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A Defense Of Holiday Feasts

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When the Pilgrims came to America and Thanksgiving was born, it was a time for reflection, reward and thanks. Centuries later, the reflection focuses more on how much one will eat during the holidays, rather than reflecting on what we are thankful for -- a real downer during the holidays.

In preparation for their Thanksgiving meal, the Pilgrims worked hard to catch the wild turkeys and gather their food. In preparation for our Thanksgiving meal, we drive to the local supermarket, buy a frozen turkey, drive back home, and on Thanksgiving Day, stick the turkey in the oven. Though one may think that preparing a Thanksgiving meal is hard work, and it is, it just does not compare to the level of physical activity expended by the Pilgrims. This lack of activity really shows.

Approximately one-third of all American adults are obese, and about one-sixth of all American children and adolescents are obese. A typical Thanksgiving meal with all of the classic fixin's now contains around 2,500 calories. That means that one would need to walk a marathon to burn off that one meal.

But it is exactly that -- only one meal. One holiday meal shouldn't be the subject of so much scrutiny.

Whether, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, we eat to live or live to eat, eating is an integral aspect of our social and biological lives.

Why shouldn't we focus our holiday get-togethers around food when, biologically, eating makes us feel good? Part of the reward one gets is not the meal itself, but dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain, which is associated with your body's natural reward system. When you eat, the dopamine concentration in your brain more than doubles.

Today, most people sit down together at the Thanksgiving table expecting to overeat. And what's wrong with that? During this holiday, families are together, people travel long distances to be with each other, and the focus should be on the time spent with one another and being thankful.

Do you believe we need to sacrifice this holiday tradition for our health?