Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Myth: Calories Don't Count on Shabbat

This phrase may be the most-said sentence on Shabbos behind "Shabbat shalom!" 

I'm sorry to tell you, but it's not true. Calories do count on Shabbat. 

The problem is that you have no way to count them. If you belong to Weight Watchers or another strict weight-loss system, then you had better be eating your own food at home, with each meal planned ahead of time. You have no idea how your host has fixed those dishes or even what all is inside them. The best you can do is watch your portions, eat the most un-processed fruits and vegetables you can find, and avoid any particular foods prohibited by your diet (such as carbs or meat). 

If you have any advice about keeping track of your food intake on Shabbat, feel free to share it below. While I likely won't benefit from the advice (I follow what I said above), I know this is a subject that a lot of people would like to discuss!


  1. Ugh...I learned this one the hard way! When I first started observing Shabbos, I really took to heart the idea that I was supposed to feast and I particularly enjoyed the Challah! It often seems like between kiddush and Seudah Shlishis, there is just a constant stream of food!

    I won't say I have it completely under control, but here's my strategy. If we're staying home for a meal, I try to plan it so that it is mostly veggies and lean meat. I let the only starch for the meal be the challah and I try to limit myself to just 1 or 2 pieces at most. If we are eating by someone, I try to eat mainly vegetables, but that can be a challenge in some Ashkenazic homes. If all else fails, I limit my portion sizes and eat a healthy snack at home after.

    I also try to mitigate the effects by eating as healthy as I can before and after Shabbos and planning a workout for Sundays! I guess, as in most things...moderation is key. :)

  2. Yup, this is tough. You can't just let it go on Shabbos. Pretty much here's what I do:

    Friday night I eat till I'm full, and don't feel guilty about it.

    Shabbos morning I eat nothing before lunch. At lunch, I load up on salads first and let it satisfy my hunger before moving on to other things. I stop before I'm full.

    I eat nothing the whole afternoon.

    For shalosh seudos, if I'm not hungry I'll literally wash just for the mitzvah, eat a small piece of matza and be done.

    It works.

  3. I try to get in my 40-45 mile , 3 hour bicycle ride on Fri. so that I have room to eat what I want.
    Take a 1 hour Shabbat morning walk, before shul with the Mrs.
    No Kiddush before lunch, eat lunch early . lots of salads on shabbat
    On Sun try to ride off the excess

  4. Like the other commenters, I try to fill up on the green salads, veggies, and lean protein. I do like to make the salads extra fancy with unusual veggies and toppings so that they are a treat and not just boring green stuff. When I host, I've cut back on serving starches and offer fruit for dessert. I flavor and season my dishes with the least amount of calories i.e. broth instead of a gravy.

    I also have on hand low calorie drinks too and greatly appreciate when hosts do this too. I've been stuck at the end of a table with the soda and juice meanwhile that little pitcher of water is way on the other side of the table.

    At kiddush and as a guest, I'll just have my just my absolute favorite treats as far as dessert items. What I *really* do not like is when hosts want to force more food on guests just because there's some left in the serving bowl. I understand hosts want guests to leave filling stuffed, but pressuring guests to eat more or even piling more food on their plates is so not cool.

  5. For those of us that have eating issues, Shabbos can be a bit of an issue. But since I commit to a food plan in advance, counting calories isn't an issue.

    Our area has an OA (Overeaters Anonymous) group that meets at the local orthodox kiruv building. I wish more frum communities had this option/resource. My Rabbi is very knowledgable about food addiction and complusive overeating (many are NOT) - he allows a lot of leniency for dealing with the issue. Keeping kosher really helps for me, it reminds me to constantly turn my food choices over to HaShem because I don't make good ones on my own.

  6. I have been on WeightWatchers for over a year and track using ETools (I will explain why that is relevant later). We don't eat out much, so I have better control over what I am eating than people who are usually guests.

    Each week, my wife has a list of what she is making (and serving) for Shabbat. Most of her recipes have by this time been entered in ETools. If she is making something new, I enter that too. Most Thursday nights, I sit down at the computer with her list and estimate what I plan to eat at each meal on Shabbat. Obviously, I have to estimate portions on Shabbat. I know how big my kiddush cup and how much challah I plan to eat so I can enter that as well.

    For Kiddush on Shabbat morning, I usually have with me a kezayit worth of pretzels to be yotzei kiddush. I then eat (or don't eat) anything else depending on what there is.

    When we do go out, I'm forced to estimate. I try to stick to relatively plain chicken, rice, salad, and fruit (fresh fruits and vegetables are zero points).

    It's not perfect, but it more or less works. Unless there is a major simcha (or yomim tovim), I have enough weekly points to take care of things.

    If you are on WW and want to discuss this further, you can send me a message through Facebook or Google+. Or you can ask Skylar if she is willing to relay a message.

  7. I've heard many people actually find having a "free day" or at least a free meal helps them lose weight so if that is the case Shabbat could be their free day.

    I am not one of those people. On free day leads to five...or five weeks. So I generally just plan ahead.

  8. Good suggestions and comments, everyone! A great suggestion came from Twitter: if you are know the calories or points you're consuming, you can use a bookmark to mark a page that represents the day's count so far! Maybe not ideal for some, but definitely a good idea for the more veteran food-watcher!

  9. If you eat with only the highest, holiest, purest intent to benefit the soul and the extra soul on Shabbat - then, indeed the calories don't count! This was born out by our friend Shmuel, a theoretical mathematician and deep thinker and lover of chocolate cake. Whenever his wife would try to stop him from eating cake at our house, he would answer "shabbos, shabbos" and renew his intention and focus on holy things.

    But once you revel for even a moment in the deliciousness of the chocolate chip cookies (a specialty of my wife's) or the chocolate dollop cookies (our neighbor's great creation) then you've broken the purity of eating for only spiritual goals, and the calories pile up. And if you happen to be eating my infamous three-cheese potatoes (we sometimes have dairy on Shabbat), well then there's just no hope.

    But then, this is a good reason for a good Shabbat stroll, no? A half-hour walk helps drive the sugar into the cells and reduce a bit the blood glucose level and the amount that will build up on the hips, waist, or other places.

  10. Hi Skylar- I am a new reader, and I enjoy your blog. I am a convert, although I am not Orthodox.

    Weight Watchers used to sell a pearl bracelet with 30 beads that could be used to track points without writing. You would move a charm around the bracelet for each point you ate. Someone sells versions on ebay under "Weight Watchers bracelet."

  11. I'm on Weight Watchers now and I save all of my extra weekly points for Shabbos. I try to work out through the week at least twice and then I don't feel bad about having a dessert on Shabbos. I try to limit my challah intake and when I'm making Shabbos at home I only buy whole wheat challah. I buy the Zomick's - it tastes amazing. I also try to fill up on the greens and vegetables and avoid red meat when possible.