By Mario Balcita, HOPE Youth Program Coordinator
Less than 30 days ago, little people dressed in marketing tools with some resemblance of festive costumes scurried around neighborhoods threatening us with cuteness while bidding for sugary confections all across this country. We bended to the will of the adorable little monsters and carelessly tossed hordes of candy at them without thinking about what mass amounts of sugar does to their growing bodies because we already consumed half the candy we had intended to share. With eyes glassed over, this celebration is the first in a series I call the “Holiday Diabetic Trinity.” The time of year when unhealthy destructive behavior is celebrated, no almost required.
While we round out first base headed towards second with the taste of orange colored covered sugar still lingering on our palates, we approach the second holiday in the trinity; turkey day. The day when we gorge ourselves into a food induced vegetative state to commemorate an almost mythical meal that was shared between the Wampanoag leaders and English pilgrims. This is when we really get into the holiday spirit. We candy yams, add bacon to almost every vegetable, treat pie like it’s the last food we are ever going to eat, and then we wash it all down with bubbly soda, wine or other festive spirits. Again, paying no heed to what this does to our bodies.
Our approach to third base about 30 days after our all-consuming turkey fest is a run towards the 3rd celebration of the diabetic trinity. It’s when visions of sugar plums are dancing on air and we celebrate Christmahanakwanza. We consume a lot. We purchase gifts that are deemed worthy by commercials’ jingles that stay in our heads for a lifetime. We have parties at work and school with cookies and white elephant gift exchanges. We have special holiday versions of coffee, soda, and alcohol to get us in the spirit. All leading us towards home plate to yet another ginormous meal that leaves us dizzy just waiting out the time until we go for seconds.
While I will probably be half asleep with a plate of turkey, stuffing, and gravy on my couch this time of year, I have to wonder how all this food impacts us. I grew up poor. And like many other poor people of color, my family has learned to thrive in a world that has systematically sought to destroy us. We have carried on traditions using foods that are not healthy, but damn good. But poor people of color’s health are disproportionally affected by sugar. So what is the balance? How do we continue our traditions yet remain healthy? Yea, I can consume less sugar during the Diabetic Holiday Trinity. What is the balance between personal responsibility and holding systems accountable? Of course I can share more plant based food with my family on turkey day. But what about all the other things that poor people of color are dealing with?
Every year, I try to support healthier food choices during the holidays for myself and my family. And, every year it feels like a betrayal to the family history and traditions we have carried on in spite of being poor or dealing with racism. But I want my family to live well. So I ask you, how are you and your family celebrating the Diabetic Holiday Trinity?