Medical Compass: A last minute request for Santa

Medical Compass: A last minute request for Santa

METRO photo

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

Dear Santa,

It’s that time of year again and, like so many others, I have a last-minute request. You are a model for kindness and generosity around the world, for which I’m grateful. I would like you to be a role model in another arena, as well — health.

Kids marvel at your round belly, which shakes when you laugh like a bowl full of jelly. They literally feed that belly by setting out cookies and other sweets for you on Christmas Eve to sustain you during your travels.

I have nothing against your round belly, but I’m concerned about the message it sends. We’re currently facing an epidemic of overweight kids and an ever-increasing number of children with type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, the percentage of U.S. children between ages 10 and 19 with type 2 diabetes nearly doubled from 2001 to 2017. You, Santa, with your influence, can help reverse this trend.

Obesity has a high risk of shortening your life span, not to mention affecting your quality of life. The most dangerous type of obesity is visceral adipose tissue, which means central belly fat. An easy way to tell if someone is too rotund is if their waistline, measured from the navel, is 40 inches or more for a man and 35 inches or more for a woman. Risks for pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer and heart disease increase dramatically with this increased fat.

Santa, here is your opportunity to lead by example — and, maybe fit back into that skinny tracksuit you’ve had in the back of your closet since the 16th century, when you were trim.

Think of the personal advantages of losing that extra belly weight. Your joints won’t ache with the winter cold; it will improve your posture, so your back doesn’t hurt as much; and you will have more energy. Plus, studies show that a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables and whole grains can reverse clogged arteries and help you avoid strokes, heart attacks and peripheral vascular disease. With a simple change, like eating a small handful of raw nuts each day, you can reduce your heart disease risk significantly.

Losing weight will also change your center of gravity, which will make it easier for you to keep your balance on those steep, snowy rooftops. No one wants you to take a tumble and risk a broken bone – or worse.

Exercise will help, as well. Maybe this Christmas Eve, you could walk or jog alongside the sleigh for the first continent or so. During the “offseason” you and the elves could form small groups of workout buddies to keep each other on track with your workout goals. And who doesn’t love an impromptu game of tag with the reindeer? With time, you’ll start to tighten your abs and slowly see fat disappear from your midsection.

This might also make it easier to steal a base or two during the North Pole Athletic League’s Softball season. The elves don’t even bother holding you on base anymore, do they?

Of course, the cookies don’t help. You might take a cue from the reindeer, who love their raw carrots and celery. Broadcast that the modern Santa enjoys fruits, especially berries and veggies, with an emphasis on cruciferous veggies like broccoli florets dipped in humus, which have substantial antioxidant qualities and can help reverse disease.

And, of course, skip putting candy in our stockings. We don’t need more sugar, and I’m sure that, over the long night, it’s hard to resist sneaking a few pieces. Why not reduce the temptation? This will also help you minimize the waves of fatigue you feel as you pull your worldwide all-nighter.

As for your loyal fans, you could place active games under the tree. You and your elves could create an app or website with free workout videos for those of us who need them; we could follow along as you showed us “12 Days of Dance-Offs with Santa and Friends.”

You could gift athletic equipment, such as baseball gloves, footballs and basketballs, instead of video games. Or wearable devices that track step counts and bike routes. Or stuff gift certificates for dance lessons into people’s stockings.

As you become more active, you’ll find that you have more energy all year round, not just on Christmas Eve. If you start soon, Santa, maybe by next year, you’ll be able to park the sleigh farther away and skip from chimney to chimney.

The benefits of a healthier Santa will ripple across the world. Your reindeer won’t have to work as hard. You might fit extra presents in your sleigh. And Santa, you will be sending kids and adults the world over the right message about taking control of their health through nutrition and exercise. That’s the best gift you could give!

Wishing you good health in the coming year,


P.S. If you have a little extra room in your sleigh, I could use a new baseball bat. I know the Yankees need help, so I’ve been practicing.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit or consult your personal physician.