The holiday season is fraught with danger—turkey and stuffing, pie and whipped cream, cookies, cakes, cranberry sauce and leftovers—and it’s my job to find my way through various feasts, on a tightrope of desire without falling.
The journey to health and fitness from existence as a couch potato is a lifelong process. As I’ve delved into it for my own health and this column, I’ve discovered that taking care of the whole person is paramount.
Let me state here for the record that I am not advocating going nuts and binge eating, or ignoring dietary restrictions that impact your health, like those for diabetics.
This morning as I prepared to write this column, I was sparked to action by my email inbox. I subscribe to several health and fitness publications, running the gamut from healthy eating to running. For the past few weeks it’s been a stream of suggestions for ways to “survive the holidays.”
I’ve seen stories on how to manage sitting around the table with omnivores if you are vegan. Another story posed the question of what to do if you show up to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving but there is nothing on the menu which is gluten free, or vegetarian, or whatever.
I saw a headline that said, “Don’t be a Turkey – Eat Right for The Holidays” and another which trumpets that you, too, can exercise iron will and survive the season. I have seen a million headlined “secrets” for how to do all of this, and I am weary of it all.
Thanksgiving is a time we set aside each year to gather with friends and family and express our gratitude for the bounty in our lives. That’s not something to “survive,” but a time to thoroughly enjoy and savor.
So here’s my two cents. If you show up to a meal as a vegan in the midst of carnivores, bring a dish or two, and bring plenty to share. Perhaps you might even broaden someone’s horizon.
If you get to Grandma’s house and she has prepared a meal, my solid advice to you is to thank her and eat it.
Expressing gratitude and sharing the day with people I love is not something to grind through and hope to survive—grateful thanks are good for the heart and soul. These are the times that nourish our hearts.
Since the birth of my third child, I’ve been carrying around quite a bit of extra weight. He’s now 24. That’s a lot of holidays I’ve spent stressing myself out over what I can eat, what I shouldn’t eat, what I should eat, when I should eat, and blah blah blah blah blah. Sorry but I just bored myself there.
All of the pieces of this puzzle go together: Exercise, reducing stress, plenty of restful sleep, good-quality food, and prayer and meditation all contribute to my overall health and wellbeing. My quality of life now and in the future is what this whole journey is about, and joyful celebration is part of that.
My plan for Thanksgiving is to throw my self-imposed dietary restrictions out the window for a day or three. That means I’ll be enjoying some baked goods made with white sugar and flour, items that I usually avoid. However, our menu will still be made fresh, from scratch, using whole foods.
Ignoring my usual dietary restrictions for a few days isn’t going to hurt me. And even if I reverted to old habits and let those few days morph into the entire holiday season, waking up in January with my eyes glazed over and powdered sugar on my chin—even that would not be the end of the world. That’s what I used to do, and I think a lot of people do that. Think “summer body, winter body.” It’s not ideal, but it wouldn’t be a catastrophe, either.
And that’s the real challenge for me at this time of year: not letting a temporary relaxation of my efforts turn into weeks or months of slacking. I’ve done it many times before.
I have noticed in my current effort that my baseline has changed. Before I started to exercise, I would lounge around for days and hardly move a muscle given the chance. But the more I move my body the more it wants to move, and I’m no longer content with being a couch potato. That is some of the most solid progress I’ve made, and I’m thrilled by it.
Our days on this Earth are short and precious. Any one of us could go at any moment, no matter how healthy we are or whether or not we ate pie for dessert. Celebrate. Be joyful. Eat some pie.
What happens to your health and fitness goals during the holidays? You can reach me at 505-286-1212 or [email protected], or by joining my Facebook group, “I’m Losing It!” I’d love to hear from you.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]