Friday, December 26, 2014

After the Holiday; A Letter to a Friend

You tell me that you “blew it” over Channukah!
1) First, I hope that you had a lovely holiday! If you had extra food, at least I hope that you enjoyed it, and that the whole day (week!) was GREAT!  I hope that your kids also enjoyed the holiday.  Holidays give us the break, the inspiration, and the happiness that helps us navigate life .Even if you overate, holidays are meant to be enjoyed.

2)   Learning HOW to navigate the holidays without destroying your eating/exercise program completely takes time. You are pretty new at this; hopefully you will be better on the next holiday, and better next Chanukah as well.

#3) I used to think that making a firm resolution to
"eat within reason" at holiday time would get me through "OK".IT WASN'T. I learned that I MUST track (even if just keeping a running tally mentally), EVEN IF OVEREATING. Being honest about HOW MUCH I was eating (even if deciding to allow myself some "extra" ) helps me stay within reason (or half reason)

4) Rather than moan about the fact that you went overboard, turn this around to a "learning experience". Evaluate:
a) Where did I go wrong? When? What were the biggest temptations, the biggest triggers? Who was I with? How was I feeling?
b) were there other factors involved? Did I get enough sleep? (THAT is probably pretty hard for a young mom like you!) Was I under stress due to ______
    Then after you evaluate , make a PLAN how to decrease the "other factors", and how to cope with the temptations. WRITE this plan in your calendar for the next holiday (Tu B’Svat? Purim?) .  [And turn to a middle page  of ELUL (last month of the Calendar) and write there: “Write in next year’s calendar my pre-Chanukah plan.”] After the next time evaluate HOW it went, and fine tune. Consider giving yourself some type of prize for success.

Here’s a personal example of how I did this as regards Passover:
The First Step in the “twelve steps” is admitting that we are out of control.
Before Passover, knowing full well the family “custom” to (over)eat chocolate during the pre-Pesach (pre-Passover) days and during the holiday itself, I bought several bars of the finest Swiss type with trepidation. I knew that these bars of “instant energy” were a potential diet bombshell, especially as I was running at that time on about 4 hours of sleep nightly.
The question was, why should I buy at all?
Well, Orthodox Jews take seriously the command not to eat leaven over the holiday (unfortunately the command to guard one’s health seems less critical at this juncture), and the types of food available with a really good kosher certification (for Passover) are somewhat limited. (Especially for those who also do not consume legumes over the week.) I wanted to have good treats to give the grandchildren, and my husband might very well see non-purchase of an essential like chocolate to be grounds (almost) for divorce…..
So I ate some before Passover, and although I was eating much less than once, it was surely enough to cause a dent in my plans not to gain over the month. I realized that sleep-deprivation and stress were factors in play, and consoled myself that once the holiday entered, these factors would fall by the wayside, and I would be able to get my eating under control. After all, salads and vegetable soups are great Passover foods, not just matzah with butter.
So the holiday has started, I have returned to having time for aerobic walking, and I discovered to my horror, that my consumption of fattening foods has stayed out of control.
Finally last night I admitted to myself step number one: I am powerless over the Swiss bars. So I passed them on to someone else to distribute to the grandchildren.
This does not mean that I am perfectly in control already. The lack of many of my regular diet “substitutions” has still made dieting this week very difficult, but I am beginning to get a semblance of normal intake.
For those readers uninitiated to Pesach (Passover) cleaning, the words “spring cleaning” is a mere whiff of what I do before Passover. We are enjoined not to eat, own, or use “chometz” (leavened products) during Passover. And while there are easier ways to clean for the holiday, basically one needs to rid the house of every crumb of bread/cake/etc. And after that, the kitchen counters, stove, etc need to be covered before being used for the preparation of scrumptuous holiday repasts…. So Passover cleaning tends to be a LOT of work. And as much as I try and plan ahead, and to work by a schedule, I invariably fall behind, have less time for walking, and get too little sleep. The usual outcome for me is overeating and weight gain.
    Wednesday (ALL day) and Thursday morning I cleaned my kitchen for Passover. For the last few years I have “done” the kitchen before the living room, where we continue to eat non-Passover foods. I prefer to do the heavier work at least a week before the holiday, so as not to arrive to the holiday “seder table” exhausted. In former years I have used “cleaning the kitchen” as an excuse to consume “instant energy”, in the form of fine Swiss chocolate. Even last year, well down the “diet road”, I succumbed to temptation (albeit much less than in previous years), and this year I hoped to do much better. The chocolate I had purchased for holiday baking use I placed along with other groceries for the holiday in sealed boxes. And for several days, even though I was VERY hungry (blame habit and lack of sleep), I was doing GREAT. Then, when emptying out some of the closets in the kitchen on Monday afternoon, I found a stashed-away half bar of chocolate. And as the evening progressed, I slowly and surely polished off the entire 90 grams of creamy smoothness…. Having given in to temptation once, on the marrow I was craving chocolate with my whole soul. But, determined not to gain too much over the holiday season, I decided to allow myself on Tuesday a few high calorie items, but not chocolate. Then on Wednesday, I allowed myself extra calories, but not sweet items. The idea was to allow myself a bit of leeway, but to progress back gradually to a normal eating plan. Now why did I do this? BECAUSE WHEN I FOUND MYSELF NOT FOLLOWING MY EATING PLAN, I TOOK NOTE, AND ANALYZED THE SITUATION, AND DEVELOPED A PLAN FOR ACTION. If we want to redeem ourselves from our bad habits, we need to Think and PLAN. The redemption for Egypt was quick, and given as a gift. Redemption from our evil inclination is not going to be that easy.

After cleaning our house, we need to store away our regular dishes, cover all counter tops, and get out the Passover dishes. And while doing this, we need to feed our families without the benefit of kitchen facilities. (For example, imagine making a salad where to rinse each vegetable you need to run to the other side of the house to a water source.) And if you are overworked and tired, the temptation to reach into a cupboard for some luscious Passover chocolate (read "easy instant energy fix") can be pretty great. Then, you start cooking holiday meals, hopefully festive ones, which generally are NOT that low in calories. So it is no surprise that each year I gain over Passover, and I am skeptical of my ability to withstand the temptations that are impending.
   And, as I indicated in the previous post, wishful thinking about "doing better this year" is just not enough. If I want to emerge on the other side of March without a gain, I need to take some concrete action. Here's my plan:
1)      I will buy the chocolate for cooking (and the grandkids) ONLY after the kitchen is ready for Passover and fully functional. When I am able to cook up a pot of vegetable soup, the lure of the sweet "fix" should be more manageable. Yes, it will cost more in the local grocery than the supermarket, but that's OK. (And if my husband insists on having the tan temptation, he will have to buy and hide for himself.)
2)      Plan menus which are easier and less time consuming for the holiday. There is no need to cook gourmet that leftovers are "a pity" to dispose of. There are lots of pretty, healthy, and easy menus out there.
3)      Work on getting at least 6 hours of sleep a night. Even if that means less spring cleaning and less time online.
4)      Try to maintain a minimum of "walking" (exercise) time (even if only half an hour). I know that walking not only keeps my metabolism going, but it decreases my appetite, and busts away stress.
  And then, for the holiday of redemption, I hope to celebrate redemption from my former bad eating habits.
   I bought the fancy chocolate only at the last minute.
I had a six week plan before the holiday, where I recorded exercise (TNT at least once a week, aerobic at least half an hour 5X weekly, staying on trackcalorie wise, and tracking sleep
I had a prize for myself (EXPENSIVE jewelry) that I would  only wear on the holiday if I kept in line (90% or better) with my plan.
This plan worked. I gained a smidgen over the holiday, but in general I was OK. I can live with that smidgen, I think it was pretty darn good!
2015:  (YES! I am already planning how to get through Passover in one piece this year!)

I have already bought my prize for “plan compliance” for this year’s Passover holiday! (It’s GORGEOUS! My best friend doesn’t know HOW I can resist wearing it NOW. I explained that my fear of going back to being fat overrides everything else! And I KNOW that I need a prize that I REALLY want!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The “Shawl” Girls

     In the Orthodox Jewish community there is a dress code.  Women are expected to dress within certain standards of modesty, specifically long sleeves, skirts below the knees, and if married, some type of hair covering (scarf, wig).   Now there are variations in what is considered “best” or appropriate, but there is certainly a certain amount of leave way to find your own style within the bounds of modest dress.

    Now some small groups have taken upon themselves extra strictures, dressing in loose capes and almost always black.  [There is a cult-like group that dresses almost like the “Taliban”, I am not talking about them.] And even if one does not agree with this type of dress (especially when people dress their little girls this way), I suspect that their intentions are generally very good. Most of the women wearing these shawls are normal women trying to be extra modest. [I admit that when I personally see little girls dressed like this, I feel that this is really taking things to“overkill”.]

And finally, after that intro, here is the blog:
    I begin by recounting my “sin” of yesterday: After a lovely healthy breakfast, I went to the health-fund to take care of some paper work.   And on exiting the building I suddenly had a good desire for a butterscotch Hanukah doughnut. Now I allow myself a doughnut each year on Hanukah, but I had HAD one small one already, at the family get-together last week.  But each year I buy myself a butterscotch doughnut, and I decided that yes I would buy one. However, there is a condition to this purchase: The day I treat myself to the doughnut, I have to go on a LONG walk, to walk off the extra calories. And at about 400 calories in a doughnut “bomb”, that means a LONG walk.
        Now I had already been planning to take a walk… and even to grab a new geocache in our area on the way. And then, at noon, when I looked at the geocaching site I noticed that there were even a few MORE new caches. PERFECT! If I would walk to all of them, the extraneous calories would be taken care of. So I set out. 
       The first two caches were in an area that while not too close to my house, at about 30-40 minutes away, they were certainly not too far . The other two were on the other side of the national park in Ramat Gan, which is itself about an hours walk away. However, being at the first two caches, I was already most of the way there.  So I crossed the big highway and set out for the third and fourth caches.
    Then I saw them: three young girls, dressed in shawls, the oldest being about ten years old.  They were obviously headed back to my town from the national park. I was shocked to the core. There were no adults with them.
    WHAT IN THE WORLD IS WRONG WITH THESE PARENTS? You are worried about modesty and you let your little girls out alone?!!? You let your little ones be supervised by a ten year old?
       About ten minutes later, I regretted not having turned around and escorting (or following) them home.   -To see that they would arrive safely, and to give the mother an education about how dangerous this is. Also I realized later, that maybe the ten year old had done this “outing” on her own, and the mother would be more than pleased to hear where her little darlings had disappeared to.

PARENTS: The period children have vacation from school is not a vacation for you. Kids need to be entertained. And not by their ten year old sibling. Keep them busy. And keep them safe

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The 32 Colored Yogurts

    The middle-aged lady next to me in the grocery was dressed in a typical housedress. She plunked three packages of colored fruit yogurts onto the counter, and asked the owner “Don’t you have more of this flavor tucked away somewhere?”
   “Aren’t there any more in the fridge?”
    “Well, then, that’s what we have. Why not buy another flavor for the rest?”    
     She shook her head, and I understood perfectly.
    “ You have to understand,” I chipped in, “She’s got a slew of grandkids coming for Hanukkah, and she HAS to buy the same flavor for all, or there will be squabbling over who gets which flavor.”

     The lady nodded in agreement, adding, “So I’ll just have to get the rest somewhere else….” 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Finally, some photos from My Last Trip

Two weeks ago I took a trip to the Maaleh Adumim area.  Located between Jerusalem and Jericho, it has its name ("Red Assents") because in the downward trip from Jerusalem to Jericho and the Dead Sea, it is the only ascent, and a lot of the stones in the area are reddish.
    Also located in this area is a museum of Mosaics, all from the area, mostly from the Byzantine period.
    So here are a few photos:

[image:an intermittent spring  in the Judean desert, Wadi Kelt.]

[image: Canyon walls at Wadi Kelt.]

[image: Me at Wadi Kelt.]

[image: view of the Maaleh Adumim area, from inside ruins of a small fort.]

[image: Windows, Byzantine period.]

[image: small part of Mosaic synagogue floor, from Gaza, Byzantine period.]

Jewerly: First Try

A few years ago I bought several jewelry-making supplies but never (except for fixing some broken pieces) used them. When I mentioned this to Mom during my last visit she told me that DAD had also bought a lot of stuff for jewelry. I looked through it and took some of the stuff. (That REALLY weighed down the suitcase on the way home; I BETTER use the stuff!!)  Tonight I decided to try and make a bracelet to match an outfit I have. The beads are from Dad's supplies, the stones and glass from mine. But I think I need to take a good course......maybe after Passover. But not too bad for a first try.

[image: bracelet of beige and rust-colored beads and stones]