Every Jewish holiday is focused on eating, guilt and deprivation of some kind, and the upcoming holiday ofPassover is no different. It is meant as a time to forego all ‘leavened’ foods for 8 days which includes; cereals,breads, grains, legumes, pasta, and anything that is made with yeast. Basically all the delicous carbs you knowand love will soon be replaced by the standard holiday staple- Matzah essentially a cardboard like cracker. It iseaten to symobolize the rushed Jewish exodus from Egypt that was done in such haste that there was no timefor the bread to rise. Of course, even in a rush to leave the country and with the imminent risk of being killed-my Jewish ancestors had food on their minds.For me, somehow knowing that for 8 days these foods will not be allowed tempts me to go on a bakery storetour of the neighborhood- devouring all the “forbidden” foods from Cheskies to Fairmount bagels before theholiday begins. Though the bakery tour may have sounded like a fantastic idea ten years ago, I now knowbetter. I became a Holistic Food Coach for a reason; to help my clients make peace with food and their bodieswithout guilt, deprivation or calorie counting. Essentially, I help “liberate” them from the dieting mentality thatsaturates our society with body hatred, shame and a desire to try every diet solution out there-it woudn’t evenshock me if someone invented a Matza diet. In a way, I am like the Moses of the Passover story, leading hispeople from oppression to freedom, from rigid food rules to liberation. Or something like that.
What happens when you have food rules?
Think of telling a teenager what NOT to do, and expect that they will try everything to break the rules.Once you have set up a food rule, whether it is to stop eating carbs or to never eat past 7pm, you areunknowingly creating a struggle with your mind and body because the moment you banish a food it ironicallybuilds up the craving for it even more as the deprivation deepens. The thought of even going on a restrictedeating plan can create a sense of panic, causing you to eat every food you won’t be allowed on the diet. Thisoften causes frantic gorging followed by feelings of guilt and shame.Of course, guilt is nothing new in Judaism. Think of a food rule (that is almost universal to Jewish mothers) andyou will find guilt; “Finish everything off your plate!”, “thou shalt not waste food,” “Do you hate my cooking thatmuch?”, “Your grandparents were Holocaust survivors, do you think they would be picky?”
Release your inner Pharaoh
Are any of you stuck in the “food rule dual” where you have food rules that set you up for failure each time yousuccumb to the forbidden food? Do you feel like you are being “bad” if you give in to food you shouldn’t have,and good if you follow the rules? Do you think you are you ready for relating to food in a new way, that doesnot keep putting your body and mind in conflict, so you can have a balanced relationship with food and yourbody for good?The intentional eating approach is a process based on exploring your behaviors instead of criticising yourselffor them. Unlike a diet, it’s not linear based, but a journey of ups and downs built on getting rid of years of bodyshame, oppression and guilt. It is about learning how to “let (my people) LET go” of the voice of “Jewish guilt”that tells you your late night craving for ice cream is “bad”, and if you “cave” you will need to punish yourself later.Instead, start to nurture the compassionate voice of the “observer” who is neither a judge nor a critic,but one who notices and makes neutral observations of your food behaviour.By beginning to become aware of your thoughts and actions, you can start gradually changing them. Instead offeeling guilty for the ice cream craving, the observer gets curious and makes observations like, “Isn’t thatinteresting- I want ice cream even though I am full, I wonder what I am feeding if I am not hungry? Maybe Iam feeling lonely, I can always call up my friends and see what they are up to.”When you give up the food rules, you free yourself from a harsh ruler, the hope that some outside expert isgoing to command you how, when and what to eat. It is an empowering process when you can connect to whatyour body feels like eating and learn to respect its signals for hunger and fullness, Who else can be the bestexpert of your body? After practicing and teaching an intentional and mindful eating approach, I feel asliberated as my ancestors coming out of Egypt. No more food rules! No more guilt or deprivation.I have been delivered.
Here are a few Intentional Eating Suggestions to start you off this Passover.
Suggestions for Passover Eating:
1. Start small: assess how hungry you are before eating, and fill your plate accordingly.
2. Next, decide how you want to feel when you are finished. When you eat with the intention of feeling better and more energized, than when you started, you are less likely to overeat.
3. Know that there is always more food if you want it. You can always have leftovers tomorrow. You don’t have to finish your plate if you are full.
4. Chose food that you like, and that will nourish you. Our society is so obsessed with “eating right” we sometimes eat things we don’t even like. Besides, deprivation and guilt cause more overeating. Fill your plate with only your TOP favourite dishes, if you don’t love the way something looks or tastes, skip it! You should be excited to eat everything, don’t just eat it because it’s there.
5. *Bonus tip about Matza: You don’t need to overdo it on the Matza- there are plenty of other foods you can eat, not every meal needs to contain a matza like substance. Try quinoa, a versatile grain that is just as good in breakfast ‘porridge’, as in a stuffing or salad.
Chipotle Chocolate “Donut Holes”
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup raw cashews or sunflower seeds
5 dehydrated pineapples or apricots chopped
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tbs chipotle pepper
In a food processor, chop nuts and seeds until fine. Slowly add rest of ingredients, process until it becomes a dough is mixed well. Try and adjust flavors accordingly.
If you want spicier add more chipotle or cayenne pepper. If you want it sweeter add more dates, crunchier, add more seeds and nuts. Roll into balls with your hands and then roll into shredded coconut. Refrigerate and enjoy!