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Losing Weight this Passover

Losing Weight this Passover

Passover's solution to why diets don't work.


Let's face it. We all love to eat. A recent study found that over 62% of American adults and 34% of children are overweight or obese. And this time of year everyone seems resolve to becoming even fatter.

"Well, I just have to resolve myself to gaining weight over Passover. I'll try to limit the damage this year to five pounds instead of the ten I gained last year."

God never commanded us to gain weight on Passover. And believe it or not, it is possible to avoid added Passover pounds – if we internalize the profound meaning of why we must avoid chametz, leaven, on Passover.

The Sages describe the lower, animalistic part inside of us, the yetzer hara, as the leaven in the dough. This is why the Torah ascribes such great significance to avoiding chametz on Passover and eating matzah instead. Matzah is eaten because God wants us to avoid the power of the evil inclination present in the leaven of chametz.

If chametz represents the negative attribute of arrogance, why is it kosher to eat all year round?

The Torah emphasizes that the "bread didn't have time to rise." Mystics explain that the rising of the dough represents the negative trait of arrogance --the feeling of a high and mighty spirit which permeated Egyptian culture at that time. God wanted to remove the Jewish people from the arrogant ‘chametz' culture of Egypt into a 'matzah' environment. Because its dough is not allowed to rise, matzah symbolizes the characteristic of modesty, which is a hallmark of the Jewish people.

But if chametz represents the negative attribute of arrogance, why is it kosher to eat all year round? Why do we only care about not ingesting this evil inclination for the duration of Passover?

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto answers this fundamental question:

"With the Exodus, the Jews were set aside from the nations of the world so that they would purify their bodies and prepare themselves for Torah and the service of God. To accomplish this, they were commanded to rid themselves of leaven (chametz) and to eat matzah. Bread is designed by God to be man's primary food. Leaven is a natural element of bread, making it more digestible and tasty. God wants us to partake in the physical world and to struggle with the evil inclination. This is why all year round chametz is an appropriate food for man. However, we are required to abstain from leaven during Passover so we can reduce the strength of the evil inclination and drive for physical desires. We strengthen our connection to spirituality by only eating matzah during Passover.

But it would be impossible for us to nourish himself only with matzah all year. This practice is only performed during Passover when we should be on a higher level." (The Way of God, 4:8:1)

The rest of the year God wants us to be submerged within the physical, resisting a desire for overindulgence and uplifting the physicality of the world. This is part and parcel of our purpose in this world -- to be challenged and tested and to use our free will to overcome temptation. Material things are appropriate in moderation.

Thus, on Passover we go without our regular fare of foods. Passover is the annual holiday when are we are supposed to weaken our physical desires and lusts for the rest of the year. It's the time for us to take a break from our regular eating habits and work on limiting our strong desire for food which can so easily get of hand.


The dieting industry in America is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Experts are constantly thinking up new diets and products in order to help people lose weight. But we all know from experience that the majority of diets simply don't work to help a person shed pounds for the long haul. Sure, the dieter loses weight initially, but all too often the pounds are put back on later. Why is this so?

A person can't live following a specific weight loss diet forever. You can't live without carbs forever. You will cave in at a certain point and get tired of all of Atkins' meat. And so on.

Diets don't work because they don't train us to change our overeating habits. We eat with the same heavy desires, only now it's with other foods that are supposed to help us lose weight. We ingest diet products so we can still feast on ice cream and cake, just with less calories. Our lust for food is replaced with a lust for diet food.

Losing weight for the long haul requires training oneself to eat less and consume less calories.

The only eating change which will make a person lose weight for the long haul is to simply train oneself to eat less and consume less calories. This is what doctors and nutritionists call portion control and avoiding consistent and heavy snacking. If you take in less calories than you give out, you lose weight. This is why exercise is so important -- you burn more calories than you normally would without exercise. It's a very simple method but it's truly the only method that has chance of working -- reducing one's desire for overeating.

You can eat all types of food when you live this way. You just have to make sure not to eat too much of something. Have a small piece of cake at times, just don't lose yourself and eat the whole cake. Have a spoonful of ice cream – but leave it at that. The truth is our taste buds are just as satisfied with a spoonful of ice cream as they are with a pint. If we savor the taste and eat slowly it has the same effect for our taste buds. Our stomachs can feel full on anything; we might as well make it food that is healthier and has less calories.

We have to stop using food as an emotional anesthetic, and Passover is the perfect time to start doing it. Even if we feel good and forget our problems during the short time we are eating, without real solutions, our problems return shortly after, and all we received in the end were excess calories.

This year, eat right and avoid those Passover pounds!

April 4, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) sharon, July 17, 2013 1:23 AM

it's what you eat that counts

On Pesach, what we eat is important more than the amounts. In dieting, that is actually the truth, too. No bread on Pesach is a challenge. Truth is, wheat bread is often not good for dieting. Science now proves that what you eat year round is more important than portions. there is more but I agree with the article that Pesach is a good time to start practicing control over the yetzer harah and practicing self control in general.

(7) Beverly Margolis-Kurtin, Ph.D., August 4, 2012 5:28 AM

Lifestyle change

A book by Dr. Wm. Davis "Wheat Belly" has changed my life completely. He does not propose a diet at all, but a fundamental lifestyle change. Beiong unable to exercise because of damaged rotator cuffs and spinal stenosis, I nonetheless lost 70 pounds in eleven weeks! The best part was that I was NEVER HUNGRY until I GOT hungry. Now I eat only when my stomach demands food, so I give it the very best that I can. ORGANIC EVERYTHING. Does that sound expensive? Well it is, but the longer a person is on Wheat Belly, the longer your food lasts. Our grocery bill has decreased slightly despite the increase in the pride of organic foods. Beef and chicken are fed artificially and are given hormones, growth hormones and antibiotics. Men are starting to have increases in breast cancer! Girls are hitting puberty years earlier than they are supposed to. The Federal Death Administration (FDA) has no way of knowing whether or not those foods are safe! They have to rely on the chemical companies that tell them that the food is safe. Please, get the book. You will lose weight safely and easily and never even diet.

(6) Deborah, April 17, 2009 11:11 PM


I would like to state, that the Rabbi is 100% correct. I am a mother of 4 children and I have also learned at High School years already, that the only success in life, if Complete Self-control in every aspect of life. I have successfully shed of every pound I gained through 4 pregnancies, over 13 years and I am fit as a fiddle, never see the doctor and I participate in the Passover, but not Easter. I am proof to my daughters, that eating healthy fresh vegetables, as 40% of your meal, 15% protein and 35% Carbs & 10% cooked Veg & oils, is the perfect way to see the pounds just melt off, without even breaking a sweat! Our Creator's diet, is still the best combination to regulate hormones, considering that the brain secretes most hormones to keep us happy and healthy. The mind controls the body, not the body the mind. Accept then also, YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT! Joy is knowledge and control, where happiness is just a short-lived feeling or emotion. Be an over comer and say no to yourself, and reward with healthy choices for your longevity's sake! You can do it, many of us do daily! Don't fool yourself and to think that you need food as a crutch or anything else for a crutch. You should be in control of your own body and mind & joy from being in control of how you live and all the choices you make daily, from your own free will. Seeing a good reflection in the mirror, IS MY REWARD! Who needs fat around your heart anyway?

(5) Jacoma Corporale, April 6, 2009 9:14 AM

Diets Don't Work Because They're Diets!!!

Diet is a very restrictive word, as soon as you hear the word "Diet" it is like a death sentence. Diet means no starches, certain meats,except Chicken cooked in water without fat, no desserts of any kind, except fruit, no liquids except tea, water, or coffee without sugar or dairy. So what is left? Tell me what is left? Let me tell you: water, tea, coffee, fruit, certain veggies that don't contain starch. Does this make sense? I am not weight loss expert, nor a glutton, but I love my steak & mashed potatoes at least once a week, yes, I crave hamburgers at lunch, & may have fries with it, yes, I pass up Salads for roasted sirloin on an Onion Roll with a side of roasted potatoes & carrots.... oops.. carrots have starch too, so it really is not a good food choice. I have not gained weight, I lose a pound here & there. I don't know what the secret to weight loss is, but I do know that there are foods we need to live as healthy as possible, & then there are foods like desserts, which are "fun foods" that I try to have sparingly, but I won't give up. Come on folks, who could give up Cannoli or Cream Puffs, not to mention Butter Almond or Butter Pecan Ice Cream? I guess it is about the food choices we make, so, it is probably all our fault now. I take responsibility for this because when I eat, I am driven by cravings & my moods, so at that moment I am not thinking about that dull salad, I steer more for the big piece of heaven called "Roasted Brisket" or "Roast Sirloin" with juices dripping on the sides, then I glance at the right & there are mouth watering side dishes. Do I feel guilty? No chance. One thing that I find very funny is that "the people who dictate what we should eat" are the same people who choose liquor over food, then say they are on a diet. I never hear about anyone cutting down on their liquor consumption or smoking. I had one anorexic lady who consumed a can of Cashews with 2 bottles of wine, & she was giving advice about losing weight, should we do what the lushes do to lose weight?

(4) Menant, April 6, 2009 7:42 AM

Being realistic

I do not feel that a negative comment is in order regarding this article. I'm sorry if some people do not agree and try to individualize every article they read. The purpose of this article is to give a general overview of why certain diets don't work, and the author is right on. Any way you look at it, you are overwieght because you eat too much, period, regardless of whatever your personal problem is, compulsive eaters in this case. How can you expect the author to go into every detail and EVERY problem behind obesity? What people interested in losing weight should do, is ask for help and be treated appropriately. Portion control is THE biggest issue regarding obesity aside from hormonal problems, and if it's not hormonal, then learn and practice portion control. I believe the author is correct, and nobody should feel offended or whatever.

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