Budgeting calories

Photo: Eva-Katalin/istock

Hunger Games
This time of year, many of us try to creatively budget our calories: We starve ourselves all day so we can go wild at a holiday dinner, then skip breakfast as penance for a night of diet debauchery. But regardless of how much you’re eating, it’s important to stick to your normal meal schedule. In a recent study, people who ate at the same time every day were less likely to have risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke than those who ate at random times. Even when the scheduled eaters consumed more calories overall, they were still less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol, and excess body fat around the waist) that increases risk for heart disease and other health problems. This probably has to do with our body clock, says lead study author Gerda Pot, PhD, of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam/King’s College London. “Our internal clock makes sure that metabolic processes like digesting food happen at the right time to have the best effect on metabolism,” she says. Skipping the meal your body was expecting may throw off some of these processes. So even if you overdo it at dinner, try to eat a light breakfast at your usual time.
Extremely hot drinks

Photo: AlexRaths/istock

Overly Hot Toddying
There’s nothing like a cup of something warm to cheer you on a cold winter’s night. But be careful: A July 2016 report in The Lancet Oncology found that consuming extremely hot drinks may lead to esophageal cancer. Researchers suspect that hot liquids can irritate the esophagus, which can in turn trigger an increase in cell division. “With an increase in cell turnover, there’s a possibility of a mutation that can lead to cancer,” says Leslie Stayner, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, who chaired the working group of scientists who reviewed the hot-drinks research. The too-hot zone is above 149 degrees. For context, consider that the boiling point of water is 212 degrees, and some single-serving coffeemakers can produce brews in the range of 180 to 185 degrees. “If a drink is hot enough to burn your mouth, it’s advisable to avoid it,” says Stayner. This doesn’t mean your hot beverage will kill you, but let coffee, tea, and cocoa sit for a few extra minutes before you sip, no matter how frightful the weather outside.
Decorating accidents

Illustration: Heather Landis

Reckless Decorating
Every year thousands of people suffer holiday accidents like falls, cuts from broken ornaments, and shocks from lights and electrical equipment, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. And as our zeal for over-the-top and DIY decorations increases, so do the mishaps: There were 14,500 decorating-related accidents in 2014, up from 10,000 in 2007. “Safety often takes a back seat to creativity,” says Kim Dulic, a spokesperson for the commission. Be especially careful while hanging angels on high: Half of all holiday injuries are due to falls.

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