Daily Archives: July 9, 2009

Tips to Ensure an Easier Fast

Tips to Ensure an Easier Fast (from the OU website)

By Ira Milner RD

While some people fast with little difficulty, most of us expect to feel more or less bedraggled after only a few hours. If fasting means headaches and assorted misery for you, it might be the fault of what you eat or drink beforehand. A few simple precautions in planning your pretaanit menu could make all the difference.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Water has been called “the indispensable nutrient” for a very good reason. Although a person can live without food for weeks, a few days without water would be fatal. Water makes up approximately 60 percent of the body’s weight and is involved in practically every bodily function. Among its essential tasks, it transports nutrients and oxygen through the blood; maintains body temperature; lubricates the joints; cushions a developing fetus and serves as a medium for the thousands of crucial chemical reactions taking place in the body.

Much of the discomfort commonly experienced during a fast may be due to avoidable water loss. Treat yourself to a leisurely glass of a non-caffeinated beverage several times a day well before a planned fast. Providing the body with enough fluids to function properly is a daily business. Your recommended intake is six to eight 8-ounce glasses (or their equivalent) per day, but that should be upped to eight to ten glasses the day before a fast. (Because the elderly tend to have less developed thirst sensations than younger people, they should be especially careful about getting their daily quota of water.) Don’t worry about drinking too much, since the body is highly efficient at getting rid of what it doesn’t need.

Beverages are not the only source of water. Even foods you might consider dry contain some water. Most fruits, for instance, are more than 80 percent water; bread, around 35 percent. Eggs consist of 75 percent water; meats, between 40 and 75 percent; vegetables, from 70 to 95 percent. Although coffee and tea also supply water, the diuretic properties of caffeine make these beverages inadvisable at a pre-fast meal. Diuretics produce water loss at the cell level and therefore ultimately increase the body’s need for water.

Decrease Protein

Most Americans consume far too much protein, averaging 2-3 times more than needed. A growing body of evidence suggests that high animal protein intake can be a contributing factor in heart disease, certain cancers and may pose a problem for those suffering from kidney disease.

Eating excessive amounts of protein may also be counterproductive before a fast. Since protein attracts water, too much of it may actually leach water from the tissues. In extreme cases, dehydration could result because the unneeded protein pulls out water that will later be necessary to remove the waste products of protein synthesis from the body.

Increase Starch and Fiber

Sugars (including honey and corn syrup) are simple carbohydrates. Starch and most dietary fibers are considered complex carbohydrates because they are chemical chains of many sugar molecules. During digestion both starch and sugar break down into glucose — the simplest form of sugar.  Consumption of complex carbohydrates helps to ease the pangs of a fast because they take longer to break down in the digestive process.

A diet of reduced intake is best supplemented with additional complex carbohydrates. Increasing those carbs will also help the body retain water.

Your best bet before a fast, then, is to load up on the following foods: breads and cereals (especially wholegrain); pasta, rice and potatoes; vegetables with edible skins, stems, and seeds; legumes; fruits (especially those with edible skins and seeds); nuts and popcorn (without the added fat and salt it makes a great, healthy snack).

Decrease Salt

No real news here. When you eat salted foods, the sodium in your blood level rises. This not only stimulates the brain’s thirst receptor (which triggers the thirst sensation), it also affects the body’s water requirement, because water is needed to remove salt from the body. So even if you can’t live without pickles and other salted delicacies on a daily basis, try to resist anything very salty before a fast.

Avoid Caffeine

If you regularly drink more than two or three cups of coffee a day—or if you are a caffeinated cola fanatic—consider tapering off several days before, so that by one or two days prior to the fast you will not be consuming any caffeine at all. Although caffeine isn’t technically addictive, the body becomes accustomed to its stimulant effects. Suddenly abstaining from caffeine after an extended period of even moderate intake will probably produce the characteristic “withdrawal headache.” The diuretic properties of caffeine, as mentioned earlier, will aggravate you further by increasing your need for water. Finally, you can minimize water loss by being careful not to exert yourself too much the day before a fast. Exercise only moderately, and stay out of the sun as much as possible.

By following the suggested recommendations set forth, some of the discomfort experienced on a taanit can be alleviated.

The Basics

Include:

Eight to ten glasses of water (or other, non-caffeinated beverages)

Small portions of animal protein.

Large portions of starch and carbohydrates (whole-grain breads and

cereals, pasta, potatoes, legumes and unsalted popcorn).

Vegetables and fruits with edible skins or seeds.

Avoid:

Coffee, tea, caffeinated sodas

fried, salted, or spicy foods.

Menu Suggestions:

Liberal amounts of plain water, 100 percent fruit juice, seltzer, and herbal tea (teabags rather than bulk tea are preferable)

Whole-grain challah.

Chicken (broiled, baked, grilled, boiled).

Rice (preferably brown) and lentils or limas.

Lightly sautéed or steamed mixed vegetables (zucchini, summer squash, snow peas, carrots) or tossed salad with romaine or other dark green varieties of lettuce.

Cakes and lots of fresh fruit.

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Musings

You know how sometimes you look back at certain chapters in your life and wonder what the heck you had been thinking? This post is about that, but in a more positive way.

The KoD and I got married almost 5 months ago – and as regular readers know, we have been separated geographically for most of that time, with the occasional weekend that we have been able to spend together.

Various factors have conspired to keep us apart, and we do know that time will take care of all of them, and soon with G-d’s help (and the USCIS’s) we will all be living under the same roof.

I look back at the last few months which have been very tough in some ways, being married but not being together, being married but still living the life of a single mom. Going through major and minor issues knowing that the KoD is by my side as a strong support, but emotionally, not physically most of the time. Sometimes you just need that big warm hug to make all the stress disappear for a moment or two.

But how did I know that the KoD would be there for me 100%, how could I have possibly guessed that he would never waver, never run for the hills, even when the going has become tough? How did I know that his loyalty and belief in me was never even a question, that it was the answer every single time? I don’t think we could possibly have understood how difficult the last few months would be – yet it has made our bond that much stronger.

Every time we take our leave from each other it feels like there is another crack in my heart. My soul weeps. It hurts, it hurts so deeply. We knew we would have to do this, but putting it into practice has been one of the hardest things I have ever done.

The first time I took my leave was 9 days after we got married, and my SIL said to me that I was the bravest woman she knows. That she would never have been able to do it. I told her I had no choice. I am a mommy AND a wife and the kids have to come first. The kids even told KoD when we got engaged that he ought to know he is #5 on the list 😉 .It doesn’t mean I didn’t cry the whole 6 hour trip back home. I did. But it had to be done.

The KoD has proven to me time and time again how constant his love is for me, and for the boys. I know without even the shadow of a doubt that he would drop everything in a heartbeat to be by my side if I asked. He’s done it before. He would do it again. No questions asked. He knows I would do the same.

When I am stressed he is my first call. He listens. He never judges. He understands the subtext. He takes my anxiety and irons it out. He is my safe haven in the midst of a storm. He is the masseur on my knots of life. We have been through so much together – and he has been constant. If anything has changed, it is that we love each other more now that ever before. All this stress has made us stronger, a force to be reckoned with.

KoD – your QoH loves you more now than ever. Thank you for all you do, for what you say and what you don’t say, for the love that pours out of your eyes and caresses my soul. We have been truly blessed by G-d to have found each other.