In The Thick of Things

We are in the middle of it now.  Rosh Hashanah is behind us but Succos is here.  Hopefully, you have been able to keep your food intake under control during the Chagim.  We’ve had two days of Yom Tov, a fast day, erev Yom Kippur, and breaking the fast.  This is not a time of having a normal schedule with controlled eating, and now a food fest is ahead of us in the form of the holiday of Succos.

Although this is not exactly the best time to concentrate on weight loss and healthy eating, there is a huge difference between having a holiday where things are out of control and having a holiday with some planned, careful overeating.  Out of control eating can be damaging to your health and weight.  Planned overeating may result in some slight weight gain, or some temporary back-sliding with our health, but will enable one to easily get back on track after Succos.

Setting realistic goals

I have been coaching people on weight control and health for 20 years.  Nothing is more important for success in reaching any goal one has than creating a plan and setting goals.   When it comes to setting goals, there are some iron-clad rules to follow that will bring success.  First and foremost, any goals you set have to motivate you to achieve them.  In this case, you are hopefully motivated to keep your health intact and your weight under control.   You might set a goal of your clothes fitting you after Yom Tov as well as before.

Perhaps even more important is that any goal you set needs to be specific, measurable, and attainable.  You might say that you want the scale not to go up more than one kilo.  That is specific, and you need only to weigh yourself a few times over the holiday and the morning after to measure it.

But we also need to concentrate on making sure that the goal we want to accomplish is attainable—meaning, what we want is realistic to achieve.  If a person decides that during the time period of Rosh Hashanah through Simchas Torah he or she is going to lose 2 kilos that may be a very unrealistic goal.  Given the irregular schedule during this time and the built in excessive calories, attempting to lose weight, especially 2 kilos, would bring disappointment and a feeling of failure.

The damage done by feeling failure

For many people, unfortunately, failure can begin a downward spiral that brings on a feeling of guilt.  This in turn can result in an all-or-nothing mode of thought that can lead to one saying, “Well, if I couldn’t lose the weight I wanted to over the last three weeks, why bother trying.”  Then such an individual will eat whatever he wants in whatever amounts desired and do damage to his health.   This moves one into a pattern of weight gain which accomplishes exactly the opposite of what was wanted in the first place.  Had the goal been more realistic, such an individual would not feel failure or guilt, and would have dealt with the reality of his situation.  Then in the end of the day, he or she would be in a great position to a normal schedule and return to a normal weight as well.

Other important parts of goal setting

When you make your plan and set your goals, write it all down.  Start by finding the main realistic goals you want to reach, but then write down the “how”.  What is the plan?  Will you prepare enough healthy choices at each meal?  Can you serve less choices and make less food?  How about having some healthier desserts at some of the meals like fruits salads and nuts?  Can you limit the time you sit at the table?  Include these ideas in your planning and plan each and every meal on Chol Hamoed and Hoshana Rabba as well as Yom Tov.  You will come out ahead and will increase your chances of reaching your goals substantially.

Pay attention to your plan.  Review it each morning and be sure you have what you need to execute it.  If eating more fruits and vegetables is part of your plans you must make sure that is reflected in your shopping list along with anything else you need to succeed.  Set up your environment so your goals will not meet unnecessary resistance.  Keep undesirable food out of reach and out of sight.

Practical ways to meet your goals

Making or setting goals is all good and very important, but after we make those goals, we need practical application in order to attain our goals.

Here are some tips on how we can get through the upcoming Succos holiday with our health intact:
  1. Don’t skip meals – even erev Yom Tov and erev Shabbos. Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast and lunch since you won’t get to your meal until late at night.
  2. Make sure there are healthy alternatives of your favorite dishes. There are a lot of healthy options for meals and desserts.
  3. You might be spending a lot of time in the kitchen preparing for Yom Tov. Tasting and grazing ads up to a lot of extra calories.  Eating requires being seated at a table and having a real meal or snack.  Don’t graze!
  4. Avoid the “All or Nothing” approach to eating. If you overate at a meal or ate too much of an unhealthy food, move on and start making healthy, balanced choices again. Every small step helps.
  5. Make sure to have healthy snack foods handy, especially over Chol HaMoed. Overeating or eating too much of an unhealthy food often occurs because you are too hungry to make wise decisions, or there are no healthy alternatives. Keep cut up veggies, fruits and nuts, for snacking.
  6. PLANNING IS EVERYTHING! Just as you are planning your Shabbos and Yom Tov meals in advance, you can also plan your meals so that you are not left overly hungry. Plan your daily menus, shopping and snacks so that you have plenty of healthy options and you don’t skip meals.
  7. Watch out for the Challah at each Shabbos and Yom Tov meal. Limit each meal to 2 slices maximum.

After it’s all over

How many times do we hear about starting new things “after the holidays?”  Now is the time to make plans and take action.  After Succos the weather usually begins to cool down and the heat won’t be a factor anymore. Plan now to start walking more—but be specific in setting goals!  How many times per week and what time each day?  How long should your walk be and what course will you be following?  If you prefer the gym, take out the membership now and plan now on which days you will be going and what time of the day.

Goal setting and planning are the keys to getting to the end of Succos in good health and controlled weight gain.  Keep your goals attainable.  Apply these principles whenever you can’t totally control your environment. By doing so you will be able to easily get back on track when Yom Tov is over and add hours to your days, days to your years, and years to your life.” 


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