12/20/2013 02:03 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2014

Mindful Matters

Our post-Thanksgiving meeting served up the topic of family and holiday traditions- another universal source of unhealthy habits.

Some Culinary Confessions
One Jewish woman confessed that she partakes in the Chinese-food-on-Christmas tradition. Another shared the food and drink-heavy tendencies of her young professional Shabbat dinners. A Lebanese Christian participant shared her family tradition that when someone passes away, everyone eats a commemorative bowl of their favorite ice cream. A Palestinian Christian woman's family prepares German spice cookies during Christmas time from her grandmother's old recipe... starring Crisco as the lead ingredient. Another woman makes her annual Thanksgiving stuffing with literally a pound wheel of brie cheese.

These family and religious traditions all revolve around food.. but not the most nutrient dense choices. We all agreed that Slim Peace has given us the tools to be more mindful -- and that perhaps next time we will order the steamed vegetables, have only one scoop of ice cream, or create a non-Crisco version of our favorite cookie recipe. Participants brainstormed ways to resist the temptations of holiday gastroculture -- reaching out to Slim Peace sisters for support, resisting second servings and replacing traditional recipes with healthier alternatives.

Middle East
Whether you are in Jerusalem, downtown D.C. or a college campus, social norms are changing. Our group discussed how people are more likely to be glued to their smart phone screens than mingling with "the other" -- the other person who commutes at the same time every day on your bus.. the other Arab family that lives around the corner or the neighbor in your dorm building. For the first time, we brought up our respective travels to the Middle East -- birthright trips to Israel, cultural programs in the West Bank, or internships in Nazareth. We compared how we felt about security, the military presence and safety. One participant felt anxious traveling through checkpoints and border crossings on a group cultural program. Another felt completely fine traveling alone and didn't take much notice to the soldiers. One went on a program that had an armed soldier accompany every group outing. One hadn't been to Israel but would feel nervous traveling on public transportation. Regardless of the experience, we agreed that Slim Peace had changed our perspective of "the other" by listening to stories and experiences of fellow partners in the group.