People sign up for our various programs in our health clinic for a variation of reasons. Although many clients come here in order to lose weight, there are usually health issues involved that are more important to address than just losing the extra weight. There are the typical problems of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and muscular-skeletal problems such as lower back pain. Some have auto-immune issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, allergies and the like, while others have mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and acute stress.
Although they come here primarily for weight loss, we are often pleasantly surprised when other issues that we didn’t specify are helped or even cured.
Mrs. P. called our office about her son, a 19-year-old yeshiva bochur. A true matmid (diligent student), Chezky was very overweight but that was the least of his problems. He suffered from high triglycerides, high cholesterol, and a very fatty liver. To top it off, he also had a terrible case of psoriatic arthritis, along with the amount of weight he was carrying around, making it difficult for Chezky to walk for more than 10 minutes at a time. Exercising was going to be a challenge.
One thing was for sure, Chezky was willing to do our program putting forth the best effort possible. His obstacles weren’t just the psoriatic arthritis and the obesity, he also had a very intense learning schedule and his yeshiva was out of town so getting food from home on a steady basis was also going to be difficult.
But each week, he did his exercise assignments to the best of his ability and followed the food plan as best he could considering he wasn’t in charge of preparing his own food. And week by week, weight came off. And the more active he pushed himself to become, the longer and faster he could walk pain free. After six weeks of exercise, good eating and most of all, starting to believe he could improve his lot, Chezky went for a new blood test.
After this relatively short time span of being compliant which included cutting out almost all processed food, his fatty liver was gone, his cholesterol and triglycerides were all in the normal parameters and his sugar was perfect. He eliminated the need for medications. The big surprise? Although it wasn’t really a first-line goal of ours, his psoriatic arthritis was affecting him far less and he was able to walk farther and faster every single week. Most importantly, his pain was greatly reduced.
Estelle lives in Yerushalayim. We helped her lose weight and as a result, she became an intense exerciser. Estelle came to me mostly because of weight loss, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and overall fatigue. We began to work on a plan for exercise and very different, healthier eating. As she was in midlife, things moved slowly, but steadily. She was feeling better and better and both her weight and cholesterol were going down. But Estelle also had terrible eczema all over her skin. In addition, she had been mildly depressed for a few years. She worked very hard with her eating and especially her exercise. I also referred her to a different dermatologist to deal with her skin condition. Isn’t it interesting that in addition to other interventions the doctor told her how important exercise is for her eczema?
Estelle might have come to us to get a better cholesterol and triglyceride reading. She also wanted to look better by losing weight. Surprise! Not only did she accomplish her short term goals in those areas, her skin totally cleared up and she found renewed excitement about life.
After all our training and coaching together, she also came to realize there are good relationships in her life worth pursuing and poor ones to stay away from. She realized it’s not too late to start over and now she is doing just that. She is looking forward to a life with a lot less stress, a lot more meaning and hopes to have all that while looking good, feeling better and gaining good health.
Elly was sent to me specifically because he had been suffering from lower back pain and sciatica for a year and a half. That is a long time to be carrying pain. He was scheduled for a complicated back surgery in America but someone told him to come see me. Our immediate goal was obviously to relieve the pain and hopefully to obviate the need for surgery. We succeeded in reaching both of our goals. But recently, surprise! Elly told me that now his body has taken a different shape and his muscles are working better. He also is doing a lot better with hills and stairs and his cardiovascular fitness is improving steadily.
Natan came to me a few years ago, after his wife had done our ten week to health program. She had radically changed the eating in their house. But Natan was fatigued and felt weak. He came for personal training. After three weeks he told me that his migraines were gone. Migraines? He had never told me about migraines. He then told me sometimes they were so bad he couldn’t give shiur and had to lay down and that when they would happen his ability to function was almost non-existent. Not only did Natan get strong, gain endurance and get into good aerobic shape, but the migraines (that we never even discussed at the beginning of his program) went away and they haven’t come back.
Yaacov came in very overweight with a fatty liver, the beginnings of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. We worked hard and after about 4 months and a new blood test, we saw that his sugar was down and his fatty liver was gone. I checked his blood pressure and his numbers showed much improvement. Yaacov had been extremely careful to eat only healthy choices and he had practically cut out highly processed foods completely. Surprise! He told me this was the first year in a long time his allergies didn’t bother him. He didn’t need antihistamines or his steroid nasal spray this time around.
All of these stories are about pleasant surprises. Even though we were concentrating on improving other aspects of people’s health, just by making better choices in eating and adding more exercise and activity, we see results well beyond what we were hoping for and in areas we weren’t even focusing on. If you take care of your health, you may be surprised just how many things change for the good and “add hours to your day, days to your year, 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.