Contact Me

Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

Contact Me

Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

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Farewell to Challah: An Open Letter

Dear Challah,

After many weeks of deliberating on my relationship with you, I’ve decided to say good-bye to you. I am putting this letter on a public forum in the hopes that others may also gain insight in what works for them.  I think it’s crucial that I finally address our co-dependent relationship. Hopefully, this will be the first step toward my recovery.

First, let me say that I appreciate all you have done for me over the years. Every Friday night at our Shabbat table, since my childhood, you’ve provided me with comfort, warmth and excellent taste. As my father would make the blessing on the bread with our entire family around the table, then cut you into even slices, and pass around a piece to each one of us, I’d wait with my mouth watering and eyes glazed with love.

Then, invariably, after everyone took their first bite, the compliments would flow. First my father would praise my mother for baking you so perfectly. My mother would smile and shrug, and kind of humbly say, “Oh it’s the new oven” or “It’s my friend’s recipe.” But we knew she was just being modest. You were great. Maybe she brought out the best in you, but still you were great and we all knew it.

Truth is, you were special and you excelled on your own, without anyone to help you out.  Your recipe was quite simple and accessible that when my mother bought me as a wedding gift a Kitchen Aid mixer, I learned quickly how to bake you almost as well as my mother.  Yea, I compared myself to my mother when around you, which was also a problem. But still, I felt good baking you so well and of course you were yummy to eat.

Your ingredients were so basic and earthly: flour, oil, eggs, salt, sugar, yeast. So even when you had a bad day and didn’t turn out as well as other times, you were still great to have around. Soft, sweet and tasty. The best comfort food around.

Over the years we’ve become attached at the hips – (mine, not yours).  I’d eat one piece, then two, then three. My mother would look at me with that expression of “control yourself, there’s a whole meal ahead of us.” But I was on a roll and I couldn’t stop. Back then, it didn’t matter that gefilte fish, chicken soup, brisket, salad, chicken and potato kugel were to follow. I wanted you and only you. I was willing to share my stomach with the others, but you came first.  Your aroma was enticing, your flavor and texture were wonderful. But you became addictive and  your calories were  way beyond my allotment for a meal.

These days I’ve evolved and have become more introspective than I was back in the day. But at some level, I’m still that little girl. I may tell myself that I’m big and grown-up and I can eat “just” one piece and stop. I may try to convince myself that “come on, just have the crust or end of a piece and stop right there.” And here’s the thing: I really like you. I think you are good.

But you don’t work for me. At least not right now. Dear Challah, no matter how many times I promise myself that I will just have one small challah roll (the equivalent of a few points on Weight Watchers) or just one end piece, I always go back for another. And another.

You’ve been calling my name for so long that I hear your voice calling out “Eat me, eat me…I’m here for you…” every week at our Shabbos table. I’m a mother and grandmother and I still find you very seductive.

I can no longer succumb. I have to say good-bye. Just as an addicted alcoholic says, “One drink is too many and a thousand is not enough….” I say the same about you.

“One slice is too many, and a thousand is not enough.” You are an addiction and I must let go.

A few weeks ago, I was at a wedding and a friend and we made a pact. We both promised ourselves that we would not eat the challah bread at the wedding. We were going to hold back, and just eat the meal. No challah for us. Well, it didn’t work. I found myself washing my hands, making the blessing and then eating it. I didn’t ask my friend if the pact worked for her, but for me, it was a no-go.

And so dear Challah, in spite of my efforts to cut down, to use portion control, to enlist a buddy to do it together, nothing has worked for me. Our relationship has become toxic.  We need a separation. I need to make that difficult decision to not even have a tiny piece of you. Because as much as you arouse those warm and fuzzy feelings of childhood, and as much as I adore you, our relationship is not working out well at this time.

I say this all with sadness. I admit you are delicious, charming, charismatic, warm and inviting, but I can no longer hang around you. Ironically, I can still eat your cousins – certain kinds of whole wheat breads and matzoh. For some reason, I am able to have them in my life in moderation. But not you.

You – my dear challah – I can no longer have you in my own life. Not for now.  Not when you’re clothed in whole wheat, spelt, white flour, or poppy seeds. Not your water recipe, nor your egg recipe. Not your raisin toppings, nor your sesame seed toppings. Not your round ones nor your oval shape.

None of you. I say good-bye.

Good-bye Challah. Farewell.

Your friend,

Miriam


Confessions of a Weight Watcher Rejoiner

I’ve gained a lot of weight lately, so several weeks ago, I  rejoined Weight Watchers. I haven’t been a member for awhile, and I feel the need to get the structure and discipline of a healthy and sensible program back.  As I enter the large and airy room, I am immediately at home. I recognize the faces of the staff from when I stood on one of those lines waiting to get weighed back in the old days. Then, I look around.

First, I see green chairs; they used to be hot pink. Oh no. I depend on that hot pink to be the one consistent thing in my life during weight loss. But now they are a distinct green. An apple green.  My environment is different from what I expected. I’m feeling edgy.

Next, I notice the myriad signs all over the room. Diagrams, pie charts, motivating slogans.  Very nice, but it kind of feels like school. So much to learn. I tell myself to relax.

I’m taken out of my dreaminess when I hear, “Next!” I walk to one of the stations and I say hi. I take off my shoes, jewelry, sweater and even socks, while a smiling fellow  stands there patiently. He takes out a white card,  writes my name on it and asks me to stand on the scale. I know the drill; the numbers are zero and I’m already stepping on that scale. I watch as the numbers bounce around and then land on a number that is not surprisingly higher than what my precocious four year old grandson can count to.

And I suddenly have this weird thought that I’ve been through so many successively climbing starting weights over the year. It’s scary when I think that my  original starting weight from when I first joined WW as an adult, is probably now my Goal weight. I step off the scale and the guy is pasting a sticker neatly on the card. He then hands me a packet of stuff in a binder. If the bulletin boards all over reminded me of elementary school, this trapper-folder full of things that I don’t know if I’ll have time or patience to get through, let alone read, reminds me of high school. No. College. He puts everything in a plastic bag and wishes me luck.

I walk away from the weighing station, with a mixture of hope and frustration. Hope because I’m doing something good for myself. And frustration because I’m wondering if I will be successful on the program.

I go to the meeting area, to settle in  amongst the sea of green.  The back seats are all taken. The middle row has some empty seats and the front row is all free. I take a seat in the front. I’m playing the role of  good student. That’s what I know how to do in these green chairs. I  plunk my bag of school supplies on the chair next to me, and take a deep breath. There are still another 10 minutes before the meeting will begin, so I decide to use the time to go through the material.

A notebook for tracking. A small book of foods and point values. Nice. A two page “weekly” that has some recipes and smiling faces with skinny bodies making everything look so easy. Not so nice anymore. I flip through a long foldable card stock page that has some information about “etools.” I remember that from the past. E-tools. Yeah. Tracking food online and all that fun stuff.  I make up my mind to follow the directions on that e-tools-card when I get home. I also see an exercise tracker. Oh. It needs batteries. Another thing to remember when I get home.

Don’t they know that Weight Watcher Rejoiners are organizationally challenged?

I’m pulled out of my reverie by Lynn, the leader who is standing at the front and talking to us.  “People, we’re starting.”  She’s funny. I start to relax. She’s talking about how we don’t have to be perfect on this program. Some of the members are nodding in agreement. I’m thinking: Yeah, right. I wonder what is called  “not perfect.” I’m reminded of the time I drank 6 cups of water after a particular binge and still lost weight. Is that what she means?

Lynn’s using some new terms and concepts, ones I don’t recognize. Fruit are zero points? Points Plus? What’s all that? She explains that  we can have 49 extra points during the week on top of the amount we have per day. I do the math and realize that’s 7 extra points per day. Not so much. But still something. And if we don’t have to be perfect, can we make it 10 per day? I put my hand up to ask and then change my mind.

Now Lynn is asking the group a question: What can we do to stay on track?  Someone says to write every morsel that we put in their mouth. Someone else suggests keeping the food interesting.  I’m suddenly craving my regular and comfort food of tuna fish with mayo on rye bread. To me, interesting means ice cream and I don’t want to go there. Not on my first day of Weight Watchers. No way.

As my mind wanders, I wonder what happened to the old terms of core and regular points and exchanges. Hello, can’t we go back to the old days of simple rules of the program? Weight Watchers seems to be about changes. I wonder if these outer changes of the green chairs and bulky information booklets will motivate me to make the inner changes I need  to lose the weight. Time will tell.

The meeting is over. I stay for the short session for new members, which confuses me more. I drive home.  I want to track my foods online. I sign up for the e-tools and type in my log-in and password. Authentication failed. Error message. And then my computer freezes.

I call the weight watchers hotline. They help me through it. Tracking online seems like a lot. I’ll go for the paper way for now.

Back to the old drawing board. I take out the trusty book of points (which is green. Surprise!), and my tracker and write down my lunch, with all its ingredients. 4-oz tuna. 1 teasp mayo. 2 slices rye bread. And lettuce and tomatoes. Just like I’ve eaten for the past 50 years when trying to lose weight. Old habits die hard. I find the ingredients in my pantry and fridge, sit down to eat it and then put everything away.

Weight Watchers can make their changes to intice people to start over again. But me, I’ll stick to what works. For now.

Now, excuse me for a minute while I go check if I have enough cans of tuna in my pantry.


8 Ways I Broke Into My Diet Program After Breaking My Ankle

I’ve struggled with weight, and  battled sticking to any sort of food program – in particular  a Weight Watchers program.  So when I broke my leg, I had a feeling that any pounds I’d lost over the past weeks through hard work, would be quickly gained back.

Broken Leg=couch potatoBroken Leg = Couch Potato?

I was forced to bring my active life to a standstill.  As per doctor’s orders, I’ve been home for long stretches of time in bed with my right foot elevated. I haven’t  walked in shoes, nor have I driven a car for several months. Continue reading


Weight Loss, Goals and Motivation

Recently I received a post from a Weight Watcher classmate of mine, Jennifer.  I laughed out loud when reading what she had suggested. Quoting her friend Kristine, Jennifer wrote that when faced with temptation or possible binges over the holidays, we ought to ask ourselves, “are we eating said binge in order to indulge, or are we eating said binge so that we can simply cope with whatever anxiety we have at the time?” Continue reading


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