Tag Archive: calories

Chanukah! Thanksgiving! The Calories Are Coming, The Calories Are Coming! Run For Your Lives!

Don’t Panic!


After discussing how to survive the constant barrage of unhealthy high-calorie foods that seem to incessantly invade our environment, we’re now faced with a double whammy: eight days of Chanukah AND Thanksgiving, all rolled into one! Classic! I think this would be a good opportunity, therefore, to discuss how best to handle the upcoming holidays vis-à-vis the expected caloric overload.


Let’s start with what will happen.  You are going to treat yourself to a donut (doughnut?) or latka, and perhaps even two; and you are going to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with friends and/or family. These are good things; this is how it should be. What you shouldn’t do is a) think that eating 2,000 or even 3,000 calories in a single sitting won’t affect you; b) think that you can work off the surplus calories the day after by running a marathon; or c) worry about overindulging to the point where your enjoyment of the festivities is compromised.


So, what to do, what do to? How to reconcile the inevitable onslaught?


I don’t believe it’s realistic to avoid or deny such temptations, nor do I think it’s healthy to do so. However, enjoying yourself doesn’t necessarily mean opening the floodgates either. Instead, it means ‘preparation beforehand’; ‘discipline, thought and enjoyment during’; and ‘control and appreciation afterwards’:


PREPARATION BEFOREHAND: Don’t come home from work to light the Chanukah candles, ravenous and willing to eat every donut or latka within arms’ reach the moment you finish singing Maoz Tzur. Instead, make sure you eat a snack in the late afternoon to ‘take the edge off’ before you come home. Feel free to have a Chanukah treat, but only after eating a healthy supper loaded with stomach-filling vegetables; you’ll eat less unhealthy food afterwards. Similarly, don’t start the Thanksgiving dinner on a totally empty stomach. I know its counter intuitive (why would you eat before you eat in order to eat less?), but even drinking a large glass of water before a meal will help keep your hunger at bay long enough for you to eat more mindfully. Which brings me to…


DISCIPLINE, THOUGHT AND ENJOYMENT DURING: Always eat mindfully. Know why you’re eating the food you’re eating, and have a sense of how much food you need. Eat for fuel, not for fun. Eat slowly, purposefully, and with kavanah. Make a bracha like you mean it, and appreciate every bite. If you’ve ever watched a small child enjoy a cookie, you’ll know what I mean; they don’t eat the cookie, they experience the cookie. Appreciate every mouthful in the moment, and stop thinking of the next bite before you’ve even finished chewing the last.


CONTROL AND APPRECIATION AFTERWARDS: That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have dessert, but know that you’re eating dessert for enjoyment, not because you’re hungry; if you’re hungry, eat food that’s nutritious. Feel free to eat anything you like, but always in moderation. Finally, know when to say ‘enough’; animals don’t overeat in their natural environment, and nor should you. Gluttony is a sin, pure and simple.



Try 20-45 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise (cardio intervals are excellent) within an hour before the big meal; this will increase your metabolism, minimizing the caloric surplus, and shuttle the nutrients in the food to where they’re needed, not to your waistline. You can also exercise after the meal, waiting 30-90 minutes to allow for digestion.


Finally, if you do find you’ve eaten more than you should have, try to eat less and exercise more the remainder of the day. If you accidently dropped your phone on the ground, you wouldn’t think of jumping up and down on it just because you slipped up once – we all make bad decisions from time to time, don’t throw good money after bad, don’t pick at the wound…dress it, and move on with your life.


Prepare beforehand; enjoy in moderation and with appreciation; and always thank Hashem for the amazing gifts of good food and good health. What better time to do so then now, during Chanukah and Thanksgiving?


Not All Calories Are Created Equal

This is a good article that explains why not all calories are created equal.  How can two foods with the same number of calories affect your body so differently?  Read this. 


Do Shabbat & Yom Tov Calories Really Count?

Finding the Balance: Nourish Your Neshamah AND Satiate Your Guf


What would you like the answer to be? I wish I could tell you “no, don’t worry about them, calories only count on days we say Magdil”, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. 


During any normal Shabbat, doing the right thing for your body is tough enough: eating 2-3 large meals, including one late at night, and often with guests; compounded by the fact that you can’t exercise to any large extent, and instead spend the majority of the day sitting at home/shul (getting called up for an aliyah doesn’t count as exercise). This year, of course, with 3-day yomim tovim, we have three times the challenge… and three times over four weeks, no less.


So how can we ensure we don’t leave the festival period with, in addition to an elevated neshamah, an extra inch or two around our waists/hips? 


Here are my seven suggestions to carry us through the chaggim (and any regular Shabbat too):


  1. Start the day with some food in your stomach before shul (e.g. a piece of fruit or a glass of milk); it’ll kick-start your metabolism. 
  2. Limit your intake of starchy carbohydrates like potatoes, rice and bread throughout the day, but particularly during the evening meals. Instead, fill up on salads; and in particular, vegetables with a low glycemic index such as spaghetti squash, broccoli, spinach, cucumber, and other fibrous greens. These foods are less likely to spike your blood insulin level.
  3. Try substituting high caloric desserts (such as cake, cookies, and ice cream) with healthier options (like fruit – what I like to call “God’s dessert”).
  4. Limit your alcohol consumption – at around seven ‘empty’ calories per gram, alcohol contains nearly twice the amount of energy as carbohydrate and protein (around four calories per gram). Fat contains around nine calories per gram.
  5. Weather permitting, take a 30- to 60-minute walk after lunch; and I mean ‘walk’, not ‘amble’ – both your heart rate and mood should be elevated. Hippocrates once said, “Walking is man’s best medicine.” Take your family and friends with you too.
  6. Keep your evening meal portions small, and try to finish your meal at least 2 hours before going to sleep.
  7. Keep hydrated throughout the day – it’ll help with digestion.


Yom Tov and Shabbat shouldn’t be times you dread, always worried about what you’re going to eat, and the weight you may gain. Food should be something we utilize to delight in the chag, to elevate the chag, and to instill spirituality in the chag. Rather than letting calories dictate your enjoyment of these special days, try to focus on what the chag is really about – appreciation for what we have; appreciation with a healthy outlook and an elevated perspective; appreciation for what Hashem has graciously given us. 


We can’t control the weather (as Hashem often reminds us this time of year), but we can control what goes in our mouths, and how we look after our bodies. Just because we can’t exercise as much as we’d like, doesn’t mean everything about our health should fall by the wayside. For example, if you know your wife’s made your favorite chocolate cake for dessert (mmmm….), go for a run before yom tov, and plan the rest of your meals during yom tov accordingly.


As we sit in the succah – our temporary home for a brief few days – let us also be cognizant of the temporary home in which our neshamot reside. Let’s appreciate them, look after them, and use them the way Hashem intended – as well as possible, for as long as possible. May we all have an enjoyable and meaningful yom tov and chag sameach.

15-Point Plan To Reduce Your Calories Though Portion Control

Here’s a 15-point plan developed by Mathew Caddy, MS, RD, for cutting our calories though portion-size reduction.  Some very useful tips and ideas, particularly for Shabbat, Yom Tov, smachot, and other occasions when we’re faced with the “challenge” of eating large meals, often in social occasions.

Click here for full article.

Part I of the article can be found here.

The Truth About Stubborn Body Fat

Very good article summarizing the healthiest way to lose fat, written by Tom Venuto, a bodybuilder, gym owner, freelance writer, success coach and author of the #1 best-selling e-book “Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle” (BFFM).  The article lists six strategies to lose every bit of flab – the natural way – without plateaus, metabolic slowdown or lingering fat pockets: 1) lose fat very slowly; 2) re-feed regularly – don’t stay on low calories all the time; 3) diet in cycles or seasons using nutritional periodization – chronic dieting is dangerous; 4) develop a long term time perspective and set long term goals; 5) re-set your set point (aka, turn down your fat thermostat); and 6) watch your internal dialogue.  

Click here for full article.