Looks like this is “how to” month here on OOTOB, but this is a follow up from my post about intuitive eating, and I think it’s important to address here because a few people have observed the “frum 10” (also known as the “frum 15”) which is the weight you gain when you become Orthodox and start eating Thanksgiving dinner twice a week plus a bar mitzvah or wedding thrown regularly into the mix.
So I’m here to tell you that you can enjoy your Shabbos, and your holidays, and your bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings and engagement parties and fundraising dessert receptions and not get fat. It’s true! How?
In my other post, I said this:
…it basically involves paying close attention to your stomach and to how hungry you feel. If you feel hungry, you eat. If not, you don’t. But you only eat things you really love to eat – and you stop when you’re satisfied. It’s not a weight loss program, it’s a lifestyle. I’ve moved far away from calorie counting and am loving this. Don’t eat dinner just because everyone else is, or because it’s there. Wait till you’re actually hungry and eat the things you love. I find I’ve become way less into food and way less likely to overeat. On Shabbos, I eat a little past “satisfied” – and that’s OK too.
If you’re a sugar addict or have an eating disorder, I don’t know if these rules will work for you. Thank G-d I do not struggle with those things (just your garden variety doughnut obsession) so I can’t comment. Otherwise, here’s the drill.
WHEN TO EAT AND WHEN TO STOP
You literally close your eyes and notice your stomach. One book I read a decade ago which really impressed me, and whose name I can’t recall, recommended thinking of your hunger on a scale from 1-10, with one being absolutely famished, and 10 being post-Thanksgiving dinner stuffed (or post-Shabbos dinner stuffed). You want to be at around a 2 or 3 when you eat.
I think 10 is too many numbers for this busy mom, so I prefer 1-5. I don’t want to be starving when I eat because then I’ll stuff my face with foods I don’t really enjoy just to get away from that bad feeling. By the way, Orthodox people who fast six times a year, this is why you easily eat more than a day’s worth of food when you break your fast. You really just need a small meal after a fast, but we’re emotionally food-starved as much as physically, so we find it necessary to gorge from every single food group (real food, junk food, liquid junk food, and dessert). So I don’t want to be a 1.
I want to be a 2 when I start, and I want to stop at 3 or 4. 3 is not hungry but not quite satisfied. I’ll stop here when I have something else going on in the next few hours (lunch with a friend, a party or occasion) that I want an appetite for. 4 is comfortably satisfied. This is how I eat at breakfast and dinner or anytime I don’t have anything else I need to save my appetite for. And you don’t ever want to be a 5. 5 makes you feel gross. Bye, 5.
It’s amazing how sometimes you need a lot of food to get to 4 and sometimes, so little! Sometimes an omelet will bring me to 4. Sometimes I need a bagel and an omelet and veggies. Point is, I listen to my body. It all depends on how much I ate yesterday, how physically active I was. I believe that G-d made my body smart enough to tell me what it needs. If my body needs a lot of food, I trust it and don’t feel the slightest bit guilty.
What’s also amazing is how many hours my body will be satisfied after eating. Often 7 hours can go by with me feeling satisfied. Then when I get hungry again I’m really excited because I get to eat yummy food again!
Shabbos and holidays present another challenge. It’s easy enough to plan my eating so I’m hungry when we sit down, but then because of the long, leisurely meals, it’s hard to stop at 4. Everyone knows what his triggers are, and for me my overeating issue is challah. It’s not that hard for me to skip dessert when I’m full, but that challah is always calling my name. Btw, challah is dessert so let’s just call it that. CHALLAH, THY NAME IS YEAST CAKE. Thanks, I’ve been wanting to do that for awhile. I seriously don’t know how to eat one piece! I know some people eat matzah instead of challah, and frankly I think that’s a terrible idea. So this is a problem I haven’t solved, and any advice is welcome. One thing I’ve tried is to sip tea and that keeps my hands off the challah. Anyone?
WHAT TO EAT
This is really the fun part, because you can eat anything as long as you really enjoy it. Most people enjoy some foods that are healthy (for me: well-dressed salads, cherries, strawberries, watermelon, peaches) and some foods that are unhealthy (cookies, soft-serve ice cream in a cone with sprinkles, and the aforementioned doughnuts). When you’re in a mindset that no food is truly off-limits, unless you’re not hungry or don’t actually enjoy it, you move away from that forbidden fruit issue that causes most of us to overindulge. I also love that this jives with everything I understand about Jewish philosophy.
G-d created a beautiful world with delicious things, and He created treats as well (back in the day, almonds) that are available to humans to be enjoyed with wisdom and within reason. Granted, humans have gone and done incredibly stupid things like sell shelled pistachios in gigantic bags from Costco whereby one could (cough, cough) consume 2000 calories in 10 minutes. Also, MSG and high fructose corn syrup. But I still believe that moderation is the key. He wants us to enjoy them but not become consumed and obsessed by them. He wants us to understand that “good” and “evil” are about bigger and more important things than trans fats and carbs. Food is a part of our life that is a means to an end – to enjoy, to show love, to connect with others, to celebrate joyous occasions, and to make holy. It should not become a religion unto itself. Its job is to nourish body and soul.
Also, if there’s a food you really don’t enjoy, don’t eat it. Even if it will go to waste (your stomach is not a garbage can). Even if your grandmother made it (take a bite and thank her). Even if you spent a lot of time on it. You are a human being with likes and dislikes and you deserve to eat the foods you enjoy.
Everyone eating a meal and you’re not hungry? Don’t eat! Have a tea or coffee, sit with everyone and chat, and eat later when you’re hungry. Hungry for lunch and passing the ice cream shop? Perfect timing! Get an awesome sundae for lunch and enjoy every bite. Want to have cherries for dinner? Go right ahead. No one can dictate to you what “counts” as a meal. If you’re hungry and you enjoy it, it’s your meal.
This is what I love about intuitive eating.
Remember that article that was going around last year about how Orthodox Jews eat over 6000 calories every Shabbos? I was wondering then and I'm still wondering: Do most Orthodox Jews really eat like that? It's so not what people I see do. One person even told me that they just have challah and soup and then no one's hungry anymore (that was in response to my asking how she manages to get all her cooking done so fast). But that 6000-calorie "diet" was basically 4 huge meals (or maybe 3 huge ones and one normal one) with fish, beef, and chicken all at the same meal. In other words, it's not just gorging, but also drastically overdoing the protein. Is that really what most people do? Is it what most people want? Why not just serve normal-size meals?
I think when people have guests they sometimes put out a ridiculous spread. We usually have more courses than we need. Challah, fish with salads, soup, a main and sides and more salad. Then dessert. Yeah, if you partake of everything that one meal is easily a day's worth of calories.
Solution for challah — close up the bag and cover it. The problem with challah is that it's sitting there at the table for the entire meal. If other people want to each challah throughout the meal, put it as far away from you as possible. If no one else wants to eat it, take what you need for the meal and then close up the bag and put the challah cover on it. I leave challah on the table for all of shabbat, just as a visual reminder of shabbat, hospitality, etc. I don't like looking at a cleared table, it should be ready for guests. (Not that anyone drops by in our non-Orthodox community without making prior arrangements, but one can always hope!) But with the cover on, I seriously don't think about eating it!
If no one else wants to eat it – well my kids or guest might easily want to, so I can't close it up.
I like your explanation in theory, but I have a hard time imagining how it works in practice if you don't live alone. First, it could mean that the family never sits to meals together anymore, because one isn't hungry, one is just nibbling on cherries, one is having a brisket and one is in the other room reading because food is the furthest thing from their mind right now.
Second, if you have kids with you in a car when you pass that ice cream shop, how do you explain that you ARE hungry so you're gonna enjoy that sundae, but THEY have just had lunch so no way they're getting a soft-serve?
I was thinking the same thing about family meals, especially given the importance for kids to have family meals together. Thanks for articulating it, W!
We have family meals together most nights. That means some of us – whoever is available – will eat. We time our appetites. WHAT we eat is entirely personal. If I'm not hungry, I'll sit with my family, but just have some salad or a drink, while I chat with them. What my older kids do is their business. Sitting together to eat doesn't mean everyone must eat the identical thing. Also, having meals together is nice, but it's not the only value I'd consider in handling family meal time. When my kids are in the car, I might stop anyway – the interesting thing is that most kids eat intuitively anyway. They have two licks of ice cream and if they're full will just give it to me. So I don't order for myself and eat theirs!
Don't even get me started! The problemm with intuitive eating is that most of what is available to us today and labeled as "food" is the farthest thing from food that Hashem ever intended. That is why everything in moderation is a farce. Like I said, don't even get me started . . . but I am really happy to hear that this is working beautifully for you!
I stopped eating challah altogether when it was pointed out to me that ALL refined carbohydrates (yes, even whole wheat) are to your brain and body the same as cocaine–white powdery things that many, many people's brains just can't stop reaching for once we start eating them. The problem is that they just make us feel too happy (now that's not usually a bad thing until we step on a scale or our clothes are tight). With time I saw that if I ate no refined carbohydrates at all, my cravings for sugar completely evaporated. I literally healed my brain. Because I don't even want to go back to the place where I crave cake and ice cream all the time, I unfortunately had to say good-bye to our beautiful challah. I'd love to find something to replace it in my life. I love the tradition. Do you have any ideas?
Many people who struggle with obesity are missing the thing in their brain that registers a feeling of fullness. It's genetic. I have a relative who lost over 100lbs she is slim now but she has to count calories and go by that she learned to ignore her "hunger".
Re: challah…. I make a rule: 1 slice per seudah.