On Saturday night and Sunday day is the Jewish festival of Purim. Today I stayed doing some practical preparations and thought I’d share with you some things I’ve found helpful in previous years. I welcome additional tips in the comments below, as although a wonderful day, it is a very challenging day (and preparation and clear up period) from a weight loss perspective.
It is celebrated with four specific mitzvos (commandments): 1) to listen to the megilla (the story of Purim) being read once in the night and once in the day, 2) giving tzedokah (charity) to the poor so that they can also enjoy the day and have a festive meal, 3) having a festive meal, 4) giving edible gifts to friends (mishloach manos, hereto referred to as shlach manos).
In addition to this, it is a custom to dress up in fancy dress costumes and for the menfolk to become inebriated.
As usual, I’m not going into all the religious significance of all this, but focusing just on the unique challenges this presents to the Jew trying to maintain a weight loss/healthy eating programme.
Challenge 1: It is an insanely hectic day.
Trying to fit in megilla (which takes about 30-45 mins depending on speed) with children means often doing it in two shifts, so can fill 2-3 hours, walking and driving around delivering shlach manos to far too many friends, family and teachers, preparing house and food for the meal (seuda) or getting to someone else in time. It can be just be manic. Routine is out of the window.
Solutions: Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast. This doesn’t have to be any more complicated than 2 weetabix and milk and a piece of fruit. Whatever else is flying, this is a totally non negotiable part of the day. If a healthy breakfast does not happen then you know what will happen next.
Which leads into…
Challenge 2: Junk food disguised as love – shlach manos
So the official rules are that for shlach manos you need to give two ready to eat foods to one person. So, an apple and a bottle of water. Done. Easy. Right?
Except for many people Purim is an occasion to indulge their creative side and they go all out with their most exquisite home baked delicacies, packaged in incredible themed ensembles, and cement friendships with as many as possible. If you are fortunate enough to have friends, neighbours etc, as the day goes on, one becomes the grateful recipient of many of these packages of love. Each one communicating, “You are my friend.” Adults exchange shlach manos, children also. The children’s ones are even more filled with nosh.
As you are running around town delivering shlach manos, and receiving shlach manos it is extremely challenging not to try this one’s cookies, and that one’s truffles and, “Oh wow, look at the icing on that cupcake, I’ll just have a small taste…”
This is where having had breakfast is vital. If you haven’t had it, then it is not a lost cause. But if you have, then it is slightly easier.
If you haven’t had breakfast yet, try not to dive headfirst into the first thing that comes your way.
It’s about making the decision to choose what you are going to eat, and savoring it. Don’t just inhale it. Appreciate the effort someone has gone to.
If you are going to be able to resist everything that comes your way over Purim, kol hakavod! I figuratively take my hat off to you. (Not literally though, because that wouldn’t be tzanua, modest). Teach me how. This is how I’ve handled Purim in part years and not completely lost the plot.
Solution – Pack healthy snacks in the car. Water. Fresh and dried fruit. Whatever works for you that isn’t sugar based.
Solution – eat lunch.
We are unusual in that we have our seuda early, we’re aiming for a 1.30pm start this year. For some reason unfathomable to me (as a mother of young children), many start much later, say between 3.30-5pm. In previous years I’ve found this really challenging and it is of utmost importance that everyone sits down and eats lunch of some description. It doesn’t need to be anything more fancy than cream cheese sandwiches but it needs to be something whose main ingredient is not sugar.
Solution – feed it to your loved ones
This may sound controversial. Don’t hate me for it! My children do not get a lot of junk food on a daily basis. Once a week on Shabbos they get dessert of some sort, plus a nosh party with 3-4 components. I try to draw the line between letting them eat what they want so they don’t feel deprived and giving them a healthy balanced diet.
They know that Purim means an abundance of nosh and that it is a one off. Let them enjoy it.
Solution – drink more
Water that is! Throughout the day, carry a bottle of water with you. It’ll help you feel fuller, so you’ll be less likely to nosh.
I hope to do a part 2, but that’s it for now. I hope something here is helpful to someone. If not, it’s been really helpful for me to remind myself how to approach Purim.
Ah, most important solution – daven
Purim is a day which is especially auspicious for prayer. In the evening, take a few moments to really our pour your heart out in prayer. To ask Hashem for help with all your challenges, because without His Help, we don’t stand a chance.
Breakfast – porridge with almond milk, plain yoghurt with sweetener
Snack – 45g of chocolate coins
Lunch – wrap with roasted vegetables, clementine
Snacks – several broken crackers when putting together shlach manos, raisins
Supper – baked beans and mozzarella on toast with spinach
Total calories 1411 kcal