Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Monday, March 21, 2016
I want you to picture the Costco-sized container of hamantashen sitting on my parents’ marble countertop on Long Island, begging to be eaten. When I was a child, we would pack special Purim baskets, mishloach manot, to give to friends and family. They were full of peanut chews, pretzels, Hershey kisses and, of course, hamantashen. I sat there filling the cute little decorative boxes that had “BERNSTEINS” emblazoned on the front.
Unfortunately, more hamantashen got into my mouth than into the baskets. It was like the Looney Toons cartoon where a mobster gives out money to his gang, counting, “One for you, one for me. Two for you…One, two for me…” It was fun and carefree, not a big deal. But this kind of behavior made me significantly overweight by the time I was 16. That was when I started Weight Watchers, lost over 50 pounds and changed the course of my life.
I am a big fan of mindful eating, but once I started following the points plan I also resented having to be so precise about what I ate. Why couldn’t I just eat until a button popped? Better yet, why couldn’t I be that person who could eat what she wanted and still stay thin?! (I hear those mythical creatures actually exist.) I was so focused on my new self-control that I never allowed myself a “night off.” But this control sometimes backfired. Being too strict triggered some enormous binge fests. So I began to ask if there a way to relieve some of the pressure of always being so good, without running the risk of falling back into old habits? Can we plan to go a little crazy?
Purim offers a little guidance on this subject matter. In a nutshell, the evil Haman wanted to wipe out the Jews, especially Mordechai, but in the end, it was Haman and his people who got the noose, and the original plan was turned on its head.
That is why Purim is a wacky night. It is the Jewish “opposite day,” so much so that the rabbis in the Talmud said that a person is obligated to become so drunk [with wine] on Purim that he or she cannot tell the difference between the cursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai. We dress up in costumes, eat elaborate feasts and just have a good time.
The anthropologist in me sees the connection between Purim, Carnevale and Mardi Gras. These are somewhat sanctioned nights of “letting go.” It’s a valve that releases the pressure of our strict expectations.
We can apply the same concept to eating. It’s unreasonable to expect that I will never eat an eggplant Parm hero (my Achilles heel) or enjoy a few hamantashen on my favorite holiday. It’s important to make room and decide how we want to splurge on something that is worth it.
Once a month I would eat carefully all week and save up points for an entire hero. For others, it’s the cocktail hour at a wedding or 4th of July barbecue. We can foresee a night in which we want to relax with something really tasty and save up to splurge. Then we just get back on track at the next meal. It’s about feeling less deprived.
Sometimes you have to plan to be a little out of control.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
BUT it has all of the the food pitfalls of all of the other holidays. Even though I don't eat Turkey (gobble gobble), I do usually have to loosen my belt or wear something with an elastic waist band on T-day. Here is the quicksand I usually find myself in during this sumptuous holiday:
1. If I don't eat, _______________, it's not Thanksgiving. What is your fill-in-the-blank? Pumpkin pie? Pecan pie (drooling, glahhhrg). Stuffing (glahhhrg again). When I wasn't a vegetarian, my favorite was a fork prepared with three items all stacked on my tongs ready to invade my mouth in this order, Turkey-Stuffing-cranberry sauce (regretting vegetarianism right now). Somehow the food makes the holiday. Will I feel satisfied without my favorites?
2. I'm enjoying myself and want to add to the pleasure with various caloric and delicious accoutrement like wine and deviled eggs.... mmmmm, mayonnaise goodness. Oooh, ooh, I just remembered the biscotti that my hubby's cousin makes. TO DIE FOR. As I said last week, sugar loves sugar, and pleasure loves pleasure, so I end of wanting to marbim besimcha, increase my joy with joyous foods.
3. I'm feeling anxious. There is something about seeing family that you only encounter once a year that makes you defend yourself and life circumstances, even if it's just in your head. There must be some sort of ligament in my arm that is attached to the area in my brain for small talk because I end up mindlessly shoving forkfuls of stuffing in my pie hole every time I answer questions about what it's like to be a rabbi on Long Island. In reality, I should be stuffing it in my stuffing hole, but that is neither here nor there.
4. I don't want to hurt anyone's feeling by not eating their food. Does this sound familiar, "honey, just try a sliver for Grandma Silvia (note there is no Grandma Silvia in my life)." Even if it is not explicitly said, you still don't want to hurt imaginary or real feelings, by "ignoring" someone's dish whose stove must be very hot because they were slaving over it. I end up over eating because I don't want to hurt other people's feelings. What about my feelings??
5. Leftovers. Leftovers. Leftovers. You end up eating the same foods again and again.
OK OK. Now that the pitfalls have been discussed, here are some SURVIVAL TIPS. Thanks to my meeting for inspiring many of these ideas:
1. Don't starve yourself the day of. Being ravenous only leads you to eat more later on. Eat a small, but substantial enough, meal like an omelet or yogurt with nuts.
2. If there is nothing "on plan" for you to eat at your meal, bring a dish that will make you satisfied and proud of yourself. You are worth the effort and most hosts will welcome some extra help.
3. Eat your main meal on a salad plate. This small swap actually works and you end up eating less. If you go back for seconds it's still less than if you ate on those platters we call plates.
4. Remember that when you say YES to someone else, you are saying NO to yourself. We deserve YES too (thanks for this tip, Stacey).
5. How to say YES to yourself in constructive ways: Treat yourself to something just for you that morning or the day before. I go out specifically to get a skinny vanilla latte that morning. It helps me get out of the house and the act of treating myself reminds me that when I say YES to myself in ways that are healthy and make me happy, I can make better choices later.
5. Move a little more:
A. Add 5 minutes to your jog or walk that morning.
B. In the middle of the meal, pause, and walk up and down the stairs a couple of times.
C. Start a walking revolution. Invite other guests to walk around the block between the main meal and dessert. Don't forget to help clear first (Thanks, Joann for this tip)!
6. Keep your hands busy and have a special cup/drink that is no calorie, to inhibit your hands from picking.
7. Decide if you are willing to take a weight gain, a plateau, or if you want to lose. Everyone else will have different goals. If you're good with a weigh gain, how much? To each, his or her own and if Thanksgiving is your absolute FAV then maybe you're good with a bigger number on the scale. You can recover and rededicate the next day or next week.
8. Give away, throw away, or freeze leftovers. 'Nuff Said
I have now shared all of my wisdom and have none left. I hope you leave your meals feeling satisfied. Some people say that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. Not my favorite saying. On Thanksgiving, the food tastes pretty damn good. But being satisfied with your choices and having control is glorious.
Perhaps we could say, "nothing tastes as good as being proud of yourself feels."
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Monday, October 19, 2015
So, what do you do? Lately I have been naming the emotion, literally saying out loud, "I am panicked because..." Naming the feeling doesn't remove the pain but it does allow it to settle with less frenzy.
Weight loss is not only about food management and exercise. It's about the inner world of the individual. I know how many points are in a bagel. I don't need my meeting leader or friends for that. But each week, new challenges are sent my way and each week I need new inspiration, a different perspective, and refreshed commitment to help navigate the tension in my inner and outer life. Sometimes, when we lean into the tension, call it to us and don't let it wander our way, we not only feel more in control, but we feel more satisfied and we're willing to challenge ourselves and grow.