When the Almighty took us out of Egypt, he gave us freedom. But freedom doesn’t mean doing whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want. When we go that route, we generally become enslaved to our own desires—often for food and overeating during the holidays. Now, just a couple weeks after the holiday, our clothes don’t fit as they did before. But what can we do? And more importantly, how can we bring some permanence to our health and fitness and not go through this process every single year?
In the secular world, every January 1st, we hear about the New Year’s resolutions. And taking care of our health is usually one of them. Gym memberships soar at the beginning of the New Year, yet by March, the dropout rate is astonishing. People who purchased half-year and full-year memberships are no longer attending altogether. The initial motivation and enthusiasm for change slowly evaporates and we are all back into our mundane rut. How can we be different?
The first step in this process is to concentrate on three main areas—exercise, proper eating and stress reduction. Exercise should consist of a balanced program of cardio 4-5 times per week, resistance training 2-3 times per week and stretching on a daily basis. A nutritious food plan must include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins and, critically, portion control. Manage your stress levels with exercise and a combination of relaxation techniques.
How can we make the necessary changes and keep our resolutions?
- Make health a priority. There are 24 hours in a day. If your health is somewhere near the top of your list, as it should be, then you can find time for it.
- Get yourself a chavruta – a partner. These diet buddies or exercise buddies force you to be accountable to someone other than yourself. Sometimes a spouse can be a good buddy, but better to find a friend.
- Work on your environment. Don’t bring things into the home that aren’t good for you or that you tend to eat a lot of, like salty or sugary snacks.
- Keep your exercise gear handy. Keep it in a place that you just can slip into your clothes and shoes easily. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting on the apparel—and you are ready to go!
- Set goals for yourself—and not necessarily in weight loss terms. See how long you can walk and how fast. Set weekly and monthly goals to increase your distance and your pace. Set a goal of a smaller dress size or pants size.
- Reward yourself. What are you going to do for yourself when you reach your goals? Get a massage? Go on a small vacation? Take a day off from work and cozy up with a good book? Try to avoid food as a reward.
- Give yourself credit! When you have done something that was difficult for you, when you are able to change a bad behavior, it’s a huge accomplishment. Write it down and give yourself a much deserved pat on the back.
- Keep a journal! Make an accounting of your health. Whether it’s your food intake or your exercise, keep a log of everything. Write down your feelings at the end of the day or after an exercise session.
Now that the holidays are behind us and we have beseeched the Almighty to watch over our health, we need to do our part and make an effort to succeed. The best protection that we can give ourselves, is to eat right, exercise, reduce stress and keep davening (praying)!
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer and a Lifestyle Fitness Coach with over 16 years of professional experience. He is the co-director of the Jerusalem-based weight loss and stress reduction center Lose It! along with Linda Holtz M.Sc. and is available for private consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175 (USA Line 1-516-568-5027), or by email at email@example.com.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.