Surviving the Hanukkah Miracle: A Wellness Guide

It’s that time of year again when extra calories start creeping up around every corner. Just when people have started to get on track with their post chaggim diet and exercise routine, “they” start to pop up at the grocery stores, in the malls, even at gas stations.

Yes…the sufganiot have invaded! The best-of-lists will soon start to be published leaving readers excited to try the new “It” doughnut for the upcoming holiday. Sticking to one’s health goals can be quite tricky with a holiday centered on oil. Glazed, sprinkled, chocolate doughnuts staring us in the face everywhere we go. Who isn’t enticed by a doughnut sold with a chaser for an extra shot of gooey goodness? Not to mention the temperature has dropped and the days are shorter so unhealthy food can be a quick feel-good-pick-me-up. So how do we honor the great traditions of the holiday without revolting against our bodies and our health? Well, it doesn’t take a miracle to make some small changes in the way we eat and how we move our bodies which could lead to some big changes in how we feel.

How can we survive the eight days Hanukkah (and weeks beforehand) and come out of it healthy and fit while not feeling deprived during the festival of lights? The key is learning to navigate a healthy relationship with the holiday and its traditional foods. Here is a step by step program to help you through the next few weeks and the miracle of Hanukkah.

Exercise: Plan time for exercise. Hanukkah can get busy with the kids out of school and the country full of activities. Exercise helps relieve stress and prevent weight gain. A moderate and daily increase in exercise can help partially offset increased holiday eating. Try a 15 or 20 minute brisk walks twice a day or go to a yoga or Pilates class for stress relief. If you find yourself unable to get out to burn up some calories try a 20 minute exercise video on the internet which can do wonders for your mind and body.

Goals: Remind yourself of the goals you made after the chagim and push through Hanukkah re-affirming these aspirations. Give yourself a maximum number of sufganiot you will eat this Hanukkah and stick to it! Buddy up with a friend to meet for those power walks or classes and discuss limits such as only one doughnut every other night. Health goals in pairs or groups are usually much more successful than doing it alone.

Eating right: Acknowledge and accept that there will be a lot of food temptations and there’s really no way around that. Once you’ve recognized that fact, the next thing is to arm yourself with an attitude by which you’ll approach enjoying holiday food, but without overdosing on it. Choose foods wisely when eating during a Hanukkah dinner, filling your plate with low-calorie items, such as leafy green salads, vegetable dishes, and lean proteins, and taking smaller portions of the richer ones. That way, you can eat a larger amount of food for fewer calories and not feel deprived. Have a hot soup as a first course―especially when it’s broth-based, not cream-based as it can help you avoid eating too many oil fried foods. Replace the traditional potato latke with a healthier version such as cauliflower or zucchini latkes. Opt for water instead of a sugared soda or alcohol.

Take away the guilt: Feeling guilty after eating foods you don’t usually allow yourself to eat can breed more unhealthy behaviors. Abandon those negative voices in your head and give yourself permission to enjoy the indulgence guilt free.

Enjoy the holiday: This is the holiday of light! Take the focus off of the food and enjoy and celebrate the miracles with our families and loved ones. Throw yourself into activities with the kids; playing dreidel games, arts and crafts or even go out for a walk with the family after the meal.

Chag Samaech!

About the Author
Tanya Rosenblatt Marciano is a certified fitness professional specializing in Barre™. She made Aliyah from Vancouver, Canada and lives in Efrat.
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