Michelle Rupp: Dr. Chad Rodgers joins us now. Happy holidays, merry Christmas! We are in the festive frame of mind now, we’re just a few weeks out from Christmas and it’s an exciting time of year.

Dr. Chad Rodgers: I know. It’s my favorite time of the year. It’s such a great time with family and friends to just enjoy the lights and all the joy.

MR: I feel like we are cramming so much into this time of year, particularly this year because I feel like we might have been robbed of some of that last year. All right, kids, let’s start with kids first. They are going to be headed home, getting out of school for a couple of weeks, having that long Christmas break. How do they not just go back to the couch and back to the device?

CR: Right, and that’s the real danger. I think the real hard part is that, you know, the days are shorter, it gets darker earlier, it’s also colder outside. Sometimes the weather is not as good, although in Arkansas in November and December, sometimes you have some nice fall days that are summerier. But really trying to limit that screen time, that’s probably the biggest challenge. It’s hard for parents. When I’m there in my office, I tried to kind of be the bad guy and I’m like, so do we want to limit to one hour screen time or? And the kids are like one hour? The recommendation is no more than two, but then I’m like, oh, well then, we can just do no screen time and they’re like, no, no, no, no, no. And it’s like, well no, let’s then try to limit it to two hours and then let’s try to get outside and do something fun and active. There’s a lot of things you can do indoors too.

MR: Are you seeing, as we’ve gotten somewhat back to normal this fall with kids going back to school and being out on the playground, being out and just kind of running … We talked earlier this year just about how the rise in type two diabetes had doubled in younger kids. Are we seeing some of that maybe starting to reverse because they are being active now?

CR: I think what we saw during the pandemic is a lot of kids gain that we’ve been calling the COVID 19 pounds. Twenty pounds is sort of the national average from being so inactive and sedentary. That’s one of the reasons that school is so important because kids are at least up and moving, at least walking the halls at school, doing PE, and getting back into sports. All those things have been so helpful. But we’ve seen a lot of kids just sort of plane off, you know, we’re not getting into that weight loss phase of things. Also, November and December, that’s the time of year where people gain the most weight. Throughout the entire year, your biggest weight gains tend to be in the season. Days are shorter. There are lots of calorie-dense food, lots of celebrations, lots of cookies and brownies, all the things that we kind of enjoy through the holidays. We’ve got to kind of watch it.

MR: What would be your best advice, or what is the advice that you’re giving to parents as kids are coming in for end-of-the-year checkups? Are you just reminding them to be active, stay active, get outside, help your dad or your grandpa or the neighbors string Christmas lights or something?

CR: We get so focused on so many things like getting decorated and getting presents and you know, getting people together and cooking meals and really the things that we’re going to remember when we get older are the times that we spent with our parents, Parents are our role models when it comes to being active. Choosing things to get the family more active together, spending time together is probably more important than exchanging gifts, even though that’s fun, and eating. I mean it’s a very popular cultural tradition to get together. We eat when we get together. Finding activities that we can do and as I said, sometimes we have some beautiful days in November and December. Get outdoors. The snakes are hibernating. The mosquitoes are gone. There are fewer bugs. It’s a great time to go into the woods. It’s a great time to start some family traditions like the football game after lunch. Or go take a hike at your local park. You can find things to do inside together. Our family has dance parties. After dinner, we turn up the music and we all dance and have a good time together. That’s a great way to get active and involve the kids. It’s fun and a great way to be together as a family.

MR: That’s right. Just get that heart rate up. Let’s talk now about that delicious, luscious holiday food, as well as all the cocktails too. It’s the double whammy. It’s all the great food, but then all the great drinks. There are ways to be successful in navigating the holidays and avoiding weight gain.

CR: You and I talk about this all the time. The number one important thing during the holidays is staying hydrated. The best beverage you can drink during the holidays is water. We think about it a lot in the summer but not as much in the winter. You don’t have that sense that you have lost it through sweat or whatever. So, water is your number one best friend. Staying hydrated, especially before going out and going to parties, trying to limit the amount of alcohol you take in. We see alcohol intake really increases quite a bit during the holidays. It’s one of those things that drives hunger. You go to an event after work on an empty stomach, you drink that glass of wine, you’re going to eat more and you’re probably going to drink more. Try to think about it before the party. Get that bottle of water in. Have a snack before you go. Eat a light salad, maybe some apples and peanut butter if you’re not allergic to peanuts, maybe half a turkey sandwich. Just eat something so that you don’t go into that party famished. We sit at the table and just put the food in. We’re not aware of how many calories we’re taking in. I know you’re going to talk later a lot about those calorie-dense foods that are so popular during the holiday season. Sometimes we’re not aware of how many calories we are taking in.

MR: Along those lines, we’re taking in a lot of calories with that cocktail, that mistletoe martini, it’ll get you every time.

CR: Drinking high sugar drinks during the holidays is kind of fun. We’ve touched on mock-tails being an option at parties as well, instead of cocktails. A lot of us are trying to do better after coming out of the season of the pandemic when a lot of us increased our alcohol intake out of boredom, depression, and anxiety. We are going into the holiday season with that kind of rolling along. Mock-tails are a fun substitute. But you must be cautious because they do tend to come with a lot of sugar. Even eggnog is pretty good but dangerous. You’re talking about some high calories. The key is to have a little bit of eggnog and then drink water. One of the tricks that I use often is to cut some of the sugar in those drinks, club soda is your friend. Number one that’s giving you some hydration and cutting some of the sweetness and it has no calories. Number two, using some sort of sugar substitute instead of simple syrup or sugar that goes into a lot of those drinks because those are the real hidden calories that get you.

MR: Recently, I’ve enjoyed just some sparkling water and lime. You drop that in a wine glass or any glass of choice and no one knows that you aren’t drinking a cocktail of some sort. And just like you said, you’re staying hydrated, you’re able to watch everyone else and you’re not going to wake up the next morning feeling your age. Real quick, dry 30 that always comes in January, but not necessarily a bad idea to maybe put it in place this last half of the year.

CR: A lot of people make a resolution to try to cut back on drinking and maybe stop drinking altogether. They kick that off with a dry January. That’s not a bad idea, especially coming out of the pandemic and coming out of the holiday season. But you know, I think one thing is it’s that kind of all or nothing mentality. It’s kind of like the screen time we were talking about. You need to make that commitment throughout the year. Fourteen drinks a week for a male, seven drinks a week for a woman is considered a safe and healthy range. Anything beyond that could be excessive. Of course, drinking all seven drinks in one day is probably not a great idea either, but having some moderation throughout the year is ok. Set goals for yourself that you can attain. A lot of times we deprive ourselves and then we binge. So, make plans. Looking forward to what we could be doing in the spring, there’s a lot of fun spring cocktails with cucumbers and water, lavender, rosemary, and all these great smells that go into drinks we can look forward to sipping on as it warms back up.

MR: That’s right, your beach body starts now.

CR: We all know it’s so easy to gain and it’s so hard to lose, but maintaining our way throughout the holidays, we’ll kind of set us ahead.

MR: That’s right. Dr, Chad, thanks so much. Thanks for joining us today.