At upcoming holiday celebrations, focus on social connections, not on the food; eat mindfully to avoid celebration guilt

By Patty Craig
Beech Tree News, Morgantown

We will soon enter the holiday celebration season. Our culture promotes celebrating with food – despite staggering obesity statistics. Anticipating those celebrations, how might health-minded people celebrate?

First, carrying extra weight is a real problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website reports: “The obesity prevalence was 39.8% among adults aged 20 to 39 years, 44.3% among adults aged 40 to 59 years, and 41.5% among adults aged 60 and older.”

Obese children may have to deal with psychological problems such as anxiety and depression, low self-esteem and lower self-reported quality of life, social problems such as bullying and stigma, and obesity as adults.
Obese adults face high blood pressure and high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, joint problems, gallstones and gallbladder disease. Additionally, “adults with obesity have higher risks for stroke, many types of cancer, premature death, and mental illness such as clinical depression and anxiety.”

Why, then, is food a part of life’s celebrations? The Cultural Awareness International website says: “Conceivably it (food) is the most significant commonality that humanity shares. Whatever shape, form, flavor, or seasoning food may take around the world, people eat. More than that, across the world, people enjoy eating.”

Food is a way to show hospitality, and it provides an opportunity to make connections. Food is generally provided with celebrations throughout the life cycle – from birth to death, including many holidays.

How can we find a healthy balance? In a Film Daily article by Samantha Williams (“Healthy Celebrations: Striking a Balance between Indulgence and Wellness”), the author discussed how to be mindful and still savor a celebration. Two of her points resonated with me:

Set Realistic Expectations: Understand that celebrations are exceptions, not the norm. Don’t expect to maintain your usual dietary and fitness routines during every celebration. Instead, aim for balance over time.

Focus on Social Connection: Celebrations are about connecting with others and making memories. Shift your focus from food to the people and experiences around you.”

By eating mindfully, a balance between indulgence and wellness can be achieved, ridding us of celebration guilt.

I’ve read that health is an investment, not an expense. The Roman poet Virgil said, “The greatest wealth is health.” And I agree.

So what about those holiday celebrations on the horizon? I say yes, let’s provide the food, but not push anyone to eat or drink what’s being served. After all, we may not understand their situation, and we don’t want to be stumbling blocks to their health goals.
Patty Craig of Morgantown is a mother, grandmother and retired educator.
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