Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dieting Challenges

I am quite ready for Adar Sheini. With all of the Chaggim falling so early, Chanukah ended up right after Thanksgiving, and I decided that their unusual proximity was to blame when I hopped on the scale and cringed at what I saw. At least during Tishrei we’ve got two fast days in there to offer some assistance. After all, by the time I finished with leftovers from the turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and other goodies from Thanksgiving, there were only a few days before Chanukah began, and the next thing I knew there was just so much to eat between the Chanukah gelt (I am a chocoholic), sufganiot, and delicious yet fattening, oily latkes. Although it is probably a good thing that at the time they were instituting the minhagim for Chanukah they had no knowledge of things such as fast food, French fries or high fructose corn syrup. I could only imagine if the story had happened in today’s day and age with the high rates of obesity, that the minhag would be to eat salad with an olive oil dressing to commemorate the oil burning 8 nights. While not as tasty, that would perhaps have been better for my diet. You know, the one that starts tomorrow (as diets always do).

I remember the first time I decided to try to lose a couple pounds. Baruch Hashem I only had a couple of pounds to lose-I was never overweight, though I was never skinny either. I had never considered exercising or dieting; I seriously enjoy eating good food and never liked sports or being active, as I was quite out of shape and would find myself huffing and puffing after anything longer or faster than a 5 minute walk. But in high school for the first time I got my act together and started eating healthier and started exercising. Losing weight is really difficult for a number of reasons, but one reason is that it requires a lot of motivation and perseverance to continue when it doesn’t seem like you are accomplishing anything at all. We often expect to see immediate results, and unless you go on some crazy diet to lose weight fast (which I am completely against because in most cases I’ve seen as soon as people go off of it they gain the weight right back and no one can stick to one of those crazy things forever), losing weight takes time. At least it does if you do it by changing your lifestyle and your eating habits.

I used to be jealous of people who are very skinny, especially those who insist that they are unable to gain weight no matter how hard they try. I always say that if I was super skinny I would never exercise at all and I would eat anything I wanted all the time. Which is why it is a really great thing that Hashem did not make me naturally skinny because then I would be very unhealthy. I realized that if I was born super skinny, I would not have learned some of the great lessons I learned from exercising and dieting. The first main lesson I learned was the one I mentioned above about perseverance, and along with that is patience. This comes in handy in so many situations in life, especially when it comes to working on middot. Sometimes I unrealistically think that I will just be able to change overnight, that I will just decide in my head to abolish a certain negative behavior from my life and that will be the end of it. Unfortunately, things are just not that simple. You don’t lose weight overnight, and you can’t change yourself overnight. Sometimes you might even gain weight before you lose weight. Sometimes you’ll fail before you succeed. But you can’t let that stop you or you will not get anywhere. You have to keep going day after day after day, even if you do not feel like you are accomplishing anything.

Another lesson that I learned is that it is not all or nothing. Just because I broke my diet and ate that piece of cake I promised myself I wouldn’t touch, doesn’t mean I should give up and decide to throw the whole diet out the window. One mess-up doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. The same thing is true for exercising. Ideally, working out for longer is better, but just because I don’t have time to work out for an hour every day, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t work out at all. If I can work out for 45 minutes one day, then that is great. If another day all I have is 15 minutes, then that is what I have and I go for it. I do what I can do and try my best. (As I wrote about before, every drop counts.)

Despite starting out completely out of shape, I started exercising regularly in high school and kept it up. I laugh when I think about how lazy I used to be and how I would get out breathe by walking down the block. When I go for a walk for an hour and feel like I can keep going, I feel great. Additionally, exercising turned out to be a great outlet for me to let out steam and de-stress. It’s a great way to take a break and revitalize. Although there are days when I don’t want to exercise at all and force myself to anyway, most of the time I feel great afterwards. To finish the story, I lost a relatively small, but for me a decent size amount of weight over a long, long time, most of which I kept off, though it’s been up and down.

Now that Thanksgiving and Chanukah are over, the diet starts today. Not tomorrow, today. Even if it is small, even if it is step by step, even if it seems like I’m not going anywhere. Even though I know I’m going to mess up, and won’t stick to my original plan. I will overcome my dieting challenges!



  1. may this be a chizuk to all of us who ate waaaaay too much in the past few weeks and have yet to see the inside of the gym :p

  2. Count yourself utterly blessed that you also weren't part of the naturally skinny crowd who also suffer from an eating disorder.

    Rav Simon gave a mussar schmooze during Chanukah that also made the same point that every drop counts. I won't go into the whole thing, but he retold a dvar Torah that Rabbi Lamm gave a number of years ago where he quoted a discussion between the Brisker Rav and the Imrei Emes regarding a midrash that says a certain sage who was a Kohen Gadol said that he saw a nes wherein he used to light the Menorah in the Beis Hamikdash on Rosh Hashana and it would stay lit until the next Rosh Hashana.

    The Brisker Rav said that this didn't make sense, since there is a meforash mitzvah that HaShem wants us to light the Menorah every day, so why would HaShem Himself mevatel a deoraisa!? The Imrei Emes quotes a Gemara in Shabbos that says adding or subtracting a drop of oil to a lamp is an issur deoraisa. So perhaps the kohanim would add a drop of oil to the Menorah every day, even though it was lit, because we see that a single drop has halachic significance.

    Rabbi Lamm went on to explain that is how we
    have to view our lives, our learning etc, - never view things as all or nothing, rather that even a little drop (a tipa) every day has great significance.

  3. aminspiration- see this is the problem with the winter. If it was fall/spring/summer I would say, no need to go to a gym, just take a walk outside! But it is a bit too cold for that now.

    SoG- Yes, B"H I never had an eating disorder. One of the challenges of dieting that I forgot to mention is self control. It's hard to tell yourself no when you really want that cookie. This is the opposite problem that people with eating disorders have- they try to control what they eat too much because they crave that sense of control.

    Great dvar torah, thanks for sharing! The challenge is that each drop seems so small it is easy to think it doesn't matter.

  4. I always say that if I was super skinny I would never exercise at all and I would eat anything I wanted all the time. Which is why it is a really great thing that Hashem did not make me naturally skinny because then I would be very unhealthy.

    Do you think Hashem makes some girls naturally skinny and they are unlucky he made them this way? Do you think Hashem wants them to be unhealthy?

  5. Anonymous- most definitely not! Let me clarify that statement. I don't think Hashem wants anyone to be unhealthy, and everyone should be happy with the way Hashem created them, no matter how how much or how little they weigh, and no matter what kind of body they have.

    I was simply expressing my reason for being glad I was created the way that I was, since my personal inclination is to be unhealthy. Plenty of people are motivated to be healthy just for the sake of being healthy and not just to lose weight, and that is how it should be! I was saying why it is good for me to have additional motivation. If I was super skinny and unhealthy, then that would definitely not be what Hashem wanted from me.

    Hope that made it more clear.

  6. that's great the lessons you learned about patience and perseverance B'H I also have this lesson for a different situation

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