Dear Mordechai

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25 Feb 2016

The following is a letter Alan sent to a client:

Dear Mordechai, (name is changed)

mordechai-articleIt’s been just about year years since we met each other. You came into my weight loss program for a very good reason. At 157 kilograms (346 lbs) and a BMI of 42, it was definitely time for you, at age 36, to take your health into your own hands and to do it before you reach an age where this becomes really difficult to do.

Because losing weight the right way, where you lose it and keep it off, is a lot of hard work. But as you know, it is well worth the effort. After all, the more weight you lose, and the lower your BMI goes, the less likely you are to get a host of diseases as you age.

We know that obesity can cause heart disease, a variety of cancers, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, a fatty liver, and it certainly is unbecoming.

Someone like you who is in business where you have a product to sell people has to make a good impressions on those people. Being class 3 obese doesn’t make a very good impression and there are studies that show that how you look, for better or worse, has a big effect on your sales successes.

We got off to a very good start. You were motivated and you began walking daily and doing a few other types of exercises as well. You started making enough changes in your eating to make a difference. In the course of five months, you managed to lose about 12.5 kilograms (28 lbs). Now it’s true that the rate of 2 kilo (4 lbs) a month isn’t that quick, but it is steady and at that rate, over two years a person loses about 50 kilogram (110 lbs)—and that is impressive!

But you got stuck and after you took a bit of a break, you came back for personal training. You came three times a week and you definitely got in good shape and you got a lot stronger. You also lost another 12 kilos over that period of time. You were 20 kilo (44 lbs) less than when we started. Again, it was all a gradual process, but you were definitely succeeding.

Then we got stuck again and went into a cycle of ups and downs over a couple of years. You came to rely on your personal training sessions for exercise and stopped paying close attention to your daily caloric intake. Yes, you stayed in good shape, but your weight started going up instead of continuing to go down.

You travel a lot. Your business is located abroad and you also have family abroad on two different continents. And what I have noticed in you, as I have in many others I have worked with, is that when  you go away to visit or for vacation, there are no rules governing how you eat and how much you eat and exercise (lack of!).

And like many in our particular crowd, food plays a big part in our celebrations and also it is really the only form of entertainment for many. We always seem to have smichot, B”H, and every seventh day is Shabbat.  Yomim Tovim are numerous.

But that doesn’t mean that we can be out of control.

You’ve gone down to two sessions a week with no big effort to exercise on the other five days of the week. We’ve eaten out together and I’ve seen how you eat close up. I’ve told you that there is disorder in your eating and you most definitely need to work on your relationship with food—it has to be reworked completely. That can be work, but it certainly can be accomplished. The rewards will be great.

What better reward than good health and not just for now but for the future?

You are close to 40 years old and this is exactly where this extra weight you are carrying will catch up with you. Do you want to get all of those dreaded adult diseases and have no choice but to start taking all the medications with all the side effects? I hope not.

This past week, you decided to entertain the idea of weight loss surgery, specifically sleeve gastrectomy. Just like everyone else, you are looking for the “quick fix.”

Sounds like a sound idea, doesn’t it?

You get surgery, over the course of about 12 months you lose 40 kilos, you’re not hungry and you don’t have to worry about behaviors and habits anymore.

Wait! Let me tell you about a new client who started last month. Someone who also needs to lose lots and lots of weight. He was contemplating surgery and started to do the research. For the surgery to be effective, you need to go through a period of behavioral therapy and you need to exercise. So after speaking to his wife, they concluded that if they need to do this anyway, why not do it in the framework of a weight loss program.

And so this Rabbi is off to a great start.

Even though he too has to travel a lot, he is working on his habits and becoming mindful of eating and exercise. And going under the knife? This surgery is a serious and major operation: They are going to cut out 80 percent of his stomach. We already saw how other similar procedures ended up in failure for many. How will this one look in another five to six years?

As I wrote in a previous article, this procedure is starting to show signs that it too may not be the long term solution.

I wrote:“This is supposed to be the procedure with less complications, no problems with malabsorption of vitamins and the cure-all for obesity. And it is sup posed to not allow you to put the weight back on. Well, now that we have been doing this surgery for a while, guess what? There seems to be a five year trend which indicates that it is indeed possible to reverse the weight loss. This study goes on to say that researchers reviewed 443 cases of sleeve gastrectomy from 2006 to 2013 by the same surgery team and found that within five years, the percentage of excess weight loss declined from 77 percent to 56 percent, and “complete remission of diabetes was maintained in only 20 percent of patients.”

Only 20 percent of the patients were able to maintain their improvement and remission of their diabetes. In other words, the latest magic cure for diabetics isn’t that at all! That is certainly a disturbing trend. We surely don’t know all of the long-term ramifications yet.

Mordechai, there are no shortcuts in life for things that are truly worthwhile. You know that for you to achieve success in business, you have to work hard. To raise your children as Bnei Torah is hard work too. Being able to learn well and understand a piece of gemorah really well is extremely hard work. And if you want your health and weight to be in order, that takes work too.

No short cuts!

Look back four years and try to remember everything you were doing right. Let’s refocus our thoughts and make sure that your exercise occurs daily and we can fit it into your busy day. It’s time to get your eating in order. This will require some extra time with me and one of my dieticians in order to start replacing poor behaviors with good ones—but one at a time. Isn’t it worth it? Quality of life and length of life. You have so much to offer your family and friends. And taking care of your health is a mitzvah as important as any other.

I hope this letter to Mordechai will also inspire you to take your health into you own hands. Because doing what we need to do to be healthy will “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”



Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at Check out the his web site – US Line: 516-568-5027.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.