One woman’s journey away from the world of diets…to the world of mindful, wholesome eating.
By Malky Jacobs
Diet. We either cringe when we hear the word, binge from the stress of it, or push ourselves enthusiastically into yet another attempt at weight loss.
I ditched the word “diet” from my vocabulary a long time ago. Not because I’m thin—I’m not, but because I’m done with the negative side effects of dieting.
Here’s some background on me: I always was a chunkier kid. I probably wasn’t really overweight at the time, but a little bigger than my peers. My mother never said anything about my weight or figure…but she did complain about shopping. Oh, but she hated to shop even with my “thin” sisters. My grandmother, on the other hand, would constantly tell me to lose just a few pounds. (When we speak nowadays, my weight is one of the first things she asks about. And she’s not young anymore.)
My mother was the typical health-nut parent. When I was a kid there weren’t many of those kind of parents. There were no gluten-free fads, or clean-eating talk…but my mother was one of the first. I didn’t like it as a kid, but today I see the foundation of knowledge she gave me.
After I got married and before I had my first baby, I gained 60 pounds, and then another 50 or so during my first pregnancy. I had my baby, didn’t lose the weight, got pregnant again, and gained more. I was way over 200 pounds before I even blinked.
So my dieting saga began. I tried all diets. Lost, gained, lost, got pregnant, gained, gained some more, lost some, gained even more. The cycle never stopped.
And then Hashem opened my eyes and He taught me a thing or two. We went through a health crisis and I had to become an educated nutritionist overnight. Here is where my mother’s chinuch kicked in and I realized how grateful I am for the things I hated (don’t we all end up becoming like our moms?). I researched, read, experimented and came to a realization that really gave me so much clarity and freedom. I realized that as long as I feed my body with nutritious food, in a wholesome way, I can feel good.
The work is to become a wholesome, mindful eater. To be able to make smart wholesome and mindful choices, we first need to have the knowledge of our choices.
The information I am putting out here is what I’ve learned through the years. I am not a certified nutritionist, doctor or nurse.
What is wholesome food?
We need all food groups, proteins, healthy fats, whole starches, fruits and veggies. The less ‘processed’ the food is, the more nutrients it’ll have.
Proteins: eggs, fish, poultry, meat, cheese
Healthy fats: olive oil (not heated—I use spray oil for cooking, light olive oil for baking and extra virgin olive oil in salads) avocado, nuts, and seeds (and in butter form) and whole milk (or milchigs).
Whole starches: whole grains, rice, quinoa, buckwheat…and starchy vegetables, potatoes all kinds, corn, squashes (like butternut, acorn, spaghetti).
Fruits: Try different ones for a range of nutrients.
Vegetables: Keep trying those interesting ones you see in the grocery and Costco.
*Healthy fats won’t make you fat, just like red tomatoes do not make you red (as read in a book I read by Dr Richard Goldstein).
*Don’t take away a food group or food type because you think it might make you fat (unless you have to do that for medical reasons). Keep in moderation.
*Fruits and veggies have a ton of nutrients. Fruits have a high sugar content, healthy sugars, but sugar nontheless. So if you are a healthy person, you should be able to handle that, but if you’re battling something like diabetes then fruits aren’t good for you.
*Check serving sizes. Get used to eating ONE serving! If you are still hungry take a second serving but be aware you are doing that.
*Things that are bad for you are chemicals, preservatives, coloring, artificial flavors etc. Try to avoid that!
*Sit down when you eat. Do you say that to your kids all the time? Well, time to tell it to yourself and listen to yourself.
*Start your day with drinking water (have your coffee a bit later) and keep drinking when you are thirsty.
How My Cooking Has Changed
*I prepare a full supper every single day. I don’t buy ready-made or frozen food; we don’t eat out regularly. When we do eat out (1-2 times a year), it’s at a restaurant that has fresh food, not take out or pizza shops.
*I make a soup in the beginning of the week that lasts for that week. I then make a protein, veggie side dish, whole starch (no pasta) side dish and sometimes a salad, depending on the weather.
*I try to treat myself the way I treat my husband (friend/guest). I am worth is at least as much. We don’t get an award for “Most meals skipped because I’m such a busy mom.” No reason to be a martyr. Have breakfast by the table, enjoy it, bench, move on to your next task.
My Typical Day
7-7:30 a.m. Wake up. Drink water. Prepare breakfast for the kids (eggs or plain Greek yogurt with fruit).
8:15 a.m. Kids leave. Mom eats breakfast when it’s quiet (just baby and me). Coffee, yogurt, and fruit.
11ish. I have a snack. An apple with a tablespoon of almond butter is very typical for me. Or a handful of pecans with other fruit.
1:30-2:00 is lunch. Fresh eggs, lox, tuna, cheese with rice cakes, sourdough bread, or quinoa along with a salad or cut-up veggies. If I’m too busy to prep I’ll make a pizza from 1 slice sourdough bread (I buy the Bread Alone bread that I’ve have found it in many health food stores. It has the Kaf K hechsher), 1 tablespoon tomato paste made from tomatoes only, spices, and cheddar, mozzarella, or Muenster cheese. Broil it and it’s easy to eat quickly.
A midday snack can be fruit again, cut up veggies, or nuts. Or a combination of these.
6:00 p.m. or around then is suppertime. For protein, I have either baked chicken bottoms, broiled cutlets with a sauce, chicken or meat patties or sloppy Joes, or fish. I’ll stir-fry or broil the veggie (all kinds, such as string beands, mushrooms, cauliflower, etc.) My starch will be quinoa, a baked sweet potato, or spaghetti squash.
We don’t have dessert. On Shabbos, at most, we sometimes have apple compote or fresh fruit. Later in the evening I like to have a tea with a piece of chocolate or two.
Then There’s Life
This is how a perfect day looks for me. There are all types of days and some meals don’t end up being as wholesome or as mindful. And that’s ok. Life happens and we have simchas where lots of goodies are served. It is ok to have some, just know what you are eating and why you’re eating (social eating, cravings, can’t say no to host, emotional eating, etc.). Make a bracha, enjoy and bench. This is called mindful. You will automatically eat better. You will lose or gain weight. But you will feel good.
I keep a log of what I eat to stay mindful and accountable to myself.
Am I thin? No. But I know I’m healthy. I feel good, I look good. Those are the things that are important for me right now.