October is here and the holiday season is just around the corner… and you know what that means, right? The Great Sugar Deluge is about to begin! As if sugar, sweets, treats and junk food aren't around enough on a regular day-to-day basis — from snacks at baseball games to birthday parties to the doughnuts at work. But as soon as the holidays hit, sugar is everywhere!
You may find that, like me, navigating unhealthy treats and candy on a regular basis isn't that hard. But the holidays come and it's a steady barrage of cakes and cookies, chocolate bars and truffles, pies and tarts, candy corn and candy canes, lollipops and bubblegum… and more!
Friends merrily give your kids holiday candy, the dentist hands out sugar-free lollipops, at the pre-school co-op you make marshmallow and gum drop turkeys for a Thanksgiving craft, and then there's the church group Christmas cookie exchange and the gingerbread house making party complete with loads of icing and mountains of high fructose corn syrup, dye-ridden candy!
And just when you've reached your limit, the doorbell rings and it's that friendly neighbor down the street come to wish you “Merry Christmas!” with a plate of cookies and a box of fudge.
And it's all well meant.
For me, this is where it gets tough. How do I value and love the people around me, yet not consume (or allow my kids to consume) every single dessert and treat offered? How do I receive the 10th plate of cookies generously offered by still more kind neighbors down the street or that wonderfully sweet family from church when I'm already on sugar overload?
How do I make memories with my family and friends when it seems that nearly every community activity or holiday craft is centered around sugar, and that's not how I want it to be? How do I help my family relax and enjoy the feasting of the season but also nourish our bodies with healthy food?
I don't claim to have figured this all out yet, but over the years I have landed on a few principles and a few practicals that have helped me greatly. Of course, they're not “The Answer.” We each will differ in what we believe and how we approach things. But my hope is that what I've learned can encourage you and at least help get you thinking about the topic.
Today I'm sharing the principles that guide me in my decisions, and tomorrow (in Part 2) I will share the practicals that help me.
(Please keep in mind that my solutions will probably not help those with serious gut or health issues or those with food allergies or sensitivities.)
Go Forth In Faith (Not Fear)
While there is truth to the bad health affects of a SAD diet, I do not fear eating some unhealthy food on occasion. For the vast majority of the time, we eat nourishing, clean, healthy foods. When our bodies are healthy and nourished, they can handle and process a little junk without diving into a tailspin.
God made our bodies to be able to cleanse and eliminate toxins. God has also given us food not only for sustenance and nourishment but also to enjoy. Times of feasting are all throughout the Bible. Don't allow fear to rob you of the joy of food and feasts.
While I would encourage everyone to eat healthfully, I would also remind us all (myself included!) that ultimately my family's health does not depend upon what I do or don't do. God is the giver of life and health. When I'm depending on myself for my family's health and well-being, I am quickly prone to fear and anxiety and will find myself trying to manipulate and control.
But when I am trusting God for their health and well-being, I plod along in faith, diligently feeding them the nourishing foods I believe are best, and trusting God when I encounter situations beyond my control. Those are times when I choose to not worry but trust God and love others…which brings me to my next point.
The holiday season is a unique time of year when many people are more friendly and open than usual. What an opportunity to share the love of God with others!
Go to that neighborhood cookie exchange so you can get to know your neighbors better, despite the fact that you know you'll be coming home with dozens of cookies. Joyfully accept the plate of boxed-mix brownies from your neighbor, because you are grateful for their thoughtfulness shown to you; invite them in and chat for a while. Enjoy the Thanksgiving Feast at your aunt's house complete with boxed stuffing and sweet potato-marshmallow casserole, thankful for the many hands that prepared the food so everyone could gather to feast and laugh together.
There are times in life when I believe we need to choose people over food. Loving others over our personal preferences.
I Am No Better Than You
If you've read a lot about nutrition and nourishing foods and if you've changed your diet and experienced positive physical results, it is far too easy to judge others. “They LET their kids eat that candy all the time?!” “Don't they know that's terrible for them!” “They'd probably lose weight if they would just quit eating so much junk.” But that really just reveals the pride in our own hearts.
The truth is that I am no better than others just because I eat a certain way and they do not. God has given each person the freedom and responsibility to decide what we will eat.
And furthermore, what people believe is a healthy way of eating varies drastically — from just getting your basic food groups in, to a strictly vegetarian diet, from vegan to paleo, from whole grains to no grains, from daily cod liver oil to daily green smoothies… and on and on.
And along with that, people's opinions on how much junk food is “okay” varies drastically — from none to some, from one dessert a night to one dessert a month, from no sugar to only natural sugars to some-sugar-ain't-gonna-hurt!
My friend and I can both adamantly believe we're feeding our families healthfully and be feeding them very different diets. These differences of belief and practice are good for us, because they keep us thinking and growing and learning…and humble.
When it comes to food, I simply do what I believe is the right thing for us. My best friend doesn't have to agree with me. Her kids can have that whole bag of candy corn, while my kids have none. And, on the flip-side, I shouldn't feel guilty when I find out my other friend's kids have never touched a candy cane in their lives, when my kids just ate their second one of the season and it's not even Christmas yet.
Let's make our decisions based on what seems wise to us in our particular, unique situations, and resist falling into the comparison trap or turning to unkind judgements of others.
Tomorrow I'll be sharing some practical tips for navigating this sugar-rich holiday season. For today, share your thoughts below — what principles guide you as you approach food during the holidays?
This post was featured in 82 Ways To Heal Your Gut.
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