Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Torah's Teaching on Healthy Living, Gluttany and Weight Loss

About three weeks ago I posted musings on what the Torah teaches us about how to treat our bodies. Because I have little to no work to do and MoC and Baynonim apparently have too much to do to keep me entertained with their blogs, I decided to research the issue online. I figured a good place to start would be with Moses... Ask Moses, that is.

Here's a great answer by S. Crispe, B. Erdstein and A. Trugman in response to the question, "Can I eat as much glatt [sic] kosher ice cream as I like?" Please read the whole response, it's very good. In short, the respondents write,

According to strict dietary laws of kashrut, one may eat as much ice cream as one wants. There is no requirement among the laws of kashrut to eat healthy, balanced meals. Although in theory one could eat as much as one wants, there could be two possible problems to this. The first one is in regard to the Torah commandment to “guard your soul,” which has been interpreted by our Sages to mean to guard one’s self from a wide range of activities and life styles that harm and endanger health. If one is overweight to the point that it is a health hazard then over eating could be transgressing this commandment. A product’s definition as being kosher only defines whether it can or cannot be eaten according to Jewish law. How, when and where we eat entails a whole other set of commandments from the Torah and the Sages.

Hashem wants us to eat, and He wants us to use the energy we gain through our consumption of food to keep His commandments and illuminate the world around us. Someone is eating in a manner which is unhealthy, then he or she is misusing and misunderstanding the point of why the ice cream is kosher. We must not only focus on what we can eat, but the entire purpose of why we eat and how we are intended to eat.

In response to the question, "How is kosher spiritual? The food seems so unhealthy and unrefined," Nechama Dina Kumer writes,

If "kosher" means having cream cheese and lox for breakfast, cholent with kishke for lunch, and schwarma and falafel for dinner, then this would not be the most healthful diet to choose on a daily basis. Fortunately, these foods have little to do with living a kosher lifestyle, but rather are some of the existing traditional Jewish foods. (And traditional Jewish foods are not always kosher, by the way—always check for certification!) Ideally, one should choose to eat a kosher, healthy and balanced diet that, when appropriate, can include these not-always-so-low-in-calories traditional foods. G-d does want us to keep our bodies healthy, as He commanded us "you must carefully preserve the soul," which includes making healthy lifestyle choices.

Nechama Dina Kumer also answers the question, "Are weight loss diets kosher?":

To know whether a weight loss diet is “kosher,” you must examine the motivating factor behind the diet, its means, and its end.

With eating kosher as a prerequisite, there is also a commandment to "carefully preserve one's soul" which means to maintain one's physical health and avoid doing things that endangers it. So, if a person diets to lose weight and thereby make his or her body healthier, then this is a kosher diet. If a diet is an aesthetic obsession, but he or she is not actually doing something dangerous to the body, then one needs to call to question the spiritually unhealthy factor motivating the diet. If the obsession leads to dangerous or damaging eating habits, then it is definitely forbidden.

Let's not miss the point, people!

Fruit-Crusted Strawberry-Kiwi Banana Cream Pie

This is probably cheating, but this recipe sounded amazing, so I thought I'd post it. It is core, but I don't know the points if you're working from flex.

Fruit-Crusted Strawberry-Kiwi Banana Cream Pie

1 oz fat-free sugar-free instant banana pudding and pie filling mix
2 cup fat-free evaporated milk
1 cups strawberries, thinly sliced
2 medium kiwifruit, peeled and sliced

  1. Prepare pudding according to package directions but use fat-free evaporated milk instead of regular skim milk.
  2. Cover bottom of a 9-inch glass pie plate with a layer of sliced strawberries.
  3. Pour pudding on top of strawberries. Smooth pudding surface with a wooden spoon and garnish with remaining strawberries and with kiwi slices. Refrigerate pie for at least 2 hours. Slice into 6 pieces and serve.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Ode to My Leader

We love you, Lisa
Oh, yes we do
No one explains the plan
as well as you
When you're not teaching us
we're blue!
Oh, Lisa, we love you!

First of all, I was wrong yesterday when I said that the plan couldn't be explained in a half hour. Lisa did it... with time to celebrate weight loss success of the week and congratulate a new lifetime member! I got to ask my questions- bison should be core and Rice Krispies aren't core because Kellogg's adds sugar. However, Kellogg's apparently also makes a puffed rice cereal, which is core. She also focused the program on "non-processed foods" rather than "wholesome, natural" foods. The language was tripping me up, because who's to say that avocados aren't wholesome and natural? At the same time, I was trying to understand why tomato sauce from a can is core, but marinara sauce from a jar isn't. Jared marinara sauce is processed with additives, preservatives, etc etc etc. Canned tomato sauce is, essentially, cooked pureed tomatoes. That being said, if you make your own marinara sauce using core foods, its core! Same with all recipes. A chicken breast and broccoli microwave meal is not core... your homemade chicken breast with steamed broccoli is. Fine - done - I understand.

Thank you, Lisa!

Oh, and BTW, I lost 2.6 this week. As Miryam says, Ye-ah, baby!

Cholent is Core!

So, I've been relatively worried about the new Core plan, but let me tell you - I've been following Core since Monday, and today at WI, I lost 2.6!!! So, I'm sold.

That being said, one of the foods I miss very much is cholent. Cholent, the way DH and I make it, is decidely not low-fat or points friendly in any respect. However, it is Core. Amazing how that works, huh? Here's what goes in ours, and believe me it changes every week.

  • Bison ribs and/or beef stew bones
  • canned kidney and black beans
  • vegetarian baked beans
  • potatoes (red or white, scrubbed, with skin)
  • barley
  • spices (including but not limited to chili powder, garlic powder, beef boullion, crushed red pepper, fennel, Meat Magic, etc etc. Pretty much anything, really)
  • fresh chopped peppers (jalepenos, banana peppers, serranos or, if we're really adventerous, a habenero)
  • water

All of those ingredients are core, and therefore, cholent is core. No more counting out my weekly allotment and willpowering it to eat something else when I've had my 1 cup... I'll have chollent for lunch, please!

p.s. DH also adds bourbon and/or honey or maple syrup for a sweeter cholent, but those two items aren't core.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Two Rants for the Price of One Click

For the record, I am an impatient person. I started this blog because I type faster than I write- and I don't have the patience to scribble my thoughts! I am also demanding when it comes to professional availability and preparedness. If you're going to offer a service (or, if I'm going to pay you for a service), be 100% prepared to debut, and be available if and when problems, questions and expected or unexpected situations arise. I love Weight Watchers, and am 100% dedicated to their programs. I had to say all of those things before I begin my rants.

WW's new program officially debuted on Sunday, August 22. I went to a meeting on Monday ('cause Sunday was moving day). I got all of my materials, stayed for the meeting and Q/A session that ensued, took notes, read the materials on the website, and read my intro books. I still had questions about the new plan. It's understandable, I'm calm. Today, I went to another additional meeting, my third in 6 days. This time, I came prepared with my materials with notes and questions. I got a lot of 'I don't knows.' I don't like this. Besides that, I'm not a newbie around the WW scene. I've been doing this for a year and a half. I was at the meeting that debuted the Flex plan when that was the newest flavor of WW.

If WW wanted to introduce their plan on Sunday, August 22, 2004, they should have made their leaders, website and printed materials prepared to launch the program on Sunday, August 22, 2004. Basic questions like, "if puffed rice cereals are core- is Rice Krispies core?" should be easy for a leader to answer. A question, "How can a meat leaner than chicken (bison) not be considered core if chicken is core?' garnered an answer of "I don't know, but if the book says it's not core, it must not be core." If I only took my cues from a book, I wouldn't be paying for the meetings and certainly wouldn't be going to multiple meetings, duh! Not to mention that half of the names of different cuts of meat aren't the same in the Kosher world. (I found that out by making the mistake of asking for tenderloin at the butcher- he scoffed and responded that it's not a kosher cut. Stupid butcher, it's against halacha to embarass someone just as much as it is to eat treif! Wait- where was I?) I understand that leaders can't be expected to know the answer to every question on the spot, but at the same time, I would have hoped that they would have sample meetings with real-life members to ask real-thought questions before they send the leaders out without all the information their members would want. And people! A half hour is not long enough to explain a brand new program. Make the debut meetings an hour long so people who thought they be there for a half hour can plan in advance. Be prepared, so that I can be!

The second part of this rant has to do with the fact that I'm not new to this. I know what's up on the Flex plan, and I don't need to re-learn how to use my points finder, or what a point is! If you're dealing with many people at varying degrees of experience and knowledge with a subject, you have to approach them on multiple levels. A member who joined last week is going to need to hear about how to use the points finder and is going to have basic questions about candy and alcohol. A member who's been there for 6 months and is frustrated at a plateau is going to need to hear about earning and using activity points. A member who's been there a year and a half is going to want to immediately hear about what's new- 'cause he/she knows the rest of it cold. Have meetings specifically designed for bona fide newbies, and have meetings that are designed for veterans. Be available to answer my questions- 'cause if you're explaining how to find Kellogg's products in the Complete Food Companion, you're wasting my time- I own three!

Ok. I feel better. I will be going to my 'real' meeting tomorrow afternoon, and I'm going to plan on taking a list of questions (which I very well may post here), as well as plan on going early to ask some questions before the meeting.

Core Plan Journal Corrections

For those who are actually getting points/plan information from me (and keep in mind I'm a lowly member- find a leader!!), please be advised that yesterday I reported my Sugar-Free Vanilla Soy Latte from Starbucks was a core food. I've since realized that the Silk soy milk that Starbucks uses is not fat free, and therefore not a core food. So my latte, a grande, was actually 4 points. Please adjust your journal as necessary.

And, as I suspected, I had the plan wrong- and I'll probably pay for it dearly later this week. I believe, and I'm going to confirm this afternoon at an additional meeting, that not ALL cheeses are core foods, as previously reported, but only fat-free cheeses and dairy products are core. It's another bummer for us kosher-keepers out there because there simply aren't fat free cheeses readily available. I had a hell of a time finding a light cheddar cheese let alone a fat free variety.

And there goes my weekly points allowance- I think I ate about 10 points of cheese yesterday. Ooops.


I've been diligently searching out the best of the best websites and blogs out there for weight loss support and entertainment, and have a couple to add to my blogroll.

Introducing The Curves Forum for members, owners and employees of Curves. You can find a challenge buddy, check out different locations' programs, promotions and hours, and generally discuss exercise the Curves way. Specifically, check out the Weight Watchers thread under "Dieting and Curves". This forum seems a lot more active than the forums previously linked on my blogroll.

Also in the forum category, check out Weigh Better, a "women's only support group for pursuing a fit and healthy lifestyle." When I first found the site, there was an article entitled "When Is A Coffee NOT a Coffee?" I was interested right away.

Finally, but certainly not least, I found a great blog by Ellewiz at I Lost Another Me!. While I haven't introduced myself yet, I've been following her blog daily on Bloglines, and really appreciate that there are other WW bloggers out there- who are posting on a fairly regular basis! Send encouraging comments.


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Brand Spankin' New WW Plan!

Well, if you've been following this blog, you've known that over the past few weeks, I've not been doing so hot OP. It's not that I've been binging or anything, just that I haven't been actively doing anything constructive towards losing the rest of my weight. So now I have a bit of a respite. I think part of the reason that I haven't been doing so well is because the program (any program) gets a bit rote at times. It's less exciting- more of a chore than an adventure, so to speak. The introduction of a new plan option will, hopefully, reinvigorate me to goal!

There's a lot of press about the new plan, this article has a nice simple explanation. I have a lot of questions myself about the details of the new plan, which I hope to have answered Thursday at my meeting... so I can't necessarily explain it all. Suffice it to say that the Core plan (it's officially called Turnaround(c), but I'm calling it Core) is based around certain core foods, which a weight watcher can eat to satisfaction. That doesn't mean eat unlimitedly, it means eat until you're no longer hungry, and are satisfied with your meal. Portion control is always a concern, for healthy weight as well as overweight people. What do you think this is, people- Atkins?! haas v' shalom.

The core foods include (amongst others) all lean meats, all potatoes (not fried), all fruits and vegetables (including starchy vegetables, but not fruit juices), whole grains (ie: barley, couscous, oatmeal, etc), whole wheat pasta, cheese, eggs, fat-free dairy products (skim milk, fat free sour cream, etc), tofu, fish, beans, broth and broth-based soups (not creamy) and fat free dressings. Those foods (amongst others) do not figure into the daily/weekly points. You get 35 "Allowance" points (did they really have to rename the 35 Flex points?) per week to spend on foods that aren't core. In addition, because the core foods don't figure into the points, as in they essentially count as zero points, WW thought that we didn't need to journal anymore (read: Becky says WW is capitulating to those who don't like journaling).

However, I need to journal. Personally I believe that if you don't keep track of what you've eaten, how do you know where you're being 'creative' with the plan if, and when, you run into a halt in weight loss? My biggest pet peeve about the new plan so far is that the online journal through ww.com no longer has a search-and-add function, and is strictly a notepad, with checkboxes for the 35 Allowance Points. I need to know where I spent those Allowance points, and if I'm counting stuff as core that shouldn't be. I made myself an Excel sheet to keep track, which I am happy to share with anyone in the same boat as me (I'm a geek).

Anyways, I've been on the Core plan for almost 24 hours now, and I'm very nervous. So far today, this is what my journal looks like:

Sugar Free Vanilla Soy Latte (16 oz)
2 Cheese Sticks
Turkey Chili from Sandwich Club
Grilled Marinated Chicken Breast
Steamed Vegetables
Skim Milk (16 oz)
1 single potato chip
1 Tbsp BBQ sauce
1 piece lettuce, 1 slice tomato

Everything on that list is core, except for the single potato chip (c'mon people!) and the BBQ sauce, and being machmir, I counted a point against my Allowance for them. Now, if I was following the Flex plan (as I was before), this all would amount to 23 points so far, and it's only 2 p.m. by me. I have another 10 hours of the day left! At 149 lbs, I only get 20 points per day under the Flex plan. I'm a bit nervous as to whether or not the core plan is going to do it for me.

Let me tell you, though, I've not been so shaky today. On the Core plan, you're supposed to stay within a 'comfort zone' of hunger. If 1 is truly hungry and 5 is stuffed, you should ideally stay between 2.5 and 3.5. Which means you eat when you're getting hungry- not truly hungry. That's going to be new for me- in the last year and a half, I have been in a pattern of waiting as long as my body can handle it before I eat, then eat something small (~4 points). Repeat. Now, if I think I'm hungry, I can eat right away- a cheese stick, a piece of fruit, a big glass of skim milk, stuff that will fill me up and sustain me. I feel a lot better as a hypoglycemic knowing that.

But still- I'm nervous... The thing I'm holding on to most right now is that I've been on 4 different incarnations of the Weight Watcher plan. I was on the plan about 10 years ago (yes 10 years ago) when you got X number of proteins, Y number of fats, etc etc (was that 1-2-3 Success!). I was on the original points plan with banking, the newer points plan with flex points, and now core- not to mention a brief stint on the short-lived Fat and Fiber plan. Weight Watchers, in all their plan incarnations, has never failed me. I will trust the new plan to not fail me- and if it does, at least I ate well for a while!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Grape Tomatoes

I just ate a pint of grape tomatoes.

Water and The Word

Today is not a good day WW-mind-wise. I'm not posting about it. I'm just sulking in it. Suffice it to say I'm going to try to have a private meeting with Lisa, my WW leader, because I can not continue off program like this.

However, in being the proactive weight watcher I am, I sought support at the message boards on ww.com today, specifically Challenge Central, to try joining a group of challengers. One of the very interesting challenges currently going on there is called "Water and The Word". While this is decidedly a Christian group of WWers, and therefore not my venue, it's a great idea- the idea is that every time you feel like eating for a non-hunger reason, you drink one glass of water and read a verse of scripture. Doesn't that accomplish two ends? Drinking water satiates the physical desire to ingest something, and if you feel like eating for a non-hunger reason, there's probably something you're lacking emotionally or spiritually. What better reason to seek divine assistance/consolation? Not to mention that saying a chapter of Tehillim at that moment will take up time- and if the verses themselves don't alleviate the want-to-eat feeling, maybe the sheer time it takes to say them will.

To that end, I'm going to focus on my after-food blessings.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I'm slipping...

I'm pretty sure I'm slipping completely away from the program. Maybe after a year and a half, I'm tapped out of emotional stick-with-it-ness? Maybe it's just the move and lack of kitchen availablity? Maybe it's resting on my laurels? I don't know what it is- but I'm decidedly not on program.

For about two weeks now I've been telling DH that, while I'm not planning and preparing week to week and day to day like I used to, I was keeping track of my points and watching what I eat. Yeah- I was lying to him, and myself. While I know how many points each individual food item is, I couldn't tell you how many points I ate two days ago if I had to. I couldn't tell you what I'm going to eat tomorrow- because I have no clue. These are very odd occurrences for me.

I had established a pattern such that, if you asked me what I was going to eat on Wednesday, I could tell you down to the creamer in my coffee as early as the previous Sunday evening. Why? Because I planned it out on Sunday. And I cooked/bought all the food I would need for the whole week. I pre-journal on ww.com every morning, and adjust as the day goes on. I post mental aspects here and analyze focus-points for the week (be it water, veggies, etc.) at my weekly meetings. I was, in essence, on my game- and I lost most of the time.

The last couple of weeks have been disasterous, and I'm concerned as to how easy it has been to choose nachos over a low-point baked wrap, to choose to snack on a chocolate bar instead of melon, to stare at my water bottle while thirsty, and not drink- so as to not have to get up for the bathroom. It's really unbelievable to me that I could be so lazy as to not drink water so as not to have to pee! I mean, COME on!

All the habits and tendencies I had developed, pretty much, are out the window. I still slide out new food products in the supermarket aisles, but even just this morning, I slid out an Empire microwave meal at 9 points- and threw it in the basket anyways. I mean, there was a different micro meal for 4 points, but WHATever. Why? WHY? What is going on with me?

For a while I've been saying that exercise and water are the keys to my continued success- but the key to my continued maintenance is points, and if I don't start getting back on my game, all the exercise in the world won't make a difference.

Monday, August 09, 2004

What does the Torah Teach us About our How to Treat our Bodies?

This was the topic of conversation that all but dominated my Shabbat conversations. I don't have a clear-cut answer, but here are some of my thoughts.

First, for background, my long-term goal as a WW is to be a leader for a Kosher meeting. See my previous post for a more in-depth explanation. To this end, how can I focus weight-loss and healthy living in Torah? The Torah is a living, timeless code of living, and I would be amazed if we were not taught about how we should treat our bodies.

My friend, Andrew, answered the titled question: "We are to treat our bodies like temples." DH answered that, while there isn't a specific halacha to live a healthy lifestyle, there are midot (see footnote for explanation courtesy of Aish.com) for same.

My thoughts (as unlearned as they may be): Humans are created in the image of G-d, and to deface that image is sacrilege. The kicker, however, is that some practices which 'deface' the body are not against halacha (ie: ear piercing). Additionally, some practices which don't outwardly deface the body but do harm (as we understand in the modern world) are permitted (ie: smoking is not against halacha, so long as it's not on Shabbat or other days where lighting/continuing flame are prohibited). Therefore, in one way, I can't get a tattoo- but I can pierce a pattern into my arm. I can't attempt to place my life in imminent danger, but I can smoke 5 packs a day (rather, I can't, but I'm allowed).

This brings me to the next question: What is healthy living? 100 years ago, being overweight was healthy. 50 years ago smoking had no ill health effects. 10 years ago, eating red meat was a shanda (compared to the Atkins-craze of today). That which we KNOW to be healthy changes from generation to generation, year to year, and sometimes, week to week! If we are to treat our bodies like temples, and from that we learn that we should lead ‘healthy lifestyles’, how do we define ‘healthy’?

DH told me the only story of a biblical character being fat that he knew of (and please comment if I mis-tell the story). This fat man was a foreign king, an enemy of the Israelites. An Israelite gained audience before this king, and arrived with a knife hidden in his robes. When he went to embrace the king, he stabbed the king in the abdomen. The king was so fat, the knife was swallowed up in the rolls of fat, and the Israelite was permitted to leave because the king’s guards didn’t even know he had been stabbed until he fell over, already dead. It seems to me that this story could be interpreted as saying that evil people are fat.

On the other hand, Torah (and the larger Tanakh) seems to value many different figures in part by relating their beauty or physical characteristics, sometimes in length. King David was said to be ‘ruddy, and withal of beautiful eyes, and goodly to look upon.' (1 Samuel 16:12). It is actually said twice: ‘And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and withal of a fair countenance.’ (1 Samuel 17:42). Sarah, the wife of Avraham, was so beautiful he felt the need to lie, introducing her as his sister so that his life would not be in danger, and the Egyptians wouldn’t attempt to kill him in order to take Sarah as a wife. Rebekah, the future wife of Isaac, is described as being ‘very fair to look upon’ (Genesis 24:16)- but none compare to the way Torah contrasts Rachel and Leah. On and on, I can think of at least 5 further examples of how revered figures of Torah are described as being beautiful, fit, slight of figure, etc etc etc. Does this mean that those who are of said composition are to be honored/looked up to/revered for it? I don’t for a minute pose that these were not honorable, spiritual, incredible people worthy of praise and respect based on their actions, dedication and commitment to Hashem. But I can’t get around the question of, why describe their beauty if not for a purpose? Does not every word of Torah have something to teach us?

Here are some halachot that I have learned:

A person is not allowed to daven when he/she feels the urge to use the restroom; knowing this, I asked Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Anshe Sholom B’nei Israel if one is permitted to daven when being uncomfortably full. The answer came down that there is a halacha, and a ‘big one’ at that, not to eat to the point of feeling uncomfortably full! At times, this halacha would take precedence over the halacha to have a third meal on Shabbat. If you are not hungry when the time for Seudat Shlishit arrives, you should eat something, anyways, in honor of the bounty of the Sabbath. However, if you are full to the point of being truly uncomfortable, you don’t have to eat Seudat Shlishit. (That being said, since you know when the time for Seudat Shlishit is, you should endeavor to be in a state where you can fulfill the mitzvah of eating a third meal- and not be stuffed beforehand, nu?)

**I’m new to this Jewish learning thing, so stick with me on this explanation** We learn that we should not drink copious amounts of alcohol because of the commandment to drink at certain times during the year- 4 cups at each Pesach seder, on Purim we should be in such a state that we can’t differentiate between the evil Haman and the brave Mordechai, etc. The assumption is that if we need to be told to drink, we obviously don’t/shouldn’t drink a lot the rest of the time. (This is the same method of learning from which we learn that married women should cover their hair.)

So, I would love to be able to post the answer, but this is just the start of my learning. I plan on joining a hevruta to delve further into this issue, and apologize for leaving you with only questions. As I learn more, I will post more, mostly because I find this fascinating, and am really enjoying learning Torah. In the meantime, share your learning with me- post comments!

In Hebrew, this ability to size up a situation and respond appropriately is called mida (plural midot). This concept has no exact equivalent in English, though it is often mistranslated as "character trait/s." But, in fact, the word mida literally means "measure." It stands for the ability to instinctively "measure" with our minds the appropriateness of our emotions.

Good midot (this is where the translation of "character traits" comes in) are indicative of the person who measures accurately. His actions are always balanced by good reason. Bad midot are indicative of a person who has not worked out a system to measure the appropriateness of his responses to situations very well.

Developing good midot is not only important for social popularity; it is another one of the six commandments that are with us at all times.