Photo Credit: Jewish Press

It’s me, Shevi. You’ve been reading about me and my journey and my ups and downs for months now. You’ve read how I became a happier and healthier person. I haven’t hidden anything – you’ve seen me at my worst moments, my most embarrassing moments, and at my moments of triumph, too. You’ve watched as I’ve grown and learned and, yes, even taught. You’ve seen my tears and heard my pain. And you’ve joined me as I have learned so much about nutrition and about the way to take care of the body that Hashem gave me. After all, like Mrs. Rich said, He only gave us one body. We have to take care of it.

Are you curious to know what advice Mrs. Rich gave me about challenging situations, like my school melave malka? I’d be happy to share some of her ideas. In fact, my aunt and uncle made a Kiddush for their new baby daughter last Shabbos, and I went. I remembered Mrs. Rich’s guidance and I think I did pretty well, if I do say so myself. Of course, it’s a work in progress… but all of life is. And hey, I’m only a teenager!

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Mrs. Rich said that a big part of succeeding is preparing… just like with anything else. If I want to do well on tests at school, I need to study for them. If I want to, well, dance well at a recital (laughing yet? I am!), then I need to practice my moves. So… if I want to succeed at sticking to my healthy eating plan, the plan that will, with Hashem’s help, keep me strong, healthy, and energetic for many years to come, I have to prepare before potentially difficult situations.

The first thing Mrs. Rich suggested was eating before leaving so that I don’t arrive ravenous. I argued that that is exactly what I had done, but Mrs. Rich explained that I don’t have to stuff myself; rather, have a healthy snack or a fruit so that I’m not starving (whoops, Mommy doesn’t allow us to use that word!) super hungry when I get there and see all that delicious food. And then Mrs. Rich advised that I plan in advance, that I allow myself to choose one or two special treats when I am out. And not like what I done – which was to virtuously ignore all the tempting offerings and sit down with a small cup of fruit compote. She said that is a recipe which will surely backfire. Instead, she said I should have thought about it before leaving and planned to allow myself to enjoy a treat or two. Or even a whole bagel – but to prepare it mindfully, not frantically, and to sit down and enjoy it like a princess, savoring every single bite. She said that instead of making it into a battle scene – me vs. the food, which is exactly what I had done – I should make it into a partnership. There is so much delicious food here, yum! Let’s choose one or two treats and really enjoy them.

I told Mrs. Rich about the mouth-watering variety at the melava malka, and about how I wanted to try every single thing. She nodded with understanding and then encouraged me to think of the bigger picture – “Will you ever be offered a blueberry Danish again?” If the answer is yes, then there’s no need for me to feel frantic. I’m not saying I will never eat a blueberry Danish. I’m saying that this time I prefer a yummy bagel. And I’m not saying that I will never again have ice-cream – just the opposite; I will have so many more opportunities to have ice-cream that surely this time I can skip it. Mrs. Rich’s calm and thought-out advice helped soothe my panicky feelings about being around so much food. I used her advice at the Kiddush and instead of deciding to ignore all the delicious treats and beautiful petit fours and yummy drinks, I went carefully around all the tables and chose a treat that I really wanted – in this case, one slice of the stunningly decorated pink and white cream cake. Because honestly, like Mrs. Rich said, I could have chips and cookies another time – at the next Kiddush, even. I’d have many more opportunities to choose those.

Mrs. Rich also suggested that after my treat, if I still wanted more or just didn’t want to appear empty-handed next to everyone else who was still eating, I could make healthy food choices. Veggie sticks with some dip, fruit platters, or popcorn were good choices, she said. I implemented that piece of advice, too, and it definitely made going to a Kiddush easier.

Another thing I have discovered about myself during this process (besides for the fact that I can have self-control, and that I can have a friend!) is that I really like teaching people about healthy eating. I’ve really enjoyed sharing all this information with you, and I really liked teaching Gitty and her brother about healthy food choices.

When I grow up, I think I’d like to be a dietician, and help other girls like me. Just like Mrs. Rich does. Don’t you think I’d be good at it?

The End

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Chaya Rosen is the author of two poetry compilations, Streaming Light and Scattered Stones.