Contending is required now more than ever!

Okay, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty of Dr. Fuhrman’s Holiday Challenge. It’s time to bring out a word that no one wants to talk about over the holidays. 

Based on my own experiences and interacting with others, the next couple of weeks will be some of the hardest weeks of the entire year to fight through!

Yes, “Fight.” 

To be successful in getting one’s health back, and to remain in optimal health, it takes contending. Contending involves a struggle with opposition in order to achieve a goal. And let’s be honest, the opposition facing us to eat sweets and junk food in the next couple of weeks will be at an all-time high! 

Platters of homemade cookies and candies will be suddenly and unexpectedly delivered to our front door by kind and thoughtful neighbors. With just the ring of a doorbell we will have multiple temptations at our fingertips. 

The office break room will have large bowls of chocolate covered Chex mix, salted peanuts and pretzels; or lovely cheese balls surrounded by cocktail crackers and creamy spreads.

Spouses will bring gift baskets of specialty cheeses and salami home from work.

After all it’s December! It’s time for everyone to celebrate . . . there’s always January to mop up the messes!

The most carefully thought-through strategies will be challenged right now, big time.   

If we become apathetic and passive anytime in the next couple of weeks, our best intentions will get bulldozed over. All the hard work and success up to this point will go straight down the drain. It happens all the time. 

One compromise will lead to two or three, and before one knows it the towel will be thrown in, high-nutrient foods will be replaced by disease-promoting foods, weight will be gained back, and poor health and suffering will abound once again.

So what does contending look like?

Yesterday three containers of a variety of Christmas cookies were delivered to our home. I was caught totally off-guard. I hadn’t planned for the sudden deposit of decadent treats. At first I ignored them. However, curiosity got the best of me, and eventually I opened the lids for a peak. Then I snuck a taste test. Instantly I knew I was in hot water and flirting with danger if I didn’t stop immediately. 

In northeastern Indiana yesterday we had below freezing temps. The sun was hiding beneath bleak skies and the landscape had turned gray. I had a table full of clean laundry to fold and a stack of shirts to iron. BUT I knew I had to contend. I had to fight. I quickly bundled up in my winter coat, threw on some gloves, snapped on a helmet, and hopped on my bike. I pedaled into a rural, adjoining county for a twenty-mile ride. My nose dripped and my eyes watered from the bone chilling air, but I had to ride away from the temptations in order to devise a specific plan of action. 

By the time I returned home I was fine. The fresh air had cleaned out the cobwebs in my brain and I had a practical strategy in place. (Btw, I still got the laundry folded, the shirts ironed, and I even had time to go to the grocery and stock up on my favorite vegetables and fruits for the days ahead.) 

I struggled and contended with the sudden opposition until I achieved victory.

That’s what it means to contend and earn great health; one victory at a time.


The holidays provide ample opportunity for extra practice that is so necessary for a lifetime of success. Let’s all get in the habit of contending for excellent health, because it’s not a matter of if temptations will come, but when.

If we can successfully overcome temptations during the holidays, we can be victorious anytime! 

How about you?

Are you contending?



image credit:  cookies by Esther Boller; cheese by flickr D.A.K. Photography

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Comments (26) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
mike crosby - December 8, 2011 9:34 PM

You're right Emily, this is the time to fight. There are so many temptations, and I know for me, it would be nice to have someone around to give support but it ain't happening.

In fact, for Thanksgiving, doctor brother n law told the table how he felt sorry for me that I wasn't eating turkey.

And of course, I'm the kiljoy.

But so far, all's been good.

Ginger - December 9, 2011 5:46 AM

My SIL makes the most beautiful, hand-dipped chocolates in the world. They taste great too or at least I think they do. I didn't taste even one, when she brought us a one pound box last night. She brought three lovely honey crisp apples for me. I no longer have to fight, they all can see my smaller girth, my lack of jaundice, my non-frizzy hair, my bright eyes, my increased energy, and my happy manner. I love how my family is now so supportive of my lifestyle that they are no longer threatened and ask about it. I won't preach; I'll fight my war with silent example and long-suffering. Also, it really helps that my food allergies make me painfully blow up like a 6-month pregnant woman, arresting my desire for anything with dairy, eggs, animal protein, gluten, or soy. All that is left are fruits, veggies, beans, and rice...but what great choices.

chris - December 9, 2011 9:50 AM

I agree one has to be diligent with fending off the barrage of encroaching snacks. Wow, it actually showed up at your door. The surprise factor and location are dangerously tempting. However, you did a good thing by getting away from the temptation, and put your mind and body elsewhere until you had the resolve to stand up to it instead of sitting down with it. Good thing you dealt with it quickly, instead of letting the temptation grow until you're eating with both hands.

Also, when its cold, I have trouble keeping warm, which can lead to overeating. It helps me to sip some strong flavored herbal tea (licorice) for the warmth and taste rather than go to something sweet. But the workouts are really what get me out of my rut. Thanks, Emily, for sharing your struggle and victory.


Dr Food - December 9, 2011 11:16 AM

Hi Emily:

I am an RD and diabetes educator at a hospital in the Northeast and have used your pics to promote ETL eating. I have seen miraculous success with reversing diabetes and awesone weight loss to my patients following the meal plan. I also use the "I could never do that" logic for some of my pts. It certainly makes them think........

You are inspiring to me and to many others. I was just hoping that you were riding far away with the cookies to get rid of them.


Dr Food (that's what they call me)

Tracy - December 9, 2011 11:38 AM

You are so right on! I don't think of bad food as tempting normally but one day I walked in to Trader Joes & their Christmas candy display blocked my path, literally. I had to walk around it and it wasn't the boxes that got to me but the good smells that threw me for a loop. I was good because I've lost almost 110lbs and NOTHiNG and I mean nothing will stop my process. Happy healthy holidays everyone! It should be a great year.

Lori - December 9, 2011 1:01 PM

This is my first Challenge. I started ETL 2 weeks before to get past all the detox symptoms before Thanksgiving. I have had some slip ups which resulted in bloating and miserable headaches. Enough for me to remember what NOT to eat. I have just ordered 3 boxes of beautiful organic fruit to arrive at my doorstep for me and my family so I can be excited about opening and eating! Thanks for sharing your struggle and for being a great example of refocusing our attention on something positive, such as exercise, being outside and making a plan for next time.

chris - December 9, 2011 2:44 PM

I agree one has to be diligent with fending off the barrage of encroaching snacks. Wow, it actually showed up at your door. The surprise factor and location are dangerously tempting. However, you did a good thing by getting away from the temptation, and put your mind and body elsewhere until you had the resolve to stand up to it instead of sitting down with it. Good thing you dealt with it quickly, instead of letting the temptation grow until you're eating with both hands.

Also, when its cold, I have trouble keeping warm, which can lead to overeating. It helps me to sip some strong flavored herbal tea (licorice) for the warmth and taste rather than go to something sweet. But the workouts are really what get me out of my rut. Thanks, Emily, for sharing your struggle and victory.


Cathy - December 9, 2011 2:47 PM

Thanks again Emily for saying what some of us are thinking! When I began eating this way years ago I would feel guilty and give in to the temptations often. Then I realized that the giver did not understand or care to understand that under their guise of love they were undermining my health. So, as the years have passed with a spouse and children at times who choose to jump back on the train of disease promoting traditions I too have found myself fleeing my own home to venture out into the frigid Idaho weather just to spark some creativity in dealing the junk! At the beginning I would regift the unhealthy gift. But, then as more knowledge flooded my thoughts I realized that I didn't want to assist anyone in undermining their own health. So, when in the car and the family is indugling in junk and they ask me if I want any I say 'yes' and as soon as they hand it to me I throw it out the window of the car. I don't litter but I figure this is consumable and there are many wild critters in Idaho to enjoy my treat! This also helps them from asking me if I want any. And at the house I insist that if my husband wants to keep the unhealth gift he is to put it in his truck. Or if the junk is setting out after a family gathering and I have to clean it up, I throw away the portion I would have eaten. Often this goes immediately out in the garbage or outside for the wild critters to enjoy. This time of year I have hundreds of birds that land close to my home so the evidence disappears quickly! And it helps my family eat less of it! I wish I could say that doing all these things and more have kept me 100% on track but I can't. I have still had weak times. But, I know I am a little healthier because I have contended on many occassions!

Stephanie - December 9, 2011 4:58 PM

Happily, I don't really have to "contend" anymore. I no longer have much of any cravings for junk, and I'm easily able to pass it right by 99% of the time. (And I do every day, since I'm a college student and eat in a dining hall.) I even do it when I'm stressed now, which I found more difficult before. Plus, I'll be home visiting my immediate family for Christmas, and since I've more or less converted my household (at least when I'm around!), the only things that are likely to be in the house that AREN'T Fuhrman are gift baskets my dad gets from clients. We had an almost totally nutritarian Thanksgiving (there was a turkey that I didn't touch, but EVERYTHING else was healthy), and we'll be having a nutritarian Christmas too! I always love being home because I get to eat so many amazing, nutritious dishes! My only real challenge for this holiday season is going to be to try not to eat too much high-calorie, but nevertheless nutrient-dense, food.

Also, I'm rather curious: What did you do with the cookies? If it were me, I might well have simply trashed them, since I don't really like handing unhealthy things to others anymore.

Guest - December 9, 2011 6:20 PM

This quote is the most self-defeating thing I've ever read:

"One compromise will lead to two or three, and before one knows it the towel will be thrown in, high-nutrient foods will be replaced by disease-promoting foods, weight will be gained back, and poor health and suffering will abound once again."

Whatever happened to the concept of SELF-CONTROL? Or eating just ONE small treat, and passing up the rest? Why does everything have to be All or Nothing?? That kind of black & white thinking is what leads to eating disorders - like orthorexia. Look it up.

Eat healthy 99.9% of the time, and have ONE treat. Is that such a difficult concept?

Mary - December 9, 2011 8:03 PM

Stephanie - Just curious - what do you plan on having for Christmas? My sister and I plan on bringing Nutritarian dishes to my father's house for Christmas dinner. She has been eating this way for years, but I am relatively new at it, and I've never brought anything to a dinner before. Maybe you have some suggestions as to what I could make/bring? Thanks!

Dr. Fuhrman - December 9, 2011 8:31 PM

Your overly simplistic and snarky comment misses the whole point - abstaining from sugar through the holiday season when people are pleading with us to eat junk food is very helpful to many people. If you have such good self control to eat healthfully 99.9 percent of the time, congratulations to you. Unfortunately, lots of other people can't just smoke one cigarette a week. They want more after they have one. For many, just a half a cup of ice cream just makes them want more too. One solution is to make one of my healthy sorbets or dessert recipes and eat that in moderation. But food addictions and cravings are triggered by small compromises that turn into full meals of gorging on unhealthy foods. Your critical post does not recognize the differences in individuals and the powerful addictve nature of refined foods for many. Thousands of people here have taken the holiday challenge pledge not to eat sugary junk foods during the holidays. That pledge helps lots of people and even saves lives. Success breeds success and I want people to continue to get health benefits through the holiday season and not use it as an excuse for self-destructive behavior. People binge over the holidays, the emergency rooms are flooded with people having heart attacks and strokes this time of year that occur soon after big, heavy holiday meals and parties.

Orthorexia is not a real dignosis, eating disorder or emotional disorder. It is a word made up by one junk-food eating person who is critical of others who eat right and care about their long-term health. I feel those who toss around the term, orthorexia, have the disorder; they are blind to see that factory made refined foods and fast foods are unnatural and dangerous - almost as dangerous as illegal drugs. If you accept the orthorexia concept, then you might as well label those who don't drink alcohol or don't smoke cigarettes with a diagnosis. I also think you could have shared your differing views in a much less conceited and judgmental tone.

Sandy - December 9, 2011 9:23 PM

I found that going to Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law's house with a plan in place really helped.I ate a bowl of soup before I left home and took a banana smoothie and grapes with me. I wasn't hungry when it was time to eat which kept me from being tempted. When everyone else ate desserts I drank my smoothie and was completely satisfied. I left there that day with no regrets, feeling guilty or sick. I had a great time and didn't gain a pound!

Stephanie - December 10, 2011 9:35 AM

Hi Mary,

I'm 100% sure what we'll be having for Christmas yet, though I know my sister wants to make Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Gingerbread Cake, so I guess that's one thing. I also have a bunch of recipes I want to try, so I'll probably pick a number of those. If you're looking for things to bring, you might try a sweet potato dish. For Thanksgiving I made Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin; for Christmas I may do that recipe from the member center that had sweet potatoes, dates, and apples. Some sort of big, super tasty salad could also be nice; for Thanksgiving, we had one with a salad of cannellini beans and sun-dried tomatoes on top. If you're willing to put in some time, Dr. Fuhrman's Tofu Meatloaf with home-made ketchup is delicious--it's my sister's favorite thing ever. I would also really recommend the Chocolate Dip from Super Immunity/Eat for Health/the member center, as it's completely fabulous--guaranteed to amaze even your non-nutritarian family! Also, it's easy!

Hope that helps, and good luck!


janey - December 10, 2011 12:24 PM

I wanted to share a quote that came up last week during a meeting at work where the main topic was Commitment, and I thought it was profoundly true for me, especially during this holiday season: "The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating -- in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around like rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life." • Anne Morris

Marjorie Obee - December 11, 2011 2:56 AM

Dear Sirs,
The book "Eat to Live" by Dr.Joel Fuhrman, is very interesting.
However, I am 81 years old, 5'2 in height and weigh 144.
The question that concerns me, am I doing the right thing.
Which part of the book is the most important section for me?
I am a a master swimmer and take part in many competetions.
I will read the entire book, but could get stuck in the
recepies section.
Although my blood pressure is 108/75 I do take some medication for it.
Please respond as I am truly interested .
My weight should come down to 115 and wonder if I can get there.
Kind regards,
Marjorie Obee

Emily Boller - December 11, 2011 8:53 AM

Hi Marjorie,

With all due respect, the question that should be concerning you is if NOT following Eat to Live is doing the right thing. Seriously.

Yes, by all means, following the core concepts of Eat to Live will get you to your best health that's possible. Eat to Live is a knowledge based way of eating; as the mind is changed by learning and following correct information, the body will transform as a result. So read and study the entire book as everything is important information that you need to know.

My 86-year-old mother suffered a major stroke this past April, and started following the concepts of ETL in early June. (She also benefited greatly by watching Dr. Fuhrman's PBS special, "Three Steps to Incredible Health.")

By the end of July, she was off of nighttime insulin, and now she is off of daytime insulin. (She's been type 2 diabetic for 25 years.) Her formerly high blood pressure is now consistently in normal ranges, and the plaque blockage in the cartoid artery in her neck, which contributed to the stroke, is being reversed. AND she has lost over 50 lbs since June.

Congratulations on being a compettive master swimmer! That's awesome!

Since you are taking blood pressure medication, make sure you are being medically supervised by your physician as blood pressure drops significantly when one follows ETL. My mom lives in Indiana, but is being medically supervised via periodic phone consultations with Dr. Benson, who sees the majority of patients at Dr. Fuhrman's medical office in Flemington, NJ. You can also become a member of Dr. Fuhrman's member center on his web site and have access to Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. Benson, and two other physicians on Ask the Doctor.

All the best of great health to you! Carefully following Eat to Live will get you there for sure!

Emily Boller - December 11, 2011 11:54 AM


A state of perfectionism, a state of flawlessness; the healthy kind, (not the pathological, obsessive & ritualistic, all-or-nothing kind that determines one's happiness and sense of worth) is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to overcome addiction. It is totally supported by those helping dear ones over the threshold of heroine, nicotine, or alcohol addiction. It's the path to freedom. I know because I have been there and luckily I learned from Dr. Fuhrman the seductive power of food addiction and my key to freedom, it almost destroyed me.

Unfortunately, society doesn’t support food addicts to the same degree. In fact, recovering food addicts are many times ridiculed, made fun of, and shamed by wanting to be, and remain, free.

Here’s how your comment would read to a former heroin addict:

"This quote is the most self-defeating thing I've ever read: 'One compromise will lead to two or three, and before one knows it the towel will be thrown in, and the heroin addiction will return, and poor health and suffering will abound once again.'

Whatever happened to the concept of SELF-CONTROL? Or shoot up just ONCE, and pass up the rest? Why does everything have to be All or Nothing?? That kind of black & white thinking is what leads to disorders - like heroinexia. Look it up."

Angelique - December 12, 2011 11:16 AM


I like how you likened it to a Heroin addict. Though I have never been addicted to heroin, I have been addicted to cigarettes and to sweets/junk food. I know if I smoked a cigarette today, by the time I got to the end of the cigarette (that point where it started to taste good again) I wouldn't be able to stop there.. pretty soon I would be bumming a smoke here and a smoke there until I was buying a pack, then a carton. The same thing has happened to me with food, I would say, well, I will just have one sweet treat, and again, that one leads to another, and so on... I even have to work hard sometimes, still, not to over eat on tasty ETL foods. The longer I stay strong, the easier it gets, though. Guest probably has never had a problem with this, or Guest maybe has a problem and is in denial.

Suzy - December 13, 2011 8:19 AM

Thanks so much for the encouragement! I am one of those people who does better to avoid unhealthy "treats" altogether, rather than trying to eat just one. I find that if I eat healthy, I crave healthy.

I'm not sure why our culture demands that festivities, such as the holidays, revolve around unhealthy eating and overeating, but I wish we could rethink it and take joy in the wonderful, colorful, nutrient-dense foods that are the real treats, especially for our bodies!

Linda - December 13, 2011 12:06 PM

To Guest:
I have Crohn's disease, which I have put into remission by following Dr. Fuhrman's advice.

Are you seriously telling me to eat perfectly most of the time, and then risk flaring serious disease by ingesting 'just one' DISEASE-FEEDING 'treat'?

Isn't this like telling someone that if they wear a seat belt most of the time, skipping that protection, just once in a while, won't be a problem? I guess that's all well and good, unless that ONE TIME they don't wear the seat belt happens to be the time they meet a deer at 70 MPH on the interstate, or a drunk driver, or whatever causative factor presents itself; any way you view it, it is simply an invitation to tragedy.

If you want to justify eating whatever disease-promoting food you choose at a particular time, that is your choice to make. But don't you tell me that eating for my best health is a mental disorder. The proof is in the (nutrient-rich) pudding: I am in better health than I've enjoyed for years, because I have put in the effort and practice necessary to learn how to eat for my best health. ETL is for real, because it's based on science rather than somebody's agenda.

One other thing: I enjoy plenty of deeply satisfying treats! But I create my treat foods using ingredients which promote health, rather than disease. I'll take my treats over yours, any day of the year.

Diana - December 13, 2011 12:53 PM

Saw a cartoon...someone was offered goodies...the response:

One is too many and there is never enough!

Emily Boller - December 13, 2011 3:03 PM

That reminds me of a saying that one of the pastors of my church tells everyone: "I have no idea what one brownie tastes like. I've only eaten pan fulls of brownies at a time!"


Hawar - December 13, 2011 3:35 PM

Guest, I don't want any crap in my mouth ever. I don't care if it's just a tiny treat. If it's loaded with crap, I don't want any of it.

Chris - December 13, 2011 4:25 PM


Sometimes what appears to be a lack of self control (by being all or nothing) is actually a responsible way to control a self-compelling drive that causes harm. Many people can follow the 99% rule you speak of, but if you repeatedly cannot, its far better to acknowledge the weakness and do what it takes to overcome it. Everyone has a flaw or weakness in one area in their life and has a need of another approach than what would appear extreme to the next person. The omitting of sugar and processed food is a call to action, not unlike that of a war, setting the goal and knowing the cost beforehand so as to have courage and the mindset needed to succeed. So enjoy a treat, savour it, and know that those pledging to abstain will get to the promised-land of success even if it appears to be a detour, they will be on the course that gets the prize. The prize of health!

jay - January 20, 2012 11:51 AM

A study of sweet potato nutrition raw or fried, nutrition journal surmised that the oil helped convert more of the vitamin A. Frying anything as you know damages oil and makes it more saturated unless it was saturated to begin with. What if you cooked them just enough to mash them and added ground flax or chia seeds? Or better yet, what if you put 1 whole cooked sweet potato, a handful of frozen raw Cranberries & Rasberries, a cup of pre-soaked Chia seeds, a cup of soft Sprouted Tofu, a tablespoon of raw Cocoa, a teaspoon of mixed Clove/Cinnamon, a teaspoon of Amla Powder (Indian Gooseberries) and a teaspoon of Stevia leaf with cold lemon water into a blender and made a putting that could be thickened afterward if too watery with oat bran & reblended to perfection? I top this off with Walnuts and it is my favorite desert after dinner, Talk about an antioxidant rich meal! Jay

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