Have a Holly, Jolly and Healthy Christmas

0 comments Posted on December 1, 2021

by Ginny Dent Brant

The one thing I dread about the holiday season is the unending temptations that greet me at every turn. It’s hard to say, “No.” All the things I love to eat, but shouldn’t eat, dance around me for a solid month. By the time the holidays are over, the pounds have somehow invaded my body, I’m down in the dumps, and I don’t feel well. Why? My diet veered way out of balance. This cycle happens annually, dashing my hopes of having a holly, jolly and healthy Christmas.

I can only imagine what the holidays are like for a pastor. It’s the time of year that award-winning cooks in your church shower you with all your favorite tasty, but not so healthy treats. This is a high-risk temptation I’ve never faced. There’s nothing wrong with letting your congregation know you are making changes in your diet to benefit your health. When my own pastor mentioned this from the pulpit one day, it challenged all of us to do the same thing.

When I gain weight, my body simply doesn’t function as well. And then there’s the blood sugar problem. As my husband says, “You’re so sensitive to high carbs!” And I am. So here’s my plan not to let my diet get out of hand. The following tips can help us all enjoy the festivities and food without going over the edge—even pastors who face a greater temptation.

Limit your drinks to water, non-caffeinated drinks, and one cup of coffee.
Consider water to be your main drink of choice and a healing elixir. For warm drinks, consider caffeine free teas and coffee. If you love that cup of coffee in the morning, limit it to one cup. Excessive caffeine can contribute to dehydration, depression, anxiety, and can affect sleep patterns. At night, opt for decaffeinated coffee. Drinking two glasses of water 30 minutes before a meal helps curb your appetite and increases hydration.

Sweeten your drinks with natural, non-calorie sweeteners.
Sweetening with a natural sweetener with little to no calories, such as stevia or monk fruit, helps satisfy your sweet tooth. In this way, you’re not adding calories to your waistline with what you drink.

Hang out by the fruit, vegetable and nut trays at parties.
When I first learned about good health with nutrition, I rushed over to the fruit and vegetable table at a wedding and said, “Look, there’s a table rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals.” By filling up with these healing gifts of nature and fiber, I only had room left for a small piece of cake. You can do the same thing at a family meal. Simply eat more plants and less processed foods. Processed and refined foods have been linked with a disruption of the neural receptors which affect mood control.

Use intermittent fasting two to three days per week.
After you eat dinner at 6 PM, don’t eat anything else until about 10 AM to noon the next day. Besides the health benefits, this type of fasting promotes weight loss, control of appetite, balances blood sugar, and definitely saves time in the kitchen! (Not recommended for diabetics unless your doctor approves.) Absolutely don’t eat sweets with high carbs late at night before bedtime or by themselves to avoid blood sugar spikes. Too much sugar increases both inflammatory diseases and the risk of depression. After a big feast, I always do intermittent fasting the following day. Keep in mind that our ancestors constantly went between feasting when they were able to find foods and fasting when food was scarce.

Increase exercise to burn extra calories and elevate mood.
If you normally walk three times a week for one mile a day, it would be wise to increase to five days and up your distance to two miles each day. Losing weight is all about burning calories through exercise. I must confess that neither my husband nor I gained weight on our cruise around Italy. Why? We ate well, but sensibly, and our cell phone app showed that we walked nearly 8 miles per day! It also helped that we took the stairs over the elevator. Although not a cure-all, exercise triggers feel-good chemicals in your brain that help reduce and alleviate symptoms of depression.

Practice the 80/20 rule.
The holidays are meant to be enjoyed. Trying new recipes and eating your favorite goodies are a pleasure indeed. When at home, stress healthy eating (about 80 percent of the time). When attending party and family events, allow yourself to splurge in moderation (the 20 percent). Every meal and every day can’t be a splurge! Practice moderation.

These tips helped me to break the cycle that caused me to crash by the end of the Christmas holidays. It’s okay to eat an occasional treat. We don’t want to offend Grandma or Aunt Bee’s feelings in our church, right? My weaknesses are sugar cookies and cheesecake. So when I get a plate of sugar cookies or a whole cheesecake, I immediately share with other family and friends or freeze individual pieces of that cheesecake for later use. I’ve even learned to make a white chocolate cheesecake and a banana cream pie with stevia.

Our goal is to stay healthy and happy while maintaining our weight within our appropriate Body Mass Index (BMI) ranges during the holidays. Our body is God’s gift to us. He created our bodies to heal and repair on a daily basis, but we must do the right things for our bodies to work as God intended. We must care for this temple not only during the year, but also during the holidays. Let our joy this Christmas be centered around His Greatest Gift and not my favorite sugar cookies! By practicing moderation, we can have a holly, jolly and healthy Christmas.

Ginny Dent Brant is a counselor, educator, speaker, author, wellness advocate, and cancer survivor. Her recent book, Unleash Your God-given Healing: Eight Steps to Prevent and Survive Cancer, was written with an oncologist and won both a Golden Scrolls and a Selah Award. Visit her cancer prevention and wellness blog at www.ginnybrant.com.

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