Healthy Happy Santas?
Is Santa a Health Promoting Professional? Apparently, he has aspirations!
Good old Saint Nick is getting with the program - eating healthier, slimming down and opting for surfing over sleigh rides—and he and the missus are eager to share their energized lifestyle with children and their parents.
Richard Eckfield's Sustainable Santa is a "real bearded Santa" who lost more than 80 pounds through exercise and diet. Now his ambition is to "refocus America's kids from wolfing down fast foods and treats to the joy of eating whole foods"—and he wants to switch up the place for taking your picture with Santa "from the mall to the farmers' market."
Eckfield travels around the state to community gatherings such as farmers' markets, seed shows and concerts, where, in a Santa suit often worn with red tennis shoes, he presents to children a fit, contemporary contrast to the image of the blithe fat man wreathed in smoke conjured by the poem, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."
"He's 191 years out of date," says Sustainable Santa of the traditional Santa. "We're anxious to have Santa be the counselor who urges kids to eat healthy and live a sustainable lifestyle."
Eckfield and wife, Helen Nielsen, have developed a three-step plan to encourage fellow "real bearded Santas" to introduce healthy living concepts to kids.
Step one encourages Santas to share three "Food Rules," inspired by food journalist Michael Pollan. Eckfield says it takes just seconds for a Santa to teach a child these simple rules, such as "If you are hungry, eat an apple. If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you're probably not hungry." So far, they've taught the rules to more than 400 Santas.
Step two is to begin the process of placing "Healthy, Happy Santas" into farmers' markets where it's easy to embolden kids to try new fruits and vegetables (eat the rainbow!) and even fermented foods.
The passion Sustainable Santa feels for his mission is apparent in his voice when he talks about the positive effect a few words from Santa can have on a child.
"The bottom line is Santa is still Santa, and Santa clearly cares. If Santa says 'try this,' kids are likely to try it with an open mind." He says the aha moment he sees most frequently is when a child bites into a raw vegetable, often to the astonishment of mom and dad. "I see the child eating it, turning around and saying 'Wow, this tastes good!'"
Santa is not a marketing tool.
The IRN supports this important movement to take back Santa from ambitious marketers who want you to believe Santa is a jolly purveyor of sugary beverages and processed foods. The modern image of Santa was shaped by soda pop marketing.
The original version of this story was written by Kay Ledger and published in Edible San Diego. More stories to come about the Healthy Happy Santa movement.
Articles about Sustainable Santa and the Healthy Happy Santa Movement:
- Eclectic Encinitas
- Seaside Courier
- Coast News
Christmas 2015 Issue of Nordstjernan: Feature story: “Sweden inspires Santa’s lessons” is found on pages 1, 4-5
- Paso Robles Magazine 2015 Christmas Issue
- Making Farmers' Markets Sparkle at Holiday Time in Winter Issue of Heirloom Gardner Magazine
- 2016 Real Bearded Santas Newsletter
- International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas
- Santa & Mrs. Claus for Healthy Kids Facebook Page
- Farmers' Market Santas Give the Gift of Health
Reflections on the 10 most important things Sustainable Santa learned at this year’s Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, CA September 6-8, 2016; and at the Real Food Fun event on diet and metabolic health sponsored by the Institute for Responsible Nutrition (IRN) in Palo Alto, September 8, 2016.
Real Santas United!
Richard Eckfield and wife Helen Nielsen