Have you been to a Kiddush lately on Shabbos? Food as a celebration is nothing new to the Jewish People. After all, it is a Mitzvah to eat three meals on Shabbos, to include meat on Yom Tov, to make Kiddush on wine and to wash and eat Challah at a Seudas Mitzvah. There is no Simcha without meat and wine say Chazal and there are special foods for every Chag. But we have lost our way. Eating food as part of any celebration is just fine, but once again today, I sat at a Kiddush where the menu consisted of cakes, cookies, Yerushlmi kugel, Potato kugel (extra oil, no extra charge), Cholent (even more extra oil) and sugary drinks (not a bottle of water to be found). And then you know what? After we hear the Divrei Torah, we go home and eat a whole meal. Something has gone wrong because as wonderful as any celebratory Kiddush or Seuda is, these foods, especially when consumed in mass quantities will make us sick over the long term.
This over-consumption of food is no small problem in a society such as ours. In any particular week we will attend multiple simchas. We may attend a few weddings, bar mitzvahs, brises, engagements, pidyon habens and siyums and as there is seasonality to this, many times of the year we may be occupied with these events all week long. We can conveniently use these occasions as excuses, but as they occur so often, it pays to find ways to deal with them so they don’t affect our health negatively. We often fool ourselves into thinking that because there is a Mitzvah involved, we can eat anything and everything in any amount.
The truth is that you are in charge of your health and you are in control of making healthful choices in any situation. Go to your friends Kiddush, survey the situation and make smart choices. Make sure to drink only water or seltzer. If you must have a small piece of cake or a couple of cookies to fulfill Kiddush B’Makom Seuda, try avoid the kugels or cholent (you have that waiting for you at home you know) and hopefully there will be vegetables or fruits available. Another suggestion, I personally bring my own whole wheat crackers to the Shule Kiddush on Simchas Torah. You can do that too. Put an apple in your pocket to take with you. But even if you are in a situation where there are no good choices, you can either choose not to eat there or take the minimum amount of food. Another suggestion: if you know you are going to a lavish Kiddush on Shabbos, take two whole-grain Challah Rolls with you, and after you hear Kiddush, wash and make it into your Seuda. This way, you don’t end up eating twice.
All or nothing thinking is one of the “distorted thoughts” sited by behavioral psychologists Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis. Does going to a Simcha and enjoying ourselves have to fall into the “all or nothing” category? Is it possible to partake in a kiddush or wedding or other Simcha and enjoy the occasion without causing harm to ourselves? Most definitely! Here are a few suggestions for your weekday simchas:
The day of the Simcha:
- Think carefully about your food on that day. Do NOT starve all day but eat light choices such as vegetables stir fry, a large omelet, light bread sandwiches, or a cottage cheese/tuna filled baked potato. You know what fills YOU up with smaller portions.
- Expect a late start unless told otherwise….have emergency food with you! Almonds in a bag, apple, 2 whole grain crackers and peanut butter….. even take a thermos of vegetable soup in the car!
- Don’t come to the affair hungry or you may lose control at the reception and/or meal.
- Spend more time on the dance floor being Mesameach Chosson V’Kallah; you will eat less food and burn more calories all at the same time.
At the meal:
- Choose wisely; avoid anything swimming in oil, deep-fried and any borekas or pastries.
- You can ask for more undressed salads, water, and sauce on the side, etc
- Be aware of how much you have left on your daily food allowance and remember that vegetables go a long way.
- Dessert? Isn’t it late already? As a rule this never tastes as good as it looks, better tohave a small taste or skip It altogether.. Be careful, there are trans fats in parve desserts. They raise cholesterol and clogs arteries. Fruit is fine if you are still hungry.
Don’t forget to:
- Eat sitting down
- Eat slowly savoring every mouthful
- Stop when satisfied.
Remember you will eat again! You can even eat when you get home if you have very few choices….the simcha is about so much more than the food served and eaten or not eaten.
As a society, we have made a lot of progress in discouraging smoking cigarettes. We still have a long way to go in that area, but more and more of us never start or have quit. We understand the harm done by smoking and no shortage of Poskim has stated unequivocally that it is prohibited! Yet, the second most preventable cause of death today is the combination of overeating, poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. This is real! The ramifications to our health by overeating aren’t a secret. Being overweight can cause type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, higher risk for cancer, and high cholesterol. The extra weight can cause damage to our muscular-skeletal system and can result in sore knees, lower back pain and overall discomfort from lugging around more weight than our bodies can handle.
Whether you are at a kiddush, a seuda, or just your everyday eating, there is no Mitzvah to overeat—ever! Making the right choices at kiddushes and simchas will “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.