Well’s Guide for Getting Through the Holidays

We’ve got guidance for lowering risk and coping with unvaccinated relatives, and a gift guide for better living.,


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Let’s start with the good news. We have the tools we need to lower the risk of Covid when traveling or spending time together indoors. They are:

Vaccines and boosters: Remember, the most vulnerable people at a mixed gathering are the unvaccinated. If you get vaccinated, you’re protecting those around you.

Quality masks: Upgrade to an N-95, KN-95 or KF-94 to use in the taxi, in the airport and on the train or plane. Whether you need to wear a mask at the gathering depends on your overall risk, the risk of your guests and other steps you’ve taken (like home tests and ventilation) to lower risk.

Home tests: Everyone should be tested a few days before the event and use a home test right before the gathering to make sure the coronavirus hasn’t crashed the party.

Air cleaners and ventilation: Open windows, turn on exhaust fans and bring in portable air cleaners to lower risk. Or if the weather is warm, celebrate outdoors.

Community tracking: Check virus cases, vaccination rates and hospital conditions in the places you’re traveling to. If hospitals are filling up and Covid is surging, it might be best to change your gathering spot to a lower-risk area or step up precautions like taking the event outside or wearing a mask.

When an unvaccinated guest joins your holiday gathering

Half of adults who’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19 say they don’t really want to hang out with their unvaccinated family and friends during the holidays, according to a recent Harris Poll. But family dynamics can be complicated — and you may feel you don’t have a choice. My colleague Christina Caron talked with several experts about how to make the holidays safer for everyone. The key: Make it a shared problem to be solved.

Start by calling your unvaccinated family members and soliciting their ideas on how to gather safely, said Daniel L. Shapiro, an associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.

Ask: “What’s your advice on how we can make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable when we get together?” he suggested. Then come up with some ideas. Perhaps you suggest that there should be mandatory testing right before dinner, or that you should gather outside, near a patio heater.

“Try not to judge any ideas right away,” Dr. Shapiro advised. “Some ideas will be better than others, and by brainstorming together as a family, everyone can take more ownership over the chosen idea. A warning, though: If you go this route, make sure you stick to joint brainstorming and don’t slip into political debate.”

There’s a lot more good advice in Christina’s story. I recommend it. And you’ll find a full roundup of stories with holiday advice in section below.

Read more:
How to Host Thanksgiving With Unvaccinated Friends and Family

The 2021 Well Holiday Gift Guide is here!

I love the Well Holiday Gift Guide because it’s created by real people (not publicists) who actually have given or received the items and used them often. It’s not a fancy list, but every gift has made our lives a little better every day. I have too many favorites to pick just one. This year, I’m gifting eco-friendly Stasher reusable press-and-seal storage bags to replace the disposable kind. I love il Boschetto lemon-infused olive oil — I received it as a gift and now give it to others (and buy it for myself). Overnight oats, cleaners that aren’t toxic, winter leggings, a lightweight water bottle and even a perfect dog collar all made the list this year. I’m sure you’ll find the gift idea you’ve been looking for!

Find the perfect gift for better living:
The 2021 Well Holiday Gift Guide

More from the Well newsletter

Saying goodbye to ‘Fat Dad’

Nine years ago Dawn Lerman reached out to me with a story about growing up with a chronic dieter. Her father, Al Lerman, was a “Mad Men”-era advertising legend responsible for a number of iconic slogans including “Coke Is It,” “Leggo My Eggo” and “Fly the Friendly Skies of United.” He also was overweight — reaching 450 pounds at one point — and his lifetime of dieting affected the whole family.

When I was 9, my father became convinced that he had a unique concept that would revolutionize the dieting world. He believed that if he did not eat — and only drank — he would lose weight, no matter what he was drinking. While most of the week he carried out his liquid diet solo, on Saturday mornings, I had the chance to be his trusted assistant, and we would prepare all kinds of creative shakes together.

I loved those Saturday mornings when my dad was in his die-hard liquid diet shake phase. We would blend everything you could think of — carrots, tomatoes and tortilla chips, mashed avocado and banana shakes. My dad said, “If you sip through a straw, you will get full faster and consume less calories.” He even consulted with a dentist about wiring his jaw partly shut so he would not be tempted to cheat.

He had created the ultimate diet, so we experimented with any combination of ingredients we could blend and drink. You name it, we blended it, and we always slurped down our concoctions with pure joy — even the ones that tasted terrible, like the spinach and ice cream monster shake that we both tried so hard not to spit out. My dad lost a great deal of weight within the first couple of weeks, even though he would often dump a couple of scoops of ice cream and chocolate powder into many of the shakes.

I told my grandmother about all the liquid meals we were making. She always had a practical approach to food and diet. Even though she was skeptical and not a fan of my dad’s liquid diet phase, she suggested blending a bowl of vegetable soup or a hearty lentil chili. I was excited to share her suggestions with my dad, but by then the excitement of the liquid diet had passed. He had decided to embark on a high-fat diet that was becoming really trendy in his advertising office. Cheesy bacon omelets cooked in butter were now the new staple.

Dawn expanded her columns into a wonderful memoir called “My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love and Family.” It doesn’t spoil the book to tell you that Dawn’s father became a vegan later in life. Dawn shared that her father, who was 85, recently passed away. “I think he would most love to be remembered for his award-winning slogan, ‘You only go around once in life, so grab for all the gusto you can!'” The slogan was for Schlitz beer. “Grab the gusto he did!” Dawn wrote. “You will be loved and missed, Daddy.”

Read the original series:
Growing Up With a Fat Dad

The Week in Well

Here are some stories you don’t want to miss:

Gretchen Reynolds writes about aerobic workouts to improve weight training.

Paula Span wonders why more people don’t shop around for health plans.

Dr. Randi Hutter Epstein explains whether foods can boost testosterone levels.

And of course, we’ve got the Weekly Health Quiz.

Let’s keep the conversation going. Follow me on Facebook or Twitter for daily check-ins, or write to me at well_newsletter@nytimes.com.

Stay well!

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