Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Letter to Santa (Marin IJ)

Doctor I.M. Igloo North Pole Community Health Clinic, North Pole

Dear Mister Claus,

I am writing to ask your indulgence with a manifesto of unsolicited advice. Being mindful of the vast amount of correspondence you receive, I nonetheless ask that you pay close attention to this letter, as it is of immense importance. Truth be told, it may be a matter of life or death.

Mister Claus, you are too fat. That is impolitic, I know, but based on the data from your most recent check-up, you are, without a doubt, morbidly obese. Mr. Claus, have you heard about the BMI? No, this is not new Xbox lingo; it is your body mass index. And yours is unsightly; like a gift wrapped in toilet tissue. Based on your height and weight you have a BMI of 44 – which is far above the normal range of 25 to 30. This, I’m afraid, places you in danger of myriad medical conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and arthritis, to name a handful. It also amplifies the chimney-related occupational risk you face each December 24th. In sum, this is a great jolly health disaster just waiting to happen.

Mister Claus, perhaps you saw the recent Harvard study published in the New England Journal of Medicine? The authors calculated future life expectancies based on current and historical data and found that the heavy tide of obesity will likely wipe out all of the societal benefits of smoking cessation efforts. I shall quote Susan T. Stewart, Ph.D., lead author on the study; "In the past 15 years, smoking rates have declined by 20 percent, but obesity rates have increased by 48 percent. If past trends continue, nearly half of the population (45 percent) is projected to be obese by 2020." Now, this is a sensitive topic for many people, and I recognize that, genetically speaking, people come in all shapes and sizes. Maintaining a healthy weight is much easier for some than for others. But, nonetheless I fear that you have chosen image over sensibility.

So, Mister Claus, because I am greatly concerned for your well being (not to mention that of the world’s children), I have put together a holiday wish-list for your health.

1) Mini-size the portions. I have heard that Mrs. Claus makes a delicious potpie and that your home is filled with candy canes and sugarplums. Temptation is everywhere in your cozy nook of the world. All I would ask is that you keep the portions reasonable and only eat when you are hungry. One more thing, don’t feel obligated to politely consume each tasty morsel left for you above the fireplace – save some for the Grinch, his frame can spare an extra cookie or two. And, for goodness sake, have some broccoli with your potatoes – not only does it help fill you up, but it also contains phytochemicals that may help ward off diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

2) Pay attention to the calories when dining out. Eating well on the road is tough, I don’t have to tell you that. But, you should know that most people grossly underestimate the number of calories in a restaurant meal. Restaurant chains may soon be required to calorie-label their menus. In the meantime, you might consider gifting yourself a copy of Eat This Not That! 2010. This useful tome gives you an idea of the calories in common restaurant meals. For instance, the grilled chicken and avocado club at the Cheesecake Factory brings home over 1700 calories (better split that with the Missus). And, one last thing, when you park the sleigh at the convenience store, just say No-Nos to the Ho-Hos.

3) Don’t let the reindeer do all the work. Or the elves for that matter. A year’s worth of armchair-based supervision followed by a night of sitting in a sleigh is appallingly sedentary. Like many people, I am sure that you find it difficult to carve out dedicated time for exercise. So, why not make exertion part of your work? You may have seen the recent evidence that suggests that men who walk or bike to work enjoy better health than those who do not (even when controlling for other types of physical activity). I recommend that you outfit your sleigh with a bicycle apparatus – that way you can give Prancer and Dasher and the boys a little assistance, while servicing your waistline at the same time.

4) Every now and again, consider your own happiness. You may laugh for the children and smile for the camera, but I suspect that your mental health is not as robust as you would have us believe. Research has shown a link between obesity and depression, although it is hard to know which leads to the other. But, whatever the causal link, I am confident that you will find greater contentment with lesser corpulence.

Mister Claus, thanks for your tolerance with my badgering counsel. Your time is valuable, that I know, but so is your continued good health. Indulge less, live better.


Dr. I.M. Igloo