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January 17, 2018 | ‎א׳ בשבט ה׳תשע״ח‎

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5 Ways to Avoid Overeating During the Jewish High Holidays and Shabbat

jewess eating dinner

For most of us, the Jewish High Holidays and Shabbat look something like this:

Pray (a lot of sitting, some standing).

Eat (could involve entire loaves of bread, bottles of wine, and a variety of meats, carbs, and of course sweets).


Pray some more.

Eat some more . . . a lot more.

Go to bed.

Wake up and repeat.

While many of us would call this “heaven,” in the health and fitness community we call it a serious recipe for expanded waistlines.

There is just so much amazing food to choose from and of course we would never want to insult the host by not clearing our plates, right? After all it is actually a mitzvah to drink wine and eat bread. How can you not?

To partake or not to partake? That is the question! *Sigh*

The answer is tried and true, and really quite as expected: partake for sure, but with consciousness and moderation. I know, it’s totally predictable and boring, but effective nonetheless.

Here are five tips to help you fully enjoy the Jewish High Holidays and Shabbat while not needing an entirely new wardrobe in a larger size by the time it’s all over.

1. Stop, look, and choose

As luck would have it, the mandatory blessings before the meal give us an opportunity to pause before diving head first into the honey bowl. But I suggest taking it a step further. Prior to the meal, get a handle on what the entire menu for the evening is.

Look at all of your options and decide ahead of time what your favorites are, and make those a priority on your plate. You are not obligated to literally eat everything that is served so choose those items that will really satisfy your palate. Don’t overstuff yourself with food that doesn’t really excite you.

2. Skip the seconds 

Fill that first plate up until the point of overflowing if you wish, but draw the line there. Decide before you even arrive for the meal that you will simply not take second servings—this includes everything from soups and salads, main courses, and desserts. Enjoy one serving of whatever you love with no guilt or remorse and then move right along to the next item.

Once you are feeling full push away from the table and, if necessary, get up and walk around. Your brain takes a full 20 minutes to register that your stomach is full and happy, so give yourself that time and trust that one helping is more than enough.

3. Prepare for the influx

Unless you are an absolute angel with complete self-control, most of us already know we will eat more than usual on a holiday or on Shabbat. Prepare for it! Drink lots of water in the days leading up to the holidays, get in extra activity like walks or exercise classes, and start to watch what you are eating on the days before to give yourself a slight calorie deficit on the actual days you will eat large meals.

In many ways the holidays are like a marathon, and you certainly would not run a marathon without being prepared. This is no different! Psych yourself up, make a plan, and give yourself the edge so that when the holidays are over you may be a bit bloated but you’ll bounce back quickly.

4. Focus on the spiritual

Eating is a core component of being a Jew—we have been blessed with amazing foods, a beautiful culture, and the gift of having plenty of opportunities to eat and be happy. Yet oftentimes the focus of the holidays and Shabbat centers around the food itself and not the spiritual significance of the holiday and the meals.

Shifting your focus towards the spiritual side of these sacred days will help you fixate less on the actual food and more on the soul food. Feeding your soul is just as important as feeding your body, and doing both with consciousness and care is an amazing experience.

5. Realize it’s a mitzvah to care for your body

Yes, it really is. God gifted us with one body that is meant to last us from conception until our very last breath (in 120 God willing!) and it is our obligation and responsibility to care for this most amazing technology called the human body.

Our bodies do so much for us—more than anyone or anything else on this planet—and we owe it to our bodies and our souls to make wise, respectful decisions as to what we eat. Love yourself enough to make healthy choices during the holidays and it will set you up for that kind of consciousness all year long!

Wishing you blessings for a beautiful New Year and excellent health always. Shanah Tovah!

Author: Mia Adler Ozair

Mia Adler Ozair is a clinical psychotherapist and certified health coach in Los Angeles, California.