Dear Chuck: As you know, at its heart Christmas is about spiritual things. But in light of all the Christmas candies, foods and parties, do you think spirituality has anything to do with health and fitness? – Sophia B., Grand Rapids, Mich.

Being one week away from Christmas, there couldn’t be a better time to emphasize my last pillar to build a better you: Feed yourself spiritually.

Healthcare professionals have long known there are integral workings among the human body, mind and spirit.

For example, for about 60 years, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has been presenting the Institute for Spirituality and Medicine. With its long list of speakers, from theologians and reverends to physicians and doctors of philosophy, it annually examines the latest in links among spirituality, physiology and genetics.

Johns Hopkins University even produced a 27-minute film, “‘Give Me Strength’: Spirituality in the Medical Encounter,” moderated by renowned pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson and designed to educate physicians and other health care professionals about issues concerning spirituality and health. The Web-posted film discusses recent research linking spirituality to improved health outcomes and offers training for health professionals through clinical role-playing.

Thousands of health care professionals concur that one’s religious practice contributes to his total well-being, including the National Cancer Institute, the Mayo Clinic, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and many universities around the world.

The fact is that we are more than physical beings. We are holistic creatures. Your body is more than a shell. It houses an eternal spirit, and how you nourish it affects your mind, body and soul. They are all interrelated. And we need not only to nourish each in a balanced way but also to reawaken the American spirit to the human spirit.

This is America, and we should respect religious diversity but not be ashamed to hold our own.

I fall in line with what Founding Father Benjamin Rush – a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a member of the presidential administrations of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – wrote: “Such is my veneration for every religion that reveals the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments, that I had rather see the opinions of Confucius or Mohammed inculcated upon our youth than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles. But the religion I mean to recommend in this place is that of the New Testament.”

But often overlooked, even by its followers, is how the Bible also addresses basic issues of health and nutrition. Though one must be careful not to become legalistic about it, it truly is a spiritual book that also addresses our physical needs.

For example, the Scriptures proclaim, “(Faith) will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

They also admonish, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

Even Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

The fact is that he ate a Mediterranean diet heavy with whole grains, fish and olive oil and light on processed foods, so he even serves as a model of what is best to consume.

That is the heart of a great health and fitness book by Dr. Don Colbert, “What Would Jesus Eat?” – something Colbert calls “The Ultimate Program for Eating Well, Feeling Great and Living Longer.” In it, he addresses how even the food laws used in the Old Testament, such as not eating unclean animals (e.g., pigs) and only consuming meat after completely draining it of blood, align with contemporary wisdom on nutrition.

One more reason to celebrate the reason for this eating season!

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