“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”  ~ Anthony Robbins

It’s that time of year again – Thanksgiving is only a week away. Can you believe it? Whoa.  For some, Thanksgiving can be a stressful time - people may resort to their teenage self when gathering with family to celebrate.  Others might be looking forward to Black Friday so they can wait in line at 3 am. (I shall not judge).  For me, it’s a time to focus on modeling healthy traditions for my own children (ages 2 & 3) – traditions not highlighted by football and pumpkin pie.  

You see it’s my fourth Thanksgiving as a mom. And while I don’t claim to be any better of a parent than the next person doing her/his best, I have been mindful of what types of tradition my kids will grow up with. I thought I would share with you some guiding questions that helped me determine traditions I would be proud of.  Then, I will share traditions that my family initiated after considering the guiding questions.  It is my intent that you become a bit inspired and build upon / modify / develop your own traditions that model not only gratitude, but also healthy active living.

Guiding Questions:

  1. Are your traditions in line with the spirit of the Thanksgiving Holiday?
  2. Do you over consume, or do you serve and give back?
  3. Do your traditions demonstrate thanks to one another as well as to the environment?
  4. Are your traditions inclusive? Can the entire family be involved?
  5. Are your traditions ones that support healthy and active living?

Healthy and Active Ways to Serve and Model Gratitude 

  • Communicate with a local shelter (or other organization) and offer to serve a hot meal, or to deliver healthy bagged lunches.  We do this on Canadian Thanksgiving here in St. Louis.  It is almost shameful how much more I benefit from the activity than the residents. My partner and I bought organic, healthy food and made lunches to which residents stated, “Is this really for me?”  “This is sooo healthy.” “Thank you, God Bless You!”  The kids packed the bags (with our supervision – they are young) and passed them out.
  • Start your day off with physical activity.  It blew my mind when I moved to the US how so many people sat all day and watched others be active (re: football). It's nothing against football, but I just wondered why people weren't getting outside.  To ensure our holidays consist of physical activity, my partner and I run on Thanksgiving morning (we push our girls in the double bob ironman stroller we scored used).  [This year we are participating in a local 6 mile Turkey Trot at 8 a.m.] By beginning our day this way, it sets the tone for a healthy day and makes us feel better (just like it does every other day).
  • Offer to bring healthy options if you join others for a Thanksgiving gathering.  My mother-in-law is a fantastic cook!  When I offered to take roasted sweet potato fries, cauliflower, and a big green salad (for US Thanksgiving last year)– she was thrilled.  I take these three healthy options so that a) she has help and b) people have healthy options.  Once you put three healthy options on your plate, there is less room to make unhealthy choices. And, if you feel like having seconds (it is a Thanksgiving feast after all) go for the second helping of the roasted veggies.  This year, the cauliflower is coming from our own 'harvest'.  How cool that we will be giving thanks to the harvest just as the original feast did?
  • Get back outside!  When you finish eating your Thanksgiving dinner, we do what we do every night after dinner.  Bundle up and go for a walk as a family. Talk about what you are grateful for in life and qualities that one another possess.  Sure, it's warm and fuzzy - but the world could use a little more warm and fuzzy these days.  Don't you think?

Through physical activity, I am never at a loss for gratitude.  Connecting with nature reminds me daily just how much I have to be grateful for.  I also am aware of the literature on the power of role modeling.  Our kids notice what we do and what we say. So, I’m proud the traditions we are making include service, healthy foods, and physical activity.

We are such a small dash on the earth – and even a smaller dash in time.  Each day we should take time to reflect and be grateful for this gift of life.  Each day we should choose to nourish our bodies in a way that it has evolved to be nourished.  Despite what morning “news” shows are selling, it’s not about fitting into a certain dress size this holiday season.  It’s about eating well and moving lots so that you can feel your best and live life to its fullest potential. This potential includes finding ways to serve others healthily (in the community and at home) in terms of both foods and behaviors.

(NOTE: I’m also grateful to Sarah for inviting me to contribute to her blog, and to you for reading this post. Thank you.) 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Amanda Stanec, PhD, is a mother, speaker, writer, Boston qualifier and wellness consultant. Follow her on Twitter to learn more about living a healthy life! 








(Cover photo credit: Nathan Van Arsdale)