Stop Abuse

                                                                                    a pair of hands with stop abuse written on them

Soon we’ll be facing holiday traditions that are based upon feasting: turkey, dressing, gravy, candied yams, yeast rolls, butter, jam, pumpkin, apple and pecan pies, cranberry sauce, glazed ham, eggnog, cheese balls, crackers, cookies, candy, fruit cakes, nut breads, fudge, confectionary treats, peppermint ice cream, pancakes, waffles, sausages, bacon; just to name a few.

As a culture, I think its time we seriously evaluate our traditions. 

If a tradition abuses the body, why participate in it?

If a tradition promotes disease, why do it?


                                                modern day norman rockwell like painting of thanksgiving

                                                                  image credit:


  • accepted rules and standards of human behavior (Wikipedia)
  • pertaining to the distinction between right and wrong (

 As a nation, perhaps it’s time we raise our morals and stop abuse. 

Will you be promoting food abuse this holiday season; or stopping it?

Let's dialogue.  What are your plans to eat for health during the holidays?

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Comments (19) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Denise - November 19, 2009 8:35 AM

I am participating in family time. I am bringing 3 side dishes (green beans, brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes) and those will be the things I will eat.

Deana Ferreri - November 19, 2009 9:31 AM

Talk of the harmful "traditions" around this time of year always make me think of the short story "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. This story does a very good job of demonstrating the absurdity of the tradition argument. Google it!

Kim Belanger-Mills - November 19, 2009 9:39 AM

We started our own tradition... first we celebrate 'Yule' from Dec 21-31 and we have a dinner at our place once during that 10 days where we invite others and have healthier choices (no white flour or sugar).

Sue Hull - November 19, 2009 10:28 AM

The tradition is based on being thankful. Are we not thankful? I think it is important to take the time to recognize how blessed we are. It keeps us from being arrogant. What we eat while being thankful can be whatever we want it to be.

If you are in charge of the Thanksgiving meal (and it helps to quit calling it Turkey Day!!!), you can serve whatever you want. The turkey itself isn't so bad (even in EFH stage 4 you can eat 2 servings of animal a week), it's all the stuff surrounding it, but those can be changed, or new traditions can be started. There is lots of help out there in the form of cookbooks, such as "Hallelujah Holiday Recipes from God's Garden" by Rhonda Malkmus (at, or either of the Neva Brackett cookbooks (look her up on Amazon). Those are only a few suggestions of many.

If you are not in charge of the meal, you can do as a friend above said and contribute the the meal something you would like to eat like salad, or veggies, or a fruit salad (or all three).

This is nothing to get up in arms about. Just make the tradition of thankfulness fit your lifestyle. I endorse gratitude, and some of the things I am most grateful for are the variety of foods available to us, the ingenious ways people have discovered to make them yummy, and the education we have received from Dr. Fuhrman and others to make us truly healthy -- so we can enjoy all the other things we are thankful for!


David Meyer - November 19, 2009 10:50 AM

Thanksgiving is very difficult for me. We make fairly healthy food. I always make a huge salad, but my dad always wants a tofurkey.

I struggle with him alot, because ever since he gave up meat he thinks he is immune to any disease in the world and eats processed foods and large amounts of dairy products too.

Our family has seen some pretty devestating deaths from disease so I convinced my dad to read the China Study. Unfortunately he walked away from it with the message if you avoid meat then you become super human.

I think Dr. Fuhrman is doing alot of good pointing out the dangers of "all" processed food even vegan processed food.

Matt Stone - November 19, 2009 11:18 AM

A bigger question is why holiday traditions hurt us, but didn't hurt people in the past.

I'm guessing that the new editions to the celebratory meals had a lot to do with it.

Dem pilgrims didn't have white flour, white sugar, artificial coloring, flavor enhancers, chocolate, nitrates, and marshmallows. To compare our current holidary traditions to tradition in general is a huge faux pas. Those are new foods, not traditional foods. Our holiday meals are not tradition. If they were, there wouldn't be a need for an article like this.

Jennifer McCann - November 19, 2009 11:51 AM

This year I'm making Cabbage Rolls for a healthy, ETL-friendly vegan main dish. The recipe is in my latest cookbook -- a nut-bean-brown rice loaf rolled in cabbage leaves and baked. There is no oil and very little salt, but people still love them.

Adding a plain baked sweet potato or winter squash, Brussels sprouts, green salad, and fresh fruit sounds like a wonderful feast to me!

Deana Ferreri - November 19, 2009 12:09 PM

Matt, I agree - I think that's what Emily is referring to, our current traditions.

The pilgrims didn't have turkey either. Our holiday meals are a modern tradition.

Emily Boller - November 19, 2009 12:13 PM

Sadly to say, new SAD traditions have replaced old, health supporting traditions for many; at least in the part of the US where I live.

Like the old saying goes, "Any activity repeated twice becomes a tradition."

Stephanie - November 19, 2009 12:49 PM

My history teacher in high school liked to make a distinction between a "practice" and a "tradition." A practice, he said, was something that people had gotten accustomed to doing, but that hadn't been around long enough to become a tradition. I'd say, in agreement with the comments above, that there's a distinction to be made between the tradition of Thanksgiving and the practice we've gotten into of having SUPER unhealthful foods over the holidays. Fortunately, we still have time to change our practices before they become traditions.

Personally, I'm going to be eating ETL dishes that I love on Thanksgiving Day and some sort of healthy dessert. I'm looking forward to it immensely, not for the junk, but for the super-healthful, super-delicious meal I'll be having instead.

aunt cia - November 19, 2009 5:21 PM

I like the ideas posted above. Thanks to all who took the time to share. I agree, we have "progressed" so far from the Pilgrims style of eating (I'm sure they didn't eat 100% ETL either) and have gotten used to much less activity than they had, much more sedentary in our lifestyles! I am hosting my husband's family for Thanksgiving but everyone is bringing something. My part of the meal will be a huge colorful tossed salad and a clear glass bowl full of fruit salad. Those foods I will eat with gusto. I am also serving farm raised chicken with "my" version of cranberry sauce. That dish will only get tasted by me while cooking it. Let us be thankful for all the blessings we have, especially the availability of these healthy foods!

kswk - November 20, 2009 12:13 AM

Yes, the focus should be on being THANKFUL, so I am having a huge taco/burrito bar at my house. People are bringing sides for the tacos/burritos and I will supply the whole wheat and corn tortillas. We will also have Spanish style rice. There will be lots of romaine, salsa, olives, avocado, onions, beans of all sorts (black, pinto, kidney, etc...) to top the tacos and burritos. Children love this too! This is a beautiful feast of color and not just white and tan food.

JS - November 20, 2009 10:24 AM

We are vegetarian, so we usually don't have as much of a problem overeating at Thanksgiving anymore - the relatives make things that we don't eat even on a bad day. Last year I brought a huge pan of seasoned roasted vegetables (YUM) and a big green salad with walnuts and cranberries and sliced apples to my husband's small family gathering and we had leftovers for a couple of days. This year we will probably do something similar, plus we are adding the practice we started on Halloween: getting up early and running in a 5k before we head out of town.

We haven't been to my family's for Thanksgiving in a couple of years (we go for Christmas) but it's very hard for me to watch. I have a huge family of 26 people, and my husband and I, parents, brother, and one cousin are the only ones who eat any vegetables at all. My uncle and cousins say anything I bring is too "exotic" for them to even taste (I cook very simply and make a lot of salads with only 3 or 4 ingredients) because it isn't brisket and buttered mashed potatoes. Obesity and diabetes are rampant in my family, and even though many of these people annoy the crap out of me, I love them and have a hard time watching them poison themselves. It's not that I'm holier-than-thou, because I'm overweight and still have a long way to go before I'm in perfect health, but it makes me sad to see them cheerfully being this way and raising their children to think it's normal to eat garbage every day and celebrate special occasions by eating more garbage. It's easier for me to go home for visits on days that aren't holidays.

Nicholina - November 20, 2009 2:05 PM

This year, just my small family of three is going to a fire lookout tower for Thanksgiving. We have to snowshoe in just over three miles and will stay for two nights. We're taking some favorite treat type foods, but little or none of the usual suspects associated with Thanksgiving. Treats, over the course of the few days, will include things like raw almond butter with cinnamon and a sprinkle of vegan, grain sweetened chocolate chips in whole wheat pita pockets as well as mashed, nothing added, sweet potatoes. We'll also have plenty of fruit and veggies to snack on. :)

In past years, we've just taken a lot of food to share to make sure we had enough to eat. A favorite is a dish we call unstuffed squash with a bottom layer of cooked squash of choice, topped with a mix of black beans, tomato sauce seasoned with chili powder, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and quinoa and then baked. Yum! I also always make vegan, whole grain, very low fat dinner rolls because it's my daughter's favorite part of holiday meals.

Tiltmom - November 20, 2009 4:46 PM

I'm breaking from the pack here.

Every family is different and I know mine pretty well. My husband, kids and myself live ETL 360+ days a year. I hope to encourage my extended family (siblings, parents, etc.) to adopt a more ETL lifestyle, and I lead by example 99% of the time.

That said, anything that would seem to undermine our long family tradition (or to be passively critical of it) would put them off. If our one annual family meal (Thanksgiving is the only holiday when we're all together) is perceived by my extended family as my immediate family looking askance at them, or it paints us as outsiders, I will have no hope of winning them over to this way of life. They need to know that they don't have to give up the few things they hold dear to be healthier.

Tday is the one day a year that I don't impose my values on my extended family. And by not doing so, I feel certain that I have much more leverage the other 364 days.

Bob - November 20, 2009 6:17 PM

I strongly disagree with Tiltmom. While you can do whatever you think is right for you and your famnily, I don't think your arguments make a lot of sense.

The idea is not to try to "win" people over with the ETL way of living or show them that we can be "normal" once or twice a year by eating the same food they eat.

The idea is to show this is a great way to eat every day and be happy doing it. If you really are living ETL 99% of the time, then you most likely enjoy it every day. Are you really enjoying eating the SAD food on Thanksgiving like everyone else? I really doubt it.

I think you are simply lacking the self-confidence to just eat what you like and believe is healthy. You are caving in to social pressure and try to be like everyone else in order to fit in. A good leader and someone who is confident is not afraid to be different and to show the way to others. Even if people make fun of you, so what? Just go with their jokes. Don't argue. You can have relationships that are not based on food preferences. You will only have relationship problems if you force your beliefs on other people (same logic applies to other areas such as politics or religion).

I think people should be proud to be ETL all year round, even on Thanksgiving. The best way to behave is to lead by example and show how healthy and happy you are with this way of life. You don't have to try to convince people or try to convert them. You just have to be true to yourself. Bring some good food to the party and eat your food. Don't pass judgments on the food others eat on that day if you want to avoid lengthy discussions that lead nowhere.

If you cave in on Thanksgiving, you are only sending the message that your way of life is restrictive, hard and even unhealthy, and as such having a break once a year on Thanksgiving is the most "liberating" thing you afford yourself to do.

If people perceive you as weird and avoid you because of your food preferences, you need to look at yourself in the mirror and seriously question yourself. Are you pushing your way of living or passing judgments on them? If yes, you need to stop immediately. Just share with those who ask without getting into a debate. And if people really avoid you because of your food preference - and not the way you behave around food - then perhaps it's not the worst thing in the world if your interactions with them are limited as these people simply do not appreciate you for who you are.

Good luck

Tiltmom - November 24, 2009 9:31 PM

Bob, I think you read an awful lot into my comment that wasn't there, and are generalizing far beyond that.

At Tday, my family will be guests in my brother's home. It's not a potluck -- we all don't bring dishes. I can bring my own food and eat that, but some people (including my extended family, and particularly my brother's wife) would consider that an act of aggression.

Do I enjoy eating SAD food on Thanksgiving? Not as much as I enjoy eating what I make in my own home. I don't like taking my shoes off indoors, either, but when I'm in the home of someone who wants their guests to take their shoes off, I do that, too.

I am not caving to pressure to fit in. I am being considerate of my family on the one day a year that we're all together. ETL is an important part of my life, but it is not the most important. There are values I hold more dear, and sometimes ETL takes a back seat to them. A slice of turkey, some mashed sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce (all sub-optimally prepared) one day a year won't kill me, nor do I agree it sends the message that my way of life is restrictive, hard, or unhealthy.

If anything, bringing my own food to someone else's home does a much better job of sending a message that my way of life is restrictive and difficult -- at least that's how my family would perceive it. Tday isn't the day I choose to "be a good leader" -- it's a day I choose to exist in harmony with people I don't see often enough.

I'm even going to take off my shoes.

Emily Boller - November 25, 2009 8:08 PM

Stimulating dialogue everyone ~ thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Whether one wants to put aside nutritarian eating for the sake of unity of everyone involved at a holiday gathering or not; I think it is vitally important for each of us to honestly evaluate our own situation(s).

For some who are NOT strongly pulled by the lure of SAD food addiction, an occasional detour can be managed without a problem. For others, the slightest detour will unravel weeks and months of nutritarian progress.

For someone overcoming nicotine addiction, it is not wise to smoke an "occasional" cigarette. Likewise, for many of us, it is unwise to re-enter the SAD arena; even an occasional detour.

Bottom line, it is important for each of us to know our limitations, establish clear boundaries and live within them.

That is where freedom abounds; and freedom is where health abounds.

Freedom to all!

Tiltmom - November 26, 2009 11:57 AM

Emily, those are good points. I should point out that I don't think of Tday as a "cheat" day because none of what will be served is among my trigger foods. [It's never been a big "food" holiday for me, even when I was eating SAD. I was more of a 4th of July bbq girl myself.] This is more akin to having to attend a business meeting at a restaurant with sub-optimal choices. Even Tday desserts don't appeal because I'm more birthday cake than pumpkin pie.

As long as no one sets out a bag of goji berries* in lieu of cranberry sauce, I'll be fine.

[And besides, I just finished a 20 oz blended salad. I won't be very hungry for a while.]

Freedom to all, indeed!

* My one true trigger food above all others. I often refer to goji berries as Tibetan buddhist crackberries

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