By David Dunaief, M.D.
I know this is a busy time of year for you. I’m sure it’s all you can do to field all the requests you’re receiving through email, Twitter, WhatsApp, and old-fashioned, handwritten letters. Still, I’d like to suggest that you can provide far more value by becoming a model for good health than you can with any wrapped package tucked under a tree.
Think about the example you’re setting for all those people whose faces light up when they imagine you shimmying down their chimneys. With your abnormally high BMI (body mass index), I know you can do better.
We already have an epidemic of overweight kids, leading to an ever-increasing number of type 2 diabetics at younger and younger ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2018, more than 100 million U.S. adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes. It complicates the issue that approximately two-thirds of the U.S. population is overweight and/or obese. You can help change this.
Obesity has a much higher risk of shortening a person’s life span, not to mention affecting their quality of life. The most dangerous type of obesity is an increase in visceral adipose tissue, which means central belly fat. An easy way to tell if someone is too rotund is if a waistline, measured from the navel, is greater than or equal to 40 inches for a man, and is greater than or equal to 35 inches for a woman. The chances of diseases such as pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer and heart disease increase dramatically with this increased fat.
Santa, here is a chance for you to lead by example (and, maybe by summer, to fit into those skinny jeans you hide in the back of your closet). Think of the advantages to you of being slimmer and trimmer. Your joints wouldn’t ache with the winter cold, and you would have more energy. Plus, studies show that with a plant-based diet, focusing on fruits and vegetables, you can reverse atherosclerosis, clogging of the arteries.
The importance of a good diet not only helps you lose weight, but avoid strokes, heart attacks and peripheral vascular diseases, among other ailments. You don’t have to be vegetarian; you just have to increase your fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods significantly. With a simple change, like eating a handful of raw nuts a day, you can reduce your risk of heart disease significantly. Santa, future generations need you. Losing weight will also change your center of gravity, so your belly doesn’t pull you forward. This will make it easier for you to keep your balance on those steep, icy rooftops.
Exercise will help, as well. Maybe for the first continent or so, you might want to consider walking or jogging alongside the sleigh. As you exercise, you’ll start to tighten your abs and slowly see fat disappear from your midsection. Your fans everywhere leave you cookies and milk when you deliver presents. It’s a tough cycle to break, but break it you must. You — and your fans — need to see a healthier Santa.
You might let slip that the modern Santa enjoys fruits, especially berries, and veggies, with an emphasis on cruciferous veggies like broccoli florets dipped in hummus, which have substantial antioxidant qualities and can help reverse disease. And, of course, skip putting candy in the stockings. No one needs more sugar, and I’m sure that, over the long night, it’s hard to resist sneaking a piece, yourself.
As for your loyal fans, you could place fitness videos under the tree. You and your elves could make workout videos for those of us who need them, and we could follow along as you showed us “12 Days of Workouts with Santa and Friends.” Who knows, you might become the next Shaun T!
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. These might influence the recipients to be more active. By doing all this, you might also have the kind of energy that will make it easier for you 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?
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 find yourself parking the sleigh farther away and skipping from chimney to chimney.
The benefits of a healthier Santa will ripple across the world. Your reindeer won’t have to work so 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’d love a new baseball glove.
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 www.medicalcompassmd.com.