Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Beating Holiday Stress; You Can Eat Low Fat Holiday Meals Without Sacrificing Taste; Holiday Drinking May Be Bad For Your Heart; Gifts To Help Your Loved One Live Longer; Suburbia Making Waistlines Grow?

Aired December 2, 2006 - 08:30   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: "Now in the News," Fidel Castro a no- show, but his brother is speaking right now. These are live pictures coming in from Havana.
This is Raul Castro speaking at the Plaza of the Revolution. They're celebrating Fidel Castro's birthday today, but the ailing dictator, as we said, so far not seen during his belated birthday celebrations in Cuba. Going on now, though, is a military parade at that very same plaza where Raul Castro is speaking.

We do have a live report from Havana coming up in about 30 minutes. So stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, a friend of poisoned Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko now hospitalized. Doctors found that Mario Scaramella was found to have low levels of polonium 210 in his system. We're going to go live to London for the latest on this case. That is at the top of the hour.

And a grim situation in the Philippines today. Check this out. The death toll rises from yesterday's powerful typhoon, ranging from a low of more than 100 to a high of about 300 people killed in this storm. We'll get the latest in a live report at the top of the hour.

And in Queens, New York, a funeral for Sean Bell. He was killed by police while leaving a bachelor party. Bell was to have been married in the same church where yesterday's funeral service was held.

Digging out? This morning, parts of the Midwest are trying to recover from a major storm. It dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas. Hundreds of thousands of people are left without electricity this morning. We'll get an update on that as well.

So you're next check of the headlines, that is coming up at the top of the hour. But first, "HOUSE CALL WITH DR. SANJAY GUPTA" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up on HOUSE CALL, the recipe for a healthy and stress-free holiday. When it comes to frayed nerves, there's no place like home for the holidays. Tune in for a survival guide.

Plus, a scary holiday syndrome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people wind up going from their celebrations to the emergency room.


ANNOUNCER: Find out why.

And can't find that perfect gift? Try talking to the doctor. We'll explain on HOUSE CALL.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning and welcome to HOUSE CALL. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Well, it's supposed to be a season of peace and goodwill. What about the holiday season means to many is stress, shopping, dealing with relatives, traveling, planning parties, decorating, cooking. You get the idea.

As Judy Fortin reports, the list can be endless, which is why so many end up feeling run down, fed up, even sick.


JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The noise, the decorations, the crowded stores can be too much for some people during the holidays.

NADINE KASLOW, EMORY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: You go into a place and it's overwhelming. And it's over stimulating. And it's hard to stay focused and just purchase what you need and not feel distracted by all the other demands.

FORTIN: Psychologist Nadine Kaslow says people often feel tremendous pressure to make the holidays perfect, and find the perfect gifts, no matter what the price.

KASLOW: This kind of level of stress and tension is not good for our bodies. People get run down. People start to drink more. People start to eat poorly.

FORTIN: Kaslow says it's important to eat and sleep well during the holidays, find time to exercise, get organized, and come up with a strategy.

KASLOW: One would be to create some structure and organization. The second one is to be realistic. That realistic expectations, realistic goals for what you can accomplish. A third tip would be to get support from people in your world.

FORTIN: But sometimes it's the people in that world that can cause the most stress. That's especially true for blended families that may include step parents. Step brothers and sisters and extra sets of grandparents. Psychologists recommend people temper their expectations and create new traditions that will give meaning to the holidays.

KASLOW: Rituals that are well done give everybody a role in them, from the youngest child to the oldest adult.

FORTIN: Kaslow suggests families talk ahead of time about expectations. Don't compete for gifts, but collaborate. Don't expect everyone to connect. And all families should leave peace-making for other times of the year.

KASLOW: So they've held up their negative feelings or their resentments throughout the year or throughout the years. And they want to work it out over the holidays. And I don't think that's what -- the best use of the holidays for most families.

FORTIN: By making plans that are respectful and realistic, being organized, and not expecting perfection, experts believe most everyone can relieve some of the stress that's created during the holiday season.

Judy Fortin, CNN.


GUPTA: All right, Judy, thanks. And if you ask most people, they'll say they've got some stress for sure this time of year. In fact, one poll shows nearly three in five Americans say they incur credit card debt shopping for the holidays. And nearly a third of them take up to three months to pay off that debt.

So whether you're stressed about money, or you're fed up with family or with the malls, this half hour is going to leave you with a plan. That's what we're trying to do today.

Helping us de-stress the holidays is psychologist and author Jeff Gardere. First of all, thanks for being with us, sir.


GUPTA: You know, it's interesting. A lot of people are interested in this topic. We went for people looking who might be needing your help as it turns out this time of year. And we didn't have to go very far. Take a listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was wondering what the best ways are to relive holiday stress when you have family in town, you're busy shopping, you have children, and if there's any way to fit exercise into that schedule when you're so busy?


GUPTA: She's asking for a lot. You know, she looks happy but it sounds like she's the woman in charge, which can be stressful and in of itself. What do you say to her?

GARDERE: Well, you've hit it right on the head, my dear doctor. It is about if you are in charge, giving some of that responsibility to other people within your family or friends. Don't set expectations so high that you have to be Mr. Perfect or Ms. Perfect or a superwoman. It's about everyone pitching in and of course making sure that you have a good time, too.

And if you're able to accomplish that, then certainly getting through the holidays would be much, much easier.

GUPTA: And I hope my family is listening to every word you're saying, Mr. Gardere.

Now let's get to an e-mail. Now Terry in Virginia wants to know this. "Could holiday stress cause people to spend too much money, exaggerate issues and generally act in a manner that is not typical of their personality?" Sounds like she might be talking about somebody in particular. What do you say to Terri?

GARDERE: Yes, well, let's not talk to her ex-husband about this. But Terri and for all of you out there, this is a situation where, yes, the holiday stress and the expectations of having to spend, the credit card debt you talked about, Dr. Gupta, or the family being involved, all of these things push us to act in a manner that we normally don't.

And when we catch our breath, then we realize, oh, my God, I said that or did that, I shouldn't have done it.

But it's also being conscious of not drinking too much, overeating, or doing too much. If we pull back and look at the stress for what it is, then I think we can act in a much more normal fashion. Meditate, that's also very helpful because it helps us catch our breath.

GUPTA: I think that's good advice. And the drinking too much could certainly act -- cause you to act in a manner that's not consistent with your personality as well.

GARDERE: Oh, yes.

GUPTA: No regrets this holiday season. In many cases, relatives are where the real stress begins. I think you'd agree. Dee Dee in California is just one example. She wrote this: "Mr. Gardere, this is my first 'married' Christmas. My family is extremely generous and his family isn't nearly as generous. Is it wrong for me to be upset that he expects us to do as much for them as we do for my family?" Oh, boy...


GUPTA: ...Dee Dee in California, what do you tell her?

GARDERE: Well, you know, again, it's a situation where you've discussed it many times on your program. There are all these expectations that we're supposed to give a lot of gifts. We're supposed to give money. And I think we have to re-adjust those expectations.

The way that a family behaves is their own way of doing things. So it doesn't necessarily mean because they don't give gifts that they're cheap. It just may mean that they give their love in other ways. And perhaps Dee Dee can learn a lesson from her in-laws that it's not just about the gift-giving, but more about the giving the love. That's where it counts.

GUPTA: I think that's such a good point. And people do focus so much on the materials and the materialistic things this time of year, but that's not always most important.

GARDERE: That's right. Absolutely. And I always tell people, listen, if you feel that you're so stressed that you don't have money, that you incurring credit card debt, it really is the thought that counts.

I can tell you with my own kids, Dr. Gupta, when they receive a $2 toy versus the $40 toy, guess what gets broken first? The $40 toy. They play with it once, that's it. The $2 toy that was given from love by a grandmother...

GUPTA: There you go.

GARDERE: the one they hold onto. That's real love.

GUPTA: That's a good lesson. Dr. Jeff Gardere, thanks for destressing us this morning. Even the least stressful holidays can seem to conspire against a healthy diet. Coming up, we've got a plan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eat, drink, and be merry. 'Tis the season, right? Just ahead, delicious recipes and news on a holiday heart condition you need to know about.

And later, find out why some experts say your neighborhood could be making you fat.

First answer this -- which is the most fattening of these holiday foods -- stuffing, eggnog, or pecan pie? The answer when we come back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Checking our quiz, we asked, which is the most fattening of these holiday foods -- stuffing, eggnog, or pecan pie? The answer, pecan pie. One slice sliver's around 502 calories and more than 20 grams of fat.

GUPTA: And remember, that's just one slice of pie. Now the average holiday meal can be around 3,000 calories. Now I want to put that in perspective. In order to work that slice of pecan pie off, a 120 pound woman would need to run a 11 mile pace for an hour. Something to think about before picking up the fork.

The good news is, you can eat a low fat holiday meal without sacrificing taste. Here's Christy Feig.


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four years ago, Chef Jeff Tunks was tipping the scales at more than 350 pounds.

JEFF TUNKS, ACADIANA RESTAURANT: It was like a wake-up call for me.

FEIG: He started eating foods low in fat and cholesterol and lost 120 pounds. But even with the holidays coming up, he's not worried. He knows from personal experience you don't have to sacrifice taste to eat healthy.

TUNKS: There's a lot of land mines around the holidays, obviously, with casseroles and thickened gravies and that kind of thing, but you sort of really need to pick and choose.

FEIG: And choosing wisely is important.

TUNKS: Stay away from the dark meat on the turkey. Stay away from the skin.

FEIG: He says there are plenty of healthy substitutions that are low in fat, but still taste great.

TUNKS: Substitute sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes. Pureed sweet potatoes without the butter and the marshmallow topping. Instead of having that green bean casserole with the cream of mushroom soup and stuff on top, have the fresh green beans with some toasted sliced almonds.

You know, eat a lot more of grains, whole grains like wild rice and brown rice, instead of the traditional corn bread stuffing.

FEIG: And save room for this dessert like this chocolate swirl cheesecake, a recipe Tunks pulled straight from the American Heart Association's low fat, low cholesterol cookbook.

TUNKS: A fat cream cheese. One third of the amount is going to be a light cream cheese. We have an egg substitute. We use egg beaters, lower in cholesterol and saturated fat, obviously. We have a nonfat sour cream.

FEIG: Mix it all together and you have a little slice of heaven weighing in at only 173 calories a slice. Just one more thing to give thanks for.

I'm Christy Feig reporting from Washington.


GUPTA: Mm, Christy, that looks pretty good. Thanks so much for that.

But it's not just one meal that's going to get you this season. It's the snacks that co-workers are going to bring and the parties as well. So some tips to eat, drink, and stay slim.

First of all, eat something before going to a party so hunger doesn't take over your better judgment. Make only one trip to that tempting buffet. And try to focus on the veggies.

Plus, bring your own dish, whether to a party or dinner, that way at least you can have one healthy alternative as long as you make a healthy dish.

As for alcohol at these parties, figures show a surge in drunk driving incidents during the holidays. And as a doctor, I can tell you, our emergency rooms sees far too many injuries because of alcohol.

And now Judy Fortin with news that holiday drinking may even be bad for your heart.


FORTIN (voice-over): An open bar can be tempting during the holiday season, but cardiologists say too much wine, beer, or hard liquor can send your heart into an abnormal rhythm and create holiday heart syndrome.

DR. LAURENCE SPERLING, EMORY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: These people wind up going from their celebrations to the emergency room, and often being admitted to the hospital with a very rapid and irregular heart beat.

FORTIN: Dr. Laurence Sperling says the condition can occur in anyone from binge drinkers to people who rarely drink. It isn't always dangerous, but the sensation can be frightening.

SPERLING: Feels like your heart's beating out of your chest, your heart's racing. There can be associated symptoms like feeling short of breath. Sometimes a pressure-like feeling in the chest, or in the throat, or neck.

FORTIN: Dr. Sperling tells patients to get checked out by a doctor. Often irregular heart beat will resume on its own, but some patients need medication or electric shock to restore the rhythm. He recommends people drink in moderation or not at all, not just during the holidays, but year-round.

Judy Fortin, CNN.


GUPTA: All right, thanks, Judy.

Just ahead, we have gifts to reduce anxiety, increase energy, and maybe add some more holiday years.

ANNOUNCER: Trying to find that perfect gift? Get your pen because we've got a list of gifts that can't be matched.

But first, this week's medical headlines in "The Pulse."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FORTIN (voice-over): Men who yo-yo diet run a greater risk of developing gall stones according to University of Kentucky researchers. Doctors say those men who lost and regained 20 pounds or more had a 76 percent higher risk for gall stones than those who did not diet.

Ohio researchers claim a new type of ultrasound can determine whether breast lumps are cancerous or harmless lesions. Experts are encouraged, but say more research is needed on this noninvasive technique.

There are now 40 million AIDS cases worldwide, a new number released by the United Nations coinciding with World AIDS Day. 4.3 million new infections were reported this year. The U.N. says sub Saharan Africa remains the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic.

Judy Fortin, CNN.



GUPTA: We're back with HOUSE CALL. Retail groups tell us people will spend more than $450 billion over the holidays this year. That comes out to about 800 bucks per shopper.

Now if you're going to spend that much money, let's at least try to improve our health while we're at it, shall we? Here with some great ideas on buying some fun gifts that may help your loved ones live longer is Dr. Caroline Richardson of the University of Michigan Medical School. She's also a research investigator at the VA Medical Center in Ann Arbor.

So welcome, doctor and go blue!


GUPTA: You watched that game a couple weeks ago, I'm sure.


GUPTA: Let's get right to it. You know, instead of buying chocolates, which a lot of people do, what are some healthier ideas you can give people?

RICHARDSON: Well, chocolates and cookies do seem to abound in gifts at the holidays. We recommend healthier options like fruits, and nuts, dried fruits. We also -- there are some other kinds of foods you can give. Balsamic vinegar can be a real luxurious way to spice up a salad and add some good flavor to your meal.

GUPTA: Yes, that's good advice. When you give foods like that that are healthy alternatives, people do tend to eat those things instead of the chocolates or cookies. What about some gift ideas to get people moving, get them off the couch? RICHARDSON: Yes, there's lots of ways you can help your friends and loved ones to become more physically active. We like to get people out to exercise classes. Dance classes seem to be a big favorite, especially if you go with them to the dance class, that can really help with the social support.

Getting them out into walking and local parks, getting them a park pass perhaps.

And sometimes, people don't do physical activity especially in the winter because they don't have the proper clothing. So a gift certificate or piece of clothing they could wear outside that would keep them warm while they're exercising might be a good choice.

GUPTA: Now have you done some of your shopping already?


GUPTA: You're like most people, then. What about things like books or, you know, things that help people sort of plan their meals year-round?

RICHARDSON: Yes, there are some really good books out there on how to eat healthy, some sort of general nutrition books that give you the background on how to eat healthy and what the controversies are currently about nutrition. I think there's a lot of misinformation and confusing information about nutrition.

And a good general book about nutrition can be an incredibly helpful, almost like a reference or a resource for people that are trying to decide what to eat. And even people who aren't necessarily struggling with their weight often want to know what's a healthier way to eat. So that can be a great gift for anybody.

GUPTA: I think all year-round, people need reminding but it's a good time to do that during the holiday season. Thanks for those ideas. Dr. Caroline Richardson's been our guest. Thanks so much for those ideas.

RICHARDSON: You're welcome. Thank you.

GUPTA: More HOUSE CALL coming up after the break.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The term 'killer commute' is taking on new meaning.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing happens in between. And too often not much happens on either end.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why experts say where you live could impact your waistline and your health. Stay tuned.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. Can you have a fat neighborhood in a fit nation? Some experts say a rapidly growing suburbia is making our own waistlines sprawl just as quickly. But does health really start at home or in your neighborhood?


ANNOUNCER: "Leave It To Beaver."

GUPTA (voice-over): If we all lived in TV land, kids would walk to school on quiet streets and play in the front yard. But suburban sprawl has replaced many traditional neighborhoods and sidewalks, kids playing outside where even people can be difficult to find in the 'burbs.

It's a disturbing trend that's challenging growth and development expert Catharine Ross to rethink the way communities are built.

CATHERINE ROSS, GEORGIA INST. OF TECHNOLOGY: We are a nation of auto drivers. And so you get in your car, and you drive home, and you're kind of home. Nothing happens in between. And too often, not much happens on either end.

GUPTA: According to the Surgeon General, those changes in our communities are playing a key role in America's sedentary lifestyle. Americans say one of the main reasons they don't exercise is the lack of a place to do so, such as sidewalks or parks.

TOM GLEASON, STAPLETON, INC.: If you build a community right, if you make it possible for people to walk and to be very active, they're going to take advantage of that.

GUPTA: Just 15 minutes south of Denver, Colorado -- a new smart community is creating a lifestyle that's healthier for kids and adults on land that used to be Stapleton Airport. It's one of a growing number of similar developments across the country.

GLEASON: The sidewalks out here at Stapleton are broad sidewalks. So it's a very conducive place to walk, to take your children in the stroller, to walk your dog, that kind of thing.

GUPTA: Gleason says young families are moving to Stapleton to take advantage of what's being called a new urbanism.

ALTARA WU, STAPLETON RESIDENT: We moved here because all of our friends were already here. It's tons of kids. You can walk everywhere. Lots to do. And it just makes it easier. You don't have to hop in the car and pack them up.

GUPTA: Stapleton is based on old-style neighborhoods with big front porches and homes within walking distances to shopping and restaurants.

ROSS: I think a neighborhood could help you stay healthy by allowing you -- provide access to places where you can engage in physical activity.

CRAIG WU, STAPLETON RESIDENT: You know, that's the thing if can you integrate it into your life, then it becomes much easier, much more just of a lifestyle change.

GUPTA: So it may not be just like the Beav's neighborhood, but these smart communities could be a step in the right direction in fighting obesity.


GUPTA: Now to be clear, the Surgeon General recommends we get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. And yes, that applies even during the holidays.

Coming up, a new recommendation to keep your whole family healthy this season.


GUPTA: If you're too stressed to remember some of the strategies we've been talking about, point your browser to That's the Web site of the American Psychological Association. From the home page, follow the links on stress.

'Tis the season for overeating and forgetting your exercise routine. So we talked to former surgeon general David Satcher this week about staying healthy for the holidays and starting some new traditions away from the table.


DR. DAVID SATCHER, FMR. SURGEON GENERAL: If we could get it now to the point where when families got together, they took walks together, what they could do is they eat together. They go out to eat together. They eat at home together, but they don't say, well, we're going to go to the park and take a walk together. And I think that's what we've got to chance.


GUPTA: Let's all start that resolution right now, shall we? Walk past the eggnog and out the door with your family and friends instead. And have a safe and healthy holiday season from all of us here at CNN.

Unfortunately, that's all the time we have for today. Remember to tune in every weekend for another edition of HOUSE CALL. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines