthalates are recognized as endocrine-disrupting chemicals shown to lower testosterone in lab animals and humans. Other metals and flame retardants are linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer.


Researchers from The Ecology Center (www.HealthyStuff.org), an environmental non-profit that regularly tests seasonal products, report two-thirds of these products contain one or more hazardous chemicals linked to serious health problems. The center tests tinsel and plastic garlands, stringed lights, wreaths, stockings, figurines and gift bags from Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Kroger, Lowe’s, CVS and Dollar Tree. The study identified lead, flame retardants, tin compounds and phthalates, among other hazardous substances. Light strings consistently showed high levels of lead and bromine. Beaded garlands were found to contain a multitude of toxic contaminants. They are made from recycled plastic material, including waste from electronics.