Photo Credit: Jewish Press

When we last left Shevi, she was being saved from class bullies by Gitty who said that her twin struggled with her weight as well.

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“Your twin?” I repeated, feeling stupid.

“Yes, my twin.” Gitty affirmed. “I have a twin. Didn’t you know?” Then she looked down at her hands. “Though I guess there’s a lot people don’t know about me. I tend to be pretty quiet.”

“A girl twin? I mean, like, a twin sister?” My words tripped over themselves and I berated myself for sounding like a blabbering idiot.

“No, of course not.” Gitty gave me a funny look. “This is the only Beis Yaakov around. If I had a twin sister, you’d know her. No, my twin is a boy.”

“And… and he’s overweight?” I whispered.

“Yeah,” Gitty murmured back. “That’s one of the reasons I decided to stick up for you.”

She blushed. “I mean, I like you, too.”

“Thanks.” I felt strangely touched. “Does your brother, um, does he get teased too?”

“Yeah. That’s… that’s why I know it hurts. He pretends it doesn’t, he ignores it and all, but… I know it hurts.”

“Yeah.” I was quiet.

“I… I saw you’ve, um, you’ve been eating, um, differently the last few days,” Gitty ventured in a voice so quiet I had to lean forward to hear her. Instead of getting defensive, I just nodded.

“I… I was thinking of offering my brother to change our eating habits, together,” Gitty admitted. “I think it’s easier to do together.”

“For sure.” I thought of how grateful I was that my whole family had to make changes, not just me. “Do… do you want me to, like, tell you what I’m learning? I’ve been, um, well, going to someone to teach me about eating healthy.”

Gitty’s eyes lit up. “Really? Would you? I honestly don’t know the first thing about it!”

A fresh, new wave of optimism swept over me, leaving me feeling happier. “Sure!” I said. “Do you… do you want to meet after school?”

“Sounds like a plan.” Gitty grinned at me.

“Terrific!” I smiled warmly at her, feeling more cheerful than I had in a while. She wasn’t so bad, after all.

“Only water,” I said, facing Gitty at my desk after school. Mommy had been thrilled to see me walk in with a friend; it wasn’t every day Shevi brought a friend home! Gitty had admired my pretty bedroom, with the lacy, lilac curtains and matching bed spread, and I felt a warm feeling spread through my body as she fingered the linen longingly. After a couple of minutes of a bit of awkward chatter, we were sitting at my desk with a clean sheet of loose-leaf before us.

“Water is really healthy for your body, and, also, it makes you fill fuller and not thirsty. Soda and soft drinks do the opposite – the more you drink, the more your body wants, and they’re very bad for you. They play tricks on your brain to make you want more. Do you know why they do it?” I asked, leaning forward. “‘Cause the more you drink, the more you buy! They – the soda factories – are trying to make money off us, by making their drinks taste so good that you can hardly stop yourself from taking more and more!”

Gitty’s eyes were wide. “I never thought of it that way! Gosh. But, no soda? No Coca-Cola? Only water, ever?”

I remembered Mrs. Rich’s words. “Everything in moderation,” I said sagely. “We’re learning to take care of our bodies, but we aren’t just physical bodies – we have emotions, too. So if we feel deprived all the time, we’ll, like, rebel. And then we’ll go and…” I lowered my eyes. “We’ll over-eat.”

“Oh, I know.” Gitty looked down too.

“Also,” I added, “it’s important to know when our physical body is hungry and when it’s our emotional self that wants to eat. If our physical body is hungry then we have to take care of it, we have to meet its needs. But if it is our emotions making us want to eat, like if we’re lonely or scared or bored, then we have to take care of that part of us. Eating won’t fix it. But doing something fun, or taking a walk with someone, or playing a game, or talking to someone about what we’re feeling – that’s how we can take care of ourselves, too. ”

“So, like, one cup of cola a day is okay?” Gitty met my eyes. She was determined to do this, to help her brother. I admired her for it.

“You get to pick a treat every day,” I said. “Every time you want to eat something, you say, ‘I get to have my treat today. What do I want it to be?’ And then you decide. And you can have that cup of soda… or you can wait and see if there is something else you want later.” I remembered the growing sense of satisfaction I had when I waited to have my treat. The ability to wait felt wonderful.

And, I was quickly realizing, it felt wonderful to explain healthy eating to Gitty. Maybe, one day, when I’d be all grown up, I’d help kids learn about taking care of their bodies, too.

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