I am such a huge fan of all things fall and the holiday season! What I am not such a fan of are all the years I spent feeling guilty for days after the holidays because of all the so-called bad food I let myself go crazy with.
I have since learned some simple healthy habits that keep me feeling totally satisfied with my entire holiday experience. I have determined to rid myself of the food-guilt relationship once and for all.
These tips also come in handy for that very purpose.
1. Focus on having a super-healthy couple of days prior to the BIG day.
Have a few meat-free days, load up on fresh produce, and try to reduce your sugar intake for several days, which will curb your desire for sweets a bit before you are bombarded with tons of desserts and treats.
2. Focus more on the gathering and the people present than on the food itself.
Yes, eating is a huge part of our American tradition, but take the time to really be present with your guests. Set a beautiful table and engage your friends in conversation and laughter, prolonging the eating experience. Statistically speaking, we do the most calorie damage in the first few minutes of eating. We power through the meal, and before we know it we have overeaten to the point of discomfort. Take time to savor the flavors and the simple joy of eating together. In a nutshell…slow down.
3. Keep some healthy go-to dishes on hand and even offer to bring a dish or two if you are the guest and not the cook.
Survey the table and fill your plate with the healthier options, filling up on those first. Then with the bit of room you’ve saved, go ahead and have the treats you look forward to every year. This strategy works wonders! You still enjoy the things you love, but you have nourished your body with some good choices first, which allows you to have your cake and eat it too, so to speak. Here are a couple of my must-haves.
For me, the sweet tooth queen of the world, if I have these two backups on hand I am a happy camper and not totally at the mercy of the dessert buffet!
Click here for the recipe printable – Healthy Holiday Habits
My Favorite Apple Cider
In a slow cooker combine:
- 64 oz pure apple cider
- 2 cinnamon sticks,
- 1 split vanilla bean
- 6 chai tea bags
- Cook on low for 4 hours.
Remove all the bags, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla bean and add ¼ cup lemon juice, stir, and serve.
Pumpkin bread that will rock your healthy world
In a large bowl combine:
- 5 cups pure pumpkin
- 2 cups coconut sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup almond milk
- ¾ cup safflower oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Thoroughly mix with a large spoon until combined. In another large bowl, combine:
- 4 cups spelt flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¾ cup chocolate chips (I use grain-sweetened chips such as Enjoy Life brand)
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts or macadamia nuts.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and thoroughly mix until well combined. Note: if you want to hold back a little bit of the chips and nuts you can sprinkle them on the top before baking.
Bake in three greased loaf pans (I like to use coconut oil on a paper towel to grease the pans) at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Let the loaves cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn them out onto a baking rack to cool completely. ENJOY!
Happy holidays! Share love and Jesus with everyone who comes into your presence!
What Would Our Reaction Be?
Many of us attend congregations where members’ various needs are brought publicly before the church. At times there are prayer requests. Other times, families in crisis bring their financial burdens before the church, having nowhere else to turn for assistance.
I often feel the tug of the Holy Spirit during those moments and an ache in the pit of my stomach. These are human beings, God’s precious creation, and my need to help is compelling.
What would our reaction be if Jesus himself walked down the aisle, stood in front of His people, and proclaimed His own neediness?
Would we even know it was Him?
If we did recognize Him, would we all wonder what possibly the Son of God might need from us?
Are We Benevolent or Judgmental?
The topic of benevolence in the church is one thing, but benevolence to strangers seems to be a real hot-button issue with Christians today.
- We are inundated with homeless people at every street light and corner.
- We come face to face with some sort of cardboard sign at least once a week. If you live in a big enough city, a stranger with a need might even approach you directly.
- What to do in that split second, what to do with that uncomfortable opportunity, what to say or not to say…sometimes you only have the length of a red light to make your judgment call.
How often do we find ourselves passing judgment on someone? Have we ever said these words to ourselves?
- If that man can stand out there all day in the scorching heat, surely he can get a job.
- This is just one of those scams, all these corner people working together to swindle honest people out of their hard-earned money.
- If I give them money, they are just going to turn around and buy alcohol or drugs.
- She is wearing nice clothes and those shoes don’t look like a poor person’s shoes, so I am going to pass.
As the Bible clearly tells us, God chose individual, unique spiritual gifts to give each of us. Benevolence happens to be one of mine, and He also chose this specific gift for my father.
Learning Benevolence from my Father
I could never tell all of the many things I have seen my father do to help total strangers. However, I can tell you that his complete lack of judgment in each situation leaves me in awe and constantly striving toward that same goal.
Breakfast at Denny’s
Once, our family was eating breakfast at a local Denny’s. After we paid and were heading to the car we realized my dad was no longer behind us. We found him sitting on the curb next to a very fragrant homeless man with a bicycle. My dad talked with the man, then patted him on the back and started walking toward us. He asked us to find something to do for a few minutes because he was still a little hungry and wanted another breakfast. He then took the man inside, ordered him a huge meal, and sat with him while he ate.
Another time, near Christmas, my dad came home and asked my sister and me to gather some of our very best toys. He said that someone else could really use them. We bought a Christmas tree at a nearby tree lot, tied it to the roof of our car, and headed to a stranger’s home.
When we arrived, a young girl and a grade-school-aged boy answered the door and invited us in. The small house had nothing that looked like Christmas to my sister and me. My dad brought in the tree and some much-needed decorations as the kids’ mother came around the corner. My sister and I were startled to see that the mother’s arm was amputated just below the shoulder, but my dad hugged her and acted as if he never noticed. We put up the tree, left some of our toys, and my dad gave the mother some “secret” money to buy some things for her kids for Christmas.
Over the years, my dad helped many people.
The people and their needs were never the same–but my dad’s attitude and enthusiasm always remained constant.
I think of the very few times that my earthly father has been in need and I can promise you that on those few occasions I have moved heaven and earth to help him! Why? Because for me he is the giver, he is the need-meeter, he is the symbol of hope and love to the people he helps so when it is his turn to be in need, I run to his aid.
Helping Others as if it were Jesus
Now, let’s go back to our church service with our Lord standing front and center proclaiming His neediness.
We may think of it in hypothetical terms but according to Jesus himself it is NOT. Matthew 25 starting in verse 45 (NlV) clearly states:
And he will answer, “I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.”
I know what some of you are thinking and it’s an OLD argument. When Jesus states “brothers and sisters” we take that as only Christians and Christ-followers.
Scripture Speaks to Us All
As convenient as that might be and more comfortable for us, it simply is not true. Let’s ask Jesus what He means and HE will clear things up. Verse 44 says:
“Then they will reply, Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?”
This scripture is all encompassing and speaks to all mankind.
Just like my father did, next time you come face to face with a cardboard sign or a dirty, smelly person you would rather not help, try to see them through the goodness of Christ.
See Christ Himself in need.
Run to His aid as fast as you can!
- He stopped in a crowd and touched a sister and healed her.
- He noticed when others were hungry and fed them.
- He wiped a tear from a sister’s eye and His own when His best friend lay in a grave.
- He touched ten diseased men with healing, knowing only one would be grateful.
- He looked a humiliated, desperate, sinful sister in the eye and defended her without condemnation.
- And then He opened His arms and gave us His life.
How could we not run to meet His every need?
Putting Words into Action
I am very passionate about helping others, but it’s also a subject I work on. Keeping my heart and mind right while meeting the needs of strangers is anything but simple!
A few weeks ago I was heading to work. I noticed a woman standing at the on-ramp with a sign. I was going the opposite direction so I said to myself, “When I go home, if she is still there, I will stop and see what she needs.” Of course, my meeting ran long and she was gone. The next day I saw her again. This time a man in a suit was talking with her and handing her a card of some type.
I thought maybe that was a good sign and she might be getting some assistance. I hoped he was able to help her because I didn’t want her to have to stand out in the 100-degree heat all day.
Determining to Help
At the end of the day, my heart melted when I saw that she was still at the on-ramp. Quickly, I drove home and told my husband that I wanted us to head back over there with some food and see what we could do.
I pulled up to an old gas station and walked to where she was standing. I told her that I brought a bag of groceries in case that might help in any way.
She practically jumped into my arms, wrapping both of her arms tightly around my neck. She said that they had broken down and were just trying to get enough gas money to get back home to Colorado. I asked her where her car was and she said it was in the gas station parking lot. I told her to walk back with me and we would fill her car up.
The Ground Shifted
As we walked behind the station, the scariest van I have ever seen came into view with two equally scary-looking men inside.
We had brought our puppy with us. Worried that the puppy would overheat, I grabbed her out of the car. That’s when the ground shifted under my feet.
She turned and saw the puppy and said, “Oh! Would you please let my kids pet your puppy?” KIDS??? I said “sure” as we walked toward the van. Two boys and a little girl, heads sopping wet with sweat, squealed delightedly as the puppy licked their faces.
One of the men even started talking in a cute voice and got a couple of licks. As they were finishing up on the gas I walked back and put the puppy in the car. The lady followed me with an old, cover-less book in her hand. After giving me a third huge hug, she said the book was one of her favorite things. She had read it cover to cover many times but begged me to take it. That she was willing to part with such a treasured possession almost broke my heart!
Lesson learned for me!
It looked like just another dirty, sweaty person with a sign but underneath was a desperate mother with three children baking in an old, filthy van for three days just needing someone to see past her and see the real her, the JESUS her!
Have you ever been in a position where you had to set aside your judgments to help someone?
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In Health Coaching School, I learned an interesting concept called crowding out. In terms of nutrition, it means to stop focusing on the laundry list of foods that you can’t or shouldn’t eat. Instead, one should focus on the single goal of just adding more good things in. It’s not necessarily beginning by removing the bad things, but simply trying to fit in all the healthy foods you need every day.
Here is where it gets interesting. After a few months of applying this technique there seems to be a unanimous “Aha!” moment when people say:
You know what? I was so busy trying to get all the good stuff in. I just didn’t have the time, or frankly, the room in my tummy for the bad stuff.
There you have it! This secret applies not only to weight management but almost every aspect of our lives.
A Biblical Concept as well as a Practical One
This concept is a very biblical one. Its principles are not so new where the word of God is concerned. In Luke 11 Jesus is driving out many demons and having some rather harsh discussions. (This parable often confused me until I learned the principles of crowding out.) In verse twenty-four, an impure spirit is cast out of a person. The spirit goes on a journey seeking a new residence, but it cannot find a place to rest. The spirit then decides it will return to its former home. When it arrives, it finds the place swept clean and put in order. The spirit then finds seven other demons more evil than itself to move in also. And the person is in much worse shape than before.
Just before telling this particular parable, Jesus says:
Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.
Jesus is talking in verbs here–action words–and this passage of scripture is a call to action!
Jesus calls us to a positive response, and this requires movement on our part. It is not enough for us to rid ourselves of the dust, clutter, and garbage. We must replace and fill in those gaping holes with the good. This principle applies whether it be food, vices, negative self–talk, anger, etc.
Christ is calling us to the principle of crowding out.
Don’t sweep the house clean and leave it vacant. Too much empty space leaves us wide open for an attack from the enemy. Fill the house with every good and perfect thing you can get your hands on, whether that’s Christian music in your car, a scripture on your bathroom mirror, your daily devotional time, walks outside in prayer, etc. Don’t get so bogged down in trying to change the so-called “bad” behavior/habits, which revolves around negativity. Once we have let go of that particular struggle or sin we are left with an emotional sinkhole.
Let’s fill our minds, bodies, hearts, marriages, relationships, and work spaces with such overflowing good that after a while we all have a unanimous “Aha!” moment and say:
You know, I focused so much on filling up on God’s word, God’s love, and sharing that with the other people in my life. Before I knew what happened, I no longer had space for all the negative, destructive thoughts or behaviors. The good stuff filled me to the brim. Not only is my house swept clean, but it is bursting with life and vitality only the Lord can provide.
What area(s) of life is Christ calling you to crowd out, sweep clean, and fill up with God?
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The Voice in Our Heads
We go out of our way to be kind to total strangers. We watch our tone with our children. When the conversation is important, we measure our words carefully. And yet for a lot of us, none of these rules apply to the voice that speaks the loudest in our own minds. I wonder why?
We not only say hurtful and belittling things to ourselves, but that voice also has a tone. It is not sweet or kind; it sounds critical, judgmental, and harsh. In my health counseling practice I have spoken with so many women who repeat the same demeaning mantra over and over as if on a recording device. Things like:
- “You’re so stupid.”
- “You are so lazy. Why can’t you get your act together?”
- “You will always be fat so stop trying to be something you’re not.”
- “You’re weak…you don’t matter…you aren’t capable…”
And the list goes on and on.
We would NEVER speak to another person with those words or that accusing tone but we have no qualms about being our own worst nightmare. We would never put up with another person treating us in such a way. But if it’s coming from our own voice, in our own head, not only is it fine but we believe it to be true.
The Need for Self-Compassion
Two words have been cropping up over the past several years in counseling offices, in therapy books, and TED talks alike. Those two words are SELF COMPASSION. Most of us know how to be compassionate to others but are at a loss how to offer that same love to ourselves. In the words of one of my favorite Natalie Grant songs, she says, “You can’t be free if you don’t reach for help and you can’t love, if you don’t love yourself,” and it is so very true.
Frequently, I am asked questions about:
- Techniques for weight loss
- How to stop overeating
- Ways to have more energy
- How to feel more confident in my own skin.
As a fitness trainer, I know the scientific solutions to these questions but without self-compassion, self-love and self-care, none of it works.
Remember that the two greatest commands are to love God and to love others. Matthew 22 goes on to say that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Self-love and compassion is a commandment of God’s word. I think a lot of us have missed the mark on this one.
The body is the single most proficient machine ever created. It is beyond the measure of intelligence and efficiency and comes with all the signs, signals, and tools we need to be fully alive and functional. The problem is we have stopped listening. So many louder voices speak over us that we are no longer in tune with our bodies’ demands, wants, and needs.
Getting Rid of the Brain Bully
What if we made a pact with ourselves to remove that harsh, critical voice in our heads, and to honor our bodies by listening to its messages?
The answers to all of those health and weight loss questions lie in this formula.
When my body says:
- Rest–I will rest.
- Eat–I will honor it with healthy, life-giving nutrition and I will stop eating when I am satisfied.
- I am hurt–I will deal with the issue immediately whether physical or emotional.
- I feel like crying–Cry.
- I need a friend–Call one.
How opposite is this compared to the way most of us operate? We tell ourselves we don’t have time to:
- Eat breakfast.
- Deal with that hurt right now.
- Connect with others.
We push and push and push and completely ignore the things our bodies are literally begging us for.
Some of us:
- Make our bodies wait hours for nutrition.
- Sleep as little as 3-4 hours a night.
- Give so much to work that we miss out on the very things that make our lives meaningful.
We all struggle with these issues. However, we must find balance in order to avoid the consequences of an overworked, over-stressed, and physically exhausted lifestyle.
The body-spirit-mind connection is so strong.
The three are inseparable, so to honor one is to honor all. If we take this challenge we will fall in line with God’s design for us both physically as well as emotionally. We will kick the brain bully to the curb. We will treat ourselves with the same love and kindness we extend to those around us.
We are worth it and some of us have spent far too long believing otherwise! Since God’s own son died for one and all, HE certainly believed you were worth it!
Are you ready to start kicking the brain bully to the curb?
What changes will you start making today to live in line with God’s design for us?