Choose to Shine
I began intermittent fasting when a friend suggested that I try it. At first it sounded counterintuitive. How can I lose weight if I eat normally but only between 11:00 am and 7:00 pm? Since nothing else worked well for me, I figured the only thing I have to lose is my excess weight.
The first week went pretty well. I delayed “the most important meal of the day” (breakfast) until after 11:00 am. It was easier than I imagined. I rediscovered time in the mornings that I used to spend preparing the first meal of the day.
Fasting after 7:00 pm is significantly more challenging. I generally prefer to eat healthier foods rather than junk. When I am thirsty I reach for water, perhaps with a splash of lemon juice. My problem is that I devour anything I can find at night. Cutting myself off after a healthy dinner may be the key to my own weight loss journey. I also find that by denying myself food for sixteen hours a day, I have learned to limit what I eat during the eight hours when I am “allowed” to eat. If I can resist food entirely, can’t I do a better job with the food I choose when I do eat?
I am not perfect, but the idea seems to work well for me. There are exceptions of course, such as on Friday nights, Melave Malka on Saturday nights, and on holidays. Purim was not by the book. But I also find that my body does not want food outside of the hours I am supposed to eat. When I eat later or consume too much I feel bloated and even ill. I am still in the early stages so it is too soon to know with any certainty. All I can confirm at the moment is that the scale is moving in the right direction.
Why discuss this in my monthly article? It occurred to me that my experience relates well to the upcoming holiday of Shavuos. We celebrate receiving the Torah at Har Sinai. We stay up all night in anticipation. We reaffirm our commitment to studying Hashem’s Torah and keeping His Mitzvos, as handed down from rebbe to talmid, father to son, from that seminal event until today. The Torah was given to help us develop and grow. Hashem has very good reasons for every restriction and commandment. It is our privilege to feel tremendous gratitude and happiness that we were selected for this role, which is the purpose of Creation. So what does that have to do with dieting?
The choices I make with regard to food, including when and what to eat, affect my body. So too the choices I make regarding how I live my life affects who I will become in this world and in the next one. Hashem has provided “kosher” substitutes and methods to address any desire we may have. We can get married and enjoy a loving relationship with our life partner, or society can espouse a culture where partners are easily disposable, even after one encounter. We can drink kosher wines which are world class, or people can drink whatever they find. We can eat sumptuous gourmet kosher food, or others can and do eat nearly anything. By limiting our own choices to what is permitted by the Torah, we elevate ourselves to be holy.
Jewish mystics explain that man was created with two souls, two drives. The spiritual soul detests physical gratification. The physical body craves pleasure. Clearly, we must tend to the needs of our physical bodies to stay alive. But we miss an incredible opportunity if we live to eat, rather than eating in order to live. Our job on Shavuos is to embrace the Torah, to study it, and to incorporate the lessons of how to train our animalistic nature to seek pleasure in the spiritual rather than the physical.
Hashem is the source of holiness. He tells us what is good for us, and what is not. By studying the original Manufacturer’s instructions, the Torah, we can change our perspective regarding how we live and in turn reap everlasting benefits.