Nourishing Holidays
By Rita Miller-Huey

Ah, “‘Tis the season….” But for many of us, it is another day of the same old thing, or, maybe worse, it is a time when there are even more expectations and responsibilities placed upon us than we usually face. May be they come from inside, or maybe they are expectations from others, none-the-less, the holiday season can be more burdensome than joyful for many of us.

Hopefully, you can make some time for yourself for inner reflection—Some time to consider things or people that you are grateful for and some things that you would like to do a little differently in your future. It may even be a little more important now that we are entering a new Millennium!

So, I invite you to consider your relationship with food! Some of you may scratch your head “Relationship” with food? I have relationships with people or pets, not food!” This may be true for the many of us who truly view food as a means of sustenance – You may know folks who truly don’t care what they eat and may even forget to eat, unless someone reminds them or prepares it for them. There are those of us, however, for whom foods, especially certain foods, seem to have a voice in our heads. It may sound like “I’m here waiting for you to eat me – please don’t leave me in this half empty bag (or container) in the dark all night” or “Oh, it’s the holidays and we both know I’m not good for you. Still, this once, just a little bit won’t hurt….”

As a nutritionist, I often speak to people about the nutrients and nutrition in the food they eat. I am growing in my understanding that there is a lot more to food than just the chemicals that make up the protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. In a book called Nourishing Wisdom, the author, Marc David, very nicely shows how the psychological and spiritual aspects of our lives affect how and if we are truly nurtured. In his book, Mr. David suggests that we need to experience food as a neutral thing – no “good” or “bad” food – and instead, listen to our bodies to know what to eat. The foods we humans eat are greatly influenced by our culture and psychology, rather than by instinct. Our bodies want, and need, different foods at different times. We prefer salads and light foods in the summer and soups and heavier foods during the colder, darker winter months. There may be times when we are happy or sad that we want a certain food, because it is familiar to us or associated with similar circumstances in our past.

At holiday times, we look forward to special foods. Why? For many of us, they remind of us happy times, special times and, perhaps, times when someone else was responsible for the cooking! These special foods have the capacity to nourish us in more ways than just giving us calories and vitamins and minerals. For each of us, we long to belong, to know we are important to someone or that we have made a difference in someone’s life. If, somehow, we are not sure of these things, we may turn to eating certain foods to feel comforted or to preparing foods for others to be sure we are needed and appreciated.

As we grow older, many of us are faced with chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes. We may find it harder to maintain our youthful figures… And still, each year the Holidays come around, luring us with their many treats, treats that often are not very healthy for us in the long run. 

Instead of feeling compelled to eat one more cookie or sliver of pie, and then feel guilty about it, please consider this instead. Take a few seconds to ask yourself, “Am I really hungry for this? …How will I feel later, if I eat this now?”  Or “Do I need it right this minute? Could I wait till later when I’m not so full?” It will just take a few seconds and it may save you from feeling bad for a lot longer later! And, as any thing new you try, you will forget sometimes. Do not worry about that! Celebrate the times you remember – Celebrate the times you remember to take care of yourself! 

As you are shopping at the bakery or getting out your family’s favorite recipes full of butter and sugar, ask yourself, “How can I make this recipe a little healthier—and still taste good? What’s important here? Is it that we have the same foods that taste the same, or is it that we celebrate life and its many pleasures and treasures and challenges this past year has brought?” If that’s what the holidays are about, then it may not matter what foods are on the table, healthy or not. But it may matter, in the long run, if you feel good about yourself, because you know that taking care of your health and the health of your loved ones is a year round commitment.

Rita Miller-Huey, M.Ed., R.D., L.D/N., C.L.C, Adjunct Professor at Florida International University, Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist and Certified Lifestyle Counselor, specializes in helping people with diabetes and personalizes nutrition education and lifestyle enhancement strategies to individuals and groups on a wide variety of health enhancement topics. She can be contacted through Health Dynamics at (954) 942-3859



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