Last Sunday, our family visited the Washington, D.C. Temple Visitors Center to start the season right. The spectacular trees, lights and collection of international crches thrill me to tears every time.
Just our own little family sat in a tiny theatre to view the movie Joy to the World, and my heart filled again with the joys of the season, the message of the Savior’s birth and his priceless example. As the Tabernacle choir voices swelled in unison with the words of the chorus and sang, “Let every heart prepare him room”, my own heart swelled in a deep yearning to personally prepare more room for him in my heart this Christmas.
Today’s Quote: “Come, follow me.” (Mark 1:17 and Hymn No. 116)
The Christmas season brings many opportunities to learn about the times and culture for daily life in Nazareth. As we gather bathrobes, sandals and scarves for our own re-enactments of the Nativity, we think about what they wore, their homes, their communities, and even what they ate.
A typical diet for anyone, anywhere in the world at the time of the Savior’s birth (remembering that there was no modern transportation of foods, electrical microwaves freezers or refrigeration) was generally determined by what one could grow and eat fresh, catch in the sea, or raise.
Dr. Don Colbert, a family physician, turned to the Bible after years of treating overweight people with diseases caused by fast and processed foods. He has written an interesting book entitled What Would Jesus Eat that directs us towards our own beloved Word of Wisdom.
The diet promotes
- an abundance of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds;
- olive oil as the major source of oil used;
- moderate amount of fish; little red meat is consumed;
- low to moderate amounts of dairy products (mainly cheese), and
- eggs are consumed not more than 4 times a week.
Wine is also included in many applications of the diet, although many other fruits and vegetables (particularly grapes and grape skins) along with regular physical activities offer the same benefits antioxidants for the heart as seen in alcohol. Although as a people we are exempt from even considering wine, the American Heart Association strongly recommends fruits, vegetables and exercise as an alternative to the empty calories in alcoholic beverages.
Because Jesus was a Jew, Colbert says, he would have followed Old Testament dietary laws – for instance, laws governing clean and unclean animals and fish. These laws were specific: cattle, sheep and goats were allowed; hogs were not. Fish with fins and scales were allowed; catfish, crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, shrimp), mollusks (clams, mussels) and others were not. A celebration ham dinner was not even remotely considered.
Colbert also assesses Jesus’ culture and decides what he would have eaten based on what was available. Fish was widely available; beef was saved for special occasions, such as the prodigal son’s return. So, Colbert says, Jesus probably ate fish on a daily basis but beef not more than once a month.
Other staples in Jesus’ diet, according to Colbert’s assessment of the culture, would have been bread and other whole grains, vegetables, fruits and olive oil. This diet is now called “The Mediterranean Diet” and is scientifically considered to be among the healthiest ways to live, especially for heart health.
Could it be that a wonderful way for our spiritual hearts to prepare room for Him right now would be to eat wisely and respectfully for our physical hearts all season long?
Reading through these foods, His foods, brings to mind the question posed by a Christian woman at one of my weight loss motivation meetings: “Really, when you think about it,” she said thoughtfully, “What does eating fudge have to do with the Baby Jesus?”
Of course, the answer is, fudge and other holiday goodies are treats and celebration foods. Every culture has special foods for special times and they are important! Surely, Christmas is among the most significant and worthy times for celebration. Herein lies the answer for those of us with an incurable sweet tooth and endless appetites for celebration fare: It’s the word “celebration.”
A celebration, whether you’re alone or with a crowd, is a time set apart to rejoice. This easily defines when we’ll eat these foods and prepare room for them too – at celebrations only! As I wrote in my article last week, celebrations almost always involve other people at an event with time factors around it. This alone reduces the number of calories we can eat. Then it’s up to us to be discriminating and personally decide on our very, very favorites.
Slowly and thoughtfully we can savor wise portions for just those foods at these events. With some thought and planning, we can prepare room in our calorie allotment, or we can make up for it in many ways over the next few days.
Simply and honestly asking ourselves with a quiet prayer, “What am I celebrating?” when we find ourselves with celebration food in our hands or in our mouths while alone or at non-celebratory times may be all we need.
If not, I offer once again my T-H-I-N-K formula:
T – Take a step back
H – Am I hungry, or is this just a habit and an opportunity to master myself?
I – Is it worth it? 15 minutes, an hour from now or tomorrow, will I be sad or glad?
N – Just say NO. Nobody ever died from saying “No thank you” and finding a non-food activity
K – Know and avoid the foods and moods that act as triggers for overeating
When you think about it, the abundance of celebration foods that tempt us at non-celebration times is a priceless Christmas gift. They provide countless opportunities for self-mastery that allow our hearts to prepare room both spiritually and physically.
Which brings us to this week’s Christmas carol, “A Healthy Me is Coming to Town!” You can get more songs and sign up for my daily Christmas messages this month at www.HealthyChristmas.com. The vocalist who recorded and learned these songs slowly lost more than 70 pounds after creating this CD with me in the summer of 2005, which is the best testimonial I know of that positive self-talk in the form of a song makes a difference!
A Healthy Me is Comin’ To Town
I’m making a list and checking it twice
Which are the foods that are naughty or nice
A healthy me is coming to town.
My dressings and sauces are served on the side
All of my zippers will easily glide
A healthy me is coming to town.
I’ll weigh myself but once a week
I’ll journal every day
I’ll exercise most faithfully
Can’t you see I’m on my way?
When all of the cookies and treats come around
I’ll be the one who is turning them down
A healthy me is coming to town
I’ve given up those diet drinks
Plain water is the best
I’m watching portions carefully and
Lowering my stress
So, you better watch out
You better not try
To give me your doubts I’m telling you why
A healthy me is coming to town.
(Song on page 19 of “Have Yourself a Healthy Little Christmas” by Carolyn Allen,
available at www.HealthyChristmas.com.)
Here’s to a healthy happy week, with room for all the things that matter most physically and spiritually!
Today’s Empowerment: “I am preparing room in my heart for the Savior by mastering my appetite and respecting my physical health and heart.”
Today’s Journal Prompts and Discussion Starters:
- Reflect on your personal spiritual level when healthy foods play a starring role.
- Which are your favorite celebration foods? How many calories per serving? When will you enjoy them this month? How will you make room for them?
Healthy Hummus Dip
Hummus, made with garbanzo beans, is a dish that Mary may have prepared for her Joseph and Jesus. Here’s a modern-day low-fat, low-sodium version. As an appetizer, side dish or snack, hummus is served cool. If you’ve never had hummus before, give it a try! It’s absolutely delicious!
Recipe can be doubled and is great for a party.
1/2 c. fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic
2 T. red onion
8 1/2 oz. Garbanzo beans, canned, cooked, no salt (1 can)
1 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. Low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. Rice vinegar, no salt
1 T. no fat mayonnaise
1 tomato, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
Finely chop cilantro, garlic and onion in the food processor. Drain beans. Add beans and rest of ingredients, except topping. Puree. Chill. Top with tomato and green onions. Serve with fat-free tortilla chips, pita bread or raw vegetables. If making a sandwich, use whole-grain bread or pita bread and top with sliced tomato, sliced cucumber and sprouts. Serves three. 125.9 calories per serving, 1.3 grams of fat