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“A Thanksgiving Reservoir of Faith and Health”

By Carolyn Allen

autumn tree 


Late one beautiful November afternoon several years ago, my youngest daughter and I enjoyed a walk along a heavily forested trail in our neighborhood.  The light through the still-clothed trees was literally sparkling like gold as it filtered through the brilliant leaves, many that were drifting down as breathlessly as snowflakes.

The afternoon was so warm it almost felt like summer and the great pleasure of it all filled my heart  We quietly ambled along, enjoying the celestial fragrance that is the precious annual gift from an autumn forest, when all of a sudden one tree right in front of us released a huge number of leaves.  No wind had disturbed them, rather, it seemed that some invisible, strong force had caused hundreds and hundreds of leaves to simultaneously swirl and float to the ground – all from just one tree!  Kelly and I gleefully watched with “oohs” and “aaaahs!” usually reserved for 4th of July fireworks.

It was an amazing sight that gave me much thought for reflection.

How often life and daily responsibilities pile up like this – like leaves needing to be released but stuck high up in the trees.  Mid-November, when the beginning of the daylight savings cycle means it is dark for many of us by 5:30 p.m., teamed up with the pressures of the approaching holidays and the financial/world concerns that are so very real for most of us, often feels a like a huge load of leaves caught in the many branches of our busy lives. 

This pile-up of important and burdensome responsibilities may dump healthy eating and exercise onto the lowest rung of the priority ladder – even when we know that’s where we get the energy to not only cope, but thrive!  How we pray for that “from one moment to the next” release, some kind of ethereal breeze or unforeseen divine intervention to knock things loose, so things in life are lighter.

Perhaps this mental visualization of a beautiful lightening or release and my thoughts today will provide an anchor for the next six weeks which, for most of us, are the most challenging of the year health-wise.

With Thanksgiving and the launch of “the holiday” just ten days away, we need to wisely use every moment to mentally and physically prepare.  Why? Because unlike many holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas are not “one-day-one-feast” events.

“The holidays” are an ongoing thing and often last for several days or weeks that may include travel and meals away from home, disrupted schedules and late nights, extra guests or being a houseguest, and extended time away from our own kitchens and shopping, etc, both before and after the holiday itself.  Unpredictable winter weather and shortened days due to daylight savings make it even more difficult to do what is required. In addition, it’s easy to mentally excuse almost all healthy choices since it’s “the holidays” and a full six-week period vacation from personal responsibility.

Yes, indeed, I do believe It’s time to start humming “Follow the Prophets” with this counsel from President Kimball:

“There are in our lives reservoirs of many kinds. Some reservoirs are to store water. Some are to store food. There should also be reservoirs of knowledge to meet the future; reservoirs of courage to overcome the floods of fear that put uncertainty in lives, reservoirs of physical strength to help us meet the frequent burdens of work, reservoirs of goodness, reservoirs of stamina, reservoirs of faith. Yes, especially reservoirs of faith so that when the world presses in upon us, we stand firm and strong; when the temptations of a decaying world about us draw on our energies, sap our spiritual vitality and seek to pull us down, we need a storage of faith that can carry us through the dull, the difficult, the terrifying, the disappointments, disillusionments and years of adversity, want, confusion and frustration.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Faith Precedes the Miracle” Deseret Book, 1972. Pages 110-111.)

Mid-November is the perfect time to build a large and strong reservoir for health that will not only benefit us now, but bring absolute delight and joy come January when our pants comfortably zip and we start the New Year with the healthy energy and peace that comes from obeying the laws of smart choices for health.

1.  Lighten up mind and spirit by not neglecting prayers and scriptures.  It needn’t be lengthy, but a few moments to touch base with a chapter of scripture and/or a general conference address once or twice a day, plus morning and evening prayers reaffirms who we are.  When we’re connected to heaven, we’re connected to ourselves and can see not only our own divinity, but take on self-stewardship as a vital part of Heavenly Father’s daily plan for happiness.

2.  Lighten up mind and body with a little exercise:  Make a spiritual commitment through prayer  to keep up some kind of exercise regime throughout the holidays. Maybe there’s not time to keep up your regular schedule, but make a promise to Heavenly Father and yourself to do something – anything! at least 15 minutes daily.  Though 30 minutes several times a week is best, if there’s not time for a full work-out, then walk in place while watching TV, or spend 5-10-15 minutes here and there.  It all adds up and we all feel SO much better for getting our hearts rate up for even a short time. A 2-mile-an-hour walk on the treadmill, or a walk through the halls and up and down the stairs of your house or building totally counts!

3.  Lighten up with some additional light.   Short days often mean we’re deprived of the life-give forces and energy that sunlight gives to us.  Our moods and ability to cope and make smart choices may darken and diminish even as the sun sets so darn early.   

Get outside and into the sunshine as often as possible.  Then consider a little “light therapy.”  Although it hasn’t officially been approved as a seasonal affective disorder treatment by the Food and Drug Administration because of mixed evidence about its effectiveness. But for some people, light therapy treatment can improve the depressed mood of seasonal affective disorder and perhaps other types of depression, too.   You can buy a light therapy box over-the-counter, without a doctor’s prescription. Internet retailers, drugstores and even some hardware stores offer a wide variety of light therapy boxes and other light devices for seasonal affective disorder treatment.

Just google “light therapy” and you’ll find all the information you need to see if this is something that would be helpful to lighten your load and mood. 

4.  Lighten up with some extra go-power with some fish-oil.  Overfed and overweight, it seems unlikely that most Americans would be deficient in fat. But there is one we are missing: omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, flaxseed, and some nuts. It is thought that this deficiency may cause or worsen depression in some people.

Western diets have changed drastically over the past 150 years, during which the ratio of fats from fish and wild plants to those from animal and vegetable oil sources, especially in processed foods, has gone from 1:1 to 1:10. This switch has coincided with a sharp rise in the rates of depression in recent decades, suggesting that omega-3 supplementation could be one approach to treating depression and other mood disorders.

“By taking in more omega-3s, we’re essentially re-equilibrating the ratio,” says David Mischoulon, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

5.  Lighten up by letting some things go.  Consciously decide which foods and traditions are absolutely essential for an authentic celebration for you and your family – then maturely and gracious say good-bye to those that have outgrown their usefulness.  It’s amazing what we can let go if we take the time to figure out what matters most.  Google “healthy Thanksgiving” and you’ll find an abundance of recipes and direction.

Now, last but not least: Preparation for the Thanksgiving Feast!

Though it’s not time to cook your holiday dinner just yet, doing your homework way ahead of time puts you ahead of the class for lightening up both your schedule and your spirit!

Decide now which of the foods really mean the most to you. Though there will always be an abundance and variety of many traditional foods and family favorites, who says you have to eat it all?  Or even try it all?

Serving a healthy Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to mean giving up that pumpkin pie or those buttery sweet potatoes. But it does require some trade-offs.

The trick is knowing when the indulgence is worth it. This is somewhat subjective.

For some us, it isn’t Thanksgiving without a slice of pumpkin pie, while others will claim it’s the mashed potatoes that make the meal.

So here are some suggestions of places you can trim calories and fat.

Serve plenty of vegetables, but don’t drench them in butter. A teaspoon or so goes a long way. As an alternative, add a sprinkle of toasted, chopped nuts. The healthy fats can add flavor and a richness.

Fat-free chicken broth or nonfat buttermilk can give mashed potatoes a luxurious quality without adding fat.

The turkey itself is pretty lean (especially the white meat) as long as you remove the fatty skin.

To make a lighter gravy, skim and discard the grease from the drippings in the roasting pan. Add chicken or turkey stock to the pan, then thicken with cornstarch instead of the traditional roux made with flour and fat.

As for stuffing, instead of a stick or more of butter, add moisture with other ingredients. Diced vegetables and fruit or a bag of herbed stuffing mix can be transformed with a mixture of dried cranberries, chopped walnuts and orange zest. Try a blend of dried apricots, pistachios and chopped leeks. Just saut these ingredients along with the chopped onion and celery you normally would add to a dried stuffing mix.

These are easy things to do … Can’t you just feel the leaves and burdens dropping? 

President Hinckley always admonished us to “just do the best you can and it will all work out.” Taking the time to lighten up in even a few of the ways presented here may be just what you need for your happiest, lightest holiday season ever!

Anticipating this season, you may also want to consider a gentle de-tox, such as that provided with the herb tea I share at  Many Meridian readers agree that it is excellent for helping to pass undigested gunk that often lines the colon, creating all sorts of discomforts and problems.


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