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November 30, 2015 / 18 Kislev, 5776
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Self-Image And Barking Dogs (Part I)

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Chanukah is over and we are now dealing with the repercussions of wantonly indulging in crispy, crunchy, melt in your mouth potato latkes and overdosing on sugary, chocolaty, jelly-oozing donuts. Skirts that used to be a breeze zippering up (at least half-way) require the pulling in of non-existing abdominal muscles and deep inhaling in order to get the zipper moving at all. Buttons on blouses that ensured you were modestly dressed are on the verge of popping and flying across the room if you so much as move your arm. And the stairs that you used to run up with your groceries now require climbing in stages, even when empty-handed.

The fact is, you’re overweight and out of shape and you’ve got two options. Either buy yourself a new wardrobe in a bigger size or take a good look in the mirror and make some lifestyle changes.

This is especially true of the baby -boom generation. The oldest of this group are hitting 60 and need to do a reality check in terms of their appearance, but most importantly their health.

Of course the second option is the hardest one to choose – but at the end of the day – the most sensible and life-enhancing. However, in order to move forward in that direction, one crucial step needs to be taken. And that is that if you don’t like what you see in the mirror, don’t let yourself be awash in feelings of self-loathing or disgust because “you let yourself go”. Having a negative attitude is counterproductive, as you may not feel you deserve to look good or feel better and you will subconsciously sabotage your attempts to do so. You will, unwittingly, and without being aware of it, “punish yourself” for the “crime” of not being perfect.

In my experience overweight people are not necessarily gluttons who have no self-control. Many, in fact, may even eat fewer calories per day than their slimmer friends. Some people are just “blessed/cursed” with very efficient metabolisms that than convert every calorie into fuel for the body before using the next one, with unused food calories stored as fat. While many may see this as a curse – for those who were in a chronic state of food deprivation their body’s ability to hang on to calories may have made the difference between life and death. My parents survived the starvation they endured in the concentration/labors camps they were inmates of, but many of their friends and relatives who were the same age and were raised in the same economic/social level and had to live on the same meager rations did not. My guess is that my parents had an inborn ability to sustain themselves on fewer calories, a trait passed on to their children.

For despite the fact that I was an average eater and spent my free time with my twin brother outdoors climbing trees and playing soccer, chasing squirrels and pigeons and racing up and down the neighborhood on foot or by bike – either chased by the local bullies (we were small for our age) or engaged in fist fights with them (bullies tend to be cowards and back off when confronted) – I was never average but was considered chubby.

So the first step towards a healthier lifestyle is to not look down on yourself. The second is to ignore hurtful, demoralizing comments about how you look that may come from a spouse or parents, friends or adult children. Some may be well meaning but clueless as to how to express their concern in a way that will motivate you to take steps leading to better health and nutrition. Others, due to their own self-esteem issues are trying to make you feel inadequate in a warped attempt to feel superior or to control you.

Since I usually am a truthful person, I assumed everyone was, and when I was younger and people made negative comments about how I looked or how I was dressed – I believed them, much to my detriment. A “friend” would whisper, for example, in shul, that my hair was a mess or that my sweater didn’t match my skirt – and I would be so self-conscious that I would not socialize, too embarrassed to talk to anyone and thinking why anyone would want to be seen talking to a mess like me. It took a long time but I have reached a point that if I sense that someone is deliberately trying to be mean or undermine me in any way, I weigh their opinion the way I view a dog that barks at me. It’s just a dog barking. Nothing to pay attention to.

(To be continued)

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