Maintaining the Rabbinic Figure

About a year ago I tweeted the following, kind of as a joke, but not really:

And indeed I did. I think this was the first time since I moved to Israel that I had a burger at a kosher McDonald’s.1 And, as expected, the nutritionist put me on a new diet which restricted my options. With one year down, let’s see how it worked.

The Diet: On Paper

My nutritionist didn’t focus on portion sizes as much as what I was eating. Here were her basic rules:

  • Eat Breakfast (I usually skipped it)
    • Oatmeal
    • Bran Flakes
  • No Sugar
    • Includes cakes, cookies, candies, etc
    • Includes soft drinks, juices, and wine
    • Includes sauces
    • Fruits are ok, just no more than 3 a day and not all at once (i.e. no smoothies)
  • Unlimited vegetables
  • Manage grain carbs
    • Minimal bread, whole wheat only
    • No carbs at dinner
  • Lean proteins like chicken and fish over meat

There was also an exercise component of 30 min three times a week.

The Diet: In Practice

As anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows there’s a huge difference between being given a plan and actually sticking to it. In my case, I followed certain rules with more diligence than others.

  • Breakfast – Usually instant oatmeal with golden raisins, ground flax seed, and cinnamon for flavor because plain oatmeal tastes like paste.
  • Lunch – Usually a salad with mixed vegetables and tuna or chicken with whole wheat bread
  • Dinner – Most often salmon or some protein with vegetables
  • Snacks – Typically almonds (salted and unsalted) or fruits (including a date or two)

There were times I would “cheat” by going off the specific instructions, but I also had my red lines. For example, I would on occasion have a burger for dinner if I felt a craving or would have carbs like rice or potatoes if they came with a meal.

The red line for me was sugar. I routinely passed on deserts or would choose fruits instead of pastries. I also cut out ketchup, which was kind of a change for someone who used to put it on everything.2 I wouldn’t make a big deal if someone cooked something with a sauce, but when given the option I’d withhold all sauces and wouldn’t add any of my own.

The Results

So, how did it work out? Let’s take a look:

DateKGPoundsKG LostPounds LostBMI
07/13/2017101.5223.7691961—–—–31.3
07/27/201798.4216.9348663.16.83433012830.4
08/17/201796.4212.525620724.40924524429.8
09/08/201795.5210.54146040.91.9841603629.5
11/09/201793.1205.25036612.45.29109429228.7
01/02/201887.5192.90447945.612.3458866827
03/29/201887191.80216810.51.10231131126.9
08/02/201882.1180.99951724.910.8026508525.3
Total  Loss
19.4 kg
42.76 lbs
6 BMI
19.11% Body Weight

There aren’t many pictures of me to do a proper before and after, but the one on this website is recent enough to give some idea of how I look today.

Reflections

I think a few things worked in my favor. First, being raised to keep kosher helps with food discipline since I’ve already been hard-wired to classify certain foods as forbidden. Adding sugar to that list isn’t that much more of a leap, especially when there are so many alternatives.

Second, there were benefits in the accountability of going to a nutritionist knowing that the results were going to be measured regularly. It helped that there was immediate weight loss of 3 kg in the first two weeks. Even if it was just water weight, immediate gratification is a great motivator.

I was also fortunate in my circumstances and tried to take advantage of what I had around me. My office was located in (then near) a mall where I had easy access to healthy food options (which were also excellent). When my office was one floor above a gym, I would get to work early and work out for a half hour daily, alternating between weights and cardio. (I didn’t continue when we moved offices, but I do tend to walk more in Israel). Additionally, I happen to live near the Machaneh Yehuda Market which made it easier to get better food quickly.

I also recognize the advantage of being in Israel with a more socialized medical system such that my nutritionist fees were covered.3 This is not always a given in the United States.

In terms of secondary effects, my bloodwork normalized though I can’t say my mood has improved. I do need to update my wardrobe though, but all things considered that’s a good problem to have.

At the last appointment, my nutritionist said I don’t need to lose more weight, though I really haven’t been trying. I do intend to keep up with the plan, especially staying off sugar.

I cannot emphasize enough that nothing here should be taken as specific dieting advice; this is only descriptive of what worked for me. I can say that it’s never too late to start eating better, whatever “eating better” may mean for you.

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Notes

  1. If you can get past the kitsch factor of there being a kosher version of a famously not-kosher franchise, there are many better burger places in the country even including chains.
  2. Including eggs. It’s good.
  3. Though I wouldn’t say “free” given the higher tax rates here.
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