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.

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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