Advice and Guidance

Five Vital Questions to Ask Your Physician

5 Questions Physician
One of my main tasks as a health coach is to refer people to the proper medical professional to attain more specialized care for their health issue, whether it's a cardiac problem, diabetes, or any other chronic ailment. As a health coach, my job is to keep healthy people healthy, or even healthier, and to help ailing people to find the best proper treatment.

It's not enough that you find the right physician. It's imperative to ask that physician the right questions. Here are the five most vital questions one needs to ask, not only in relieving the chronic condition, but in improving overall health:

  1. Should I lose weight, maintain my weight or gain weight?
  2. What are the foods I need to eat and what must I avoid?
  3. What is the best type of exercise for me, including recommended frequency and intensity?
  4. Should I limit alcohol, caffeine, or anything else from my diet?
  5. How does stress affect my particular situation and how can I avoid it?

Any treatment or medications that ignore the vitally-needed answers to the above questions will be only partial at best in its effectiveness. Yet, by rectifying diet, exercise, weight control and stress, one will not only improve his or her quality of life but in many cases, overcome the health challenge altogether.

What's more, don't ever forget Who the real Healer is. Prayer, charity and good deeds always help. G-d willing, we hope to do a separate post soon in the vital questions to ask your rabbi or spiritual guide in coping with any health ailment.

At any rate, when choosing the right physician, keep in mind that if he or she does not exercise or lives an unhealthy lifestyle, they in all likelihood won't be able to help you live a healthy lifestyle. Health professionals should be role models and should be living a healthy lifestyle. If they don't, proceed with caution.

One important note - before a fast day like Tisha B'Av or Yom Kippur, if you have a health issue, consult your physician - then your rabbi - before you fast. Meanwhile, have a wonderful Shabbat and a meaningful and easy Tisha B'Av fast. Every blessing, LB


Setbacks and Comebacks

Setbacks Comebacks 26.7
We hope that you won't need today's post, so don't bother reading this unless you have a painful issue in your life. Most of us do have something that doesn't tickle, to say the least...

For sure, it really hurts. Maybe you just now flunked your driving exam. Or maybe you just received a rejection letter from the school or job of your choice, or from the person you were hoping to settle down long-term with. Anyone hurts all over from a setback; that's natural and expected. Remember, we're flesh and blood. Emuna - pure and simple faith - does not mean that we fake it and deny the pain! That's lying to ourselves and lying to G-d.

So where does emuna pick us up? Emuna teaches us that despite our lack of understanding how and why, our loving Father in Heaven does everything for the best. Emuna's good news is that there's no law that one must stay down from a setback. Indeed, getting back on our feet requires far more faith and strength of character than staying on our feet without ever having been knocked down. For that reason, King Solomon, the wisest individual who ever walked the face of the earth, said, "A righteous man falls seven times, and gets up again" (Proverbs 24:16). In other words, he doesn't merit the title "righteous" until he has fallen at least seven times.

Don't let a setback get you down. You can't have a comeback until you've had the setback. Don't forget too that even the quarterback, halfback and the linebacker of the winning team are full of bruises and sore muscles.

Take five minutes and ponder the following five points – one point per minute. They'll put you back on your feet and give you the motivation and power to make your own fantastic comeback.

  1. Only doers fail. People who drive sometimes get traffic tickets. People who don't drive don't ever make wrong turns. Wouldn't it be ridiculous if an elderly person bragged that he never committed a traffic violation, if he never drove a car? The first consolation of a setback is the knowledge that you are a doer.
  2. Setbacks teach, and usually trigger a stronger second effort. Failure guards us against complacency and arrogance. When we fail, we realize that we need to improve. Oftentimes, a second effort is far superior to even a best first effort. Don't be angry with yourself; just try harder. Failure is like your soccer team losing a goal – the other team may have scored a point, but the game's not over! A setback helps us try harder and reach higher, thereby enabling us to fulfill a higher level of our potential. And, if you've failed that driving test, it simply means that with a few more lessons and additional practice, you'll be a much better driver on the road, for your own safety and for the safety of everyone else on the road.
  3. Setbacks strengthen faith. If we were constantly successful, we'd probably walk around with our noses in the air. Then, we'd be ugly, heaven forbid, because few things are uglier than arrogance. The Creator loves humility and wants us to realize that He is the source of both our setbacks and comebacks, failures and successes. He gives us a setback (yup, it's not your fault!) because He wants us to pray a lot harder and earnestly seek His assistance for our next effort. If our lives were a perfect string of successes, we'd almost certainly neglect our spiritual development.
  4. Experience is life's best teacher. The experience of a setback, especially a painful one, drives a lesson home immediately. Usually, we are slow in internalizing and implementing what we learn. After a setback, we have a golden opportunity to better ourselves immediately.
  5. Small-scale setbacks assures large-scale success. Where would an actor prefer to forget a line, in rehearsal or on stage? A failure in rehearsal often assures a better performance on stage, since the actor makes a special effort to polish the rough edges of his or her performance. Sometimes, small failures are none other than preparations for large successes. Rejections are Divine filters to keep you away from unwanted paths. Rejected? Don't be dejected. Something much better (job, soul-mate, etc.) is on the way.

Therefore:

Don't ever despair when you have a setback. Try harder, ask the Creator for help, and then be positive that you'll do much better the next time. Depression and despair stem from the dark, spiritually impure side, and prevent you from being happy. Despair perpetuates inner turmoil and creates a barrier between you and Divine light. With these five minutes of motivating ourselves, we now mobilize the strength within us to make a great comeback. It's the real deal.


Togetherness and Good Health

Healthy Together 16.7
Does this sound familiar?

Your spouse or the someone you care about is overweight and sorely out of shape. Whenever he/she gets pressured by anything, they console themselves with chocolate croissants or donuts. You've tried everything to get them to diet and/or exercise, but even if they loses two pounds in one week, they'll gain back four the next. What do you do? You're trying your very best not to look at attractive members of the opposite sex, but with your partner more and more turning you off, it's getting to be increasingly challenging...

The above scenario is a compendium of real ones that I deal with in personal, health and fitness coaching. The more I've been hearing such stories, the more I felt the need to lay out a few guidelines that will likely help you and your spouse to improve your quality of life, physical and emotional health and relationship as well. Try implementing the following suggestions:

  1. Your prayers for your spouse are formidable, much more powerful than you can ever imagine. Invest a few minutes of prayer for them in your own words. Ask the Almighty to uplift their self-esteem and to help you give them the love and attention that they need so that they won't have to find solace in sweets, which are poison for the body.
  2. Buy your spouse a gift of a new pair of walking shoes and take walks together; start with a few minutes and work it up to an hour, at least three times a week. If you have small children, it's worth it to pay a babysitter during this hour. You can't imagine what it will do for your health and relationship.
  3. Diet never helps. You must influence your spouse to change their thinking and lifestyle, but this should be done as a couple, for they'll be much more willing if it's done together. Cakes, cookies, ice-cream and other sweets as well as soft-drinks and other sugary manufactured foods should be considered taboo, for these substances destroy health. Together, go on an eating regiment (lifestyle, not diet!) that is based on foodstuffs that are unadulterated by manufacturers. Get all white sugar, corn syrup solids and modified starches out of your life - that includes cereals, cakes, cookies and most manufactured foods. Compensate with the best fruits, veggies, fish, meat and poultry, and cheeses. Once you lower carbs, you can enjoy nuts and seeds without worrying about gaining weight.
  4. Like all of us, your spouse thrives on love. Make the first move and give him/her that love, and I promise that they'll bend over backwards to please you. Meanwhile, offer your spouse the incentive of a nice chuck of money to buy new clothes every time they drops a size or two. The new clothes will cost only be a fraction of doctors and meds required for treating the ailments that result from neglecting diet and health.

Start with the above four steps and keep me posted. I'd love to reprint your success stories. Remember, togetherness is the beginning of good health and real happiness. You'll be amazed to see how soon, you'll look like a magazine cover couple. My prayers for your success and good health. Blessings always, LB


The Wallflower

Wallflower 26.6
Dear Rabbi Lazer,

I'm 16, going into eleventh grade, and very unhappy. My best girlfriend is really popular at school and shul (we're conservative), and I'm not. In all honesty, I'm just as attractive as she is, and my grades are just as good as hers. At first, I thought maybe my clothes were out of style, so I went out and begged my mom to buy be the same clothes as my girlfriend. But, at any party or function, people flock to her and I feel like a tagalong. It’s really the pits. I do my best to talk and act like my girlfriend, but she's considered campus queen and I'm ignored like a wallflower. Rabbi, can you give me some kind of spiritual advice to make me popular too? I know you're busy with serious problems, but this is hurts me a lot, so please try to give me a quick answer. And thanks for the advice you give on your blog. Respectfully, Melanie from Canada

Dear Melanie,

Imagine that a tractor didn't like its own appearance, and tried to imitate a Mercedes. The whole world would laugh! Then, the tractor would neither perform its function as a tractor - plowing fields, hauling produce, and the like - and certainly would fail miserably as a Mercedes. On the other hand, if a Mercedes tried to do the job of a tractor, it would get stuck in the mud and fail within a minute.

Melanie, The Almighty gave you your own very special package of abilities and aptitudes for performing your task in this world. When you try to be someone else, you have a double failure: First, you can't succeed in being the other person, because you lack the emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual tools that Hashem gave to that person. Second, when you attempt to be someone you're not, you fail to develop and to utilize your own unique Heaven-imbued attributes and skills.

The Talmud teaches that when a person seeks prestige, prestige eludes the person. Stop trying to be popular, and don't try to imitate your girlfriend. Be yourself: How? Act, speak, and dress in a manner that's natural and comfortable for you. Often, it's better to sit at home reading a good book, writing a poem or an entry to your diary, or baking a cake for Shabbat than it is to hang out with a bunch of peers that just gossip and waste time, if they don’t do things much worse. Also, stop tagging along as your girlfriend's prime groupie. Accept the fact that she's classroom queen. You should start fulfilling your own role as a cherished daughter of the King (Hashem) - the daughter of The King beats the classroom queen any day of the week.

When we need the approval of others, we become emotionally cripple because we make our happiness depend on the way they react to us. Not only is that ridiculous on our part, but being an emotional cripple and dependent on others for approval is just as problematic as being a physical cripple who might be dependent on crutches. The only way to attain true emotional freedom from peer pressure and from others is to cling to Hashem – that will give you tremendous strength.

One additional important point: When high school boys flock around you, they're not looking to discuss the Rambam, European history or the theory of relativity. Being popular with them is dead-end cheap popularity. Genuine popularity comes from being an upright human - compassionate, kind, charitable, modest, yet firm and courageous in your beliefs.

The entire world respects the bold nonconformist that stands up for his or her principles. Do you know why? It’s simple - Hashem respects such a person. When The Almighty is pleased with a person's actions, He grants that person a divine aura, an indescribable spiritual light that emanates from the face and serves as a magnet to attract other people. Possessing such a divine aura is genuine popularity.

I do suggest that you eat healthfully and get regular exercise, especially during these summer months. The better you feel in shape, the more self-confidence you'll have.

Thanks for writing, Melanie. May Hashem help you make the right choices in life. Blessings always, LB


Hubby Wants a Handout

Handout 19.6
Dear Rabbi Brody,

My wife is a remarkable person. She’s responsible with money and our house is always in decent shape, in other words, there’re never dirty dishes in the sink by the end of a day and things always look presentable. Just one thing makes me really miserable. My wife is an artist, and she spends hours on end in front of the canvas. I feel like she pours her entire heart out in her paintings, and there’s nothing left for me. I’d like to walk or talk in the evenings, but right after dinner, she’s back down in our basement (her studio) painting away until the wee hours. I feel really neglected, especially now that all our kids are married and out on their own. Please give me some advice, because I’m getting more and more resentful of my wife’s painting and our marital peace is eroding – I can feel it. With appreciation for your taking the time to read this, HJ from New Jersey

Dear HJ,

You’ve given me a lot of info, between the lines too. But, be happy – G-d willing, with a little fine tuning, your situation will soon be much better.

First of all, have you thanked Hashem for your marvelous blessings? Do you know how many people complain to me that their wives are either slovenly, or spendthrifts, or both? By your admission, your wife is both careful with money and a good housekeeper. That’s magnificent, and you should truly be thankful.

Second, many people have unbelievable shalom bayit (marital peace) breakdowns when they’re suddenly left alone with no more kids at home. So many husbands and wives drive each other crazy. Yet, your wife has found a lovely emotional release of oil painting. That too is a blessing! The love she used to pour into her children’s souls when they’d come home from school every day is now being poured into the paintings. I’m sure that her paintings are most expressive.

Wait, HJ, that’s not all: your wife is not leaving the house for hours a day, testing your imagination as to her whereabouts. She’s home. She’s not at the country club neglecting her home, nor at the shopping mall squandering your money.

So here’s the bone of contention – you want the love and attention that the paintings are getting. In the meanwhile – as long as you lack that love and attention – you’re getting more and more resentful. Let’s see how that affects your marriage:

Practically, HJ, you’re in line for a handout from your wife. According to Kabbala, you are now a female, because in a relationship, the man must give and the woman receives. That’s how Hashem created the world. Procreation is accomplished by the man giving and the woman receiving. Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai says that the husband is the sun and the wife is the moon. She has no light of her own, so he must shine light on her. So if you want to receive, HJ, you are playing the spiritual role of a woman; two women can’t get along in the same kitchen…

Since you are not shining light on your wife – only resentment – she looks for light in her paintings. They smile back at her.

Now, let’s move over to the positive mode. Don’t wait for a handout from your wife. If you want light, go to the Torah – she’ll shine infinite light on you. Go speak to Hashem in personal prayer – He’ll listen to your every word like the most loving Father he is and He’ll give you all the attention you need. Torah and personal prayer are the place to fuel up emotionally and spiritually. Your head should be in a tractate of Gemara and not into your wife’s daily routine. Give her space, especially since she’s such a good wife.

Instead of resentment, take interest in her art. Go downstairs to the studio and bring her a cup of her favorite tea while she’s painting. Compliment her and take genuine interest in what she’s doing. You’re not going to beat her, so join her! Take her to an art gallery on Sunday and for a walk in the park afterwards. Smile at her and never frown. Give her the light and she’ll soon be enchanted by you. Suggest topics for her to paint. Proudly frame her best paintings and hang them in the most prestigious wall of your home. Give her the love and lavish her with attention and I guarantee you that you’ll get it back with big dividends!

With blessings and prayers for your success, LB


The Love Barometer

Love Barometer 31.5
Dear Rabbi Brody,

I'm one of your non-Jewish readers, but since I consider you both my health and spiritual coach, I depend on you for body-soul guidance. So first of all, thanks to you for opening your heart and for being there for me, and thank you for your lovely new website. You have an uncanny way of writing and saying what I always need to hear.

Here's my issue: I've been dating someone for 6 weeks, and he already says that he loves me and wants to marry me. He seems special, but this is really too fast for me, and to be honest, my head is more than a little bit in the clouds. On the other hand, I'm afraid of losing this dude. What do I do?

Sincerely, Connie from Southern USA

Dear Connie,

“He already says that he loves me…” - Real love is only possible after marriage, when the two partners have a mutual commitment and a common goal. What people in today’s world refer to as “love” is basically nothing more than animal urges and Hollywood-style flash-in-the-pan infatuation that is ever so short-lived as soon as those urges are temporarily satisfied. To be candid, lust is not love, and many people discover this only after they’ve been badly hurt and taken advantage of. I don’t want that to happen to you, Connie.

At any rate, you can try this "love barometer" on your boyfriend - it's simple and foolproof:

1) How often does he think about you: Once a day, once an hour, once a minute? This is reflected better by deeds (notes, phone calls, text messages, small acts of kindness, little presents, etc.) than by words.

2) Ask him if he knows what makes you happy and what makes you sad. If he answers that he can't possibly know the answer because he doesn't know you well enough, then his proclaimed love for you is none other than an illusion. How can he love what he doesn't know?

3) Is he a good listener? Does he value the things you say and treat you with respect? Don't confuse lustful flattery with respect.

4) When he speaks to you, close your eyes and listen to his voice: Is there friendship, kindness, and compassion in that voice, or only lust? Don't let physical attraction overwhelm your good judgment.

5) Is he interested in your family background? Is he interested in meeting your parents and taking you home to meet his? This is a sure-fire sign of an individual with serious and honorable intentions. On this point, if he passes the test so far, I urge you to meet his parents and other people who are close to him. One’s family and friends can oftentimes say quite a bit about a person.

6) Does he talk to you about his goals, dreams, and aspirations? Are they materially oriented or spiritually oriented? Can you identify with them?

In picking a partner for life, you're better off using your brain than your heart. Is the person kind and considerate? Is he even-tempered? Is he decent? Is he dependable? Is he modest? Does he come from a family with healthy interpersonal relationships? Do you have a common goal? In order to make a decision, you need to do some serious homework and check out this guy.

Once again, meet his parents. If he has a connection with a clergyman, by all means make an appointment with that clergyman. Talk to his friends and acquaintances. Speak with his roommates or colleagues. Make sure there are no skeletons in the closet like substance, gambling, or porno addictions. You'll be saving yourself from unpleasant surprises and raising your chances for future success.

Don't worry - if he really cares about you, you won't lose him in the extra few weeks that you’ll need to be doing your legwork and homework. If he's only trying to use you for a good time, then let him walk and good riddance. Whatever you do, don't let meaningless coffee-house expressions of love make your head spin.

Connie, the most important effort in finding the right mate is prayer - the more the better. Keep me posted. Blessings and smiles always, LB


Going Where You Want to Go

Wrong Crowd 29.5

A vital element in emotional wellness is doing what you want and what you believe is right. Anytime you bend to social pressure, and therefore bend your personal principles, you're sewing the seeds of bitterness. Don't go there. Don't run with the herd; do what your heart knows is right. It's not easy but it sure is conducive to a healthy body, mind and soul.

So how do you learn to buck social pressure, do what you want and not what others want from you? Learn to do what most people hate doing - be alone with yourself.

You can't be alone with yourself if you're not at peace with yourself. We attain that peace by taking a daily timeout, going somewhere where we can be tranquil and collect our thoughts, and honestly assess ourselves. When we take daily stock in ourselves, we review what we did during the past 24 hours while thinking of what we need to improve and what we need to reinforce. If we invite the Almighty to be with us and guide us, then we'll have a daily emotional reboot that is priceless. When you get used to such a daily session, you can't live without it.

In the meanwhile, if someone asks you to do something, apply this checklist of questions:

  1. Do I want to do this?
  2. Does this make me happy?
  3. Is this a good deed that will gratify Hashem?
  4. Will this make me a better person?

If you can answer "yes" to all four of the above, go forward! If the answer is "no" to all four, avoid doing you're being asked to do. If your answer is a combination of yeses and nos, ask Hashem to guide you on the right path. When you ask for help, He'll be glad to give it to you. Blessings always, LB


The Pep-Talk Selfie

Pep-talk Selfie 24.5

The secret of winning coaches and mentors is knowing how to motivate their players, to "fire them up".

Even if you don't have a coach or a mentor, you can fire yourself up with "positive self-talk." Essentially, this is a pep-talk selfie.

Use positive language to describe what you hope to accomplish today, tomorrow and in the future. Tell it to God and pray for it, too.

Unfortunately, people are constantly using statements that cause them to berate themselves, their efforts, or their abilities. What could be greater self-persecution? They need to learn how to turn these around into positive statements instead. That's where "positive self-talk."  You certainly know how to take a selfie with your cellphone camera, right? This is just as easy - give yourself a pep-talk selfie! Make 5 to 10 strong statements that reflect your aspirations and abilities. Share them too with the Creator, and tell Him that you're positive that He hears you and that He'll help you. Do this daily and you'll go a long way.

Don't ever forget though: true personal growth doesn't come easy. In fact, it hurts. But it sure feels great.


Daily Centering

Centering 29.4
Here's something I picked up from a health-and-fitness coach's manual from one of the recent health-coach refresher courses I took (the bold-letter emphases are mine):

"The very first way to combat stress is to have your clients begin the exercise of taking 10 minutes each day - to simply sit and center themselves with their thoughts. They can find a quiet room somewhere and as they do, they should simply clear their mind or let their thoughts take place and then release them. This is a form of meditation and it can do wonders for helping to restore central nervous system balance, reducing ongoing stress and helping them feel that much better on a day to day basis. If they can’t do this for 10 minutes, wonderful! At any rate, 5 minutes will suffice. Any amount of time done daily or as close to daily a possible will have a very positive influence on their stress levels."

I don't know how many other health-and-fitness coaches follow the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, but the author of the above manual is right on the money. If 10 minutes daily ("5 minutes will suffice") do so much good for a person's nervous system, stress levels and overall good feeling, then imagine what 30, 45 or even 60 minutes a day of secluded, intimate conversing and connecting with the Creator accomplish! This is quality time, alone with the Almighty, where you collect your thoughts, clarify issues and simply recharge body and soul. I like to do my daily sessions while walking, especially somewhere secluded and beautiful where heart and soul open wide up. It's the key to self-composure, happiness and sanity. Try it - you'll love it.