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I Don’t Know How to Balance My Love of Carbs And My Health

challah

I fear that I am about to sound like Oprah preaching, “I eat bread!” all over late-night TV, but it’s true: I love bread. I love all carbs, especially the home-baked variety.

Growing up in the 1980’s and 90’s, the diet fad was all about fat. Full fat was bad, but low fat was good, and fat-free was even better. Almost two decades later, the winds of diet trends have changed again. Fat is good now! The pastel packet sugar substitutes of my youth are out of style, replaced by real sugar and plant-based sweeteners. This time around, it is carbs that are unfashionable—white flour, white pasta, and white potatoes are the biggest offenders, and are the first to be eliminated from a trendy and healthy diet.

But in a world that currently preaches the evils of carbs, I take a real comfort in working for a tradition that does the exact opposite. Everywhere you look in my big, suburban, Reform synagogue, you will find carbs. There are bagels on Sunday mornings for our Adult Education classes, challah on Friday mornings with our preschoolers, rugulach, cookies, brownies, raisin challah at Shabbat oneg, and piping hot cheese pizza on Monday evenings for our teens. Our kitchen is a rotating factory of youth groupers making Jewish holiday carb creation: latkes on Hanukkah, matzah brei on Passover, and this past week, hamentashen for Purim.

Like so many American women today, I find the ownership of a female body to be both difficult and confusing. Not a day goes by when the onslaught of print and social media doesn’t remind us that dieting is normal, food, if not controlled, is dangerous—and that the size and shape of our bodies are a direct reflection of our hearts and minds. I am not sure if true body love and acceptance is a reasonable goal. Perhaps the best we can do is to come to an appreciation of our imperfections and an acceptance of the foods that keep our bodies healthy, energetic, and nourished.

I have come to realize that a diet high in carbs doesn’t always make me feel my best, nor does it keep me running at full speed. But my love for carbs also means that an Atkins-type food plan doesn’t work for me. Like Oprah, I want to live in a world where I can eat bread (or my favorite carb) on a daily basis. In the same vein as everything else in my life, I do best with balance. I love that I work for a tradition that affirms the value of enjoying food and the celebration, joy, and pleasure that food brings to the cycle of our lives. Challah and wine are to be enjoyed on Shabbat—at the end of a long work week. Rugulach and coffee after services brings people together in community and conversation. The sweet triangular cookies we enjoy on Purim are a way to find the sweetness in a story that can feel pediatric, ancient or disturbing.

I have no doubt that in the years to come, the winds of diet trends will change again. The science will advance, and there will be new foods to avoid, new foods to once again enjoy. But in the meantime, and even then, I will continue to love and eat my carbs. The week of Purim especially, I was seen with a few stray crumbs on my face, hamentashen (or two) in hand, enjoying every single bite with a full belly, and a very happy heart.


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