Jacob and Esau at Thanksgiving Dinner

I always read Parashat Toldot with extra interest since I am a twin.  The story of the rocky relationship between Isaac and Rebecca’s sons, Jacob and Esau, begins in our Torah portion.  From the very beginning, we are told that Isaac favored Esau and Rebecca favored Jacob.  We are told that this is because of the different lives they led.  As we know from the rest of the story, “playing favorites” did not really work out for the family.

As a child, my parents always made sure that they supported whatever my sister and I did.  They never dressed us alike; they wanted us to have our own identities.  They also made sure that we understood that we could follow whatever path we wanted in life and we would be loved and encouraged.  To this day, my sister and I (and our older brother) have a close and loving relationship.

Just yesterday, many of sat down to a festive Thanksgiving Dinner with our families; it may have been wonderful or perhaps less than wonderful.  Often, the discomfort comes from events that happened years ago.  Sometimes we can repair, but other times–as was the case with Esau and Jacob–we understand that it may not be possible.

All the more reason for us to think carefully about how our actions today can affect the connections we hope to build and maintain in the future.Shabbat Shalom!

How to Eat Healthy at Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner @ Boston Oak Room

Reality Check: For most of us, this won’t be happening. Those trying to watch their weight or just not overdo it will find that Thanksgiving Dinner is a huge challenge.

Here are some helpful suggestions:

–Stick to healthier appetizers like raw vegetables. If we fill up on those, we are less likely to eat the richer stuff that are part of the entree.

–Drink lots of water; water makes us feel more full and can prevent us from eating too much. Plus, it’s always good to hydrate.

–Fill your plate once…and then don’t refill it. Pile it as much as you want the first time, but then stop. A good way to do this is to remove your plate from the table.

–Eat until you feel about 3/4 full. Our sense of being full is slower than our mouths; if we stop eating at 3/4 (or earlier) we can avoid the overstuffed feeling.

–Choose one or two desserts and then ask for a small serving. Don’t deprive yourself of pumpkin pie or other treats; rather, enjoy with a small portion.

–Don’t fall for the idea of going to the gym and working out like crazy so that you can eat more at dinner. Unless we are running a marathon on Thursday morning (and some of us might be) we’ll never burn enough calories to make up for what we’re about to eat. More likely, we will be hungry from our workout and eat even more. Avoid this trap!

Finally, if all else fails:

If you get on the scale on Friday and the news isn’t good, be kind to yourself and realize that Thanksiving day is one-of-a kind. Don’t get down on yourself for “being weak.” Accept that we all have days when we eat healthier than others. Commit to getting back on the program.

It probably won’t take too long to undo the damage…before Hanukkah and Christmas come in four weeks! Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Would You Rather Be Happy or Live Longer?

Hour Glass

If you had to choose between long life and happiness, what would be your choice?

Guess what? You don’t have to choose. Happy people live longer. At least that is what research is showing. Studies about the connection have been going on for years, but all point to the fact that that happier we are, the longer we live.

Of course, what defines happiness for one person doesn’t necessarily define it for someone else. There are research questions that helped to identify the components that make up happiness. Five main areas are: 1. Having satisfying social connections, 2. Looking on the bright side, 3. Meaning and purpose in one’s life, 4. Spirituality, 5. and what Martin Seligman (co-founder of the Positive Psychology movement) calls flourishing with PERMA (Positive emotion, engagement, relationship, meaning, and accomplishment). For a full explanation of all of these, go to the article from http://www.cnn.com: https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/30/health/happiness-live-longer-wellness/index.html

On this blog, I talk about nutrition, exercise and spirituality and how they can help to improve our health–physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is noteworthy that research now shows a strong link between happiness and long life.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It is a time for recognizing the blessings in our lives. That sense of gratitude helps to bring happiness our way. This is not an exercise just for the end of November; Jewish tradition’s mussar movement encourages us regularly to practice gratitude. Rather than focusing on the negative, we should be grateful for all the positives. The research shows: we will be happier…and for longer too!