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Beating Kevin

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Survival Guide

I think it is safe to say that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I can travel (unlike many Jewish holidays), I don't have to host (thanks to my generous and organized mother-in-law, Carol), and I don't have to deliver a sermon!!!

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

Sugar Loves Sugar

I heard this phrase, "sugar loves sugar," from a woman in my meeting and I understood right away. You have a crazy hankering for something sweet. You pop a weight watchers bar in your mouth, thinking it will do the trick, but it doesn't. You chug some diet coke, go into the freezer and chip away at frozen chocolate cake. Suddenly you have consumed an entire bag of kettle corn popcorn and you finally wake up. Something stops you finally and you only wish that this sudden halt would have happened an hour ago. 

SUGAR LOVES SUGAR. Eating something sweet just leads you down the rabbit hole. This isn't to say that this is always true, sometimes (when?) one Hershey Kiss is enough (what am I saying?). But often we find ourselves sliding down that slippery slope. And we have blown our extra weekly points and feel so out of control that we might as well not even calculate the damage. 

It reminds me of a teaching from Pirkei Avot: "Mitzvah goreret mitzvah, aveirah goreret aveirah." Doing one mitzvah leads you to another. Doing one sin leads you to another." A sense that you get seduced and it opens a door within you. 

The same is true of mindful acts to take care of yourself. Do one and you feel more inclined to do another. Intentionally get out of the subway one stop early and walk a little more. Buy a type of fruit this week that you have never tried. Eat dinner with a beautiful place setting and make dinner an experience. It's amazing how one act can lift you from an eating fog. We often think that weight loss requires major changes, but in truth its just a little decision right now that can shift our behavior. 

And what if we find ourselves down the rabbit hole, 60 points later? Should we just give up that day or the week, thinking "I can't lose this week anyway, why bother?" It is so easy and natural to think this way. One of my previous leaders said, if you broke one egg in a carton, would you go ahead and break the other 11? Of course not! So why not just change our thinking, forgive ourselves, learn something and then move on. 

Sugar may love sugar, but self care also loves self care. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

For Your Sake

“Our master taught:  Every person should have two pockets.  In one pocket should be a piece of paper saying:  “I am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27).  In the other pocket should be a piece of paper saying:  “For my sake was the world created” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).

I'm focussing on those times when you need the 2nd note.

You ever have one of those days where you feel like everything you say is wrong or unintelligent? We have the most irrational thoughts on these days. We tell ourselves no one loves us, that we are ugly, undesirable, that if people really knew us, they would run the other direction. We forget what happen is feels like and we are 90% sure we will never feel that way again.

OY it's hard to be human.

It's on those days when we are searching for something or someone to take away that pain, to say to us, “ I know you and the world was created for your sake, this moment was created for your sake.” We are lucky when we have people who know us well and make us feel so loved. To be honest, I strive for that kind of self love independent of who or what is around me. So that I am master of my own happiness. Sometimes it works. Often it doesn't. It's really hard. We often don't have the right back up to combat those feelings. And they would come on a way. So we feel that pain and turn to something soothing. Everyone has a different poison. Something to fill the void left behind this feeling of worthlessness.

It's strange that on those days we can't remember the feeling we have had of satisfaction. Wouldn't it be great if we could bottle that sensation? This is what commercials and packaging do. They try and convince us that whatever they want us to consume will make us feel like a million bucks. It won't. We will be momentarily distracted. Sometimes we need a little distraction but maybe one that is less fattening. I remember a meeting where a leader suggested hugging a teddy bear or calling a friend. We can distract with healthier options, but even too many frozen grapes can lead to a weight gain.

The question is, how do you shift from thinking you are dust and ashes to thinking that the world was created for your sake? Therapy is always a good choice. Good friends help. I think this is a lifelong battle for most of us. Not a switch that can be flipped. But there are things we can do to strengthen the self love muscle. Little gestures to ourselves can help remind us that the world was created for our sake.

I heard in a meeting that a woman goes out of her way to make herself feel special by drawing a bath. Another woman gets her nails done. A shopping trip or sitting down and making an elaborate meal just for yourself with a place setting and a rose. A deliberate act of saying to yourself, “you are worth the effort.” These are the notes in the pocket that say to us, “ the world was created for your sake.” Maybe we need to make a literal note that says this!  I envision a t-shirt with this printed or a pretty sign that is sold in Ace Hardware for your kitchen, right next to the sign that says, “I cook with wine and sometimes I even add it to the food.”

We spend so much time making others feel loved. Let's steal a little back and devote it to ourselves. We can also take a break and realize that even this feeling will pass and we will feel satisfied and strong again. Know what note you need at what time and don't be afraid to pull it out. It's not a luxury to make yourself feel good. It is a necessity. The right note at the right time. We’re worth it.