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October 2019

"Fit After Fifty": A Super Seminar for Men, 50 and Above

The "Better Health Studios" of Brooklyn, one of the world's foremost "kosher" fitness studios for men, owned and operated by Certified Personal Trainer Joel ("Yoeli") Gottehrer, joins forces with "Brody Health and Wellness", owned and operated Rabbi Lazer Brody of Ashdod, Israel, one of the world's only rabbis who is a Certified Health Coach and Fitness Trainer with a truly holistic approach to health and wellness that addresses both body and soul.

In their mutual effort to heighten the awareness of exercise, proper diet and health maintenance – all in accordance with Halacha and with the hascamos of leading rabbonim, Yoeli and Rav Lazer are pleased to announce the "Fit After Fifty" one-day chance-of-a-lifetime seminar, which will take place, G-d willing, on Sunday, November 17, 2019 (19 Cheshvan, 5780), at the Better Heath Studios in Boro Park, between 12-3 PM. The program will include:

  • The Obligation of Maintaining Fitness According to Torah
  • The Principles of Proper Diet and Nutrition, including safe and healthy weight loss
  • An overview of the different types of exercise
  • Exercise and fitness for those with health limitations
  • Functional Fitness
  • Self Defense – a topic of growing importance in light of current events
  • Exercise lab and a chance to work out on your own level under the guidance of a personal fitness trainer
  • Questions and answers with Yoeli, the Better Health training staff and Rabbi Lazer
  • Refreshments and Mincha at the conclusion of the seminar

Do not miss this unique opportunity, for participation is limited to 39 participants only on a first-come, first-serve basis. For registration and more information, call 718-5766060

Fit After 50


7 Steps to Preventing a Panic Attack

Preventing Panic 29.10
To prevent a panic attack, it's important to remember how and why it's happening. King David, the greatest psychotherapist who ever lived, understood the human soul better than anyone else. He said, "Happy is the person whose strength is in You" (Psalm 84:6). In other words, the moment a person realizes that he or she cannot handle a situation on their own, and they turn to the Almighty for strength, then they immediately neutralize panic and negativity. Understand that panic comes from the evil inclination, to disarm and disable a person so that he or she cannot serve Hashem. Our sages in the Gemara teach that no one has the power to overcome the evil inclination on their own. We all in varying degrees are susceptible to panic, but we overcome it as soon as we throw all our problems into Hashem's lap. In the same vein, Rabbi Chaim of Volozyn osb"m said that the spiritual ploy of overcoming any fear or anxiety is simple to remember and repeat ein od milvado,  "There is nothing or no one but You, Hashem!"

Therefore:

Step One of preventing a panic attack is to remember Hashem,

Step Two is to repeat "ein od milvado,  There is nothing or no one but You, Hashem," seven times.

Step Three is to ask the Almighty for help - call his Name out load, be vocal, even yell or scream if that helps you.

Step Four is to get the endorphins (feel-good hormones) flowing. How? Try one of these options: 

    a. Do as many pushups as you can;

    b. Run around the block or jog in place for two minutes;

    c. Do ten burpees.

Step Five is to take ten deep breaths, inhaling as deep as you can and exhaling as slow as you can.

Step Six is to sniff the aroma of lavender oil, which is known for being soothing and stress-relieving. It can help your body relax.

Step Seven is to call a time out, sit or walk in a quiet place, and speak to Hashem and once again, ask for His help and guidance; He'll be glad to give it to you.

Panic and the above 7 steps are mutually exclusive. But, as preparing for war, we must practice maneuvers. Don't wait for a panic attack to implement the above steps - you can do them anytime and they'll make you feel better. Yet, once we never forget Hashem and we always remember "ein od milvado,  There is nothing or no one but You, Hashem," we safeguard ourselves against any and all sorts of panic, fear and anxiety. Try it - it works and has been tested under the most extreme of challenges. Every blessing, LB


Physical Activity, Exercise and Technology - Is Fitness Moving Forward or Regressing?

Dandan
This is a guest post from Daniel Lahav (photo, above), RPT (registered physiotherapist in Ontario), B. Ed phys ed (Wingate Institute,Israel), B.Sc physiotherapy (Hogeschool Van Amsterdam), Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by NSCA, 6th degree black belt in AIKI Krav Maga.

The dictionary defines exercise as, "An activity requiring a physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness". For me, the key words here are 'physical effort'. Is walking from your bedroom to the washroom a physical effort? Is walking your dog or cycling to work a physical effort? The answer is different for different people, so the definition of physical effort is very subjective. The answer lies in the most important principal in fitness, the overload principal which states that in order to improve your fitness, the activity you choose to partake in has to be more intense than a daily activity, and if done overtime, gradually increasing intensities lead to adaptation (progressive overloading). In other words 'physical effort' means doing something in a higher intensity than the effort required for your daily activities. And please don't get me wrong, being active physically is far healthier than not moving at all, but physical activity isn't the same as exercising.

As a health and fitness professional for more than 20 years, I have noticed a phenomenon in which more people are gradually beginning to think of their daily activities as exercise. To my mind, this is a response to living in a society, which as a whole, is progressively moving less (physically) even though the science is showing us conclusively that movement is critical for general health (way beyond just orthopedic health). I believe that most people know this innately (regardless of the scientific proof) and equate physical activity with exercise as a way to rationalize to themselves that they are being proactive in taking care of their own health.

The other growing phenomena In the past decade is the introduction of gadgets that claim to be able to measure functions in which energy expenditure, steps walked per day, quality and quantity of sleep are the most common metrics featured on these devices. These devices are aggressively marketed to us and at first glimpse seem like they could provide useful information that would help translate to better health and wellness outcomes, and for some, they probably do. However, risks need to be evaluated as well. The first question though, is whether they do a good job measuring what they claim they do. Meta analysis (research analyzing all the trials done trying to answer the question of whether these devices measure accurately what they claim to measure) have concluded that these devices aren't as accurate as they claim to be. Now we can ask, even if the technology improves and becomes more accurate, are there risks to using these technologies?

Personally, I see two main issues with this technology. First, I predict that people using these technologies will be exercising less than their peers without the technology (reminds me of the social media websites and apps story, initially these websites brought the promise of connecting people and communities together but in practice ended up helping create more feeling of loneliness and isolation in individuals and societies). Second, I think there is a problem when turning to technology with questions we should know the answer to by paying attention to our body's own feedback loops. Therefore, the biggest disadvantage here is losing the ability to connect with our body and listen to what is going on in our bodies and minds, or in other words, less awareness to what is happening inside us, like the feeling of being full after a meal, the feeling of being exerted after activity, the feeling of being rested after a nights sleep.

In my opinion, the fact that we move less, combined with a plethora of unreliable gadgets telling us how much physical activity we did in a day, what was our energy expenditure, how much we slept and the quality of our sleep, might become a dangerous phenomena. Do we really want technology to tell us how we feel? Do I feel full after a meal? At what point do I stop eating? Do I feel rested when I wake up? Am I dragging myself all day? Did I move or have been physically active enough during the day? We forget or don't try to pay attention to what we feel and the signals and alarms coming from our bodies.

I would hypothesize that as a mindset, thinking of a daily physical activity as exercise is causing people to do less exercise ("I don't need to go to the gym since I walked my dog today") and therefore harming themselves as individuals and as a society in the long run. We are already paying a huge monetary, social, physical and emotional price for the lack of movement and exercise in our society, and I predict that this trend will continue to get worse if these two phenomena continue getting more traction in our culture. I would strongly recommend stopping to think of your daily activities as exercise, this will force you to face the reality that we don't move enough, and have a better chance of changing our behavior than the self deluding alternative.

Note: We contracted out building our homes, then contracted our growing our food, then contracted out making our clothing, in the western world contracted out cooking and food perpetration, now a days we are contracting out feedback loops from our body to technology, and soon we will be contracting out decision making (algorithms predicting behavior are already here and exponentially getting more sophisticated). Raises the question, as a species whom are looking to evolve, for the individual does this look like progression or regression?

Peace and Love, Daniel

You can contact Daniel at its4dan@yahoo.com


Powerlifting for the Mind

KB Gemara
Power-lifting? That's lifting heavy weights, what trainers call "resistance training". What could possibly be power-lifting for the mind?

Pick up a Gemara. Nothing in the world will build your brain muscle like a Gemara. And it's the toughest form of resistance training too - wait till you see the resistance that you get from the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) the minute you decide to pick up a Gemara.

I invite you to visit an old age home in the ultra-Orthodox areas of Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. Don't be alarmed when you walk into the Bet Midrash (study hall, which every Charedi old age home has), and you'll find two spry nonagenarians animatedly waving their hands in the air, banging on the table and yelling at each other while arguing a point in Talmudic logic and debate. There's no one here with Alzheimer's - these old gents have been doing resistance training for their brains all their lives. Maybe many of their body functions are limited, but they suffer no atrophy of the mind. Their brains work hard.

The Koreans have always been pioneers in fitness. It's no surprise that the Talmud (Mishna and Gemara) has become a smash bestseller in Korea. The Koreans too want to strengthen their brains... 

How is it that Alzheimer's is so rare in the Torah world? While 11% of the general population in the USA over age 65, and 32% of the population over the age of 85 suffers from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, the estimated numbers are less than a tenth of that among Torah scholars. Take for example the great spiritual leaders of recent years, such as Rav Shach, Rav Leib Steinman shlit'a, Ravi Vosner and Rav Elyashiv, all of sacred and blessed memories, who lived past 100 years old and had crystal-clear razor-sharp minds until their final days on earth.

What is it about the Gemara that strengthens the mind so much? First of all, it's Divine nutrition for the brain as opposed to the passive junk-food that most people feed their brains today. Second, understanding the Gemara requires conscious, sustained mental effort - it does for the brain what an HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout does for the body. Even when a person gets up from his Gemara session, his mind is still contemplating what he learned, just like the after-burn effect of a good workout. Third, learning with a chavruta (learning partner) forces the Gemara learner to be alert, attentive and mentally sharp. There's no boredom here. In fact, chavruta-style learning is fantastic for those who are kinesthetic or audial learners, because of the back-and-forth give-and-take style of learning where it's OK to fly out of your chair, learn standing up or any way else you like.

Bottom line - for a strong mind, nothing beats a Gemara. Blessings always, LB


Mom's Menu and Baby's Stomach Pains

Baby  23.10
Dear Coach Lazer,

My first baby is only three months old, and he's been suffering all through Succoth from stomach pains that keep him yelling and screaming much of the time. Yesterday, I went to the pediatrician, and he gave me a prescription and told me not to breastfeed any more. I read so much about the importance of nursing, and I hate to give it up. My next-door neighbor is a fan of yours, and suggested that I ask you before putting my baby on the bottle. Is there some urgent advice you can give me? I'm eagerly awaiting your answer. Thanks very much, Keren from Ramat Beit Shemesh

Dear Keren,

You're correct about the importance of breastfeeding. The value it has on your baby's healthy emotional development is inestimable. My estimation is that your holiday menu was not to your baby's liking, for whatever you ate ended up as a component in the milk he nursed. Here are a list of things - well known to our sages all the way back to Moses - that cause a baby to have gas and sharp stomach pains from mothers milk (see which of these were part of your holiday menu): Squash, garlic, onions, liver, and hearts (animal or poultry), hot peppers, highly-spiced foods, and fried foods. All these are notorious in raising the acidic content of mother's milk, and wreaking havoc on the baby's digestive system. Avoid these foods and the stomach pains should vanish, G-d willing. Hold off on the bottle and the doctor's prescription for 72 hours; as soon as you correct your diet, the baby's stomach pains will most likely disappear in a day.

If you've been eating liver for iron, then start eating beets instead. For your mother's milk to be plentiful, sweet, and digestible, eat lots of almonds, whole-grained rice, and melted cheese (natural, not processed).

One additional important point: Substances - especially tobacco, marijuana, alcohol, and narcotics destroy the quality of mother's milk and have a sorely detrimental effect on the child.

May you have all the joy in the world from your baby, and may he grow to strength of body and strength of spirit. Blessings for a healthy winter, LB


Pilates: Central Role in Cardiac Rehabilitation

Pilates and heart
The distinguishing characteristic of the Pilates system of exercise is its requirement of steady and controlled breathing. This is an integral part of the Joseph Pilates concept of "contrology" - the science and art of coordinated body-mind-spirit development through natural movements. Inasmuch, Pilates moderates the strain, jerkiness an anaerobic extremes that are frequently associated with such western forms of strength-oriented exercise as sprinting, weightlifting and plyometrics while incorporating the calm, control and concentration that characterize the eastern approach to exercise, as seen in such forms as Yoga and Tai Chi. The result is the best of both worlds:  Strength development and coordination enhanced with power and grace.

The benefits of Pilates are enormous in recovering from atrial fibrillation. Experimenting on myself with careful monitoring, I compared the result of an intensive 30-minute Pilates routine that included 26 exercises to a resistance routine that included 4 circuits of deadlifts, goblet squats, renegade pushups and weighted lunges whereas each exercise was performed at weights that enabled me to do ten reps in order to avoid straining my heart and pushing myself into anaerobic mode. In addition to the superior overall post-workout feeling of the Pilates routine, the results – which repeated themselves several times, were dramatic as we see in the following table:

Parameter

Pilates

Resistance Routine

Total Time[1]

30 minutes

30 minutes

Kcal burned

158

256

HR (heart-rate) Average

98 (65% of Max)

123 (82% of Max)

HR (heart-rate) Max

134 (90% of Max)

162 (108% of Max)

In/Out zone[2] (minutes)

28 / 2

5 / 25

The above table clearly shows how the Pilates routine was so much gentler to my body, yet without sacrificing training effectiveness. After the Pilates routine, my core felt stronger and my posture dramatically improved. In addition, I felt more invigorated than after the resistance routine. With Pilates, there's virtually no chance of over-training, which is my dangerous athletic evil inclination and that of many peak-performance-seeking athletes. Consequently, as I have proven to myself, I would surely incorporate Pilates as the prime and preferred form of exercise in any cardiac rehabilitation program.

Even if your heart is 100% healthy, do yourself a favor and enroll in a Pilates course. It will do wonders for your posture and your core strength, and it's gentle on the body. You won't burn as many calories as you do in high-intensity training, but your injury level will drop to zilch. My blessings for your good health and a continued wonderful Succoth!

Footnotes:

[1] Includes warmup and cooldown for resistance routine; warmup and cooldown were an intrinsic part of Pilates routine

[2] The InZone = my target zone of 55-80% HR Max, OutZone = >80% HR Max (HR Max = 220-Age, in my case=150 bpm)


Stop the Feuding!

Buffalo Feud
Once again, Bibi and Gantz refuse to speak to one another, and the Israeli Government continues to be in dysfunctional disarray, with no end in sight to the political deadlock.

If the Baal Shem Tov osb"m were with us, he'd get them to speak to each other. He worked so hard for Jewish unity, so that every Jew should love every other Jew. What's more, with Simchat Torah coming up, when we all rejoice in our spiritual heritage that we all have a part of, it's easy to create unity, especially when we dance together. 

Lack of Jewish unity is dangerous, to say the least. It breaks my heart when people fail to get along with one another.

The Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a told me the following beautiful story, passed down from father to son from his great great grandfather Rebbe Meir'l of Promiszlan; Keep it in mind before allowing yourself the "luxury" of feuding with a fellow Jew:

Rebbe Meir'l of Promiszlan and Rebbe Yitzchok of Strettin were engaged in a long, drawn-out feud. Knowing that dissension serves no purpose, Rebbe Meir'l approached Rebbe Yitzchok and attempted to make peace. The latter only turned his face to the wall. "Please, Strettinner Rebbe, allow me to tell you a tale," said Rebbe Meir'l, and told him the following story:

During the time of the Spanish Inquisition, a Marrano* suspected of secretly being Jewish became deathly ill. The Inquisitors called the local priest, and told him to go see if the dying man would make last confession, proving that he's a Catholic, or else otherwise be burned at the stake as a Jew. The Priest and the Henchman entered the sick man's room, and the sick man turned his face to the wall, refusing to reject his true faith in Hashem during his last minutes on earth.

The Inquisitors said, "Ahah, he's a secret Jew!" The priest said no, he's embarrassed to confess in front of others. Everyone must leave the room!

Only the dying man and the Priest remained in the room. The priest, a Marranno himself, whispered in the man's ear, "You can say Shma Yisrael now, and express your belief in Hashem before you die. You no longer need to turn your back on me, because we both serve the same G-d." With his dying breath, the Marrano utterred, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is one!"

"So you see, Strettinner Rebbe," said Rebbe Meir'l, "You no longer have to turn your back on me, because we serve the same G-d!" The feud ended on the spot.

---

Will someone please tell Bibi and Gantz that we all serve the same G-d? Blessings for a lovely Shabbat, Hoshanna Raba and Simchat Torah, LB

 *Marranos - the Spanish Jews who posed as Catholics on the outside, and secretly continued to practice their Judaism behind closed doors


Willow in the Wind

Bugg Willow
Above image: willow tree by the Bugg River in central Ukraine

Here's a Chassidic story for your Succoth table all about personal courage and humility, which teaches us never to sell anyone short...

The marauding Cossacks were on a rampage. The pogroms of 1768 decimated Ukrainian Jewry. Some cities lost half their Jewish population; otheres, like Uman, were totally wiped out.

If you're traveling north from Breslev to Berditchev, you'll hit the Kalinovka crossroads. Take a left there and travel westward for another ten kilometers and you'll hit the town of Yanov. This is the shtetyl where my father's family comes from.

Many Jewish folk tales stem from the shtetlach, the Jewish hamlets of Eastern Europe. Some are true, some are exaggerated and some are the figments of imaginative minds, but all have a deep Torah-and-folk flavor and they usually carry poignant messages. I want to share one such tale that stems from Yanov, which you can share with your family and friends at your Succoth table. Let me tell you about "Kalman Katzav", Kalman the butcher from Yanov.

Most of the boys in Yanov went to cheder – Torah-oriented elementary school - until their Bar Mitzva. Then, they'd either apprentice themselves to a tradesman, go into commerce or get some other type of job. Within a year after their Bar Mitzva, most of them would be married as well. The lucky blessed with sharp minds and wealthy parents would go to study in the yeshivas of Poland, Hungary and Lithuania. Yet, the Ukrainian Jews were known for their simplicity and righteousness. No wonder that the origins of so many tsaddikim, like the Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and Rebbe Nachman of Breslev are in the Ukraine.

Kalman Katzav became an orphan at a young age. He didn't have the luxury of finishing seven grades of cheder before his Bar Mitzva. After the second grade, he had to go to work. Apprenticed to a butcher, Kalman had to lift chunks of beef carcasses that were bigger than he was. While his body developed into a massive mound of muscle with forearms that looked like sledgehammers, his mind wasn't so fortunate. He knew the aleph-bet, but could barely read anything other than the simplest of words. Yet, he knew his prayers and a few passages of Psalms by heart, and said both daily and with dedication.

Kalman's social skills were further hampered by his speech – he stuttered. He was also deaf in one ear. Mischievous muddy-nosed urchins would often jeer him. They weren't afraid of Kalman's fist of retribution, because he wouldn't lift a finger against any of Hashem's creatures, much less a Jewish lad, no matter how insolent. Thoughtless adults would also vent their frustrations by taking advantage of Kalman, making fun of him too. Kalman never answered nor protested; he'd only smile, sharpen his knife and go back to the piece of meat that was on his butcher block. After Kalman died, one of the tsaddikim said that Kalman's butcher block was the next holiest thing to the altar in the Holy Temple, for the simple butcher always undercharged people to make sure that he wouldn't have a single copper kopeck (penny) that didn't belong to him. As it was, he barely eked out a living.

On late afternoon, a balagoola, a wagon master, came riding into town whipping his two horses and pushing them as fast as he could. Not even stopping on Yanov's main cobblestone street, he yelled, "The Cossacks are coming, the Cossacks are coming!" The town went into a frenzy. Some hid in cellars and some fled to the nearby woods. Kalman was so engrossed in his work that he didn't even here what was going on.

The Cossacks entered town on horseback, their sabers waving in the air and thirsting for Jewish blood. Everything on the main street was shuttered and bolted except for Kalman's butcher shop. Kalman looked up from his butcher block and he saw some menacing Cossacks in the doorway. "Jhid," they sneered in Russian, "the day of your funeral has arrived."

Kalman didn't answer. He grabbed a meat cleaver in his right hand and a bone-splitting ax in his left. Eight Cossacks stormed the shop – no more could fit inside. Kalman subdued six of them before the seventh managed to stab him in the belly. Kalman pulled the saber out of his gut and killed the Cossack with it. Another bunch of Cossacks stormed the butcher shop, trampling the corpses of their comrades. Kalman was losing both his blood and his strength. After he sent ten of the Jew-haters into the special purgatory that's reserved for them, he breathed his last breath and died a heroic martyr's death.

With ten dead and another six badly wounded, the Cossacks licked their wounds, gathered their casualties and left town. For the time being, the Jewish population of Yanov was spared. No one ever again made fun of Kalman Katzav, the holy martyr.

Lucky that the keyboard on my laptop can withstand a few tears, because I can't keep a dry eye when I tell the end of the story.

Tradition says that when one of the hidden tzaddikim eulogized Kalman, who was murdered in the days between Yom Kippur and Succoth, he said: "The Gemara in tractate Menachot tells us that Hashem performs all the mitzvoth. We also know that there is nothing of material content in the Upper Worlds. We must therefore ask, what is Hashem's lulav on Succoth? What are the four species that He takes in hand when the angels sing Hallel? The etrog (citron) is the holy neshama of the Baal Shem Tov; The lulav (palm fronds) is the holy neshama of Rebbe Itzikel Dorovitcher; the hadassim (myrtle) are the holy neshama of Rebbe Nachman of Horodenka; and the aravas (willows) are the holy martyred neshama of Kalman Katzav!"

In case anyone wants to know what Kalman Katzav's holy neshama (soul) is doing bound up with three of the greatest tzaddikim the world ever knew, it's the same as the four species. The etrog, lulav, and triple-leafed myrtle are very expensive. The willows cost virtually nothing and can often be found by a creek or river and gathered for free. Yet, without the willows, a thousand-dollar set of etrog, lulav and hadassim are worthless. Even though the aravas are inexpensive, they too must be strictly in adherence to Halachic requirements. The aravas represent the simple Jew; Kalman Katzav – with his impeccable character, his silent suffering of insults and his courage sanctification of Hashem's Name - made him the finest of the simple Jew. He therefore, according to Ukrainian Jewish folklore, was Hashem's choice for His own four species on Succoth.

Local tradition says that when you walk along the banks of the Bugg River in the Ukraine during Succoth, and you hear the autumn wind blowing through the willows, it sounds like someone is whispering, "Kalman, Kalman"… 

Blessings for a continued joyous Succoth holiday and a wonderful New Year!


Beware: The Expanding Succoth Waistline

Succoth 10.10.19
Holiday to Shabbat to holiday, with heavy meals and tons of snacking on the way. Don't forget that a minute on the lips is a year on the hips, if you're not careful. That's why this post is so vital before the upcoming week of Succoth:

This post, if you follow it, will aid your health and save you from needless holiday weight-gain.

Parenthetically, I don't believe in dieting of any kind - a person who learns how to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle doesn't need to diet...

Most diets are unhealthy fads that lead to short-term, unhealthy weight loss and long-term frustration, metabolic and/or nutritional imbalance, ailments of all kinds and weight gain. The extremes go from Paleo/Primal on one end that tells you to eat all the meat and fat you want but stay away from carbs, to total vegan on the other end that tells you that an egg, sardine or chicken breast will kill. Neither extreme approach is in accordance with Torah and the Rambam's timeless advice on nutrition. But, let's save that discussion for another time. Meanwhile, the best advice is what I call "Ivri", eating just the way our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did. That means eating foods as close to the way Hashem created them, with no interference from food manufacturers and genetic modifiers. With that said, let's talk about Succoth...

In Judaism, Succoth is the annual "joy harvest", where we gather happiness for an entire year. The problem is that with multiple daily festive meals, visiting friends and relatives in their Succas and partying all week long, most people gather pounds in addition to the joy. And, the excess weight eats away at the joy…

Today's "Strength and Serenity" advice might save you from adding two inches to your waistline this Succot. None of us want to go the route of gaining needless weight, so let's do a little holiday-eve preparation with this food for thought:

The perennial post-holiday problem of many Jewish people is the added calories, pounds, flab, and cholesterol of a week of eating and rejoicing in the Succah. As Brodyhealth.com is committed to the health of body, mind, and soul, we've composed a few guidelines to combat the expanding Succoth waistline.

Beware of empty calories: empty calories come from nutrient-scant foods, especially manufactured products, fast food and junk food. Stick to what I call nutrient-dense foods, where you get the most nutrients from each calorie consumed. Here, the winners are fresh vegetables, fresh foods and naturally dried (not roasted or salted) seeds and nuts. Nutrient-scant foods (cakes, pastries, sweets, soft drinks and liquor) are outright dangerous to the body.

Beware of the cakes: Many people want to make a blessing on the Succa every time they enter it. But, one really shouldn't make a blessing unless he eats something. For that reason, many folks eat cake ("mezonos", at a minimum amount of a little over and ounce) so they can say the "Leshev B'Succa" blessing, the blessing to sit in the Succa. If a person eats 2 ounces of cake 3 times a day, that adds another 840 calories to his daily intake. The Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a says that one should make a "Leshev B'Succa" blessing only when eating a proper meal that includes washing your hands and breaking bread. So, don't eat cake for the purpose of making a blessing to sit in the Succa. If a person eats 3 average-sized portions of cake a day for the 9 (outside of Israel, 8 in Israel) days of the Succoth/Simchat Torah holiday, he'll gain more than two pounds. We suggest eating sliced fresh carrots or sliced green apples instead of the cake.

Beware of the liquor: Many people make a "Lechayim" every time they visit the Succa of a friend and relative. In Israel, quite a few people that barely touch alcoholic beverages all year long keep them on hand to serve guests, and end up toasting glass-per-glass with the guest. A one-ounce shot of vodka or 86-proof Whiskey is 70 calories, while an ounce of a 72-proof liqueur such as Kahlua or Banana Liqueur is a hefty 117 calories. 3 "Lechayims" a day is enough to pick up another half pound during the week of the holiday. Adding that to the cakes (see above), you've already gained 2.5 pounds during Succoth. Putting the weight on is so much easier than taking it off.

Beware of sweet beverages: Succoth is a time when parents allow the Pepsi and the Coke to flow freely all week long. Now hear this - an 8-ounce glass of Coke Classic is a whopping 97 calories, just as caloric as the equivalent amount of beer or of a slice and a half of bread. A person that drinks 6 glasses of cola a day will gain almost a pound on Succoth, plus wreck his/her teeth and gall bladder in the process. We suggest that you reach for the mineral water, sparkling water, or herb tea instead, for they have zero caloric value.

Beware of snacks: People like to munch in the Succa. We all know that you can't eat one Frito or potato chip - therefore, those plastic bags empty fast. One ounce of fritos, potato chips, or our Bamba and Bisli add another 160 calories to your calorie-galore score. If a person drinks two glasses of cola and consumes two ounces of snack foods a day, he'll gain over a pound during Succoth. Again, fresh carrot and cucumber sticks are a virtually non-caloric and healthy replacement for the junky snack foods. And, if you want something sweet, try Madjool dates or dark chocolate that's 85% cocoa or more, but limit yourself to 2 dates or 2 chocolate squares a day.

So, with the cakes, the l'chayims, the cokes and the snacks alone - without the heavy meals that include kugel and fat meats, you've already gained close to 5 pounds. And, if you drink diet beverages and use artificial sweeteners, you might not gain the weight but you'll be likely to suffer from headaches and anxiety.

True, tradition is important; that is, as long as it doesn't ruin your health. At the Brody homestead, whole-grained rice, buckwheat groats and quinoa have replaced fried farfel and oil-dripping kugel. We don't fry, but broil and bake. We eat loads of veggies and fresh fruit, and drink local mineral water. Fish and lean poultry have replaced the lamb and veal, and we eat beef sparingly. Dessert is homemade applesauce, fresh cantaloupe cubes, a square of 85% (minimum) chocolate or an almond-stuffed fresh date. Our bread is home-baked and whole-grain, preferably spelt with minimal or no yeast. We want to control what enters our bodies; the manufacturers care about making money, not about our health. That's why we don't buy their products. Our bodies weren't designed to digest the myriad of chemical additives and preservatives that they force-feed us. By the way, we do male a l'chaim over a glass of a fine Land-of-Israel dry red wine, which is rich in rich in many antioxidants that contribute to cardiovascular health and other perks for the body, including fighting inflammation and blood clotting, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.

The Rambam gives an important reminder - don't eat until you're full. The stomach resembles a washing machine - if you overload it, it can't do the laundry. By the same token, an overloaded stomach can't digest, resulting in indigestion, another common Succoth ailment.

A great way to combat the the expanding Succoth waistline is to walk for an hour a day. Better yet, while you're walking, talk to Hashem in personal prayer. That way, your body gets its exercise and your soul gets its nourishment, that is none other than connecting with Hashem. What could be better? BrodyHealth.com wishes you a happy and healthy Succoth with no indigestion and no expanding waistline, amen. If you need further advice, feel free to contact us.


Ten Tips for an Easy Yom Kippur Fast

Easy Fast YK
Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean suffering. There’s quite a bit we can do to alleviate the bodily and mental stress that normally accompanies a fast. Today, the day before the fast, follow the following guidelines:
 
1. Cut down your caffeine intake to minimize headaches. That means stop drinking coffee, tea, and cola at least eight hours before the fast, and preferably twenty-four hours before the fast.
 
2. Avoid salty, spicey, and fried foods on the day before the fast.
 
3. Avoid white sugar, white flour, and white rice. Eat whole-grained foods such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread or challa.
 
4. Drink a lot of water all day long.
 
5. Eat a good breakfast that includes fruits, veggies, eggs or sardines, and whole grains.
 
6. The pre-Yom Kippur meal (se'uda mafseket) should include baked or broiled fish, a veggy salad, consomme, a small portion of chicken or turkey, and a side dish of complex carbohydrates such as kasha or quinoa. Substitute sweet deserts with watermelon or other water-retaining fresh fruit, and a cup of herb tea with a whole-grain cookie.
 
On Yom Kippur:
 
7. The more you immerse yourself in prayer, the less you'll think about food.
 
8. Rest between prayers. Don’t run around outside, especially in the hot sun. Save your voice for prayers. Idle talking will make you thirstier, and will detract from the holiness of the day.
 
After the fast:
 
9. Drink two glasses of water, and then eat solids gradually, so as not to shock the digestive system. Begin with fruit, like plums or grapes. The worst thing people do is to consume pastries and soft drinks, or “lekach un bronfan” (cake and liquor) right after the fast (these are unhealthy anytime, all the more so right after the fast when they give your body a shock of glucose).
 
10. Forty-five minutes to an hour afterwards, one can eat a balanced meal with protein, complex carbohydrates, and vegetables. After eating, relax for an hour with your favorite book (preferably Gemara of the laws of Succoth from Shulchan Oruch) and your favorite beverage, then begin constructing your Succa.
 
Attention diabetics, heart patients, folks with high blood pressure, and people whose health depends on regular medication - you must be especially careful to ask your doctor if you are capable of fasting, and then consult with your local rabbi, giving him the doctor's exact opinion. For many such people, it is a mitzva not to fast on Yom Kippur.
The Israel Cancer Association recommends that cancer patients not fast without approval from their physicians. Fasting could cause considerable discomfort in cancer patients, who need a lot of liquids to alleviate side effects of chemotherapy. Again, first consult the doctor and then the rabbi. Give the rabbi all the details that you received from the doctor.
Don't let children (boys under the age of 12 or girls under the age of 11) be overzealous. Make sure they eat on time.

With G-d's blessing and the above guidelines, you'll have an easy fast. May all of us be signed and sealed in the Book of Long and Happy Lives for the best year ever, amen!