Now that the holidays are upon us, and its a perfect time to start thinking ahead about managing your food life during the holidays. Your family, they love you, but they may not be completely ready to respect your choices. The bottom line is if you made a commitment – especially if you made that commitment unto the Lord, then its important that you stand firm in it. Put on your whole armor today, because you are going to be the only one looking back in the mirror at yourself on January 3rd when the dust settles!
Step 1: Define YOUR Food Life
- Vegan – “I refrain from all animal flesh and animal-based foods.”
- Vegetarian – “I refrain from animal flesh but still consume dairy and eggs regularly.” This used to be referred to as Lacto-ovo Vegetarian, but since the only alternative to this is complete abstension from anything that comes from an animal has a name now, the word Vegetarian covers this category.
- Pesco-Vegetarian – “I refrain from the flesh of all land and air animals, but I still eat aquatic flesh.” Most likely, a Pesco-Vegetarian still also consumes dairy and eggs.
Other food life parameters can include the following:
- Abstaining or adhering to a low maximum daily intake of sugar and refined starch.
- Adhering to a low maximum daily intake of sodium.
- Organic and non-gmo focused.
- Calendar-based abstention – One interesting option, either as a weaning approach or just as a decided practice, is to pick a day or two in the week to abstain, like “No Meat Monday’s”.
There are indeed even more food life parameters, such as paleo and raw foods. These may not be as sustainable as the ones above, as they teeter on the brink of the “fad diet” pit, so we will not address them here. The point is to be able to sustain something that is sustainable, even when it becomes markedly more difficult because of the change in the environment that festivities bring.
Your Food Life is Not That Simple
Also, your food life is likely to be a combination of these. That makes sense, because the fact is you can’t isolate one food category or food component as the culprit for all problems. Just like how the enemy can come at you with 99 problems seemingly all at once, it is often a combination of problematic food components that bring and sustain disease in the body.
For example, this is my personal food life definition:
- I adhere to the vegan principle of a plant-based daily diet based on a strong Biblical Case for Veganism.
- Within my veganism, I allow myself animal-based foods on an extremely limited basis (more on this later).
- No more than 25 grams of free sugars per day on average. (so some days I may get 30-40, but some other days I have less than 10 or none at all).
- My grain consists of whole wheat and whole grain baked products and pastas, brown rice, and other cooked or raw whole grains over their refined white counterparts.
- I seek out the organic or at least non-gmo alternative for every food item I eat and serve my family, as well as paying attention to other details of the production such as fair treatment of farmers and workers and sustainable practice.
- Grow as much of my own food as I possibly can in the space I have available wherever I live.
This is a complex food life definition indeed, but it all has its roots in a combination of altruistically-motivated science and biblical precepts, and I have experienced the positive effects of these choices in my spirit, my mind and my body.
The point here is to have a clear definition of your own food life, not to tell everyone, but so that you yourself are sure what your overall choices are and why you are making them. Unfortunately, gone are the days when we could just eat and not think that hard about it. An industry has risen from that mindset to exploit the trust we once had in food. It was a justifiable trust because, up to about 150 years ago, food in general was just as God intended it to be. This industry is out of control with the tampering and the age of food vigilance is now upon us. We need to be deliberate about our choices.
Step 2: Clearly Define Allowances, Especial in our Food Life During The Holidays
This is where I address my earlier statement that I allow myself animal-based foods on an extremely limited basis. Let me begin by defining two demons that can derail your train faster than you can blink:
Once in a While (in the Caribbean, we might say “Its Not Everyday Nah!”)
Everything in Moderation
Once in a While/It’s Not Everyday
These statements are open doors for defeat. When someone says “once in a while” but does not define in clear terms what “a while” is, they overdo it without even realizing. Define your “while“. If you say “It’s Not Everyday“, then how often is it? For me, I buy one dozen common foul eggs (eggs laid by chickens that are truly free-range because I see them running around free in the neighbors’ yards) every 4-8 weeks for my entire family (my husband does not abstain from anything, so mostly they are for him). I personally have no more than 4 eggs out of that dozen, and usually, I get no more than two. That’s it. So my “while“, in this case, is 4-8 weeks. This both sets a limit and prevents habit formation.
You can do a Second Saturday treat, as in “On the second Saturday of every month, I have myself a ______________” (currant roll, piece of cake, tall chai latte, grilled cheese sandwich on white bread, omnivorous breakfast – I mean ONE of these things, not all of them!). Alternatively, if you have a standing monthly date for a meal with a particular person, you can use that occassion as your allowance day.
Delicacies and Dainties – Deceptive Foods
These are delicacies – some bible versions call them dainties. They are foods that we shouldn’t eat daily, or even weekly. This limited consumption approach is consistent with the way people ate delicacies in biblical times. The common man did not eat animal flesh or honey (that era’s equivalent of sugar) daily, or even weekly. This was not because of purposeful abstention. It simply was not available daily – those things were too rare and expensive. You would think with all the Levitical laws discussing animal consumption that it was eaten all the time, but in fact, it was only on a few feast days per year that the Hebrews ate “like kings”. Indeed, we are cautioned in Proverbs 23:1-3 from craving those things that scripture tells us are deceptive foods.
In the 19th century, the deception was made real: people actually came to believe that whatever the wealthy ate regularly was healthier for the body and mind and everyone should eat those food regularly too. The scripture speaks against this, calling the over consumption of animal flesh gluttony (Proverbs 23:20-21), cautioning against overindulging in honey so you don’t get sick (Proverbs 25:16), and clearly stating that if we get sucked into the glamour of eating like a king we might as well put a knife to our own throats (Proverbs 23:2) I recommend you do not do more than one allowance day per month. That way, you can really stick to your food life choices in a pure way.
Everything in Moderation
The problem in the term “Everything in Moderation” is the word “Everything“. I bet there’s a long list of things you like to eat and drink that you know you shouldn’t, so you “try not to”, and your week goes something like this.
Monday – I’m going to have a slice of pizza for lunch. But I won’t have any pizza again for the week. Everything in Moderation. I’ll get a candy bar on the way home, but I don’t do that every day.
Tuesday – I had a candy bar yesterday, so I won’t have that today. What will I wash my lunch down with? Well, I’m eating a salad, so I think I’ll have a soda. Everything in Moderation!
Your week continues like this, and perhaps you sit down Sunday and think back on what you ate and drank this past week that might not have been good. It went something like this:
Monday – Pizza and candy bar
Tuesday – A (well sweetened) Frappucino with whipped cream and one Soda
Wednesday – Bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin, and a bottle of iced tea with dinner
Thursday – Cheeseburger for lunch with fries and a milkshake
Friday – Sugar cereal with dairy milk and a tall glass of juice for breakfast, Baked Ziti dinner.
Saturday – Brunch out with friends…
So you have had moderate amounts of each unhealthy thing this week. You have not had any one thing everyday, but you have had EVERYTHING. If you continue to eat like this week in, week out over years in your life, do you expect to remain in good health? This is a recipe for disaster in your food life during the holidays!
Step 3: Think Ahead About Your Food Life During The Holidays NOW
So it’s mid-November and you know you have these coming up: Thanksgiving dinner and at least one party or dinner during the December holiday season. The Thanksgiving dinner for Americans is a specific day, so that is an easy one to decide upon. Starting now, make that day your one allowance day. It is your feast day, and you can eat whatever is served. In Trinidad, people have a thanksgiving anytime they please! Find out in advance what to expect from the food offering, and decide from there
a. if you are going,
b. if you are invited to more than one, which one you will go to or
c. if one is offering a meal that more suits your food life than others.
Every other day of the month should be all about your commitment to your food life.
October is the beginning of food festivals for some. Perhaps you were faced with a need to dodge such bullets as copious amounts of sugar and milk-laden sweets during Diwali and Halloween candy. The December holiday season is more of a minefield. There can be weekly parties, kids parties and school events. We could have dinner with one relative on Christmas eve, another on Christmas day proper and still a third fête to attend on Boxing Day. There could be Hanukkah meals and Kwanzaa meals depending on the structure of your life, plus family birthdays. This could mean a month of constant flaming food missiles coming your way. It is extremely important to make early decisions as to how you will deal with these.
Here are some options:
- Offer to host one or two events. When people are coming to YOUR house, you have total control over what is being served. I say don’t tell them in advance what you’re serving – why should you? Make your carefully chosen love menu a pleasant surprise!
- Set limits for each month, and honor your food life choices without allowances every single other day of the season. Decide as you cruise past October 15th whether or not you will indulge in a treat from Diwali or Halloween. Limit it to one item. (Note: I hope that, if you are Christian, you are not participating in Halloween. If so, please click here for a great sermon by Pastor Fred Price Jr. on why this is NO GOOD!) Indeed, sometimes they just come home with stuff they were given in school or there may be something going on at your job where you get treats. Make your decision in advance. Don’t hesitate to throw any excess candy or other unwholesome junk right in the trash! It’s not nourishment, you are not discarding anything valuable. Use the garbage can instead of your holy temple as the dump! Think ahead now about December. Make your election sure that you will do three days of feasting for the month. As you come to the end of November, you should have a clearer idea of what those days are based on invitations and your family customs. PICK DATES NOW. Some people also have family birthdays during these time frames. It’s so important to set limits in advance!
Expect The Unexpected
IMPORTANT: Unexpected pops up, like another birthday or a late invitation (Black Friday Breakfast, another holiday outing with coworkers) do happen. You can either swap with another feast day you already set, or JUST SKIP IT. One other option is to just leave room for ONE pop up, because sometimes y’all just spontaneously decide to go and feast together after church one day or something. In a sense, you can even plan ahead for that!
How you manage your food life during the holidays will influence your food life into the next year. Remember, it’s a large chunk of time during which poor habits can form. You may find it hard to break these habits well into the next year. Now 2 1/2 months stretches into 4-5, and half the year is lost to poor temple stewardship. Remember also that there are other times of year – Valentine’s, Carnival, Easter/Resurrection, Mother’s/Father’s/Grandparent’s/Secretary’s Day, Independence – that provide excuses for feasting. You need to be on top of your game all year round.
When we lead our lives with discipline, we are much better for it. Do it for the real crown! 1 Corinthians 5:29