Sweet Mother's Day treats, minus the calories

theGRIO REPORT - If the highlight of your Mother's Day is usually a three-hour brunch, consider breaking out of the brunch bind and treating yourself healthy this year...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

If the highlight of your Mother’s Day is usually a three-hour brunch complete with a syrupy Belgian waffle, breakfast sausage, cheese omelet and a fruit on the side, consider breaking out of the brunch bind and treating yourself to a healthy day this year.

An occasional hearty meal is OK, but when you focus first on the experience, and the company, of course, food moves into its rightful secondary place. We need to make this switch so we are eating because we’re hungry, not just because.

It’s that kind of thinking that has led to Black women holding the national records for highest rates of obesity and other attendant ailments like diabetes. And the more health complications we face, the less we are able to enjoy life fully.

Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be synonymous with a seam-stretching meal. Here are some healthy — and even free — ways to indulge yourself while making the experience, not the calories, count.

1. Give Yourself Permission to Do You. This might ruffle some feathers — who do you think you are, when folks have made plans for you? But think of all that you do for everybody else … all the time. And then declare Mother’s Day as your day to do yourself good. Invite folks to come along if they’d like, and make time to spend with Mom or aunties or surrogate Moms, but claim your own piece of Mother’s Day and guard it closely.

2. Get Your Giggles On. While research isn’t definitive on laughter’s direct effects on health, some studies have shown that humor leads to benefits like greater immune response to stress and lower blood sugar levels. We’re no scientists, but we all know from experience that laughter can help boost our spirits. So visit a comedy club or catch a funny flick. And if you’re in the minority of folks who haven’t seen it yet, check out Steve Harvey’s hilarious Think Like a Man.

3. Get Some Hands-On Healing. Massage, once considered just an alternative or complementary therapy, is now offered with standard treatment for some medical conditions. The soothing act of massage — rubbing, pressing and manipulating your skin, muscles, ligaments and tendons — has been shown to aid with, among other things, pain and stiffness, anxiety and depression management, stress relief, blood pressure control, boosting immunity and even cancer treatment. You can find massage therapy not just in spas, but in hospitals, clinics, and even airports.

4. Get Inspired. Visit a museum or gallery, catch a jazz brunch or attend a dance performance. If you’re further inspired, sign up for an art class or writing workshop, or learn to play the piano. Researchers have shown connections between the creative arts and health and healing. Whether you’re an observer or a participant, exposure to the arts can boost your mood, which influences your physical well-being.

5. Get a Green Mani-Pedi. Not green, the color, bu green, the impact on you and the environment. There’s a reason that nail technicians wear masks: they’re inhaling nasty toxins all day. Check your local listings for salons that offer eco-friendly manicures, using products free of synthetic dyes and preservatives and harsh chemicals. And check out the vegan-friendly brand Ginger + Liz, started in 2009 by two black women, featuring fun shades and funky names like “Put a Ring On It” and “Swagger.”

6. Get Lifted. Fill your morning with meditation. If you can’t remember the last time you’ve seen the inside of a house of worship, visit one. If you’re a regular at Sunday service, perhaps mix it up and visit the church of a friend. Tune in on satellite radio or log in to an online service and let the word and the music move you. Nourish yourself with the primary food of spiritual practice. Studies show that people who have a regular spiritual practice stay healthier and live longer.

7. Get Moving. Turn up your mp3 player and dance like nobody’s watching, or dust off your bike or skates or lace up your sneakers and move your body. We all know that exercise helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. But, new studies show that exercise also helps you think. Also, sun exposure helps your body produce Vitamin D, the nutrient that, among other benefits, has been shown to reduce heart disease risk among African-Americans. Many of us are Vitamin D-deficient because our skin’s darker melanin prevents our cells from producing the nutrient from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. So Mom, go outside and play.

Robin D. Stone, a New York-based journalist and author who writes often about health and healing, recently started HealthJones, a health and nutrition coaching practice. For Mother’s Day, weather permitting, she’ll be playing a round of golf.