At Christmastime, send your will to the gym

December 20, 2010

During this time of the year, when my favorite foods are so plentiful, I can go on a sweet-eating binge as fast as you can say “homemade fudge.” Which brings up the question I ask my wife every year: “Why do we need to make fudge?” “It is a Christmas tradition,” she says. To which I am likely to reply, “So is gaining five pounds. Some traditions we could do without.”
We have lots of things we like to do around Christmas, just like you. We read through the Christmas story, starting Dec. 1, and follow the story of the Messiah’s birth as it was foretold centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. We participate in Operation Christmas Child. More than the socks, toys, and candy, each shoebox gift is delivered by a local church and the pastor there will share the Gospel message that God sent Jesus “that the world through Him might be saved.”
We sing Christmas carols to neighbors or to shut-ins from our church, and take them a basket filled with goodies. We write a Christmas letter. On the night we decorate the Christmas tree, we make cookies, watch “The Christmas Carol,” and then the kids sleep with the tree. Ma in her kerchief and I in my cap … do not.
On Christmas morning, we gather in the living-room and read Luke 2 together, sing a Christmas carol and pray. Then after breakfast, we gather again in the living-room to open presents. The video camera is rolling, the kids are at the top of their game with funny comments, and the love that we share as a family is sweeter than the chocolate chip pie from Christmas Eve dinner.
Which brings me back around to eating too much during the holidays. I will exercise more this month in an effort to fight back, but in a way that’s like building a hospital at the bottom of a mountain instead of adding guardrails at the top. I need to send my will to the gym. The truth is, many of us simply have weak wills that need to be trained, not just for portion control at the table but for every other area of our lives. Our minds are quite capable, and we know much more than we have ever lived out. Our emotions are fully operational and ready to take over at a moment’s notice, and for many of us, lead the whole time. But our wills are puny, malnourished, 90-pound weaklings. That is why I can stand in front of the dessert table and have this conversation. My mind: “I just ate four thousand calories. I don’t need dessert.” My emotions:“ Oh, good grief, it is once a year. Besides, take a look at that pecan pie.” My will: “Uh…umm… well…”
You get the picture. My will can be an absolute wimp, which is why I need to develop it. Here are some tips from a book written by Helen Andelin in the 1960s. She gives three steps to take every day to help in training our wills, which I have adapted:
Do something unpleasant — take a cold shower, exercise, or eat health food you don’t like.
Do something difficult — do a hard job, stick to your diet, work on a difficult goal.
Demand quotas of yourself — get up at 4:30, get a specific job done at a given time, put your finances on a budget, read a book every month, have exercise goals.
I need this advice, and maybe some of you do as well. Merry Christmas, and happy training.

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