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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fat Tzadikim & What We Eat (after Tisha B'Av)

With the recent mention of Tzadikim who were exceptionally fat in reference to a Nanach who was recently Niftar, I would like to put things in perspective so there won't be any confusion in people's minds, as well as give good tips for proper eating.

In Breslov Chasidus, Rabbeinu addresses the issue of Ta'avas Achila - desire for eating along with the desires for money and sex. It was this very desire that caught Adam & Eve into the net of sin, and the rest is history. This is one desire that virtually anyone can relate to, for not everyone is crazy about money and not everyone is so much into sex. But we all need to eat to survive - so while we are at it, we like to eat something that we enjoy. After all, it's not the same thing as smoking; however, even junk food can sometimes fulfill its function of filling something in the belly and then off to work. Besides, everytime you eat something - even junk food, you have to make a Beracha.

The problem of eating in today's society compared to the time when most lived on or near the farm where nutritious food was plenty and abound is that we eat the type of foods that we are most exposed to and quick to eat. After a while, our body, hypnotized by our mind, feels the craving of certain foods, no less different than smoking, drugs, alcohol, or gambling. And the truth is that our bodies do need the carbohydrates and proteins no less than the vitamins and minerals.

Speaking of Chok L'Yisroel in relationship to Tisha B'Av, as you will in my following blog when you scroll down; if it weren't Tisha B'Av today, the beginning words of the section in Chumash to be learnt would be V'Nishmartem Meod LeNafshoseichem - literally means "You shall guard your souls very much" which in the original context refers to us needing to refrain from idolatry. Even so, our Rabbis tell us that we learn out from here that we are supposed to guard our health very much, and in some instances in Halacha, we have to be even more strict when it comes to this issue than when it comes to prohibitions of non-kosher food (as for example, if there is a doubt about a situation of the status of a certain food).

Take our good Nanach friend Nachman Shabsai of blessed memory as an example. He was put on a strict diet in the hospital with virtually just a couple of vegetables, cheese and water. Yes indeed, this seems to be a very healthy diet. No junk food, vegetables, only water for drinks, what could go wrong? What the hospital staff probably weren't aware of is that if you take away carbohydrates - an essential food category - from someone, that person will crave for them. Why? Because the body needs them. That's why poor Nachman Shabsai was craving for the wafers and lafah sandwich.

Diets for the most part don't work, and non-carbohydrates diets certainly don't work. Many years ago, there was a nice Jewish doctor named Dr. Atkins who came up with this "brilliant" idea of a carbohydrates free diet. Oh sure, many people lost weight quickly. But what you will not hear from most is that most of these dieters just as quickly came back to their original weight which now consisted of more fat than muscle. Why? Because we all need constant carbohydrates - regardless of our present weight. I happen to have had a good older friend of mine who was Niftar of cancer, Lo Aleinu, who was very overweight who had a nephew working as a doctor in the same hospital as Dr. Atkins was a doctor, who put him on a similar diet to the Dr. Atkins diet, but it included a little more carbohydrates. Anyways, Dr. Atkins certainly wasn't the best example when it came to nutritious eating. You see, my friend told me that at one point, he became sick, was brought to that hospital where he worked at, and he passed way there.

I'll never forget the time when I saw this Jenny Craig commercial in which there was a lady who said that she was on this diet, and emphasized the following, "for nearly TWO years!". From the way this lady said her words, I knew that she was lying. The next time that the commercial came on, I made sure to look at the fine, small print on the bottom of the TV screen which read that she was on the diet for 15 months.

Chances are is that some of you have heard the book "Fit for Life" by Harvey & Marilyn Diamond. I'll mention a few tips from this book in a moment, but first, one thing mentioned in this book is about a Dr. Walker who lived to 109 years old, and died peacefully in his sleep as disease-free. Why? Because he ate the proper foods that the body needs - and ONLY those foods. (He wrote books on nutritious eating himself). Anyways, part of this Fit for Life book explains how the body works in terms of the process of eating & digestion, as well as the timing of eating. It isn't necessarily HOW much we eat - because you can eat tons of just fruits and vegetables and you won't become fat, though too much of anything is also harmful. But it is essentially WHAT we eat, part of which consists of the combinations of foods.

For starters: for breakfast, eat fruit & fruit juices only - nothing else. Fruits are the most nutricious foods on the planet, even healthier than vegetables. Besides, who doesn't like fruit? Fruits also help clean our system, which is far more important than a car engine. Fruits should never be mixed with other foods - especially melons (eat your watermelon desert for breakfast instead).

Now, while we need carbohydrates & proteins as part of our daily eating, do not mix the two, or have more than one of the same category in the same meal. The worst is to combine two types of protein, the next worst is to combine carbohydrates & protein, and the least worst is two types of carbohydrates. For those who aren't overweight, and once a while cheat on the rules, no big deal. But it's very important to understand how the body works, so you will be more mindful of what you put in your system, in what combination, and at what time of day or night.

Another major no-no here is white flour products, which not only have virtually no nutrition to these, but can lead to sicknesses, including heart attacks. Products of whole grain flour - or known in Hebrew as Kemach Malei - is far more healthier and in the long run more filling. It may cost a few more bucks once in a while, but your health is worth even more.

Some may rationalize that when it comes to Shabbos foods, these things don't matter, we are supposed to enjoy Shabbos, etc. But let's take an example of what a typcial Shabbos meal consists of (based on most of the homes where I have eaten):

Shabbos dinner - White flour Challa, the following proteins - fish, chicken soup, chicken/meat accompanied with potatoes/rice. And then of course don't forget the desert on top of that heavy meal - Parve ice cream (very artificial and much sugar), sweet cake (another carbohydrate), fruits/melons (big no-nos to eat with other foods, even nutricious foods).

Shabbos lunch - Besides the Kiddush in Shul, includes some of the above and the heilige cholent, sometimes served at Kiddush, virtually the worse food for the stomach. Why? 1) Cooked for too many hours, making digestion much harder 2) Cooking vegetables robs them of the enzymes that Hashem placed in them for our bodies. 3) Combination of carbohydrates - potatoes & barley, along with the fatty meat - protein, and this before or after the while flour bread & fish.
No wonder why people feel the need to sleep for a number of hours on Shabbos afternoon after a good nights sleep!

Once in a while, almost anything won't do long term damage. But do your math 50 weeks of Shabbos meals multiplied by the amount of years you have lived so far minus the first few when you were too little to eat junk food. As I once heard a conversation in a Shul of retired people where one said to the other about a particular food, "It will kill you, but it won't huirt (New York accent) you". Or, if we are lucky to be alive after a health tragedy comes to us, G-d forbid, while we eat one third of the food that we consume, the doctor eats two thirds of the foods that we consume. Personally, I have to admit that sweets, especially chocolate, are very tempting, but our bodies weren't made to consume large amounts of sugar - or salt for that matter. And for others, it's fried foods that clog their intestines.

I wrote a few days ago about the long term message about the passing of our recent Nanach friends. But sometimes, Hashem wants to relate to us more than one message. NOW is the time to start the process of proper and healthy eating the way that the Torah tells us to - and we can still enjoy delicious, nutritious food for Shabbos. I highly recommend the book FIT FOR LIFE to everyone, regardless of their weight - and this book includes delicious, nutritious recipes - because we can only do Torah & Mitzvos when we are able to live in this world - especially in good health - and the reward for them is only for the amount of time that we live. Except for certain Tzadikim whom Hashem allows to live for a shorter period of life, Hashem gives the rest of us only the amount of Eternal reward commensurate for the amount of time that we lived -not for the amount of time that we could have lived had we been more careful with what we eat and our health which can be disease free of heart attacks, cancer, etc. - IF WE TRULY WANT TO.


NaaNaach said...

My dear friend SMB, health is obviously very important, but we must not worship it! It seemed obvious to me from what I wrote about Nachman Shabsai that H"Y enjoyed his function as a fat Nanach! Certainly you would not recomend R' Elazer Ben R' Shimon and the other tzadikim I mentioned to go on a diet c"v. We must realize that some people are special and have special places in their worship of H"Y.
On Shabos it is important to eat all the foods that are minhag yisroel, even though I'm not really in a position to talk (because I usually did not have elictricity or money for the basics) it is very important for Jews to have chulent and meat and fish and types of great food in the honor of the holy Shabos.

shimonmatisyahu said...

I want to stress that the whole point of people eathing healthy is that they are not going on what is commonly called a diet. What I spoke about is eating the healthy way - without eating any less - which is how everyone more is less is supposed to eat to live a healthy life full of energy without sickness or disease.

On a personal note, I have a good friend of mine, an accomplished rabbi & lawyer, with a wife & two children, who was Niftar five years ago at my present age - he was just under age 40 and passed away one week later after a heart attack. He always seemed strong and healthy, but I know that some of the foods that he ate didn't exactly help him to say the least. While others are luckier and have a second chance in life, Hashem just doesn't do miracles for everyone.

As far as the Mitzva of Shabbos eating is concerned, we do have a rule - one who is involved in one Mitzva is exempt from another. So if one indeed eats for health, having it in mind as a Mitzva, then certainly at least for him, it is no contradiction as far as what he eats on Shabbos - and he can even eat special healthy food that tastes delicious on Shabbos, including parve cholent (for some people).