Healthy Eating

Tips for a Safe and Healthy Fast Day

Bayit Shlishi 6.8.19

Above image - dreaming of the Holy Temple, which we all lament for on the fast day of Tisha B'Av

This year, Tisha B'Av - the day of the worst calamities that befell the Jewish people - falls on sundown, August 10, and continues until the stars appear on Sunday evening, August 11, 2019.

Since this is a fast day during the year's warmest weather, it's a challenge. A person could be especially susceptible to headaches, extreme weakness, dehydration and hypoglycemia, when blood-sugar levels fall dangerously low. With a few precautions and proper preparation for the fast, the dangers can be avoided and the fast can actually be safe and healthy.

Before the fast:

  1. Beginning with Friday morning, 36 hours before the fast, try drinking a glass of water every hour.
  2. On Thursday night and Friday, eat salty foods (this is no mistake!) such as pickles, olives and goat cheese. These are all the foods that people with edema avoid, for they help retain fluid and therefore prevent dehydration. To avoid thirst, stop eating these foods on the day that the fast begins, namely all day Shabbat (Saturday).
  3. Avoid sugary and starchy foods this Shabbat, for they have a high glycemic index (GI) and therefore cause a deeper GI Levelsplunge in blood sugar levels shortly after eating (see adjacent graphic).
  4. Eat plenty of good quality protein - eggs, fish and high quality pasture-fed (organic, if available) beef and poultry - protein is satiating and will provide slow-release energy during the fast, since they are complex food stuffs that require longer time to digest.
  5. Stay away from coffee and caffeine for 24 hours before the beginning of the fast. Drink herb tea instead.
  6. My favorite rule of thumb is to focus on eating foods that are as unprocessed as possible, not only making the coming fast easier and healthier but promoting better blood sugar balance and better digestion, both of which lead to better weight control. 

After the fast:

Be careful, for after the fast, your blood sugar levels are at their lowest. The worst thing you can do (a cardinal nutrition sin that many congregations commit) is to dive into the coke, fruit juices and pastries the moment the fast is over. This drives blood sugar through the roof and creates a shock to the body; this could actually trigger diabetes, Heaven forbid. What's more, drastic rises and falls in blood sugar cause headaches, nausea and fatigue. In order to avoid this, takes the following precautions:

  1. Break your fast with a glass of ice-water and high-fiber foods such as celery sticks or whole grain/bran crackers.
  2. Add to the above a portion of protein, such as cottage cheese or goat cheese, which will also slow the rise of your blood sugar level.
  3. Avoid all sugary substances, soft drinks, fruit juices, cakes and pastries - these are downright dangerous at the end of a fast.
  4. Drink at least 2 glasses of water an hour for the first 4 hours after the fast. This will replenish the body's fluids and slow the increase of blood sugar levels.
  5. Don't eat a heavier meal until at least an hour after breaking your fast in the above manner; preferably, do some light exercise (like a 30-minute walk) before having a heavier meal.

Feel free to pass the above advice along to friends and family. Even better, send them this link so that they can subscribe to our weekly newsletter. We have no doubt that the above tips will not only make your fast more bearable, but safe and healthy as well! Every blessing, and may we soon see our rebuilt Holy Temple in Jerusalem, speedy and in our day, amen!


Lazer's 18 Favorite and Most-Effective Conditioning and Weight-Loss Tactics

18 Tactics 5.8
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.

  1. 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.
  2. Brush your teeth after every meal - it's great for your dental health and curbs appetite.
  3. Cut out both sugary drinks and fruit juices - they add loads of carbs and calories that are the #1 enemy to weight loss.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. Cut out all white sugar and use only natural sweeteners such as dates and unprocessed honey, sparingly as well.
  8. Substitute all white flour for whole grain flour and whole grain foods - spelt (the king!), whole wheat, oat, rye and barley.
  9. 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.
  10. Cook and eat at home rather than eating at restaurants - you'll be improving your health and saving tons of money.
  11. Maker realistic goals that you can reach, then set the bar higher.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Track your activity - keep an exercise and weight log, and monitor your progress.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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


Body Politic

"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":

Trying
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!


Avoiding Weight-Gain and Constipation during Passover

Matza Hurdle 15.4
Passover is the freedom holiday - freedom from all types of bondage, mental and physical. But, with the drastic change in diet, many people become slaves to weight-gain and constipation. It doesn't have to be that way. Proper matza consumption, when done in accordance with the Rambam's principles, is actually fantastic for overall health, enabling you to jump over the hurdles of matza-related health problems. Here are a few important tips to remember during Passover; follow them, and you'll enjoy freedom from both constipation and weight gain:

  1. Twenty minutes before your meal with matza, drink at least two glasses of water. Try to avoid drinking during the meal, unless it's dry red wine or water or seltzer mixed with dry red wine at at least one part wine to three parts water.
  2. Chew matza slowly and thoroughly, enabling your saliva to act upon the matza until it becomes a soft paste in your mouth. Only then, swallow. You'll eat slower and will be satiated by eating much less. What's more, the saliva plays an important role in digesting carbohydrates.
  3. Purchase whole-grain matza - wheat, spelt or oat - and avoid the cheap white-flour industrial square matzas. 
  4. Fresh and leafy veggies and increased fiber intake are a must during Passover.
  5. Don't multi-task while eating, especially while eating matza. The brain treats matza like potato chips, so if you munch without thinking about what you're eating and how much, then the calories pile up fast.
  6. Set aside daily time for exercise, especially walks with the family. This is great for both health and relationships.
  7. Make sure to eat a minimum of other carbs. Treat sugar, especially white sugar, as if it's not kosher for Passover. From a health standpoint, it's not kosher all year long.
  8. Avoid all soft drinks, even the ones with artificial sweeteners, for the body has no idea how to digest such chemicals. Drink water, seltzer and dry red wine.

Follow the above eight tips, and you'll feel great, both during the Passover holiday and afterward. G-d bless for a lovely Passover!