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A Jewish Mother's Recipe for Balance, Slimness and Wholeness
A four month weight loss/personal growth journey that traverses time, continents, cuisines and kitchens to discover the best weight management tool of all.Share Tweet LinkedIn Embed pszr.co/WLACQ 227 views
|Health Holistic > Recipe|
|3 publishers interested|
Blintz traverses a modern Jewish woman’s transformative weight loss/personal growth journey. Whilst penning a journal peppered with laughter and tears, Helen serves her readers plated morsels of insights and lessons learned about her own, and society’s preoccupation with food, that has steered us into an obesity epidemic. Irreverent of diet or weight loss cookbooks and the billion dollar diet industry, she invites readers along on her journey concluding with a selection of her mother’s traditional Jewish Sabbath recipes.
During her four month 600 calorie meal replacement program, Helen, a mother of two tweens, a café proprietor and chef, spent most of her day feeding everyone but herself, while searching for the reasons behind her recurrent weight issues. Needing to lose 20 kilos this time round, she was determined to make this time, her last.
After a recent study at the University of Oxford, Nerys Astbury, manager of the trial called DROPLET (doctor referral of overweight people to low energy treatment) recommended that doctors should tell dieters to stop eating normal food and eat supplements like milkshakes, soups and meal bars. ”I think these people are overweight because they have an unhealthy relationship with food, and we take food out of the equation,” she said. These dieters went on to lose three times more weight than those given standard weight loss advice.
Crossing over from science to the personal, Helen’s weight loss method works short term but it’s a hard battle, and more likely to succeed long term, with the additional journal process and the support of a strong social media group that can be formed once published. Thus Helen offers readers a complete weight loss package.
Blintz is definitely going to connect with women, particularly the strong niche market of Jewish and/or overweight women, who want to lose weight long term, by exploring their own relationship to food and their bodies.
Section 1: Balance
“Along the way I discovered that eating a well-balanced meal is like living a well-balanced life — an art not easily mastered.” excerpt, Blintz, Preface
A Jewish Mother’s Quest
A Kosher Kitchen
Motherhood and the art of balance
A Food Lover’s Quest
Toffee and Tali
The French and the art of balance
A Café Proprietor’s Quest
Cafes and the art of balance
A Chef’s Quest
Eating out and the art of balance
Section 2: Slimness
“I was no longer interested in diets. I was mostly interested in my relationship with food. This process involves stripping my whole self bare in order to understand why I eat too much, why I allowed myself to diet repeatedly throughout my life and how I was finally going to end the cycle this time.” Helen Levin, Blintz, p.40
Section 3: Wholeness
"I want to believe. I just don’t know how much I want to. I have been cynical, suspicious, angry and lazy in matters of the spirit and of God. But I was now going to take my own spiritual journey, here in Melbourne, in the daily realm of my life and through my writing.
Writing had given me clarity in other matters of my life. Maybe it will assist me in my yearning for an understanding of my soul." Blintz p.128
Section 4: Mum’s Shabbat Recipes
“To invite you all to my mother’s Shabbat table I have included the recipes she cooked and that I cook when I make a traditional Jewish Shabbat. They represent my mum, my grandmothers, my great grandmothers, and, a part of me.”
Stuffed cabbage rolls
Potato and prune tsimmes
Carrot tsimmes and halkah
Apple and prune compote
Two years on…
Eight years on...
“Diets are not designed to help anyone permanently lose the weight. To achieve permanent results, I needed to change my eating habits permanently. But I couldn’t do this until my relationship with food became conscious rather than compulsive, moderate rather than obsessive, and whole rather than hollow,” Helen Levin, Blintz, preface.
So many middle aged women are overrun, overweight and just over trying to get their lives and bodies back into shape. Too many hats, women have come to resemble modern day beasts of burden, indulging in comfort foods when the load becomes just too heavy. A woman’s psyche is so biologically linked to her body, however, that if she gives up on her physical self, she is most likely giving up on her whole self.
In her humorous, wistful, insightful and very practical hands off the food writing debut, Helen Levin speaks to Jewish and/ or overweight women, foodies and cooks, who are fed up with their ongoing cycle of Binge Eating Disorder (BED) more commonly known as yo-yo dieting. The obesity epidemic has nearly tripled between 1975 - 2016 worldwide and the current value of the diet industry is $70.3 billion and growing.
Overweight Jewish women interested in getting rid of their toochis (bottom)
Overweight women interested in getting to the bottom of their unhealthy relationship to food.
Scientists/researchers/students in the obesity/eating disorder fields
Foodies, cooks and chefs interested in Jewish food
Women interested in a Jewish perspective on body, mind and soul
Jewish population 2014:
1. Worldwide -15 million
2. Israel- 6.5 million (where 1 in 4 women are obese)
3. US - 5.7 million
4. France - 450,000
5. Canada- 385,000
6. UK - 270,000
7. Argentina - 230,000
8. Australia - 112,000
1. Just over 2.5 million Australian women are overweight.
2. In America about 40% of women are overweight.
3. 15% of women are obese worldwide
Sources: Heart Foundation, World Health Organisation
Eating Disorders statistics
1. 4% of people in Australia have an eating disorder in Australia at any given time. Of these people 47% have Binge Eating Disorder (BED).
2. Females comprise around 64% of people with eating disorders.
Source: Butterfly Foundation 2012
This is the perfect time to publish BLINTZ as DROPLET (doctor referral for overweight people for a low energy treatment) is a very current, up-to-date study that tripled the success rate of weight loss in the short term but BLINTZ puts forth the additional journal method and social media support network to impact the long term success of such a weight loss program.
What has preoccupied Helen for most of her life has been food; a self proclaimed ‘expert by constant association’ from her overly indulgent childhood; her diet/bingeing life; her work as a cook in the café that she owned; being a mother of two gourmand tweens, both growing up immersed in a food-obsessed culture and media; feeding her fussy pets Tali (her dog) and Toffee (her cat); and being the ex-wife to an overeater to whom she was married for ten years.
But perhaps the most pervasive reason is that Helen happens to be Jewish. It’s no secret that Jews love eating delicious Jewish and non-Jewish food, particularly if you are not bound, like Helen (a less observant Jew), by Kosher laws. And Jewish mothers, like Helen, are probably the best feeders in the entire ecosystem as her son used to warn his friends when they would come over for dinner. ‘Watch out! This is where her Jewish gene kicks in.’
This Melbourne University Arts and Education graduate, Secondary school English teacher of twenty years, café proprietor and cook of fifteen years Jewish mother is now moving forwards with her writing endeavours, a café related business project, homestay hosting and casual teaching, projected through a crystalline lens of balance, slimness and wholeness.
Blintz is a woman’s quest to uncover the reasons for her (and society’s) eating issues. The author’s expertise is evidenced as follows :
· She was a yoyo dieter from teenage hood to her late forties.
· A Jewish mother obsesses that their children never have enough to eat.
· As a café proprietor and a chef in the Foodie metropolis, Melbourne, Australia her whole day was focused on feeding.
· She observed and studied the general population as to how and why people overeat.
· She succeeded on this weight loss program for four months where 90% fail.
· She shows others the path to make it work short term and long term.
Eight years later, and still maintaining a healthy weight, testifies to the success of the author’s weight loss method. She wants others to get to the bottom of their overeating issues and will provide further support by building a social media platform.
1. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Published by Penguin Random House 2006
Strong female protagonist searches for meaning following a bitter divorce and a subsequent bad relationship. Out of her comfort zone, Gilbert travels to Italy, India and Indonesia to repair and restore. Her focus on food is for pleasure, her focus on prayer is to search for God and she returns to Bali to learn from the wise medicine man. Her quest for deeper meaning strikes a parallel with Blintz. Although it doesn’t focus on her unhealthy relationship to food but more so her unhealthy relationships, it is similar to Blintz as she undertakes a quest for truth, God and self -discovery.
2. Women Food and God: An unexpected path to almost everything by Geneen Roth
Published by Simon &Shuster 2009
This book explores how and why women eat and contends that there is definitely a deeper reason for over eating. Roth shows how the reason goes right under the fat into the soul. She talks as a practitioner from a platform as expert in this field. Therefore it is not one woman’s journey like Blintz.
1. When Hungry, Eat by Joanne Fedler
Published by Allen &Unwin 2010
Takes readers though her weight loss journey but goes into great detail about her immigration from South Africa to Australia. This is a memoir and offers readers no insights or tips as to their own weight issues. Well written and very personal exploration of the dislocation from one country to another. Similar to Blintz in that it is written from a Jewish woman’s perspective surrounding the issues raised on her weight loss quest.
2. Chicken soup for the soul by Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen
First published by HCI 1993 and currently Amy Newmark
Although very different as this is a publishing conglomerate with short stories written by a multitude of writers, I am including it here as its title is similar in that it’s a Jewish food and is more than a physical dish but one that reaches out to the soul. It is also included here because it shows how a Jewish themed title can reach beyond a solely Jewish audience.
3. The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl by Shauna Reid
Published by Transworld/Avon 2009
’At just twenty-three years old, Shauna Reid weighed 351 pounds. Spurred into action by the sight of her enormous white knickers billowing on the clothesline, she created the hugely successful blog, “The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl.” Hiding behind her Lycra-clad, roly-poly alter-ego, her transformation began.
Hysterically funny and heart-wrenchingly honest, The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl includes travel tales from Australia to Paris to Red Square, plus romance when she meets the man of her dreams in a Scottish pub. This is the uplifting true story of a young woman who defeated her demons and conquered her cravings to become a real-life superhero.” This book was written from blog posts and thus is similar in style to Blintz. It is also written by an everywoman on a weight loss journey.
4. Hunger by Roxane Gay
Published by Harper Collins 2017
“New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she casts an insightful and critical eye on her childhood, teens, and twenties—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers into the present and the realities, pains, and joys of her daily life. With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and authority that have made her one of the most admired voices of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to be overweight in a time when the bigger you are, the less you are seen. Hunger is a deeply personal memoir from one of our finest writers, and tells a story that hasn’t yet been told but needs to be.”
A very current memoir exploring issues around food and weight by a young modern woman which shows how food, eating and weight is very much a preoccupation for younger women of today. Although not on a weight loss journey, body image concerns are addressed.
SAMPLE from SECTION 1
A Jewish Mother’s Quest
What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child? ~ Lin Yutang
Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, is celebrated every Friday evening at sundown. On Shabbat, the Jewish home permeates the aromas of warm hearty dishes and the glow of candles grace the dining table. A mother is traditionally in the kitchen, wearing an apron and a busy mien, taking responsibility for the majestic quality of the Friday night meal that she is about to bestow on all her loved ones — husband, children, grandchildren, other family members and friends.
A Jewish mother’s family is plaited together like the hallah (egg loaf bread) we eat with the chopped liver and gefilte fish (fish cakes) on the Sabbath. We are knitted together like lokshen (noodles) or pressed together like kreplach (small pockets of dough filled with ground meat), which eases our worries; or like kneidlach (dumplings), which accompanies the chicken soup that feeds our hungry souls. We all sit together at the table eating the love that binds us, despite the different opinions and ages. Everyone at the Shabbat table feels blessed to belong to a Jewish family.
The feast then continues with a tsimmes (vegetable stew) or a cholent (potato stew) that accompanies the main meal, which in our house was usually roast chicken and sometimes chicken blintzes. For dessert, Mum would often make stewed apples with prunes or apple blintzes. If there was ever a meat-free Shabbat, like on the festival of Shavuot (which celebrates the giving of the law to Moses) cheese blintzes would be our dessert.
How many Jewish mothers today do Shabbat the way my mother used to? I can’t talk for all Jewish families but my mother was a true Shabbat artist. Every week she would display her handiwork to a table from between ten to fifteen family members and friends. And the work took her days to complete.
She would order in the kosher meats, then salt the meat to extract most of the blood. She would buy the Perch and the flathead for the gefilte fish, mince them herself and add the various ingredients to the mix. This was usually done Wednesday evening when she used to work. On Thursday evening she would have the chicken soup on and the kreplach or the kneidlach on the go.
As a result of all her efforts, our family became close because each week we would come together to share our lives. She believed it was her role as a Jewish mother to do this for her family. You can achieve anything you want if you have made something, whatever it is, your goal. This is no secret. As long as you have the passion and believe in yourself. My mother’s living art was loving her family above all else, and showing it at the Shabbat table.
Since our family lost Mum over twenty years ago, Shabbat has never been the same. Our family is not the same either. The loss of Mum, and of Shabbat, took its toll. Without her as our homebound anchor we drifted apart and our sense of harmony was washed away.
For my own little family we tend to keep it really simple. A couple of candles, a hallah bread, some grape juice and wine for the prayers and a simple home-cooked meal like roast chicken, meatloaf or a barbecue. There are salads and vegetables, and in winter I might make chicken soup with lokshen and some gefilte fish that I buy pre-mixed and ready to poach.
A modern Jewish home just isn’t a patch on the older traditional Jewish home in which I grew up.
SAMPLE from SECTION 2
Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way. - Abraham Lincoln
On 2 November 2009 I placed an intervention order on my big macher (high-achieving) toochis (bottom)— and my thighs, waist, tummy and legs for that matter. That was the day I was determined to never again feel their big, fat presence. Not short term, not for a few months, but forever and ever after. And that intervention came in the shape of a regular customer of mine, Anna.
Anna came into my café pre-Melbourne Cup Monday, and told me how she’d just started a meal replacement program with the aim of losing thirty kilograms in three or so months. It was the end of a busy day. I had been cooking and preparing breakfasts and lunches all day and was feeling exhausted but really pleased with my efforts. I was looking forward to the Melbourne Cup public holiday when she walked in that late afternoon.
I had given up on my whole body. It was just too hard for me to lose weight. Diets didn’t work and if they did, they just didn’t work for me. My work as a cook made it damn near impossible and as a mother of two tweenagers, how could I look after myself with all that food in the pantry and fridge? Culturally, I was doomed. Jewish mothers are obsessive.
‘You’re allowed to have one bowl of vegetables for dinner and three shakes or bars as your three main meals,’ Anna told me. ‘And you do lose weight. It does work,’ she said, reading my mind.
I felt her words hit me in my stomach. The toochis felt it too.
I don’t know if you call those words that speak to your solar plexus a message from God, fate, instinct, or the higher self, but I knew with every nerve fibre in there that here was a calling. I heard in this conversation, from that inner slim self of mine, a calling to join Anna.
Why at this time and this particular call, I don’t know. All I know is that it happened just like that. In one moment my anti-diet views were silenced.
This was more than a diet — this was almost a complete withdrawal from food. Almost a fast.
I knew deep down that food was trying to fill a need in my life that wasn’t really much to do with hunger or taste buds. One of my last food crises may highlight this.
I had asked a friend to stop off at the supermarket to buy me a 200-gram packet of honey soy chips for the drive we were about to go on. This was after a very big dinner. I ate them all. My friend wouldn’t even have one.
Why was I craving plain old, disgustingly bad, deep fried, sweet, salty, fatty, artificially processed food otherwise known as snack, junk or fast food, when I wasn’t even hungry?
The noise of those slow-cooked chips being crunched one after the other filled an otherwise silent car. How many chips are in a packet? 200? How many bites to a chip? Oh, the noise! Did I care? With every crunch on those chips I was expressing myself. It’s just that I didn’t know what I was saying. I needed to understand what I was saying if I was ever going to stop my compulsive relationship with food.
I didn’t know at the time that I would do exactly that. I invented the language I needed to understand what I was saying all those years of crunching and munching. My friend could understand all along; that’s why he didn’t say anything. That’s why he is both wise and virtuous. And now partially deaf.
I listened to my solar plexus now and told Anna I was going to join her.
Anna smiled. You know that smile.
Of course, she was right. Would I still commit tomorrow? There would be all sorts of excuses again tomorrow so I might start the day after or …
After I closed the café I ventured down to the chemist, bought the shakes and the chocolate bars and began the program. These meal replacement programs are nutritionally designed to meet the body’s fundamental required vitamins and minerals in the same way that baby formula is designed for babies. Some of these programs are designed by doctors to help obese people achieve a healthy weight.
The first few weeks are the toughest she told me. But the weight does come off which makes the whole journey worthwhile.
I encountered all types of sceptics along the way. ‘What will you do when you come off the program?’ ‘Don’t you feel lethargic on those things?’ ‘Don’t you get bored with the lack of variety?’ ‘People lose weight and then gorge after this type of program. I saw my dietician and she doesn’t believe in what you’re doing.’
It’s all part of the package. People were quick to tell me that I would fail, or that it wouldn’t work, or that it’s better to do things a different way, probably their way.
But this is the truth — whatever works is the right way. There are thousands of weight loss programs out there.
This was the one that spoke to me.
SAMPLE from SECTION 3
I marvel at the resilience of the Jewish people. Their best characteristic is their desire to remember. No other people has such an obsession with memory. Elie Wiesel
Passover has come.
The Passover story is told every year at this time in April over a special dinner that includes matzoh (unleavened bread), bitter herbs and salt water. These foods represent the slavery and eventual freedom of the Israelites when they were living in and then leaving Egypt.
How I love the festival of Passover.
The first night of the special dinner, or the Seder, where we read the history of the events in Egypt and the special foods that we eat, the breaking of the first matzoh, are highly spiritual for me. They speak to me about a people who meet God physically, who see his acts and feel his presence. I love the fact that this happened over three-and-a-half thousand years ago, and now my kids and I are remembering it, and Jews all over the world are remembering it too, at this very time, and will do so until the end of time.
I love this about us as a people. We feed the body and soul horseradish, salt water, unleavened bread to physically and spiritually imbue the free modern Jew with the experiences of the enslaved Egyptian Jew. We make kneidlach on Passover as a substitute for the lokshen or kreplach that aren’t considered kosher for Passover. We feed the body and the soul all manner of foods at the special festivals, like hamentashen at Purim and latkes at Chanukah, and on the Sabbath we eat a hallah, the sweetened egg loaf and a special meal involving three to four courses.
On the Sabbath and other festivals, the waistline needs to take a back seat.
A people with culture builds more personal meaning and offers the soul a sanctuary, a haven to rest. The soul doesn’t always need to work at seeking God or our higher self.
Sometimes, if you come from a strong culture, the soul can just relax at the table and party too.
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