Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Previously: Shevi and her mother have a great session with the nutritionist.

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I was bursting to share my new discoveries with Gitty and I could hardly wait for her to make herself comfortable at my desk. Gitty was caught up in my enthusiasm, too, and was eager to hear what I had to share. She leaned forward and cupped her chin in her hands attentively. I pulled a box of animal crackers and a bunch of other cans and boxes out of the shopping bag I’d schlepped up the stairs.

“Look!” I said excitedly.

Mrs. Rich had taught us how to read the nutritional labels on the foods we buy in the store. She showed us the list of ingredients on every item.

“The order of the stuff listed is from the greatest amount of the ingredient in the product, to the least.” I showed Gitty where the ingredients were listed on each product. “So if sugar is the first ingredient,” I pointed to the word, “that means that there is more sugar than anything else in that food!” Gitty stared at me.

“Mrs. Rich told us how sugar slows our bodies down and makes our organs work much harder to keep us healthy. As the years go by, the organs get more and more tired and overworked, and that can cause diseases. Can you believe it?” I shook my head in wonder, feeling like I had to share this newfound knowledge with the whole world. People all over were getting sick because of how they had been eating for the last 10, 20, 30 years! If only they knew…if only they knew that what they were putting in their mouths would cause them so much suffering later in life!

“Then she showed us how sneaky the manufacturers can be,” I went on after making sure that Gitty was still listening attentively. “Sugar hides under names that I would never have guessed were sugar! Look,” I said, pointing to the words on a package of cereal. “Did you know that ‘corn syrup’ is really sugar? And ‘fructose’? Who would have thought?”

“Why are they allowed to do that?” Gitty asked, her forehead creased. “That’s not fair to people.”

I looked at Gitty. “You know, you’re right,” I said. “I’m so glad that I’m getting to learn about all this stuff now, before it’s too late.” Gitty nodded somberly.

I guess we both felt that it was getting a bit heavy, and we shifted in our seats. I leaned back, and we started talking about something that had happened during science class that afternoon. We schmoozed for a while, and I felt, strangely, that I had really found a new friend. Gitty was cute and on the ball, even though she’d seemed so shy and quiet all these years. When she stood up for me, I’d discovered a whole new side to Gitty which I’d never known existed.

***

“Did you have any fat yesterday?”

“Excuse me?”

Abba continued pedaling as he raised his eyebrows in my direction. I tried to hide my smile.

“Did you have any fat yesterday?” I repeated.

It was early morning, the house was peaceful, and Abba and I were pedaling side by side in the quiet basement. Like Mommy had told Mrs. Rich, we were up to 30 minutes a day and were both feeling very proud of ourselves.

“I’m not sure what you mean, my dear,” Abba said. His fingers gripped the handlebars just a bit tighter. I knew he didn’t want to hurt me, but he did not know what I was asking.

“We learned about fat with Mrs. Rich,” I said by way of explanation.

Abba processed this. “You learned about fat,” he repeated.

I noticed my heart rate was dropping (the handlebars on the exercise bikes measured our heartbeat through our palms) so I sped up my pedaling a bit to get it back up.

“Yes. I never knew that fat was very important for our bodies. Did you know that, Abba?”

“Being fat is very important for our bodies?”

“No, not being fat.” And then I explained to Abba what I’d learned. “Being fat and eating fat are different. Fat is a kind of nutrient, one that we need – in the right amount. Fat comes in all kinds of food.”

“Oh, you mean like dairy. One can get low-fat cream cheese, or milk.”

“Right.” I smiled at Abba. “And meat is higher in fat than chicken.”

“So you meant fat, as in oil. You learned that consuming the right amount of fat is important for your health.”

“Yes!” I grinned at him. “And that there are different kinds of fat – some are excellent for you, like the fat in olive oil, avocado and nuts – and some fats are really dangerous for you.”

“Like partially-hydrogenated,” Abba gave a knowing wink. I was surprised, and my pedaling slowed.

“Keep it up,” Abba said encouragingly. “We’re almost out of time here. I want to hear more about this, tomorrow.”

Tomorrow…at my special time just with Abba.

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