As we approach the New Year of 5779, Haba Aleinu L’tovah, there is always a certain amount to reflect upon looking back at the past year as well as some trepidation in terms of what awaits us in the coming year. This past year has been one of the most interesting years I’ve had since entering the arena of health and fitness. Not only has it been a year where I encountered very interesting and I dare say extremely difficult cases, but it is also a year that my own eyes were opened wide to aspects of health and in particular preventative health that were not so clear before. I want to share some of this with you and I hope it will serve as an inspiration to all of you as it has to me so that you will be motivated to make the coming year one of true HEALTH and happiness.
I have always worked with a variety of people but this year I think we have hit every end of the spectrum that one can imagine. I always try to learn from everyone I work with so that I can improve in helping my clients achieve success in bettering their health and well-being. I was truly privileged during the past year to help doctors, psychologists and therapists, Roshei Yeshiva, Mashgichim, buchrim, personalities from the Chassidishe world, naturopaths, mothers and fathers, grandparents, regular working individuals, people involved with the Clal, and too many people who are having too difficult a time in their lives. This was also a year where on the weight loss front, I encountered clients needing to lose massive amounts of weight. Some need to lose 70-80 kilograms (150-175 pounds)! We had more people entering into our 10 Weeks to Health program over the last 12 months than ever before. Each and every person presents his or her own challenge. I personally am in awe of all of them because the work and effort for them to achieve good health is great. Weight loss is only one aspect of the work. Many have fatty livers, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, problems with their cholesterol and for many, normal daily function has ceased and they are trying to get it back! Some aren’t even overweight.
The lady with the grit and patience and more
Readers may remember a column I wrote several weeks before Pesach about a lady with an enormous amount of weight to lose. It took us one full year, and I almost gave up, for her to change her mindset and thinking around. I wrote back then about her patience and her grit and determination. At that point she had lost 12 kilo. Here’s an update for you, as of this week, she has now lost 28 kilo. It is frustrating for her that she is not even half way to her goal, but you should see her move, walk and function! She is already a different person. She continues to work hard with good eating, daily exercise and weekly coaching sessions.
A bachur learning in Yeshiva in the north of the country comes to see us every other week. He needs to lose a massive amount of weight—the most I’ve ever encountered. He has now lost his first 12 kilo and he can’t even believe he’s doing it. His whole attitude has changed, he can walk for 30 minutes straight and we are all hoping he will avoid weight loss surgery.
We have helped a lady here in Yerushalayim lose weight, become an intense exerciser and most important, she also now realized there are good relationships in her life worth pursuing and poor ones to stay away from. She has realized it’s not too late to start over and she is doing just that. She is looking forward to a life with a lot less stress and a lot more meaning and all that while looking and feeling better.
These are only three example of what has been a year of helping over a hundred people in all of our different programs.
My eyes have been opened
Anyone involved in health, fitness and nutrition can tell you that this is an ever-evolving science. More and better research is always becoming available. For those of us who keep up, good science is now showing us our mistakes of the past and at the same time the great promise for the future. Keep this in mind because I will be writing more about it in the coming year; food sustains us, food can prevent and cure disease, and food can also bring our demise. More than ever, we are understanding the importance of not only being at a healthy weight, but of healthy eating and increased activity and exercise. Many of us have concentrated on avoiding unhealthy choices, but it is just as important to include all of the healthy foods in our daily eating. Nuts, seed, flax, fruits, berries, a wide variety of vegetable and some whole grains are some of the best weapons we have to stay healthy and fight off disease. When I say disease, I mean all of the adult diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and dementia. That enables us to have good daily function and stay out of the doctor’s office. If you couple that with an active lifestyle and just enough exercise you can cut your risk of many very serious diseases by as much as 75%–you read that that correctly, 75%. If you put it all together and learn what proper eating and correct exercise is, you can live a better quality of life and extend your life too. The more I research and investigate what the real scientific research say, the more I am encouraged that we can greatly reduce the pain and suffering that has become entirely too prominent in our community. Drugs are big Band-Aids—lifestyle change can be a cure. It’s hard work at the beginning, but I see people improving their lives all the time. Those who used to have severe back pain aren’t running to the chiropractor weekly anymore and diabetics are no longer seeing their endocrinologists on a regular basis. People who had high blood pressure are now controlling it with proper diet and exercise, not with medications that have multiple undesirable side effects.
Every kilo of weight lost is a kilo of health gained. Every time you add an important healthy food to your diet, you are helping yourself. And if you do consume fast food or junk food, if you cut two scoops of ice cream down to one or two slices of pizza to one slice—that’s already a nice improvement. Adding another serving of vegetable or fruit is an important step to take as is eating whole grains and cutting down on white flours and refined grains. Start using less processed foods in general and more whole, real food!
Not just physical health
As I wrote in several articles this past year, good nutrition and exercise play a major role in helping to eliminate or reduce stress, depression, anxiety and other conditions. We brought clear research this year about the role healthy eating plays in all facets of mental health. We have known for years that exercise is vital to keeping our “feel good” hormones working well. Exercise has been shown in multiple studies to be as effective as or even MORE effective than antidepressants. And again, without any of the side effects that psychiatric drugs might have. Many of these medications get in the way of weight loss and keeping a normal weight amongst other disturbing side effects.
The coming year—doing this together
Clal Yisrael has a vested interest in staying healthy. In order to keep Torah and Mitzvos, we need our health. To be able to raise our families, we need health. Without it, we are limited. So let’s all resolve to make preventative medicine our new priority this year. We can all take on a few more good health habits to prevent illness and disease in the first place. Research tells us beyond a doubt that we can prevent sickness and we can even reverse disease (including heart disease) when we take on a healthy lifestyle. Don’t fall for the gimmicks and tricks. Learn from qualified professionals what real healthy eating entails and start daily brisk walking for 30 minutes for a good start towards better health and fitness.
Just like doing Tshuva it is always better to make small, gradual changes. Grand changes all at once won’t work. Making small changes one or two at a time to become healthier and to prevent illness will make this coming year healthy and happy and “add hours to your days, days to your years, and years to your life.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.