How to Practice Dietary Restraint During the Holidays

How to Practice Dietary Restraint During the Holidays

Why is it that the holiday season and a lack of self-control seem to go hand in hand? We overspend, overeat, and just downright overindulge all in the name of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. What an oxymoron. It actually started with Halloween. The candy brought into the home and office gets the ball rolling. The smartest parents take the leftover candy to the office to “share” with unsuspecting co-workers with sweet toothes. The innocent co-workers (read: suckers) fall for it, and the non-stop seasonal nibbling begins. Next up is Thanksgiving, the official annual day to eat yourself into a coma. Who has the mindset to be thankful when you’re suffering from brain fog brought on by food intoxication? By the time Christmas rolls around, some of us could be rolled around.

The retail industry absolutely loves this time of year. We are being completely driven toward a lifestyle of overindulgence in eating, drinking, and shopping from Halloween to New Year’s Eve. We are most susceptible to food intoxication and excessive spending during this time of year. While the retailers benefit with fatter bank accounts, we are simply getting fatter. We then enter the new year guilty, possibly heavier, and expecting to resume or start a new healthy lifestyle. The problem is we have not been practicing healthy habits. So by February, we give up and face the reality that the poor lifestyle habits gained during the holiday season are not going anywhere without a fight.

Here’s a little guidance to keep the holiday spread on the table and off of you.

Attend the potluck with a plan

potluck-resizeAn online study conducted by showed that office productivity drops by 52% between December and February in North America. Everyone is working less in the name of celebrating the holidays, or so it seems. When you peel back the layers, what’s really going on under the guise of celebrating might actually be just plain old overeating. Perhaps you’ve been invited to some of the many office potluck celebrations. You know, that wonderful time for coworkers to show off and share what they can, or think they can cook? These happen right in the middle of the workday, taking away from normal office productivity hours with eating, drinking, and endless mingling. You can avoid this unnecessary calorie fest by acting like you forgot about it and just don’t participate. Perhaps you can eat beforehand so you won’t be so tempted. Another effective method is to mentally convince yourself that the people who prepared the food have very poor kitchen hygiene. How’s that for appetite control?

Leave the less than worth it items on the table.

The company holiday party never has good food, and you know it. It usually takes place at a hotel or somewhere that serves the typical menu: Green beans from a can, dry chicken breast, and that same old rice pilaf is what you’ll likely get if it’s a seated dinner. Stuffed mushrooms and other frozen and heated finger foods are offered on trays at receptions. The buffet table will always have a cold cut platter, a vegetable tray, some store-bought desserts, and if you’re lucky, a carving station with a succulent roast turkey or medium rare garlic and rosemary crusted prime rib. Either way, you’ve had it before and nothing has changed. My mantra for you in this situation is “I am not a garbage can.” Repeat that to yourself every time you feel the urge to eat something that you know is not worth the time and effort it takes to digest it. Be selective and go for the best of the best, like that carving station I hope your company blesses you with, along with the fresh veggies.

Food gifts are made to be shared, re-gifted, or tossed

fruitcake-resizeFood gifts are difficult sometimes. When someone gives you those chewy, buttery, molasses-and-ginger-laced homemade cookies that you can taste with your eyes and know are amazing, keep them. As much as I enjoy good home-baked goodies, I would be wrong to tell you to re-gift them. However, before you even open the package, decide who you will share them with and cut your calorie intake at least in half. On the other hand, any sweets given to you that are less than excellent, like the fruitcake that can double as a doorstop, re-gift it. Or if it’s that bad, toss it. I remember a pastor’s wife saying she had a garbage can named Spot. Whenever a church member asked how she liked the cake or pie they gave her family, she replied “It hit the spot.” That may sound cruel and even ungrateful, but you cannot let someone else’s decision to feed you determine what you’ll eat. Once you realize all the love expressed through pie and cake gifts is making you fat, as the pastor’s wife recognized, you’ll see my point. The same mantra you’ll use at the company holiday party applies here. “I am not a garbage can.”

If all else fails, preserve your health.

If none of this is seems doable to you, think about how you’re feeling. Runny nose, coughing, and sore throat are all common this time of year. Have you ever considered it could be related to changes in the diet? This is the time of year we consume more dairy, sugar, and wheat, all known to increase inflammation which manifests as cold symptoms. Increased mucus is a sign that your body is trying to get your attention. Whatever you’re feeding yourself, when these symptoms arise, it’s a sign that your body is attacking it with increased mucus production. The candy, cookies, cakes, and pies that we consume so frequently from October 31 to December 31 are guilty of adding to the increased occurrence of what seems like the common cold. Instead of cold medicine and chicken soup, try abstaining from or cutting down on the sweet and starchy treats. You’ll feel better and avoid the holiday spread.

The holiday season is not a green light for abusing your body with food. 

It’s ironic that we celebrate the holidays by being greedy and lacking restraint. We take good health for granted a few weeks out of the year, at a time when we should be doing the opposite. What ever happened to temperance, one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23)? What if we celebrate what we have been blessed with instead of how much abuse we can get away with? If we remember the reason for the season, just imagine how much healthier we would be upon entering the new year. Let’s be appreciative of good health while we have it by living a lifestyle to preserve it all year long. Then there will be no need for the January weight loss panic, and certainly no threat of a holiday spread.

Ferguson Pastors Urge Peace After Grand Jury Doesn’t Indict

Ferguson Pastors Urge Peace After Grand Jury Doesn’t Indict

c. 2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS (RNS) Like so many others Monday (Nov. 24) night, the congregants at West Side Missionary Baptist Church were glued to televisions as a grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case was announced.

One woman sobbed in her chair as she learned that police Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the fatal shooting.

Then, with the press conference far from over, the church’s television went dark. And the congregants at the church turned instead to prayer and preaching.

Within seconds, the Rev. Starsky Wilson was at the pulpit, calling for “contrary folk.”

“Thank God for people who go against the teachings of the church,” Wilson said, while referencing those who had told the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that he was moving too fast on civil rights issues. “Thank God for contrary young people.

“To be contrary is to say we’ve had enough.”

Wilson was named by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon as a co-chair of the 16-member Ferguson Commission to look for a way forward after Brown’s death.

On Monday evening, he said that despite the failure of the system to indict Wilson, the road ahead was not impossible. “God through faith turns curses into blessings,” Wilson said. “Ordinary people with extraordinary faith can change the world.”

The Rev. C. Jessel Strong, president of the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, also took the pulpit. “We’re here because we’re sick and tired,” Strong said. “Why does it seem all of our children are shot by the police?”

At the same hour, St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson gathered for prayer at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Roman Catholic Church in Ferguson. Later, he issued a statement calling for calm:

“I implore each of you: Choose peace! Reject any false and empty hope that violence will solve problems,” the archbishop wrote. “Violence only creates more violence. Let’s work for a better, stronger, more holy community — one founded upon respect for each other, respect for life, and our shared responsibility for the common good.”

On Monday afternoon, Interfaith Partnership, which represents 24 faith traditions in the St. Louis region, issued a statement calling for peace and understanding. “As we seek meaningful change and healing, we pray for understanding of the pain of others,” read the statement, signed by Carlson and Strong, of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.


A clergy member holds hands with protestors as they shut down a street in St. Louis., on November 23, 2014. (Photo Credit: Justin L. Stewart)

In recent days, numerous clergy members have said they will open their worship spaces to serve as safe houses and sanctuaries.

As the grand jury announcement approached Monday night, worshippers at Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral downtown sat quietly. There was no broadcast of the press conference. Those listening on their smartphones were asked to use headphones.

When the Rev. Mike Kinman announced the decision, one person at the back of the cathedral shouted a mournful cry and was escorted out by friends. Others in the congregation, including social worker therapist Celeste Smith, covered their faces as if in grief. Smith, who is white, listened to the announcement with Claudine Allen, also a counselor, who is black.

As planned, all fell silent then for 4½ minutes. Kinman read a prayer of forgiveness written by Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and all sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” considered the African-American national anthem.

Then began a 24-hour vigil of prayer and song that would continue all night and day at the cathedral.

Kinman had sent out a notice to the community in advance announcing that people could gather at the cathedral for group prayer, song and silent prayer. He wrote: “Be not afraid. Be prayerful. Be bold. Be together.”

(Lilly Fowler writes for The Post-Dispatch in St. Louis. Margaret Gillerman of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.)

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