Yisrael is a client of mine who is a young man but very overweight. He is a soldier in the Israeli army and although his job allows him to be home at night, he is up early to daven and to return to his base daily. He then puts in a full day. He needs to lose weight but he is not in control of his food. There is not a lot of food in his home during the week and at his army base he gets whatever they serve. As hard as he is trying to lose weight, the food environment is not conducive to success. On his last visit to my office, we spent a lot of time discussing how he can have access to good food in the proper portions with just a little innovation and some creative planning.
One of the biggest myths about healthy eating is that it takes a lot more time to prepare healthy foods and that the costs have to be much higher. Neither of these is true. It is true that if you only shop in expensive health food stores you will spend more money but it usually isn’t necessary. There are several good approaches to the problem of time and food availability. As different people prefer different approaches, let’s take a look at some possibilities.
As mentioned, preparation is incredibly important. That includes taking one day a week to shop for the different foods and ingredients you’ll need. Some people I know, especially working parents, take one day per week and essentially cook for the entire week. Many use Friday for this as they are already cooking for Shabbat and they simply make more food for Shabbat and store the leftovers in food containers and keep them properly refrigerated or frozen. Many people actually freeze things for the week in individual portions. For instance, if you are grilling or baking chicken breast for Shabbos, when you make extra, put one portion each in a small zip lock bag and put them in the freezer. Every day that you want to make that as part of your meal, take it out of the freezer the night before and you have it ready to eat. This holds true for any food. Perhaps you want to make a big pot of vegetable soup that can last the better part of the week. A large pot of brown rice or whole grain couscous or kasha can stay in the fridge for most of the week as well.
For some people, having food at home for supper isn’t such a big problem, but eating during the day can be a challenge. First and foremost, I can’t emphasis enough the importance of leaving enough time to eat breakfast before you leave the house in the morning. If that means waking up 15 minutes earlier, then set your alarm to do so. There are so many healthy and filling snacks that you can take with you to the workplace or keep in your car if you are traveling. Apportion nuts, preferably almonds or walnuts, in small bags or food containers. Taking apples, oranges or other fruits that are ready to eat other than peeling is easy. Most whole grain crackers come individually wrapped so take a package or two. Good old peanut butter or humus (using a thin layer) is always a good way to get protein. The good old fashioned sandwich also works just great. Be sure to use whole grain bread and whatever you put inside, put on a slice of tomato or cucumber to get a vegetable in.
Let’s say you have just gotten home and you didn’t prepare anything to eat in advance. If you keep some whole wheat pitas in your freezer, just take one out, open it up and make two quick healthy pizzas. Simply spread tomato paste spiced as you like (oregano, onion and garlic powder are quick), and use low fat sliced cheese. Put it in the toaster oven for 10 minutes or the microwave for 3-4 minutes and you have a delicious meal that is giving you good carbs and protein.
Eating vegetables is integral to good health. Many of my very busy clients complain they have no time to start cutting up salads. So don’t. Take a carrot and peel it. Take a pepper and cut it into a 3 or 4 slices and the same for a cucumber. Cherry tomatoes are an easy and delicious snack to take anywhere anytime.
Unfortunately, we now live in a world where time has become an issue for almost everyone. With electronic communication such as email part of daily life, many people are now working in multiple time zones all over the world. Many more people now commute from one part of the world to the other frequently, traversing many time zones. Planning our eating around our unique work or learning schedules can be a challenge. But it is the planning and prioritizing that will create normal eating patterns using healthy choices and enable everyone, no matter what their schedule may be, to be at a normal weight and be healthy.
The same way we need to plan our meals and snacks, we also need to plan our exercise. The same principles apply. Ideally, it would be great to be able to set aside an hour a day for exercise. But again, given our built in time restraints, we have to make the best of whatever our situation is. Remember that walking from place to place and making sure that you accumulate 30 minutes per day in 10 minute intervals does our heart and lungs a lot of good. Doing several muscle-building exercise scattered throughout the day won’t take more than 2-3 minutes each time. Doing up to 40 pushups won’t take more than a minute or so. Use stairs whenever possible and park your car a block or two away from your destination. If you use public transportation, get on a stop later and get off a stop or even two before your destination.
Yisrael has begun to slowly implement many of our suggestion. This is a process but in a few weeks, he will begin to see the changes and the results. With a little bit of planning and preparation, even the busiest amongst us can eat well and exercise enough to make a big difference and “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Check out the his web site –www.alanfitness.com US Line: 516-568-5027.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.