Category Archives: Habits

Fan

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

This is very embarrassing to admit but here goes: I am addicted to
college football. I played on my college team and coach my son’s
kidsports team. This year my alumni team is played a night game that
started right after the end of the last Yom Kippur service. Usually I go
to a colleague’s house for break fast but this year I demurred and said
I had “other plans” without being specific about what they were. Our
sons are friends and I just had to listen to a ration of abuse about my
“priorities” from him. I suspect he too would rather have watched the
game but because he and his wife traditionally host the break fast he
was given no choice. My defense was feeble and I really did feel guilty
about letting down my friend. Ideas on remediation?

Fan

 
Dear Fan:

Eating crow is never fun. In point of fact, your colleague was right
that you could have taped the game and sped through the first half or
just picked it up when you returned home from the break fast. So you
were in the wrong. Especially because the time after Yom Kippur is
magical, and a slow glide path back into reality is simply more
spiritually gracious than jumping into the noise and bustle of a game.
But what’s done is done, so make it up to your buddy with a bro-date:
Either invite him over to watch a special game, just the two of you, or
invite him to go to a sports bar and treat him to food and drinks. I’m
assuming, btw, that you cheer for the same team. If you don’t a small
friendly wager would sweeten the pot even more. Even if you are
colleagues instead of close friends, a little bonding goes a long way.
Next year, make the right call. Unless you’re on the team, they will
rise or fall just fine without you.

The Good Daughter

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My brother is addicted to pills, though will just get drunk if that’s all he
has. He has now lost her room in the house she was staying and her
fourth job as a nursing aide in a year. He relocated to my city to live
with our other, who is in the last stages of a terminal blood disorder,
though Mom has already outlasted the doctor’s predictions by almost
two years. Two points: (1) Mom is not supposed to drink, but often
they do that together; (2) David is “exhausted” from the move, and
wants to “take a month off to recuperate” before he looks for work. I
think he should not get a vacation but start putting out resumes today,
but both of them loudly told me off and said I was being “controlling
and judgmental.” I’m the responsible daughter who has to pick up the
pieces when they break things. Is there any way to avoid this train
wreck?

The Good Daughter

 
Dear Good Daughter:

In a word: No. You can try to ban alcohol from the house but addicts
always find a way to get their fix until they get clean and sober. You
can try to scare your mother with mortality, but if she’s already past
the doctor’s predictions she probably figures she can do as she
pleases, and who knows, maybe she is right. But it sounds like the
codependence will not help your mother as much as your brother.
Regarding the proposed vacation, your suggestion makes sense to me,
unless he needs the month to prepare for a pee test that would likely
be required to get a job. But even so, getting his resume together and
sending out letters and applications seems like a basic reality check to
reinforce the idea that he is there to help your mother, not live off her.
It might help to start with optimism when you speak to them, even if
you get heartburn and grit your teeth. But short of a miracle I think
you will be in this soap opera for a while.

Primo Fan

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My name is Jessica and I love watching football. I feel like someone in
a 12-step program who is supposed to confess my sins and never turn
on the television on weekends in autumn and winter. I know there are
bad injuries caused by the game. I would not want my child to play.
But I am a real fan of the local college team and of some of the pro
teams that my guys now play for. Someone just compared me to a
person who likes dog fighting, and I was horrified and insulted.
Football is coming. What can I say or do, and is it as bad as that?

Primo Fan

 
Dear Fan:

Yes, and no. Yes what happens on the football field is violent and yes
there is increasing evidence that the sport damages people. At a
minimum it damages players who get clunked in the head. It is
possible it damages us viewers (and yes I too am a college fan) in that
we become too desensitized to violence and start to care less about
people’s health and too much about our own entertainment. Does that
mean I won’t be watching kickoff Saturday? No. Does it mean I think
much more than I used to about why this sport, like boxing or other
full-contact sports? Yes. Do I think we can make a transition to
watching sports like tennis, track and field, or other ways people use
their bodies competitively, or even to chess or bridge or mental
sports? On a good say Yes. But as I watch the horrifying news cycles
we are living through, I fear more often than I used to for our
collective humanity, and for our ability to see kindness as a goal at
least as worthy as winning.

 

My summary advice: If you have a team you really care about, go
forth and cheer, both for them and for the sport to become more
humane, and more protective of its players (in rules and equipment).
Then go out to do something good for the planet for at least as long as
you watched the game.

Desperate

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Yikes! The resolutions lasted but a few weeks and here I am, again
feeling fluffy and addicted to sugar. I tried to go cold turkey, then got
the flu and ended up back on jello, which let to one treat after
another, and down the rabbit hole. I need to take off not just the five
pounds of holiday fressing, but the twenty that they landed on top of.
Don’t tell me about diets and Weight Watchers. I need something that
threatens to cut off my hand at the wrist if I move it towards my
mouth with sweets in it.

Desperate

 
Dear Desperate:

Desperation isn’t always the best time to make decisions, especially
not a draconian one. Instead of a meat cleaver, you need a muzzle. Or
perhaps better, a cup for tea or a glass for water. Or perhaps a long
manifesto you are obligated to read aloud each time you want sugar.
The hard part is remembering to read it or drink it before the sugar is
already down your gullet. How to do that? Make sure there’s a longer
reach than your arm for the sugar you swear you don’t want to eat.
Don’t buy sugar. Don’t buy it in any form. Don’t stop at store, “just for
one thing” and then crack and have a treat to keep around “to prove
you are strong enough.” You’re not. You will eat it. Just don’t let sugar
in house. When you are driving part the market, tell yourself all the
reasons you want to NOT EAT SUGAR until you are safely home.
Practice just saying No until your habit is to say Yes to health instead
of treats. And don’t discount monitored weight-loss programs that hold
you accountable for what you eat. Once you are on track you may be
allowed desserts like fruit that are natural sugars. Carb counting is a
simple plan that shows you how “expensive” a choice sugar can be.
Work with your doc, not a machete.

Seeking Inspiration

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I had a really rough year. I lost a beloved friend and a beloved
pet. I had medical issues that were difficult to diagnose and to cure. I
had to cut far back on my social life to accommodate all the
immediacies of family and healing. Now I am feeling isolated,
somewhat vulnerable, definitely poorer, and very protective of both
my body and my soul. I miss being the optimistic and outgoing person
I have been most of my life. I am wounded and fragile. Do you have
good advice for getting my mojo back?

Seeking Inspiration

 
Dear Seeking:

That old saying about the Chinese character for “crisis” also represents
“opportunity” is highly relevant. You’ve been through the worst of it,
one can only hope. Now’s the chance to create a better life, not just
re-create the one you had before all the bad (as if you could). Instead
of being in resistance to the changes, look for ways to become the new
and happier you.

 
Think about hummingbirds in a late summer garden. They’re attracted
to the bright colors, the reds and oranges, and they come seeking
sweetness. Your mojo’s only going to come back when you make an
attractive landing zone for it. Instead of cowering in your room hoping
the world turns into a friendlier place, go out and engage with it. Seek
out the sweetness life offers. Try new things and even new people.
You’ll have dead ends and misses. But you’ll also have surprises and
delights, and those joys– both hoped for and unanticipated– will start
to fuel your spirit again.

 
Think about your time: what’s fixed and what’s malleable about your
schedule. Identify zones that are available to pursue happiness. Then
go after it in a variety of forms.

 

 

Get into counseling: Even if you think you understand what’s been
going on in your life, heart, and soul, it can really help to get fresh
perspective. Friends know us inside and out. A new person, especially
someone trained to listen, probe, and help us open and see ourselves
differently, can add new perspective and insight. As you do the more
worldly things below, invest in your heart to keep your motivated
change pumping.

 
Do for others: Look for volunteer opportunities, from your local food
bank to a Habitat for Humanity build. See a bigger world than your
small life.

 

Get involved with a cause: Commit to helping, whether it’s for your
favorite candidate or a local or environmental issue.

 
Learn something new: Take an art class, study a language, or explore
a new way of cooking. But push your gray cells to work and play.

 
Get physical: All the gyms have New Year’s specials. Try Sufi dancing,
weight machines, Nia, spin, or restorative yoga. Look for ways to get
back into your body.

 
Get metaphysical: Start reading uplifting writers. Meditate regularly.
Even ten-fifteen minutes a day of quiet breath or life-affirming
mantras will impact your soul. So will going to synagogue more often,
both the prayers and the music.

 
Get mental: Join a book group by asking your friends if they know of
an opening, or start one based around your own reading preferences.
Share opinions and tastes, and get to know other people’s worldviews.

 
Make time for old friends: Get deeper with the friends who stood by
you in your tough times. Have them over for dinner one-on- one, or
start a monthly salon.

 
Meet new folks: Tell people you’re interested in expanding your social
circle. Ask to be invited to parties. Look at the “happenings” section in
the Weekly and go to gatherings that are a little bit of a stretch to
push you out of your comfort zone.

 
Cultivate curiosity: Like a child learning to walk, every baby step will
help move you down the road to happiness. Don’t isolate or clutch
what feels safe so tightly that you cannot embrace the new. Leave
room in your life for unexpected joys. Ask for and welcome surprises.

 

 

Give gratitude regularly: Times were hard. They’ll be hard again. The
best insurance policy is a warm personality and a resilient soul. Believe
in and cultivate goodness. Practice tikkun olam. Help the world heal
and you will heal too.

Sis

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have a very dysfunctional sister. She is mentally ill though she has
never been officially diagnosed as such. She is a persistent abuser of
prescription drugs, which she manages to steal from work and/or
extract from doctors for various ailments. She’s a nurse, if you can
believe it, though is now working in a limited caregiver capacity in a
group home. Her life has been a declining series of tragedies
culminating in her losing her house. I went up to help her clean it and
move into a one-room rental in a friend’s home. When I saw her for
three days, I witnesed the level of her collapse firsthand. She slept in
till noon while I did all the practical things I could: dealing with movers
and a storage unit. I tried to explain to her how to post her valuables
on Craigslist, and gently alerted her future roommate that “she stays
up late ‘celebrating’”, without saying she is a pill-popping moocher. I
had filmed her with my iphone, high as a kite and dancing like a
madwoman in the middle of the night. I suspect it’s a drug interaction
from her random consumption of pills. She could die or have a seizure,
or she could end up a bag lady living on the street after she loses her
job because she treats the meds cabinet at work like a candy shop.
Also she is a shopaholic. I’ve lived a frugal life and always been a
responsible citizen. I know that some day I will get “The Call.” What
can I do between now and then? I do NOT want to take her in!!!

Sis

 
Dear Sis:

You are not going to be able to stop this train wreck. Your sister is
bound to be caught stealing meds, especially if she has an accident at
work. Just having her working in a group home could endanger the
health and sobriety of residents. One also has to wonder about the
level of supervision of both meds and employees, though turning her
in to her bosses exacerbates and hastens her and your inevitable
problems, rather than solving them.

You need a “come to Moses” meeting with her. You should tell her
everything you have observed, your fears, and, as hard as it may be
to do, your boundaries. I wouldn’t say you had filmed her, in part
because it will make her more cautious around you. But save the file
somewhere, in case you ever need to show a doctor or intervening
authority. You could threaten to tell her supervisor about her drug
habit if she will not voluntarily enter a program like Narcotics
Anonymous, go to regular meetings, and provide some kind of proof of
attendance. You should also insist that she meet with a financial
advisor, the type that helps people downsize debts, and put some kind
of long-term plan into action, including cutting off her credit spending.
Lastly, as hard as this may be to say, you need to tell her you are not
her final or financial safety net. Say that if there were an emergency
you would find her a group home but that you and your family cannot
do more. Suggest that she make plans with other family members who
may be more flexible or wealthier. Though she is unlikely to heed
much of this advice, you will have entered a new phase of relating,
and have had a conversation that you can reference as needed. But
ultimately, she will come to your door.

Couch Potato

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I need to get off the sofa. I’ve been in a long-term vacation from
exercise after some very traumatic surgery a year ago. I’m finally off
the pain meds but I can’t seem to motivate myself. I pay for a gym
membership dutifully every month. I make dates to go on walks with
friends. I swear to my children every week that I will get back to being
the active senior that I was before the surgery. But when I go to get
ready to exercise, it is simply too easy to pick up the remote or the
phone. What can I do to motivate myself that will work. It’s not my
weight I am worried about, but my overall health, physical and
emotional.

Couch Potato

 
Dear Couch Potato:

Start with a general physical and visit with your doctor. Get reassured
that all your vitals are healthy. If there’s a concern about depression
being the cause of your inactivity, a doctor’s the best person to assess
it. S/he can develop an overall fitness plan for you. Because you’ll
probably have to wait for an appointment, at least a few weeks, start
by some gentle walking. Literally, walk out your front door after
breakfast and walk for, say, fifteen minutes the first day. As you walk
around your neighborhood, don’t forget to talk to people: other
walkers, dogwalkers, gardeners, shop owners. Just a Hi and a nod, a
Good morning, or just a wave will get you in the habit of connecting
with people again. You’ll even start to look forward to the walks which
you can extend for a couple minutes or blocks as you develop the
habit.

 
Another motivating tool is a pedometer. You can buy simple ones for
about $50 that you can wear around your neck. They track every step
(especially if you take it off last thing at night and put it on first thing
in the morning) and will inspire your inner competitor. (I attest that
this is true, she said proudly .) Setting a goal is very useful and
watching yourself get closer to it will inspire you. The traditional model
is 10,000 steps a day for weight loss. But just monitoring your daily
total will help you get closer to that goal. Bonus points if you can
inspire a friend to get one too and to compare notes and progress.
It takes time get back into exercise, especially after medical issues and
a long vacation. But as you begin to generate endorphins from moving
off the sofa, you will find yourself quickly looking forward to your time
on your feet.

Swan

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I am in the process of a makeover. It started with one of those free
makeup sessions at the mall. Then my inner Imelda discovered boots,
which I started wearing with tights. Hooray for the confluence of style
and my skinny legs. I started cleaning out my closet and got rid of
anything that made me look or feel fat (I am overweight but not
obese); that had stains, that was so far out of style I didn’t care it the
style came back. I decided that what had previously been “dress up
wear” was going to be my new normal. People noticed the boots and
tights. Then they started saying I looked nice, even that they thought
I had lost weight. I told my hairdresser I wanted to try a new style
(the first time in a decade). I feel thinner, younger, hipper, happier,
and like I have anew outlook on life. But now people are asking things
like: Have you met someone? And What’s going on? Why are you
dressing up? Do I need to say anything other than I’m ready to be a
new me?

Swan

 
Dear Swan:

You could leave it at just that. Plus a satisfied happy smile and a Do
you like the new me? Everyone has the right to self-determination of
his or her image, look, style, persona, whatever you want to call it.
Most of us of a certain age and older fall into patterns and habits in
lifestyle, dressing, even the routes we drives and stay stuck in them.
We buy something special for a wedding or B&'nai Mitzvah but in the
day-to- day we wear the same old same old until it wears out.
Sometimes we lose sight of the little tears and stains and our
wardrobes begin to look not just out of style but a little shabby. Ditto
for our shoes and hair.

 

Change is good and even good for your brain.
You can decide if you want to do a big shift or a more gradual one. But
this is a great time of year for the transformation. Use every holiday
party as an excuse to up the ante, and the post Xmas sales as an
opportunity to round out your new wardrobe. It helps to donate the
old things to make room for the new things. Or to put them in a bad
and let them sit to see what old favorites you miss. But save some of
your budget for spring. Two reasons: different wardrobe choices; you
don’t know now what shape you will be in and what style you will
eventually embrace. Play with your taste and image. Changing
yourself from the outside may inspire you to reduce your BMI too.
Enjoy being both Cinderella and your own Fairy Godmother!

TV Diet?

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m a football addict. If you passed me on the street you would see a
mild-mannered 65-year old. But when the season rolls around, it takes
lots of self-control not to start watching. I’ve never been addicted to
anything else, like alcohol or drugs, though maybe ice cream in the
summer. If I watched every game that’s on (college and professional)
I could lose every Monday and Thursday night, and all day Saturday
and Sunday. I have friends who are rabid fans of our local college
team (fingers crossed, national contenders!!) and others who root for
our hometown pro team (not so much, sigh). But I think I’m the only
one who would watch much more on my own. Do I allow myself to do
it for a few months, or set some limits?

TV Diet?

 
Dear Need A TV Diet:

Every addiction needs limits. Here’s my suggestions. Schedule your
“don’t miss this game” viewing time for games that you actually care
about. That’s approximately twelve for your college team and eighteen
for your pro team, two per week from September to December. Then
add in all the playoff and championship games in January and
February. The good news is that after the college bowl season ends
(intensive pre-holiday and holiday season viewing), you get a chance
to taper off, like drinking lite beer or low-cal ice cream. Make all of
those occasions social ones as well. Food and drinks, friends and
cheering. If you watch other games, keep track of them. Keep track of
your mood, what you eat, and why you are choosing to watch TV
rather than engaging with other people or a good book.

 
Then take inventory of your life and think about other activities that
give you pleasure. Activities as in active not passive. Anything from
playing cards or bingo to volunteer work. Schedule an equal amount of
weekly time for those, and yet again as much for other things that
give you pleasure but are not football. Think cooking a great meal or a
date. Whatever extra energy is left for TV, use to watch highlights
shows.

Choking

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I may have turned into a hoarder. It was most definitely not
intentional. I remember the horror I felt when I cleaned out my
parents’ home after my mother died and my father moved into
assisted living. And then the mountains of paper and other disposables
he managed to accumulate in just a few years there. But I’m afraid
I’m turning into my parents. Every room is filled, some to overflowing.
Several sizes of clothes (the optimistic, realistic, and pessimistic
wardrobes), books from college classes, sentimental things I never use
like serving dishes my mother pulled out for the holidays, old political
campaign buttons, notions/buttons/and ribbons, a couple years of
crosswords cut from the daily paper to prove my brain still works, pet
supplies for animals I will never again own. And so on. Can you give
me some practical suggestions about how to cull? Even if I found the
perfect mate, I don’t have the physical room to invite him into my
space.

Choking

 
Dear Choking:

My simplest advice: tackle this problem room by room. You can do it
one room a week, or take a solid week and do it one room a day. If
you start at ruthless it ill become an acquired habit, so begin where
the most egregious hoarding has occurred. Start with a small, easy
room like your bathroom. Go under the sink. Dump cosmetic and
cleaning products you never use, rags and broken mops, whatever is
clearly trash. It helps, btw to have receptacles to put everything in,
from big garbage bags to recycling containers, and a stash of things
you could donate. I think the idea of a future garage sale is just an
excuse to hang onto things. If it is usable, donate it to a worthy thrift
shop, women’s shelter, or someone else’s garage sale. If not, put it
into a “go away forever” pile.

 
Then tackle your kitchen, your living room, and every room except
your clothes closet. Like any other form of exercise, it’s a habit that
gets easier with repetition. Clothing still with tags on them earn a
special place in your closet. Your pessimistic (which I read as if-I- gain-
weight clothes) should be minimal, and include only the nicest duds.
Anything with stains or needing repairs, out. Not worn in ___ years,
out. Be ruthless down to your undies and socks. Books to the used
bookstore; old crosswords to the trash. Your goal at the end should be
enough space in each room for another adult to share your home with
you. And from now on, whenever you buy something new, you should
wave goodbye to something old

Coasting

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

It’s New Year’s 2013 and I am inundated with advice about resolutions
to make, most of which I need to listen to. Baseline information: I
could stand to lose twenty pounds. Thirty would be better. I have a
small savings account and a small retirement fund. But I tend to use
my credit card freely each month and when the time comes for big
non-monthly expenses like car or home insurance I have to take it out
of savings or as an advance. I don’t drink a lot but I also have been
known to have more than one and then drive myself home (if I’ve
been out with the girls after work). I have more “stuff” than I know
what to do with but still don’t know how to pass up a great sale or
bargain. I’m not a hoarder but my drawers and closets are full. Some
things, blush, still have tags on and are too small for me. I like my job
but haven’t thought about a career change in years. I go to synagogue
for the High Holidays but rarely in between unless there’s a B’nai
Mitzvah among my friends or family. I do have a loving partner and a
beautiful home that I love to use to entertain those I love. Can you
help me put the best foot forward in 2013?

Coasting

 
Dear Coasting:

You sound like you have a very clear sense of whom you are and how
you like to live. I’ll tell you what I see from here: someone comfortably
middle class, used to taking good care of her needs and extra good
care of her wants. You sound comfortably middle class, though that
could change in the future if you don’t pay more attention to your
retirement savings. Here’s some suggestions for how to start the year
off right:

 
– Clip all the resolution articles you see in the next week out of the
paper and put them in a file (including this one). Read them on the
first Sunday of each month with a good cup of coffee to remind
yourself that you do want to make changes, not in the big thrust of
your life but in all the margins.

 

– Dedicate January to cleaning your closets and drawers. Set some
very clear criteria, like tossing anything with stains. And by tossing I
mean to put in a donation bag labeled marginal. Also start a bag of
better things, especially work clothing. Most women’s shelters are
hungry for interview clothing. Keep a decent wardrobe in your current
size and one lower but make sure there’s room between the hangers.

 
– Do the same thing for your food pantry, your freezer, your bathroom
cupboards, your garage, and anywhere that you cannot see the walls
and floor. Call around to local non-profits to see whom you can donate
what to. Lots of people with much less than you can benefit.

 
– Set some weight loss criteria that you can keep to consistently.
Going meat free one day a week is good for the waistline and the
planet. Make sure you have a salad for lunch and for dinner. Try going
without carbs for one of those meals (i.e. no bread, potatoes, rice,
etc). Ditto for desserts and alcohol. Weigh yourself at least once a
week.

 
– Walk more. Start with a 10-minute walk each day and up the time
and/or distance at least weekly, though daily would be better. If you
can work your way up to an hour a day you will benefit your long-run
health in very solid ways.

 
-When you get your paycheck, put $50 extra into in the savings
account. Also start an annual expenses fund. The math is easy: add up
all the annual expenses and divide by12. Put that amount in each
month. That’ll force you to cut back on small expenses like daily lattes,
or whatever you spend money on without blinking. Use only your
checking account debit card, and lock your credit card away.

 
– Rewrite your resume. You may never choose to apply for a different
job, but this will give you perspective on your strengths and
weaknesses. Have a sit-down with your boss. Say you are happy with
your organization but want to challenge yourself to grow more. Ask
what will help both of you.

 
– Go to services more often. Or take a community ed class in
something you care about. Go to music recitals or talks at the library.
Start meditating or volunteer at a non-profit you care about. Push the
boundaries of your life beyond whatever you’ve been doing with your
time.

 

 

– Never drink and drive. You’ll live longer and so will the rest of us.

Bigger Than Chubby

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I can’t even look at myself in the mirror. I have no idea how many
times I have said, I’m never eating sugar again. I’m going to exercise
30 minutes each day. I am off carbs. No more burgers and fries. Etc
etc etc with everything my mother told me for years: Eat less and
move more! I’ve paid more to Weight Watchers than my synagogue.
And here I am, fat again. Fatter than most of the clothes in my closet.
Fatter than I should be with spring looming. Hellllpppppp….

Bigger Than Chubby

 
Dear Bigger Than Chubby:

Any time this side of the grave is not too late to get healthier and
lighter. Your question suggests you know what to do, but lack the
motivation to actually do it consistently. Assuming you don’t want to
invest in a new wardrobe one size larger, try this motivating tool, an
exercise is best done when no one else is home. Pull everything in
your wardrobe out of the closet. Turn all the lights in your room on
bright. They won’t be as bad as a department store dress-on room,
but you’ll get the same ugh! effect. Divide your closet into three parts:
fits now; would fit if I lost 10-15 pounds; and maybe it&'s time to
donate this. One by one, try on every piece of clothing you own, from
jeans to party wear. (Note: Allow yourself a glass of wine along the
way. It’ll help you laugh and complete the exercise.)

 
Once you see how far you’ve drifted from where you were and where
you want to be, set up a program for yourself to start ASAP, as in
today. Find 30 minutes each day to walk. Wake up earlier; walk at
lunchtime or before or after dinner. Consistency matters but most
important is doing something every day. Studies show that folks who
move from sedentary to active get a bigger impact for their time than
already athletes who add 30 minutes to their existing routines. Set
some food absolutes, like no fries ever, and sugar only once a week.
Eat more veggies and less fat. Fruit not chocolate. If Weight Watchers
is your program, read the rules like you’ve never seen them before,
including all the tips and community posts. Or go to meetings. Get on
the scale at least once a week. Avoiding and fearing your scale is one
of the surest tip-offs that your clothing exercise will slowly but
inexorably shift towards the Eeek doesn’t fit! side of the closet. Many
of us will be doing the same things as days get longer and clothing
tighter. See you on the walking paths.

Non-Smoker

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

This going to sound weird but here goes: my best friend gave my
mother marijuana. I&'ve always known my mother indulged. She&'s a
child of the sixties and for a while even had a medical marijuana card
in California where she lives and where it is legal. But it&'s not legal
here!!! I understood when she was in a lot of pain before surgery for a
nasty rotator cuff injury. But she told me she’d stopped. I&'ve always
known my friend smokes occasionally but we simply don&'t talk about it
because she knows I don&'t approve. Long story short: Mom came for
Thanksgiving and left some pot in the guest room. I found it after she
left but when I asked her about it she said she hadn&'t wanted to fly
with it and told me she’d arranged everything with Deena before her
visit. What if anything do I say or do?

Non-Smoker

 
Dear Non Smoker:

You can talk till you&'re blue in the face and I’d bet money the same
thing will happen the next time your mom visits and the time after
that, etc etc until one or both change their habits. Smokers don&'t stop
smoking (cigarettes or marijuana) until they are ready, any more than
alcoholics shun booze or chocoholics turn away from their deep dark
pleasures. You can be self-righteous, moralistic, threatening, cajoling,
or any other tone you think can pull off. But don’t have any false
expectations. The same is true for Deena, though with lower odds.

 

What you can do more successfully is set some ground rules. For
example: No smoking in front of your children. No smoking in the
house. No driving while stoned. No smoking where neighbors can see
or smell. No bail if she is in fact busted, though little old ladies are
rarely targets. You can talk to her about alternatives for pain control or
even for recreational relaxation. You can tell her you don’t want her to
visit unless she’ll promise you the air will not get anyone high. My only
caution is this: She’s unlikely to stop simply because you ask her to,
and very likely to turn the mirror your direction. So whatever habits
you have that you know she doesn’t approve of are likely to end up
part of the ensuing discussion. If you’re prepared to change for her,
maybe she’ll snuff out her weed for you.

Ready to Downsize

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Please help me with a problem that involves friends and food. I have
needed to lose weight for most of my life. I ballooned out in my
twenties in a very bad relationship and have been trying to slim down
for more than twenty years. I lose, I gain; I lose, I gain. You know the
yo-yo. But I have managed to keep off 50+ pounds and am finally
ready to tackle the last 25.

 

The problem is that my friends have heard me say this same thing about
ten thousand times and simply shut their ears and keep inviting me for
drinks, meals and desserts. This time, instead of picking a program where
I have too many choices I am doing one (endorsed by my medical doctor)
where I follow the meal plans. Real live food, with lots of protein and veggies,
that I prepare. But strictly on program. How can I get them to respect and
support what I am doing?

Ready to Downsize

 
Dear Ready to Downsize:

Don’t give any credence to their negativity and skepticism. Virtually
anyone who has been a yo-yo dieter knows that it almost always takes
more than one try to get to goal. Many medical folks believe that the
body needs to recalibrate in set points, and that when you gain more
than you lost and then settle in you set a new, lower, set point that
brings you down in steps. Admittedly trying to go the last third of the
way in one giant step is a big goal. So you’ll have to work as hard on
your maintenance lifestyle as you do on the losing.

 
As for your fiends, you’re going to have to prove it to them by your
demonstrations of self-control. Sparkling water with two limes, hold
the gin and tonic water. Salad not corn or potatoes. Decaf for dessert.
There’s lots of ways to eat out and still be able to be social during the
next many months it will take to lose your weight. I’m betting that as
your friends begin to see you slim down they will become more
supportive. And when you do go down your first size, treat yourself to
some spiffy new clothes to celebrate and validate your victory.

Two Years To Go

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m morbidly obese. I have lost seventy pounds but still have well over
one hundred still to go. I have been on what some people might
consider a strict diet (basics are mostly fruits and vegetables, no
wheat, dairy, or sugar, with lots more details) but for me it has
become a way of life. I could lighten up on the strictness but I am so
empowered and energized by how I feel and do not want to lose the
momentum. My husband, who should also lose at least a hundred
pounds, keeps asking me to eat out. I wouldn’t mind occasionally
going to a restaurant where I could get what I want to eat. But he
likes greasy Chinese, and once I’m there it’s impossible to find brown
rice, let alone organic vegetables. Each time I relent and go I regret it
immediately and suffer the next day. Each time he promises he’ll
never ask again. But a week later he begs and whines until I give in.

Two Years To Go

 
Dear Two Years To Go:

You cannot change the past, except how you are already doing it:
being on program and sticking to it as well as you can. The fact that
you have been so successful already should be very reinforcing. I’m
sorry your husband cannot get on board and be supportive. That’s
disappointing but not terribly surprising. Many people do not like
seeing their own issues reflected by their loved ones. And misery
(which extreme obesity can be) does tend to love company. Also,
while your commitment is impressive, admirably so, the duration of
the process is probably intimidating him. There’s nowhere to hide from
your process and your progress. Eventually even he is going to have to
start dealing with his own demons.

 
What to do: Hold him to his word. Like any serial fibber, he means
what he says when he says it, just not the next time has to be held
accountable for what he promised. Get him to put it in writing. When
he starts asking about going out for dinner, hand him his written vow
and ask him to read it out loud. Then offer up a list of places you
would be willing to go: places where you can get salads, healthy sides,
carb-free or gluten-free food, or whatever other specific guidelines you
choose to obey. He’ll grumble but eventually he’ll give in. Congrats
and good luck getting to goal.