For sure, you want to look good and feel good this summer. Let's start: there are two aspects to eating - qualitative and quantitative. Eating natural food of the quality is so important to our health, but so is the way we eat and the amounts we eat. Here's a plan that's super-healthy for the body and just as healthy for the soul.
Holiday to Shabbat to holiday, with heavy meals and tons of snacking on the way. Don't forget that a minute on the lips is a year on the hips, if you're not careful. That's why this post is so vital before the upcoming week of Succoth:
This post, if you follow it, will aid your health and save you from needless holiday weight-gain.
Parenthetically, I don't believe in dieting of any kind - a person who learns how to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle doesn't need to diet...
Most diets are unhealthy fads that lead to short-term, unhealthy weight loss and long-term frustration, metabolic and/or nutritional imbalance, ailments of all kinds and weight gain. The extremes go from Paleo/Primal on one end that tells you to eat all the meat and fat you want but stay away from carbs, to total vegan on the other end that tells you that an egg, sardine or chicken breast will kill. Neither extreme approach is in accordance with Torah and the Rambam's timeless advice on nutrition. But, let's save that discussion for another time. Meanwhile, the best advice is what I call "Ivri", eating just the way our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did. That means eating foods as close to the way Hashem created them, with no interference from food manufacturers and genetic modifiers. With that said, let's talk about Succoth...
In Judaism, Succoth is the annual "joy harvest", where we gather happiness for an entire year. The problem is that with multiple daily festive meals, visiting friends and relatives in their Succas and partying all week long, most people gather pounds in addition to the joy. And, the excess weight eats away at the joy…
Today's "Strength and Serenity" advice might save you from adding two inches to your waistline this Succot. None of us want to go the route of gaining needless weight, so let's do a little holiday-eve preparation with this food for thought:
The perennial post-holiday problem of many Jewish people is the added calories, pounds, flab, and cholesterol of a week of eating and rejoicing in the Succah. As Brodyhealth.com is committed to the health of body, mind, and soul, we've composed a few guidelines to combat the expanding Succoth waistline.
Beware of empty calories: empty calories come from nutrient-scant foods, especially manufactured products, fast food and junk food. Stick to what I call nutrient-dense foods, where you get the most nutrients from each calorie consumed. Here, the winners are fresh vegetables, fresh foods and naturally dried (not roasted or salted) seeds and nuts. Nutrient-scant foods (cakes, pastries, sweets, soft drinks and liquor) are outright dangerous to the body.
Beware of the cakes: Many people want to make a blessing on the Succa every time they enter it. But, one really shouldn't make a blessing unless he eats something. For that reason, many folks eat cake ("mezonos", at a minimum amount of a little over and ounce) so they can say the "Leshev B'Succa" blessing, the blessing to sit in the Succa. If a person eats 2 ounces of cake 3 times a day, that adds another 840 calories to his daily intake. The Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a says that one should make a "Leshev B'Succa" blessing only when eating a proper meal that includes washing your hands and breaking bread. So, don't eat cake for the purpose of making a blessing to sit in the Succa. If a person eats 3 average-sized portions of cake a day for the 9 (outside of Israel, 8 in Israel) days of the Succoth/Simchat Torah holiday, he'll gain more than two pounds. We suggest eating sliced fresh carrots or sliced green apples instead of the cake.
Beware of the liquor: Many people make a "Lechayim" every time they visit the Succa of a friend and relative. In Israel, quite a few people that barely touch alcoholic beverages all year long keep them on hand to serve guests, and end up toasting glass-per-glass with the guest. A one-ounce shot of vodka or 86-proof Whiskey is 70 calories, while an ounce of a 72-proof liqueur such as Kahlua or Banana Liqueur is a hefty 117 calories. 3 "Lechayims" a day is enough to pick up another half pound during the week of the holiday. Adding that to the cakes (see above), you've already gained 2.5 pounds during Succoth. Putting the weight on is so much easier than taking it off.
Beware of sweet beverages: Succoth is a time when parents allow the Pepsi and the Coke to flow freely all week long. Now hear this - an 8-ounce glass of Coke Classic is a whopping 97 calories, just as caloric as the equivalent amount of beer or of a slice and a half of bread. A person that drinks 6 glasses of cola a day will gain almost a pound on Succoth, plus wreck his/her teeth and gall bladder in the process. We suggest that you reach for the mineral water, sparkling water, or herb tea instead, for they have zero caloric value.
Beware of snacks: People like to munch in the Succa. We all know that you can't eat one Frito or potato chip - therefore, those plastic bags empty fast. One ounce of fritos, potato chips, or our Bamba and Bisli add another 160 calories to your calorie-galore score. If a person drinks two glasses of cola and consumes two ounces of snack foods a day, he'll gain over a pound during Succoth. Again, fresh carrot and cucumber sticks are a virtually non-caloric and healthy replacement for the junky snack foods. And, if you want something sweet, try Madjool dates or dark chocolate that's 85% cocoa or more, but limit yourself to 2 dates or 2 chocolate squares a day.
So, with the cakes, the l'chayims, the cokes and the snacks alone - without the heavy meals that include kugel and fat meats, you've already gained close to 5 pounds. And, if you drink diet beverages and use artificial sweeteners, you might not gain the weight but you'll be likely to suffer from headaches and anxiety.
True, tradition is important; that is, as long as it doesn't ruin your health. At the Brody homestead, whole-grained rice, buckwheat groats and quinoa have replaced fried farfel and oil-dripping kugel. We don't fry, but broil and bake. We eat loads of veggies and fresh fruit, and drink local mineral water. Fish and lean poultry have replaced the lamb and veal, and we eat beef sparingly. Dessert is homemade applesauce, fresh cantaloupe cubes, a square of 85% (minimum) chocolate or an almond-stuffed fresh date. Our bread is home-baked and whole-grain, preferably spelt with minimal or no yeast. We want to control what enters our bodies; the manufacturers care about making money, not about our health. That's why we don't buy their products. Our bodies weren't designed to digest the myriad of chemical additives and preservatives that they force-feed us. By the way, we do male a l'chaim over a glass of a fine Land-of-Israel dry red wine, which is rich in rich in many antioxidants that contribute to cardiovascular health and other perks for the body, including fighting inflammation and blood clotting, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
The Rambam gives an important reminder - don't eat until you're full. The stomach resembles a washing machine - if you overload it, it can't do the laundry. By the same token, an overloaded stomach can't digest, resulting in indigestion, another common Succoth ailment.
A great way to combat the the expanding Succoth waistline is to walk for an hour a day. Better yet, while you're walking, talk to Hashem in personal prayer. That way, your body gets its exercise and your soul gets its nourishment, that is none other than connecting with Hashem. What could be better? BrodyHealth.com wishes you a happy and healthy Succoth with no indigestion and no expanding waistline, amen. If you need further advice, feel free to contact us.
You got it! You'll never hear me speak about losing weight without getting into shape. They must be simultaneous in order to be healthy, for weight loss without conditioning is liable to be damaging, as we've written several times previously. I have found that the more my clients taste success, the more motivated they become; the more motivated they become, the more efficiently they improve their fitness, reach their weight goals and vastly improve the way they feel. Try these 18 tactics - all or a segment of them - and you'll succeed too.
- Eat veggies and protein for breakfast - to build muscle, you need adequate protein. Try an omelette, a chunk of baked salmon or sardines with a green salad that includes leafy veggies and celery. Whereas the cornflakes breakfast leaves you starving by 10 AM, the veggie and protein breakfast will have you satiated well past noon. What's more, good morning fuel boosts metabolism.
- Brush your teeth after every meal - it's great for your dental health and curbs appetite.
- Cut out both sugary drinks and fruit juices - they add loads of carbs and calories that are the #1 enemy to weight loss.
- In continuation of #3 (above), drink plenty of water; cold water especially causes your body to burn calories in order to maintain your 98.6F body temperature, so don't spare the ice.
- Lift heavy weights - incorporate resistance training into your workout routine; this can also be such bodyweight exercises as pushups and squats. The more you build muscle mass, the more you increase your metabolism.
- Move more - walk (30 min./day at least, 5 days a week) as much as you can; climb stairs rather than using the elevator (super cardio!), and carry packages home from the store. Be imaginative!
- Cut out all white sugar and use only natural sweeteners such as dates and unprocessed honey, sparingly as well.
- Substitute all white flour for whole grain flour and whole grain foods - spelt (the king!), whole wheat, oat, rye and barley.
- Don't purchase manufactured foods - they're full of substances that the body doesn't know how to process and digest; as a result, the inhibit weight loss.
- Cook and eat at home rather than eating at restaurants - you'll be improving your health and saving tons of money.
- Maker realistic goals that you can reach, then set the bar higher.
- Give yourself incentives - as you reach your interim goals, buy yourself new workout shoes, a new clothing article or a new piece of workout equipment.
- Get a fitness watch - such devices as the Fitbit Charge 3 (my favorite) or Inspire motivate you to walk, workout and log weight, giving you constant positive reinforcement.
- Track your activity - keep an exercise and weight log, and monitor your progress.
- Have a weekly cheat day - on Shabbat, eat what you like and enjoy, then go right back on regiment the next morning. But, don't go crazy and keep white sugar off the cheat list.
- Drink coffee - despite what people tell you, natural ground coffee (best to buy beans and grind your own) coffee has been shown recently to help you live longer, protect your liver, and even ward off diabetes. It also curbs appetite.
- Improve posture - by sitting up straight, walking and standing taller, you engage your core and burn more calories, so be conscious of your posture and don't slouch.
- Vary your workouts - do different types of exercise on different days, and keep yourself motivated and interested.
That's my "Chai" (18) for good health. Give it a go and let us know your progress. Feel free to send us your success stories. My blessings for your great health and warmest regards, LB
Mark went on a diet to be slimmer for the beach season. He dropped 30 pounds, from 190 to 160, in a relatively short time. But, he didn't look any better. What's more, at 190, he could do 50 pushups but now at 160 he can barely do 32. What did he do wrong? Fad diet? "Guaranteed quick weight loss"? Both, and more. Mark lost weight irresponsibly...
Don't make the same mistake. Read this, because we want for you what you want for yourself - to look better and to feel better.
The classic weight-loss mantra says, "Burn more calories than you take in, and fat comes off." That's not so simple. If the calorie deficit comes from merely eating less calories than you burn, without incorporating exercise into the equation, then the body will relinquish muscle mass much quicker than it will burn fat. What's more, muscle weighs much more than fat! So, don't let the scale fool you. With that in mind, let me give you several key signs that you're losing muscle mass rather than fat:
- You feel sluggish and your every-day functioning is impaired;
- You've lost a lot of weight in a short time;
- Your body has shrinking circumferences, but your pinch-fat is the same. Since you've lost muscle mass, your body-fat percentage is even higher than it was when you weighed more and you've actually lost strength (#1, above). What's more, when merely losing weight (muscle mass) rather than fat, your body won't be more attractive; quite the opposite...
To avoid the above three signs, our goal should be losing fat, not losing weight. The tightness of your skirt or trousers is a much better indication of fat loss than the bathroom scale is. Stay away from crash diets that offer quick results of weight loss. So, instead of losing weight, let's talk about losing body fat, and doing so responsibly. Here are five ways to do just that:
- Lift weights: lifting weights builds muscle and muscle is catabolic, meaning that it fuels metabolism even when it's not toiling. I prefer body-weight and free-weight exercises to weight machines. You don't even need weights - carry home the grocery bags from the supermarket.
- Get daily cardio: walking or riding a bike for 30 minutes daily is great, but the more cardio is versified, the faster the fat will fall away. I try to do wind-sprints or running up sand dunes at least once a week. Incorporate plyometric exercises like burpees and HIIT at least once a week and you'll further fuel your metabolic fat-burning capability.
- Split your meals: rather than eating humongous meals, take the Rambam's advice and eat well below your stomach's capacity. The four or five smaller meals are preferable to the two or three tremendous ones, for the body will burn the smaller meals' calories much more efficiently.
- Drink cold water, and lots of it: water has no calories! If it's cold, your body will have to burn calories to maintain its 36.8C (98.6F) body temperature. What's more, water is essential for your brain and heart's proper function, your energy level and for keeping your body waste-free.
- Consume healthy snacks: prefer fruits and veggies over carbs. Celery sticks, with their high fiber content, will make the body work hard and burn calories.
Wait and see how quickly and favorably your body reacts to the above five points. The results will be encouraging, but be patient and don't give up! There's no reason in the world that you shouldn't look and feel great, especially now in the summer. Blessings for your success, and let us know how you progress! Yours always, LB
"Shavua Tov", blessings for a wonderful new week. You haven't heard from my in over a week because I lost my beautiful and beloved 93-year-young mother on Friday 5, 2019 and finished the "Shiva" seven-day mourning period right before the Sabbath. I'm still in the USA, where my wonderful sibs and I have been together in recent weeks, and hopefully will return home to Israel later this week. It's good to be back with you here at "Strength and Serenity":
A lot of the fad diets have penetrated the Jewish world, which is infamous for unhealthy eating especially on Shabbat. For example, after Shabbat morning services, many congregations sponsor a "Kiddush" brunch of Coca Cola, liquor and pastry, followed by a meal of white Challa, potato and noodle kugels and cholent, with desserts of more cakes, roasted nuts and parve ice cream. Sure, one "cheat day" a week is legitimate, when we loosen up on our diet discipline and partake of a sweet or two, but that doesn't mean a total lack of restraint and going carb-crazy.
What happens? Many have turned to fad diets that promise quick weight loss. And guess what - the quickest weight loss results from loss of muscle mass. Muscle weighs a lot more than fat. Therefore, don't be impressed when you see that adherents of the fad diets have lost tons of weight, fast. Notice that they don't exercise. As a result, their bodies look like big empty burlap sacks draped on bone. At least when they were fat, their muscles had to work to carry the extra weight. But now, nothing. No muscle tone, just empty flab.
Modern society has become so focused on weight loss, that any weight loss seems to be good. It certainly is not. You look better and feel better when you increase your muscle-to-fat ratio. In other words, by exercising and increasing caloric intake - especially with quality protein and good HDL-producing fats - you gain weight big time without adding a millimeter to your waist or hips. In fact, your trousers or skirt fits better than ever.
The impressive initial weight loss of the "effortless" fad diets comes from losing the strategic and vital area of your body - your muscle mass. Therefore, the goal of dieting should be to improve body composition, the percentage or ratio of muscle to body fat, like we said. You do that by losing fat without losing muscle tissue. Maintaining and even increasing muscle mass is critical to weight control, because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. What's more, as you exercise and add resistance/strength training to your routine, you can actually look thinner and have a smaller waistline, but the scale shows that you gained weight! How can that be? Simple - muscles take up less space in your body, so body weight may stay the same or even go up as you add compact, tight muscle mass. In density, muscle is 22% more dense than fat. In other words, if you've been doing strength /resistance training, your waist is thinner, your skirt or trousers fit great, you look and feel great, but you weigh more! Maybe at 145 lbs, you could only do 20 pushups, but now at 155, you can do 50! Yes, you weigh more but you're much more healthy. Keep on liftin', bro and sis, and put the bathroom scale in the closet!
That's what I call "Body Politic". So, forget about your weight and just be strong and healthy. When you eat right - as natural as possible - and exercise, you'll burn fat and build muscle anyway. G-d willing, we hope to post more body-health and fitness pointers in the near future. Stick with us and meanwhile, stay healthy!