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Thanksgiving Thoughts (Updated)

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and is often thought of as time of feasting andindulgence and for many, it means a time of over indulgence.  As such, Iwanted to share some personal thoughts on Thanksgiving.

Throughout history, many cultures have enjoyed great feasts to mark theimportant and joyous occasions of the year.  These feast days traditionallyoccurred only a few times a year and any overindulgence was confined tothese few days of celebration.  However, today, the spirit of celebration andthe notion of a "little indulgence" have been taken to extremes as more andmore Americans treat every day and every meal as a holiday and a time tooverindulge.

Over the past 40 years, rates of overweight, obesity and related healthproblems have increased rapidly. Today, about three-fourths of Americanadults and over one-third of children and teens are obese or overweight.This extra weight increases an individual’s risk of developing many chronicillnesses such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes,heart disease, stroke, arthritis and cancer.

Everyday, throughout the year, American meals tend to provide portions thatare too large and have too much fat, salt, sugar and too many calories. Alarge disparity exists between recommendations for a healthy diet and actualfood consumption habits.  Excessive intakes of sodium, solid fats (majorsources of saturated and trans-fatty acids), added sugars and refined grainsoften replace intakes of healthy nutritious foods in the diet, making it difficultfor people to achieve recommended nutrient intake while controlling calorieintake. The negative health effects of these eating habits are furthercompounded by the sedentary lifestyle of many Americans.

Commitment to a healthy diet is one of the most important components — ifnot the most important component — of an individual’s overall health andwell–being. A healthy diet is one that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, starchyvegetables, intact whole grains and legumes and limits the intake of sodium,saturated fats, added sugars, sweeteners, solid fats & oils, refined grainsand refined processed foods. The key to achieving and maintaining a healthyweight - during the holidays and all year-round - is to live a healthy lifestyleon a day-to-day basis that includes healthy eating, regular physical activityand stress management.

This is one of my favorite food quotes of all time and comes from the book,"The Life We Are Given"by George Leonard & Michael Murphy.  I think it has a powerful message that is appropriate for this time of the year.

"How we eat stands as a fundamental expression of our embodiment and isthus important to our life, not merely for the benefits it might bring but alsofor its own sake. To eat with full awareness turns us naturally toward a dietthat is both good and good for us. It rejoins us with the core of our existenceand can inspire us with "thanksgiving" for the everyday wonder of food, andfor the everlasting miracle of life that we have been given."

The holidays are a time to celebrate, give thanks and, yes, perhaps for someof us, to even overindulge a little. It is important to remember, however, thatThanksgiving is just one meal on one day and is not the start of a month–and–a–half long celebration. The very occasional indulgence on the veryoccasional holiday (i.e., the actual day & meal itself) will not be damaging tooverall health and well–being for most of us if healthy eating and exercisingtake place on a regular consistent daily basis throughout the rest of the year.

The holidays are also a time to focus on family and friends — not just food.Catching up and sharing laughs with loved ones will allow you to feel thespirit of the holidays more than a second helping of pie. If you do indulge alittle to celebrate, be careful and do so without throwing all caution to thewind or hurting yourself.  And remember, your body is never not watching!  

So, during this upcoming holiday season of thanksgiving and celebration,let's not forgot to take a moment and reflect, celebrate and give thanks forthose things that are truly the most important and of the most value to us...our life, our health, our friends, and our families.

Have a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving.



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