How to have your (cheese)cake and eat it too

When Shavuos rolls around, the talk is all about recipes for the most delicious dairy dishes and cheesecakes.

And, of course, all the tips and tricks to enjoy it all without gaining any weight.

The thing is, there are some women who feel guilty — that there’s something fundamentally wrong with enjoying some cheesecake — and there are some women who don’t struggle with the guilt, but rather struggle with the thought that if they start eating some cheesecake they won’t be able to stop. There are many ways to enjoy all the dairy on Shavuos without feeling you’ve done something shameful, and without going overboard with the amounts that you eat.

Here are some tips to make it happen:

1) Be honest with yourself when you are buying the ingredients. Are you opting for the lower fat cream cheese because you honestly like the lighter flavor, or are you doing it because you think you’ll gain less weight by buying the lower fat variety? If it’s the former, then great! If your intentions are the latter, then take a step back and realize that it’s hard to point to eating a few pieces of delicious cheesecake as the reason for gaining weight.

One way people do gain weight is by making food which doesn’t really satisfy them. By making a cheesecake that doesn’t live up to your expectations you never feel truly satisfied. And then you keep eating and eating as you wait for satisfaction to kick in. Alternatively, since lower fat ingredients lack the richness of higher fat ingredients, most recipes ramp up the sugar to compensate. Meanwhile you munch away eating the cheesecake like a second supper since it is low fat, and therefore actually “healthy”.

By taking the time to choose ingredients that are going to be satisfying for you, you will inevitably enjoy the cake you do eat so much more, and be satisfied with less. You will also have a clear picture of what you are eating. A delicious, fatty, calorie rich cheesecake. A wonderful treat, not a meal substitution.

People also don’t gain weight from eating cheesecake when they eat it guilt free.

Surprised?

People gain weight when they feel a sense of guilt eating cheesecake because they believe they’re doing something they are not suppposed to do. They are able to be so “good” when everyone is around because they would be so embarassed for anyone to see them actually eat the cheesecake. Then, when no one is looking or their husbands have gone out to learn for the night, the pressure lifts and they sneak into the kitchen and eat half the cake before anyone notices — of course, only one little slice at a time in an attempt to retain some dignity.

2) Be real with yourself about how much food you need to prepare. We have a tendency to think that there will never be enough food. Well, you tell me. When Shabbos and Yom Tov are over, how many leftovers do you usually have? If not that many, then great, it sounds like you’re hitting the target for the amount of food your family (and guests, if applicable) need. However, in many homes, what happens is that when we come up with menus that are several courses long with multiple dishes per course, surprise, surprise, we’re eating the leftovers for the entire next week. Not only is it not so enjoyable to eat leftovers for so many days, the thought that so many of us have that “food cannot go to waste” (which is very different than “bal tashchis”) often leads us to eating more than we are hungry for (whether for true physical hunger or satisfaction from the food), either on Shabbos/Yom Tov itself or in the days that follow. So take a good look at your menu, and see if your plan was to make too much food. And then cut it down to fewer dishes. You’ll be less stressed coming into Yom Tov, and you’ll make the foods you and your family truly enjoy and in amounts that don’t overwhelm. Sometimes simplifying is the greatest way to bring oneg to your Yom Tov.

3) Choose the dishes that you and your family truly love. Yom Tov is a time for indulging in foods that give us pleasure. Take a good look at your menu and ask yourself — which foods here am I making because I was just looking for another milchig dish to make, and which foods am I making because I / my husband / my daughter-in-law really love/s them. Then scratch those “blah” filler dishes off your list.

4) When you sit down to eat, do a quick check-in with your body to see how hungry you are and what you’re in the mood of. If you’re full after the appetizer, it’s not a mitzvah to keep eating just because there is more food on the table! Is that eating an “oneg” for you? And if you’re not in the mood for something, it’s also not a mitzvah to eat it. Once you’ve chosen the foods you want to eat, take one bite at a time. Put your fork down between bites and really taste the food. Then take another bite and do the same. If your kid distracts you by pouring a cup of soda on your lap or by biting his brother’s arm, take a moment to relax again before going back to eating. The food isn’t going anywhere. You can take the time to enjoy it during a more peaceful moment. It’s Yom Tov after all.

5) Be kind to yourself. Mishaps WILL happen. Even with all your planning and organizing, you may not get enough sleep, someone may be in a bad mood, or a recipe will flop. This, too, shall pass. We can take this one small step at a time. Take a deep breath, and know that it is okay to be feeling anything and everything you are feeling. And, take another deep breath.

I hope you can implement one or more of these tips this Shavuos. And by doing so, may this clear up some space in your head so that you can focus on the other important aspects of the day, and have a beautiful Kabbalas Hatorah.

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