FierceXmasCookieIf you’re thinking about telling your cousin Niecy that she’s put on a few pounds, keep it to yourself—unless you don’t want your holidays to be happy.

“Most people know when the scale has gone up,” says Josh Klapow, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and public health professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.“Instead of pointing out what they may very well know, be a role model.”

Rather than hurting a loved one’s feelings or stirring up drama, be proactive by planning healthier holiday meals and activities.

“This may not be a time for weight loss but just weight maintenance, as it is important to enjoy your favorite foods—just not overdo it,” suggests Beth Kitchin, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor of nutrition sciences at UAB. “Go shopping for healthy foods and serve these at your home when family and friends are over to eat.”

Here are other tips to help you and your loved ones get through the season:

  • Choose the best and leave the rest by focusing on special treats.
  • Keep plenty of water and low-calorie beverages available to reduce the temptation to graze.
  • Minimize seconds by dishing out the portions instead of eating family-style or setting up a buffet.
  • Walk through the neighborhood to look at holiday decorations after meals or just because.
  • Round up the kids, and go ice skating.
  • Use your sense of humor or diplomacy skills if someone inserts a foot in his or her mouth — or hide out in another room.


Taking a TV Break From Tragedies

Previous studies have linked post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to excessive TV viewing immediately after 9/11. (Photo: National Park Service)

Previous studies have linked post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to excessive TV viewing immediately after 9/11. (Photo: National Park Service)

Watching disturbing details of a tragedy over and over again on television can be almost as bad as being there.

Constantly viewing disturbing or gruesome images keeps the acute stressor alive in your mind, researchers say, but the same can be true if you keep reading or tweeting about it.

Researchers studied direct and indirect exposure to incidents such as the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and 9/11 with a focus on the bombing at the Boston Marathon. They found higher levels of acute stress among those who had six or more hours of daily media exposure than among those who were at the bombing.

Direct exposure to a collective trauma can end “when the acute phase of the event is over,” explained E. Alison Holman, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, and lead author of the new study. Previous studies have linked post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to excessive TV viewing immediately after 9/11.

Even from a distance of a tragic event, some people experience a form of “vicarious trauma” or secondary traumatization, said Annelle B. Primm, M.D., M.P.H., deputy medical director of the American Psychiatric Association and director of the Office of Minority and National Affairs.

Dr. Primm recommends taking a news break. “The temptation for many people is to continue watching the footage to keep up on the latest development,” she said. “Be very careful and measured about that, because that can reinforce the negative impact.”

Parents should also monitor children’s media exposure to tragedies and answer their questions about safety in an age-appropriate manner. “When children ask questions multiple times, it’s usually because they’re looking for reassurance, “Dr. Primm explains.

The stress study, which was published in the journal PNAS, included nearly 5,000 people around the country, with representative samples in the Boston and New York areas. It spanned print, television, radio, the Internet and social media. African Americans watch 37 percent more television than other Americans, according to Nielsen research, and we over-index for some social media, such as Twitter.


A generic version of sildenafil citrate, which as sold under the brand name . (Photo: Penn State)

A generic version of sildenafil citrate, which is sold under the brand name . (Photo: Penn State)

A New Use for the Little Blue Pill?

of all things, might help with menstrual cramps. Women with moderate to severe cramps monitored their pain during a four-hour period and found some relief after receiving sildenafil citrate, aka , vaginally.

The erectile dysfunction drug works by helping to dilate blood vessels. Although it works orally, too, it can cause side effects such as headaches, which were avoided with the vaginal treatment, according to researchers at Penn State.

More research is needed on a larger and broader pool of women as well as on the drug’s ability to increase blood flow.


Fears of Being Single

Afraid of being single? A new study finds that these fears can lead to poor choices and unhealthy relationships.

“Those with stronger fears about being single are willing to settle for less in their relationships,” said Stephanie Spielmann, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto.

“Sometimes they stay in relationships they aren’t happy in,” Spielmann said in a statement, “Sometimes they want to date people who aren’t very good for them.”

Spielmann, the lead author of the study, and other researchers studied a wide range of men and women of different ages in the United States and Canada. Their findings were published in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

For tips on staying centered and examples of women who found love after years of being single, see “Falling in Love With You” and the first installment of our series on “Celebrating Sisters: Keys to Our Success.”