Yesterday was a day many Americans known as either “Fat Tuesday” or “Mardi Gras.” Around the world, Fat Tuesday takes on many different names and traditions–and no sooner than tomorrow, couples will flock to buy flowers and chocolates for their sweeties on Valentine’s Day. For these and other sweet & savory holidays, one common theme persists: eat and celebrate as much as possible. Whether it’s in Russia, Brazil, Britain, or the U.S., holidays are a convenient excuse to forget about your health goals and indulge.
However you celebrated yesterday, and whatever your plans are for Valentine’s Day, you should not discount your healthy life style for two reasons:
First, commercialized holidays such as Fat Tuesday and Valentine’s Day give us opportunities to try new traditions. According to healthy living specialist Dr. Holly Atkinson, in her “5 Keys to Optimal Health,” exercising and taking on new challenges are essential to stimulating brain cells and increasing overall health.
Second, nutritionist and health consultant David Meinz advocates that moderation, not perfection is key to a healthy lifestyle. Meinz claims that, “There is no such thing as a junk food, it only becomes a junk food when you eat a lot of it and you eat it often.” So while we are recovering from eating too many pancakes yesterday and pondering the mounds of chocolate we will be tempted with tomorrow, lets take time to reflect on how we can turn these celebrations into fun opportunities to improve our overall health and well being.
What We Learned About Fat Tuesday
Fat Tuesday wasn’t all about eating. All over the world yesterday, individuals participated in traditional dances, races, and other active traditions before they indulged. In many states in Brazil, participants in the “Carnival” festivities danced the traditional Samba to live music. In England, women partook in the annual Pancake Run, a tradition that dates back to the middle ages. In Russia, children and adults alike hosted snowball fights, sleigh rides, and bomb-fires to actively celebrate. Just because we may not have such common traditions in the United States, does not mean we cannot create a few on our own. Make a point to learn a new dance or create a scavenger hunt challenge for yourself, family, or coworkers before you can dig in. Setting a challenge will get you moving and stimulate your brain with the new experience.
Valentines Day: Indulge a Little!
Many of us have heard the saying “moderation is key.” Anyone who has tried a strict diet can attest that an extreme action such as cutting all sweets while undertaking a strict exercise rarely lasts. During celebrations such as Valentines Day, a little indulgence is OK! While controlling the amount of so-called “junk foods” we eat is important, creating healthy and active traditions is more important to improving our lifestyle.
As David Meinz also emphasizes in his program How to Have a 100 Birthdays, “it’s not just about the quantity of life, its about the quality.” What is important during any holiday season is to recognize that a little indulgence is normal; we should not allow that indulgence to make us feel overly guilty and detract from regular healthy reunites.
Practice, Practice, Practice: At Home or in the Office
During any holiday, whether big or small, developing active traditions can help us maintain a healthy lifestyle while we indulge a little. Our health and fitness levels depend not so much on how much we eat during the holidays as they depend on our every day routines. So rather than feeling guilty about enjoying those pancakes we ate on Fat Tuesday or having a little extra chocolate on Valentines Day, take the opportunity to create active traditions that make these holidays less about the food and more about getting moving.
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