(A picture of a much younger Natala with her “Granny” and “Pa” at Christmas)
I grew up in a large Italian family. Christmas was a big deal growing up, my Granny would prepare for weeks getting ready for the big Christmas Eve meal. In Italian families, Christmas Eve is a really big deal, we celebrated “The Feast of the Seven Fishes” or as we called it “Oh Holy Fish Night”. It was a night about family, friends and a lot of food.
My Granny spent hours cooking, baking, decorating, all for this feast. We would eat for hours, each course more elaborate than the last. And the desserts! The long table was filled with all of the desserts you could ever imagine. Everyone loved Christmas Eve at my Granny’s house, it was kind of legendary.
After the big dinner, after everyone went home I’d stay up with my Granny past midnight, past bedtime. We’d sit in the kitchen, at the small round glass table, the lights would all be off except for the little night light and the christmas lights all around the house that were put up. We wouldn’t say much, we just sat together drinking sleepy time tea.
For a long time I thought that the holidays were about food. That is how I grew up. However, when my Granny passed away from complications of type 2 diabetes when I was 16 years old, I realized that I didn’t miss her cooking, I didn’t miss the eating, I missed those late nights in the dim lit kitchen. What I miss most is having her to talk to when I really need someone to talk to. What I missed most was not having her dance at my wedding.
My Granny suffered from T2 diabetes for a long time. At the end of her life (her late 50′s) the disease progressed to the point she had to be put on dialysis. She would eventually get an infection in her leg and when they told her it would have to be amputated she decided to stop dialysis, she did not want to suffer any longer. She died a few days after her decision to end treatment. Her life, taken far too early because of a disease that is 100% preventable and can be controlled and even reversed through diet.
I know this, because 9 years after her death I would become T2 diabetic, for 5 years I suffered with this horrible disease and I would also be told by doctors that an infection in my leg could lead to amputation. But my story did not end, like my Granny’s story. I found out about eating plant-strong. I changed my diet, changed my life and today I am medicine free, no more infections, no more neuropathy, no more suffering. I have my entire life ahead of me.
This year for Christmas my family will come in to town. We have the house decorated, the presents wrapped. But unlike the decades of celebrating with lots of disease causing food, we will enjoy a nice, plant-strong meal together. But most importantly, we will enjoy being together.
I am positive that had my Granny found out about eating plant-strong she would have done it in a heart-beat. I knew her well enough to know that she cared more about her family, her grandchildren, her friends, her life, than she did her food traditions. Would have it been hard for her? Absolutely. But is the cost of suffering and leaving this earth earlier than someone should, worth the taste of one meal? Absolutely not.
This year for Christmas I am celebrating the best gift I was ever given, the one of healthy living. To live a life with out needless suffering, to be ALIVE is something to celebrate. Make your food decisions ones to be celebrated. Focus on what really matters around the holidays, your family, your friends and the celebration of life. I don’t pretend that this change is an easy one for anyone, but the alternative is far too high of a price to pay.
I would give up every big Italian feast, every bite of (unhealthy) lasagna, every cookie, every piece of cake, if it meant just one more Christmas with my Granny.
So next year, do something for yourself, and do something for your family. Decide this is the year that you will become plant-strong, this is the year you will look back and remember that things turned around for you, that you decided that you did not want to live a life of suffering and that you did not want to leave this earth earlier than you need to.
Traditions are a part of us. Sometimes they can feel like they can not be changed or altered in anyway. The thing that many of us forget about traditions is that they are nothing with out the people who started them and keep them alive. It’s okay to change the way your family does things. Sit down with your family and talk about ways to celebrate health and ways to become healthy as a family.
We here at Engine 2 will be there for you through all of the ups and downs. We want to see you happy and healthy. Above all we wish you a happy and plant-strong holiday season.
—This post was written by Natala Constantine part of the Engine 2 Diet team.