How To Have A Guilt-Free Chanukah

latkesMost women dread the chagim and all the food and get so concerned about gaining weight and feeling plain old not well all around. Or also missing out on all the fun.

If you think that I’m just going to tell you to bake your latkes and eat low-calorie food, and avoid all sufganiot, you might want to close this window in your browser now. That just isn’t going to happen! Chanukah is a time of celebration and the right amount of indulgence, and we are going to be eating oily, greasy, fattening, sugary foods.

Did I lose you?

Oh, good. You’re still with me. Fantastic!

Why am I saying all this? Wouldn’t it be better if we could just avoid all that unhealthy, fattening food?

Well:

1 — Chanukah is a CHAG! It’s a time we’re supposed to be chagigi, festive! We just don’t want to be sick or feeling bad about ourselves. So we need to find the right balance.

2 — You might not realize this, but often times when we restrict ourselves from doing things we really want to do, we end up crashing and then we BINGE. It’s better to indulge in the right ways, in a balanced way, and then we’ll feel satisfied, and then we won’t feel the need to binge.

3 — If you’ve created a belief that you’re going to be perfect over Chanukah, if you do slip, you’re going to feel terrible about yourself.

Let’s take a few different strategies to make sure that we’re making some good choices and that our eating is being done in a smart way.

Even though it’s a bit unexpected, the critical first step to making the right eating choices on Chanukah is making sure that this Chanukah is the Chanukah YOU WANT. The one YOU envision.

Why?

Because when events in our lives are going the way we want them to, we have the confidence, calm, composure, cool, and the state of mind to make good choices. We want to avoid stress eating. We want to avoid grabbing food because we’re rushing and crazy.

Obviously, we don’t run the show. We can’t control everything. But we want to stack the deck in our favor as much as possible and put ourselves in the best possible mindset so that even when things don’t go as expected — which they for sure never do! — we will be able to take a deep breath and pick right back up where we left off.

Let’s all take a moment to think — HOW DO YOU WANT TO FEEL during Chanukah?

When we decide FIRST how you want to feel, then we’ll be able to set goals around those feelings.

Imagine yourself on Chanukah. How do you want to feel? Choose 1-3 words. Maybe it’s spiritual, relaxed, sentimental, silly, or energized. I like to feel sentimental and silly on Chanukah. I know it’s funny and we might not see them as going together all the time, yet there are moments for the sentimental feelings and times for the silly feelings.

Now — think about what actions, or steps you can take in order to help yourself feel that way. For instance, let’s go with my wanting to be sentimental. How can you feel sentimental on Chanukah?

Well, you can make sure that your camera is charged and accessible. You may want to set a day aside, not to go to any events, and just be with your immediate family, frying latkes together. You may want to make sure to get in that one family outing together this Chanukah. Or make a favorite dish from your childhood.

Or — if you want to feel relaxed: Maybe you…
get up 30 minutes early so you have some alone time before everyone wakes up
drink hot drinks throughout the day
listen to some good, relaxing music
take frequent 5 minute breaks where you get to retreat from all the bustling conversation and regroup with yourself
get organized the night before so there’s less to think about the day of
take your time, come a bit late to a Chanukah party. Don’t tell them I said so!

Setting intentions for how you want to feel, and then taking action to plan to feel that way, can leave you feeling great on any day, especially big important and hectic days like Chanukah

And the better you feel, the less you’ll need to turn to food to fill in the voids.

Now let’s get practical. We’re going to go through 3 major areas that we should be aware of as we try to make good choices over Chanukah.

Let’s talk about all those traditional Chanukah foods. Sufganiot / jelly donuts, latkes, dairy, chocolate. Let’s start with sufganiot. I’ve got to be honest with you — I love sufganiot. But there are so many varieties out there, and so many of them are just not worth it. They’re tasteless, and there’s like a pinhead’s worth of jelly inside of them. They’re stale. They taste like old, fried air. And we tell ourselves that it’s Chanukah, and we need to eat sufganiot, like all the time, so we need to buy that sufgania from that big pink box that seems to show up at every party we go to. Yeah they look SO pretty, and we try to convince ourselves that they probably taste good. Yet in the back of our heads there’s this little voice that tells us that we tried this one last year, and it just wasn’t worth it. It didn’t taste good! So I’m TELLING you — YES! Eat sufganiot. But make them count! Don’t just eat sufganiot because it’s Chanukah. Do you research. Ask your friends where to get THE best sufganiot. And then decide how many you’re going to let yourself have during Chanukah. Because, you know what? If you make them count, you’ll eat LESS of them! Because you’ll be satisfied with the ones you ate.

The same thing for latkes. If you’re looking for something to put apple sauce or sour cream on, have a rice cake or something. If you want a good latke, decide which night or nights you’re going to fry latkes, and make them yourself. Make it fun. Make it enjoyable. Enjoy those yummy, oily, homemade latkes. Yes, you should try to use better oils, and less oil, and eat not that many of them, but what you’re going to eat — make them count. Enjoy every bite. Decide ahead of time how many you’re going to let yourself eat that night, and stick to your convictions. You’ll feel better about yourself, and you’ll feel satisfied with your decision. Be honest with yourself — and then give yourself a little bit of extra wiggle room.

Dairy. Some people avoid dairy at all costs, some eat it occasionally, and some people eat it freely. Again, decide how much you can handle, and stick to it. Go ahead and indulge on the high fat dairy. You’ll be more satisfied and less likely to go back for seconds, or thirds, or fourths… You’re also less likely to put in more sugar if you’re using richer dairy products.

Chocolate. The #1 rule to chocolate is — don’t buy bad quality chocolate. It’s not worth it! It’s basically pure sugar, and might not even have that much chocolate in it! Get yourself a good bar of chocolate, and again, decide how much you’re going to let yourself eat, with a bit of wiggle room, and stick to it.

Let’s move on to exercise. Chanukah is a busy time. It’s hard to find time on Chanukah to exercise. Yet, at the same time, the more you can get yourself moving this Chanukah, the better you’ll feel AND — get this — the better you’ll eat. I’m not asking you to find a half hour local zumba class, but you should be doing something — whether it’s committing to walk for 20 minutes each day of Chanukah, or stretching for 15 minutes 4 times a week, or playing a game with your kids in the park. The more you’re moving, the more you’re going to be aware of your body, which is going to help you think twice about what you’re going to put into it. You’ll feel more connected to yourself. If you’re feeling like a couch latke all Chanukah, you’re less likely to pay attention to what you’re eating. It can be something totally silly, fun, and random, but do something that gets you IN your body and feeling connected.

Pay attention to what you’re eating the rest of the day. Most of the “unhealthy” eating we do on Chanukah takes place after we light the candles. So if we can focus extra hard on good eating during the day, we’ll feel better all around, and will likely end up over-eating less at night. That means getting in your fruits and vegetables, proteins, drinking enough water, and making sure that you’re eating consistently and not skipping meals. The last thing we want to do is show up hungry to a party! Drink enough water. Aim for AT LEAST 8 cups a day. It will help keep your system moving and full, and move the bad foods that we’re anyway going to be eating out of our systems faster.

If you’re planning to be out of the house, make sure you have enough healthy snacks to keep your going — carrots, apples, bananas, nuts. The last thing you want is to grab a latke that’s so not worth it because you weren’t prepared.

If you do eat latkes or sufganiot for breakfast by “accident”, don’t think that you should just move on with your day and not eat anything else. Choose some healthy food for your meal, and realize than an indulgence is not a meal replacement. This will also help you make better eating choices throughout the day.

Even if you end up bingeing, or overdoing it on the food, or under exercising, or whatever it is, don’t despair. Just remember that tomorrow is another day, and just keep trying. You may need to make some small changes to your overall goals for Chanukah, and make sure you’re being realistic with what you can handle, and not putting yourself into a difficult situation. You can do it!

Happy Chanukah!

I’d love to hear your comments below!

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6 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Ahuvareply
December 8, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Thanks for that great blog! Really appreciate it! I think it will help me.

Renareply
December 8, 2015 at 5:55 pm
– In reply to: Ahuva

You are so welcome! Thanks for stopping by, Ahuva. 🙂

Michalreply
December 8, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Rena, I love your blog posts! Everything you say somehow resonates and feels just right! I am 3 weeks after birth, and not very happy with my body shape right now… The first day of Chanuka, I didn’t allow myself to eat anything “chanuka-ey”… no donuts, latkes, fattening milchigs… and guess what? The next day I ended up “making up” for it… by eating what you call “not worth it” chanuka food… stale donuts, cold latkes, and other cold oily foods. 🙁 i felt so gross afterwards. After reading this, I forgive myself and I’m ready to look at chanuka in a new light… can’t wait to try your tips and really enjoy myself!!!

Renareply
December 8, 2015 at 5:56 pm
– In reply to: Michal

Mazel tov, Michal! You nailed it. So…what’s it going to be? What are you going to go enjoy?

sarareply
December 11, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Thank you. Your tips are helpful and soothing.

Renareply
December 12, 2015 at 6:28 pm
– In reply to: sara

Thanks, Sara! Keep coming back for more. 🙂

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