For those of us who care about our health, we have a love/hate relationship with the holidays. While we savor the time gathering with loved ones, we dread navigating the buffet tables. For us, holidays are like a field of land mines. We carefully tread through them with as little residual damage on our hips and bellies as possible.
I am so done with that! Aren’t you? Let this be the year the battle ends.
I posted this last year just before Thanksgiving on my fitness blog. I love this post for so many reasons. Namely, because as I read it, it reignited a desire in me to incorporate healthy habits into our holidays without sacrificing our fun. And it helped me pause to remember what is truly important about Thanksgiving (hint: it’s NOT the food!).
Recently, I was talking to my sister-in-law about the drastic changes she and her family were making in their diet. They have always been healthy eaters, but because of some on-going health issues, including a variety of food allergies in 2 of their 3 small children, they decided to give raw veganism a try. (Don’t worry, this is not a post about raw veganism)
The timing of our conversation was perfect, because coincidentally, I was also about to launch into my own month of veganism. Eating nothing but whole and natural plant-based foods is extreme in its own right. I had to prepare my family for the temporary change. I had to plan for each and every meal. I had to strategize about which restaurants would support my wacky new diet while still giving my children some kid-friendly options.
My brother and his family were about to do all of that, but they were also adding to it the radical element of not cooking any of their food.
I was intrigued, to say the least.
I asked my sister-in-law vital questions like, “What are you going to do about pizza night? My kids look so forward to this. Where will you go out to eat on the weekends? Eating out as a family is one of our favorite things to do. What will you serve on the kids’ birthdays if you can’t have cake? I mean, who doesn’t give their kids a birthday cake? How in the world will you have quality family time if you remove all these things from your lives?”
I was dead serious. Not in a condeming way. In a how-do-you-still-have-a-normal-family-life-while-doing-that kind of way.
She simply responded, “We are redefining the term ‘family time.’ Rather than having it always center on what I am serving or where we are eating, we are doing more meaningful things like going out to play putt-putt or playing basketball in the driveway.”
What a profound thought, for this over-indulgent society of ours (and for this over-indulgent mom). A society that equates the holidays with excessive eating—almost as if you cannot have one without the other. A society where the phrase, “I’m going to enjoy my holidays” has become synonymous with “I’m going to devour with reckless abandon all the bad-for-me things I love.”
Oh, how guilty I have been of orchestrating an entire family event around a meal, a dessert or a restaurant destination. Just like the typical Butterball turkey commercials where the entire family ooohhhs and aaahhhhs over the perfectly roasted bird entering the dining room, I’ve made my family holiday celebrations more about the turkey than about the people eating the turkey. More about the cookies, than the children helping me frost the cookies. More about pie, than the husband who loves to sink his fork into the pie.
More about the food than the God who provided the food.
What if this holiday, we redefined family time? Could our holidays be just as enjoyable if we served healthy, wholesome foods instead of the traditional sugar/carb-fest? If we used chicken broth and half the butter in our mashed potatoes? If we consumed one slice of pie instead of one slice of each pie?
What if instead of the climax of Thanksgiving dinner being the carving of the turkey, it was carving out the time to linger around the table to share favorite family moments of the previous year?
What if, instead of loading our stomachs with a second helping of sweet potato and marshmallow casserole, we loaded our kids into the car and served in our local homeless shelter?
What if instead of spending Thursday morning standing in the kitchen for hours and hours preparing a meal that will be consumed in less than 20 minutes (does this drive anyone else absolutely insane?!?) we spent 20 minutes preparing a meal and hours and hours playing football in the back yard or board games in front of the fireplace?
I am redefining the holidays for the sake my family our health.
Yes, I will be cooking a Thanksgiving meal this year. And yes, I will serve a turkey with both mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie (healthy, wholesome versions of each!). But I am also making a concerted effort to shift my focus and my efforts. Rather than Thanksgiving being all about the menu—and pouring the majority of my time and attention there, I’m going to make it all about God and others—and pouring the majority of my time and attention there.
Q4U: What healthy holiday strategies will you implement this year?