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THE SWEETEST FEELING

By: L. Azar

From when I was a wee kid until not too long ago, sweets played a prominent role in my life. I was the go-to kid for all things junk, in on all the latest candy varieties in all their gooeyness, chewiness, and sourness. (Sour lips topped the list of favorites, closely tailed by blue sour sticks and chocolate-filledcaramel chews.) Trivialities like calories and weight gain were mere specks on my radar. “Dietetic” and “healthy” were
non-existent words in my lexicon.

Well, several months ago, I gave birth to a delightful little girl. Being postpartum and all, I was officially entitled to help myself to all the junk in the world, an excuse upon which I capitalized to the max. I recall feeling guilty when kind neighbors and friends cooked dinners for me while I used my time to bake 9x13’s of desserts and eat them up (thedesserts; not the 9x13 tins). Things continued this way for a few months (“It’s okay – you’re after birth!”), and all was well.

Until I was twenty pounds heavier than I cared to be.

Until it was time to get dressed up for work again and maternity clothing were the only ones that fit.

Until I’d dread even a fleeting glance in the mirror.

One morning, I peered at my
heavier-than-I-want-to-be reflection in the mirror morosely when a light bulb went off in my brain. Hey! I thought. This bulge ain’t going nowhere!(I don’t think grammatically correctly.) If I wanted to get rid of those excess pounds, I was going to have to do something about it. I’m ready!At last, I was prepared to do, what was for a sugar lover like me, the impossible: to wage war with my terrible eating habits.

You know how diets go. When you’re ready, you’re willing to subsist solely on water and carrots. Fresh, hot, cinnamon buns that ordinarily would have had you drooling? Hullo, I’m on a diet!The scale is your new pal and your old pals listen patiently as you chew their ears off about your diet ins and outs. You are propelled by progress and enjoy watching the numbers tumble lower and lower. You learn to say, “Yum!” about sugar-free, fat-free, everything-free yogurt with cut fruit. Somewhere along the ride, though, your diet loses its appeal and your weight loss is stagnant, but the vision of a skinnier, healthier-looking you keeps you chugging along. There are ups; there are downs. Some days, lettuce tastes better than others, and some days-sssssh! – you cheat on a peanut chew. But for the most part, you exert all your discipline to attain your goal.

While you, dear reader, know how diets go, this was completely new to me, and I learned it all on the job. And let me tell you, it was not easy business. My menu was particularly rigorous, and I felt like a grass-eating zebra. Adding some Pam spray baked sweet potato fries to my tuna salad was considered cheating. I simultaneously balked and marveled at how “sweet potato” and “cheating” even coexisted in one sentence. Plus, I learned that butternut squash is a carb, a tidbit I was totally clueless about a few short months ago. But the biggest value that came out of my diet was the pleasurable feeling of self-discipline. Nothing beat that sensation I felt when I overcame the battle to eat what I want. It felt so good to tell myself, “No!”

Today, I am three pounds away from my goal. I would have loved to write this article when I was all the way through (and perhaps I will be by the time this goesto print). However, I chose to air out my weight loss saga specifically as the High Holidays have drawn to a close.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are days in which we repent and renew our connection with Hashem. We know how that only actualizes when we undertake something concrete such as paying attention to the meanings of the words of one prayer, learning the laws of proper speech, or removing a social media app from our phones.

However, discipline is necessary for growth. When we have the self-discipline to stick to our guns in achieving growth in a certain spiritual area, we experience the sweetest sensation.