Getting through the holidays

With some wise choices, you can enjoy the bounty of the season without putting on weight.

Fruit salad  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Fruit salad
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It’s that time of year again – the holiday season.
Perhaps nothing is more challenging than getting through from Rosh Hashana to Simhat Torah with your health and weight intact. As daunting and challenging as this may seem, a few little tricks and a bit of self-discipline can get you through virtually unscathed.
There are essentially three areas where we all tend to get into trouble. One – the amounts of food we consume sitting at the table for the festive meals. Two –the types of food we eat.
And three –the general lack of activity and exercise during the holidays.
Let’s first look at the portion control issue. There is a mitzva to eat certain foods during the holidays.
There is no m i t z v a , however, to consume mass quantities of anything.
To keep a handle on the overeating problem, try this. Take a reasonable portion on your plate, and if you are truly still hungry after you eat what¹s on your plate, take seconds from a cooked or raw vegetable or whole-grain dish. Remember that drinking water may also make you feel full, so drink up before you start your meal.
As for the second item – the kinds of food we eat. Everyone can make some subtle adjustments in this area as well. Even though meat and chicken dishes are more popular at this time of year, you can trim the fat from your meat and purchase lean cuts to begin with.
Skin the chicken and turkey, preferably before cooking, and keep in mind that the white meat is much less fatty than the dark. Also, keep the emphasis on vegetable and whole-grain dishes.
For dessert, go for fresh fruit salads, melons and sorbets instead of cake and cookies that are laden with sugar and fat. Keep in mind that most parve ice creams contain chemicals and high fat-based whips.
Item No. 3 is lack of activity. No, don’t go out and do an exercise session on Yom Tov! But don’t sit around, either. Nice long, brisk walks, particularly after your meals, are a great idea. There is nothing worse than throwing yourself into metabolic rigor mortis by falling asleep immediately after a meal. When you are done with the walk, stretch a little, and then you can take your nap.
The holidays are a time to be especially joyful and to celebrate with family and friends.
We need not create more stress in our lives than we already have. It is the time for thanking God for giving us life and health over the past year. It is also the time for praying that He will give us good health and long life for the coming year. By the same token, we must make our own effort in the area of health.
God granted us the gift of a healthy body and expects us to do our best to take care of it. This requires healthful eating, exercise, the proper amount of sleep and an active lifestyle.
We all are capable of helping ourselves.
When we don’t take care of ourselves and watch over our health, the end result is illness and incapacitation. When we are sick, we can’t do hessed, learn, pray or take care of our own families. Our soul functions best when our body is at its best.
So instead of saying “After the holidays,” resolve to get started with good and healthful habits right now. Watching your portion sizes, making healthful food choices and staying as active as possible over the holidays are all ways to “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”
The writer is a certified personal trainer and lifestyle fitness coach. He is the co-director of the Jerusalem-based weight loss and stress reduction center Lose It! ([email protected]).