Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Finally. Eating Mindfully. Dumping Excess Weight. WooHOO!

Yom revi'i, 22 Elul 5774.

"Heaven never helps the man who will not act." ~ Sophocles*

HWC breakfast of mango, blueberry, lichi and pomegranate
So I'm on this new diet. (Of course I am. I'm an American woman. It's our national pastime.)

David J. Zulberg wrote the book The Life-Transforming Diet: Based on Health and Psychological Principles of Maimonides and other Classical Sources.

I purchased the newest (2014) edition four months ago, and decided to go through the book religiously (you should pardon the pun).

Honestly, there was something comforting about following a diet (that is not actually a diet, per se, but a manner of mindful eating and exercise) that the Rambam would have approved. And the fact that it is Jewish means that it takes into account how to eat over Shabbat and the chagim without necessarily going off the plan. One can even dine out! Even though this is called a diet, which implies weight loss, some people use this approach to gain needed pounds, or simply to feel healthier, with more alertness and energy.

Another thing I like about this way of eating is that one can tailor it to her particular food likes and dislikes. For example, I have had more success eating a protein-centric diet as opposed to grain-based. Some of my friends are the opposite, and cannot eat a lot of protein, or respond badly to it, or have issues with gluten; some are vegetarians. The Life-Transforming Diet (LTD) allows for all of these styles of eating. The only people who would struggle, I think, are those who despise fruits, vegetables and exercise... but even for those, the secret of the diet -- incremental change -- might get them past their issues toward eventual success.

The initial steps of the LTD were so slow, I felt like I was cheating. In the first week, all one is expected to do is to add a high-water content meal -- melon by itself, or fruit, or salad, or soup. The next week, one adds five minutes of exercise. "FIVE MINUTES??? Who can't do that?" I thought. The ultimate goal of the diet has much less to do with weight control than relearning the art we lost when we were about three years old of knowing when enough is enough. In short, learning to listen to our bodies, rather than following after our eyes and hearts and the "Supersize me" ads. The idea is that, over time, one learns through a "subconscious accumulation process" to eat appropriate amounts at the right times, and to learn to see exercise as pleasurable rather than daunting.

Another feature that I like of the LTD is the smart approach to snacking. When diets informed me that I was allowed a half-cup of cottage cheese and some carrot sticks, I felt like I was in jail. But when you give me a sort of choice hierarchy, and leave that choice to me, I feel like I'm in control. At a certain level, it's a psychological trick. But it has made sense as a means of teaching me how much food I actually need between meals.

Since this is the most success I have ever had -- success being measured in disappearing pounds and in not feeling nagging hunger pangs -- I am considering teaching this to anyone who wants to learn it, once I reach my goal weight. I have currently dumped six excess kilos (a little over 13 pounds). I'm eating less than I used to think I needed without feeling hungry; and I'm on my elliptical or on my bike nearly every day -- and enjoying it! Dare I say it? I'm actually having fun on this program.

With Rosh Hashana right around the corner, I'm planning my future menus with lots of shemita produce to take advantage of the holiness of this very special year, foods my whole family will enjoy, and that will help me to keep discarding kilos. L'chaim!

So far, David gives food recommendations, but no recipes. So I thought I would begin to share a few of my own, based on his principles. Please let me know what you think.

HWC Fruit Breakfast (pictured above)

1 mango, diced
1/4 cup blueberries
3 lichi nuts, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
dash of cinnamon
dash of coriander
salt to taste

(I've written measurements, because I know it makes you happy; but all measurements are actually approximations. Make it the way you like it. Since we aren't counting calories here, David recommends a nice big bowl of fruit. Remember to eat melon alone. Or with one close friend. Ba-dum-BUM! Ksshhh!!!)

Light One CF Meal: salad with ground beef
For lunch, I often make a big bowl or ice cream tub of salad. Thank God the Israelis never heard of iceberg lettuce, and that the vegetables are fresh and seasonal with lots of flavor! I top it with salmon or some other protein, such as chicken or canned tuna, or even ground beef (pictured) or entrecote, and maybe some seeds. There are wonderful varieties of seeds for sprinkling on salad; and they take care of my need for something a little earthy or salty. Also, Israel introduced me to zatar (a mixture of hyssop and sesame seeds) which makes any salad a party. Drizzle with a little olive oil and lemon juice, and I have a lunch that keeps me satisfied for hours. (If you prefer carbs to proteins, you can use pasta or starchy vegetables instead of meat or fish in this salad.)

For Shabbat, we will often prepare a whole salmon, as it's cheaper to prepare a lot at once, rather than buying the little packages of salmon pieces. That means we have a lot left over for the week (during the weeks our young marrieds and soldier are elsewhere). With a little oven-baked pumpkin and various greens, the lightly-steamed salmon is really delicious. (And again, for people who prefer a pasta main dish to protein, this dish might be made with noodles and vegetable sauce, instead of salmon.)

One CF Meal: Salmon with Pumpkin and Salad
Once I reach goal weight, I will begin incorporating whole grains more often. I would eat them now; but grain products tend to get in the way of my goals -- so I'll save them for later. Other people, as I said before, respond differently.

I don't only eat salad, by the way. It's just that the fresh salad greens are plentiful right now, and so flavorful. I look forward to experimenting with ways to continue my new way of eating using winter vegetables and fruits and, please God, to continued success.

I strongly recommend this approach, and this excellent book! And I give you my bracha for success in your efforts to become your best self in 5775.

*Every week, David recommends keeping a very simple diet and exercise journal, at the top of which it is recommended to post a "summary statement" that inspires success. He offers recommendations on his Skinny Habits Facebook page.


  1. I reviewed the book and was very impressed. I'm glad it's working for you. A Doable Diet, The Life-Transforming Diet, Based on Maimonides

    1. Well, see? If I'd read that post, Batya, I'd have started my program earlier, and would have lost more weight by now. ;-)

  2. Wonderful post. I'm inspired! Thank you.

    1. Thank you, dear lady. I'm glad the inspiration goes both ways!

  3. Good luck with your diet. I love the idea of mindfulness related to food. I am working to eat a healthier diet, not because I need to lose weight, but because I am working (along with my health practitioner) with getting healthier. Love the idea of 5 minutes of exercise. I could eat the fruit easily - I would skip the spices. And for my exercise now, I'm going out in my garden. Shana tova!
    (wondering about why you *need* to add grains - isn't your body telling it's having a hard time with them ... read in Nourishing Traditions that Asians have an easier time digesting grains - maybe you are on the opposite side of the spectrum).

    1. Good advice. I'll keep it in mind. I want to incorporate a very small amount of whole-grain products, for variety; and of course, we have the issue of eating a certain minimum of bread for meals on Shabbat (which the book addresses as well, by the way)... but you may be right. Thank you for reading, and for commenting! I wish you success in your pursuit of the diet that works best for Leora!