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Look beyond food to find the meaning of life
By Marisa Pruitt, CD, RD, Gundersen Nutrition Therapy

The Halloween candy is gone and now we've moved on to over-stuffed Thanksgiving meals, Christmas cookie exchanges and expanding waistline as evidence of too many treats.

The thing is… holidays don't have to be like this. We can enjoy ourselves without being overstuffed and guilt-ridden and weight gain and guilt do not have to be the inevitable aftermath of this wonderful time of year.

Think about it this way. Have you ever thought about the traditional foods served at Thanksgiving? Really thought about them? Turkey… mashed potatoes… stuffing… cranberries… pumpkin pie… What's so special about them? It's not like turkey isn't available the other 364 days of the year. And can we really say we don't eat potatoes on any day but Thanksgiving? Same goes for stuffing and even pumpkin pie. Heck – we get a whole pumpkin spice season every fall with those flavors packed into everything from breakfast cereal to gum! So what is it about the holidays, and Thanksgiving in particular, that makes food seem more special than any other time of year?

The people and the memories, right?

Nostalgia makes things taste better. Smells and tastes bring back memories of happy times with people we love, and the holidays are full of wonderful smells and tastes. If we really think about it, the holiday foods that overindulge in are foods that we have access to every single day of the year. There isn't anything special about the food itself.

So this year, my challenge to you is to look beyond the food to find meaning in your holidays. By all means, enjoy the food that you are eating, but remember that it's the people and the memories that make the holidays special in addition to the food. You can have pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce and turkey any ole day of the year, but you can't always surround yourself with loved ones and friends. Be thankful for the people in your life. Engage in conversation. Be present in the dialogue and appreciate how lucky you are to have such love and support around you.

When you're eating, be thankful for the food in front of you and the people who grew it, harvested it, sold it, and prepared it. Taste and savor the love that was poured into the meal. And don't forget to be thankful for your body. Despite the all-too-frequent neglect, our body keeps us alive, moves us around, digests our food and utilizes the nutrients within it and makes us able to do what we do every day. That body of yours is a pretty amazing thing to be thankful for just the way it is and you are amazing too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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