This is a time of year when we’re supposed to indulge.  The weather gets colder, we put on heavier clothes and we tend to eat foods that stick to the ribs. The holidays bring a wide range of emotions.  For families it can either be stressful or a joyous occasion.  Who wouldn’t want to see their small child’s face light up when given sugary fried treats and special gift just for them?  But for some, the shorter days, the cold weather and eating heavy foods can be a downer.  It’s a good thing the change in weather allows us to layer clothes and hide the bulge and extra cushion that all these all these foods are doing to us. 

So the question remains, why do we do this to ourselves?  By tradition during Hanukkah, we’re supposed to eat oily fried foods to remember the miracle that the oil found after the temples destruction lasted eight days instead of one.  Great… So this equates to binging on Jelly doughnuts???  Whose idea was this anyway?   

As it turns out, we might be biologically geared towards all of this heavy eating to which a few factors come in to play.  Some of us more than others are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder or more commonly known as SAD.  The gloomy grey days and cold weather are a downer for many.  To compensate, we eat more in order to feel better.  The result of numerous studies have shown that sugary starchy foods create a feeling of happiness in the brain.  In harsh environments food becomes scarce thus the urge to stockpile is great.  It’s only natural that we want to make sure we have enough.  We have seen the same behavior in animals preparing for winter.  We’re also less active in the winter months so with the addition of a few extra pounds perhaps this serves to keep us warmer, too!

Some scientists might argue, though and say that these customs are just a product of our environment.  We’re given so many opportunities to overindulge.  During the holidays when someone bakes or cooks a high calorie meal just for you, the psychological impact of the added ingredient of love is perceived as being tastier and better.  The emotional connection that is associated with these special foods makes them taste better so the tendency to overindulge is even greater. 

Traditions are hard to break, however.  There’s no way of avoiding all of these guilty pleasures but do try to have your fill in moderation.  These days it’s easy to find healthier recipes online.  Try a healthier potato latke recipe instead of one that that saturates and deep fries them in a bath of hot oil.  It’s not necessary to eat sufganiyot after lighting the menorah each night.  Why not enjoy these only at the beginning and end of the Hanukkah.  It’s the perfect treat for the first and last night.  And the rest of the week you can give the sufganiyot to friends and coworkers as a gift.  Better them than you anyway!!      

This author is a writer on www.worldofjudaica.comcreated at: 2012-12-12

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