I had an epiphany on Erev Rosh Hashanah (the eve of the Jewish New Year), as I ate a bowl of vegetables at 11pm—something the old me would never have done!
It’s interesting how religious holidays bring up such strong, varied emotions in us—some joyous and some painful.
I learned from my wise, dear friend Judy—when I trekked around Los Angeles as her Weight Watchers receptionist and young leader in training—that while things change from holiday to holiday, the one thing that stays the same is the food. As people age and relationships change, our favorite childhood dishes bring familiar comfort of simpler times. That’s one of the reasons why traditional foods evoke such powerful emotional associations, and can trigger and spin us out of control.
I, on the other hand, used to have extreme anxiety before the Jewish holidays, because the celebrations invariably meant breaking whatever diet I was on, and having to start all over again. After guiltily eating whatever I could legally ingest in public, I would secretly stuff myself as much as possible, swearing never to eat a grain of sugar or fat again after resuming my diet on Monday. This was followed by the usual onslaught of self-hatred and regret.
Now that I know so much more about the negative effects of dieting and deprivation—and how willpower can only go so far—I’m not surprised that I gave in to the tempting treats surrounding me.
Wednesday was a strange eating day
With one batch of Apricot Squares in the freezer, I had two more to bake.
Norene Gilletz’s Cinnamon Nut Rogelach (divine!), and
Brown Sugar Cookies—the ultimate chewy, sugar cookie with a rich, toffee flavor (recipe coming soon)
- My first time making both, so I had to QC them! (Quality Control) That was lunch.
- Two turkey meatballs at 4pm, so as not to arrive at dinner famished.
Of course, when I’m in a brand new outfit and feel “all that,” no one takes notice, but when I’ve been baking (and sampling) bulkas, challah, and cookies, and haven’t worked out in 10 days, and find the darkest, stretchiest thing in my closet (booty camouflage), everyone says how great I look. Gotta love Spanx!
I enjoyed a taste of each wonderful dish in the lavish spread at Uncle Norm and Auntie Carol’s house, resisting seconds of June’s Noodle Kugel! I did, of course, have to partake in above-mentioned cookies for dessert. (Definitely worthy!)
Feeling slightly stuffed, the old me would’ve felt guilty and out of control, and would then have proceeded to eat whatever pastries and chocolate I could find at home. But after taking off my heels and putting my little one to bed, I found myself craving my mom’s delicious Chinese Vegetables, leftover from dinner. Ironically, these happen to have a completely different traditional significance for me—since my mother grew up in Shanghai, and spoiled us with authentic Chinese dishes passed down from my grandmother, Liza. (We’re all experts with chopsticks!)
Me and my Mom, Ester Benjamin Shifren
You can read all about her life in China in her riveting book: Hiding in a Cave of Trunks: A Prominent Jewish Family’s Century in Shanghai and Internment in a WWII POW Camp
My AHA Moment
I realized how deeply I’ve changed; I now trust myself to know when I’m hungry and when I’m satisfied, and to know what I’m hungry for. My body naturally craves healthy foods to balance sugary or fatty foods, which I try to eat in moderation. I also don’t feel the need to “punish” myself with more food after a challenging eating day. When you’re mindlessly shoving food into your mouth—and know you’re overeating—you are just abusing your body.
If I eat pizza or chocolate or pastries early in the day (or week), it doesn’t mean that I’ve blown it and should go crazy, it just means that I need to be more mindful for the rest of the day, and get right back to healthy eating.
I also realized that putting My Weight Loss Journey out there for everyone to see was quite cathartic; it was like a public declaration that this is who I am, flaws and all—not just to the world, but most importantly to myself. It reminded me of how far I’ve come, and helped me to not have unrealistic expectations of myself, or my body.
In order to lose weight and keep it off, the biggest changes are those that need to take place in our minds, and in the way we handle slip-ups—whether it’s one meal, one day, or one month.
The Jewish New Year is a time for reflection, and this year my goal is to be a better, kinder person—to myself and others.
I hope that this post inspires you to be kinder to yourself, and will help you to move forward with renewed faith and confidence.