A couple of years ago my sister asked her 4-year-old granddaughter Abby about what they had done in Primary that day. “We sang ‘Oh Santa!’ ” she replied with delight. Her six-year old big brother Brigham instantly chided her with “Abbie, we don’t sing about Santa in Primary!” “Oh, yes we do!” she confidently responded. She then proved it by joyfully singing, to the tune of the children’s Christmas Hosanna song, “Oh, Santa! Oh, Santa! Oh, Santa is his name!”
I hope you’re laughing, as we have – and do every time the children sing that song! In truth, however, how easy it is for children of all ages – including mature adults — to replace the Savior with the world’s substitutes. I’m not saying I don’t believe in Santa, or that he doesn’t come to our house. In fact, I still believe in the great spirit of Santa! After all, he was a real person who practiced and inspired goodness and generosity. Magical things often happen at Christmas! I’m just saying that at this demanding season of the year, it is easy to neglect our Heavenly Father’s truest plans and hopes for us in the rush of holiday busy-ness. It applies to how we care for our bodies, as well as how we care for our spirits.
C is for Christmas
When our children were young, we once enjoyed a lovely little Christmas library book entitled “C is for Christmas.” The charming story was lavishly illustrated with candy canes, cake, cookies, chocolate, cinnamon buns, cups of cocoa, etc. I remember it all these years later because that little book illustrated not only the text of the book, but my own over-sized December weaknesses and temptations in regard to sugar and goodies. The funny t-shirt slogan that says “Dear Santa, I want it ALL!” describes me to a T when it comes to Christmas treats.
I do not remember how the “C is for Christmas “book ended, but if I were to write my own ending, it would be “C is For Christ Child” with the scripture from Nephi: 1:17-40 “He loveth those who will have him to be their God.”
That being said, we can choose to have him as our God in all ways – including smart eating choices over the next couple of weeks. Dian Thomas’s continuing Meridian articles are great guidelines. Of all the times during the year that we need his Spirit close, and our own spirits, emotions and health to be at their best, it’s the last two weeks of December. Without a doubt, what we eat determines how we feel both physically and emotionally. By choosing to indulge only at special times with special people, we arrest the distress that overeating, bingeing and private grazing brings.
Heavenly Father’s Candy
Would a loving Father deprive his children at Christmas? Of course not!
One of my favorite grandmothers calls fruit “Heavenly Father’s candy.” She always makes sure she has plenty when they come to visit. When you think about it, all of the popular children’s candy is simply duplicating the spectacular colors and flavors that are already available naturally in fruit! The reds, oranges, greens and purples are found in grapes, oranges themselves, kiwis, apples, etc. Somehow, like Abby substituted the word “Oh Santa” for “Hosanna” we’ve substituted candy for “the real thing.”
Is it a believable stretch of the imagination to think that we can most often choose fruit or crunch veggies instead of candy? Listen to this:
As a student of Family Studies at Brigham Young University in the early 70’s, I remember well the insights of a favorite professor, Darnell Zollinger, who said “an apple will lead more than a horse.” When it was time for pres-schoolers to line up, out came her bag of apple slices. She’d raise it high for all to see. They’d quickly follow her instructions, as she did not pass out the fruit until everyone was quietly in line.
It works for older children and teens, too. Another excellent teacher I know brings bite-sized pieces of fruit or veggies on a little plate to her classroom. As they raise their hands and participate appropriately, she quietly passes the plate and they take just one. They love it! They do not feel cheated that it’s not candy or cookies, they’re just glad there’s a treat.
What is there about an apple, an orange or a banana or carrots and celery, that enables us to stop eating after a healthy-sized serving … but a cookie, a bag of m&ms or a cookie or a chocolate? Well, one is never enough! A friend who lost 100 pounds said it best about these offending sugary or carbgoodies: “For me, one is too many – and a whole bag is not enough!” In fact, I don’t know anyone who binges on apples. Do you?
How Sugar Works Against Us
For a fascinating (and entertaining!) youtube lecture by a medical doctor on how sugar works, and why we are at its mercy, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VWi6dXCT7I
In short: Food (and especially sugar) cravings mean that the body has its signals mixed up. When we are exhausted or blue (a frequent occurrence during the holidays), we have low blood sugar and/or low serotonin, and the body signals the brain that it needs a pick-me-up. This signal causes a sugar craving or carbohydrate craving. During the holidays, the foods that feed these cravings and set us up for the vicious cycle are in ample supply because we often bake and buy them ourselves, and they are given more as gifts.
Serotonin is our basic feel-good hormone. If serotonin is low, we feel sad or depressed. Unfortunately, eating sugars and simple carbohydrates release a short burst of serotonin — we feel good for a moment, but soon return to our low-serotonin state — then crave more sugar and simple carbohydrates. It’s a downward spiral.
How well we know that downward spiral and the sadness/lethargy and feelings of failure they bring. The best way to address it is with proper nutrition! Even as our spirits cannot substitute Santa for the Savior, our bodies cannot substitute candy and refined carbs for proper nourishment.
Some Easy Answers
No matter how busy we are at this time of the year, to beat the blues and the binging, regular meals with an emphasis on vegetables are the answer. My worst time of the day, and I’m sure this is not uncommon, is the 3:00-6:00 stretch. I have found that though I crave a warm cup of cocoa and cookies, if I choose instead warm cup of my herbal tea (see it at www.MyMiracleTea.com) with some fruit or a little protein, I’m happy and good until dinnertime. The tea does a wonderful job of curbing sugar cravings, as well as a providing a gentle de-tox and digestive support.
I’m not one for time consuming cooking – any time of the year, but especially in December. I often make a double-size pot of vegetable soup. It lasts for several days and is easy to heat and eat. I stretch it out by adding some cooked legumes, beans and a box of frozen spinach.
We buy the big salad mixes at Costco and add baby spinach leaves for fast, easy dinner-sized salads. We also buy the big bags of frozen veggies to add to brown rice with a little fish. We love the individually packaged frozen servings of salmon or tilapia. A bowl of oatmeal and fresh fruit makes a wonderful, fast supper on a busy day. It takes an hour and no work to throw potatoes (white or sweet) into the oven and to serve with steamed vegetables. Burritos, with whole wheat tortillas and canned low-sodium beans are always a hit with everyone. We are no longer milk drinkers, but do enjoy a bit of grated cheese on our burritos and sometimes on whole wheat toast.
In the same way that we can quickly fill our bodies healthfully, we can fill our spirits healthfully as well. Even 10 minutes of the scriptures is better than none. Subscribing to something like “Latter Day Light” that sends scriptures and an uplifting message from the prophet that provides strength and perspective that lasts all day.
“Accept no substitutes!” Christmas time is here! With happiness and cheer –especially when we wisely choose with every busy day to nourish our spirits with the peaceable gifts of the Savior and healthy foods, the peaceable gifts of nature, to nourish our bodies.