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Date registered: September 29, 2012

Latest posts

  1. Know Thyself (Including Thy Body Type) — July 1, 2014
  2. Exercise For Pregnancy: Could I? Should I? — June 26, 2014
  3. How To Lose 15lbs in One Week — June 15, 2014
  4. Parsha And Yoga… Seriously? — May 23, 2014
  5. The Facts About Weight Loss Pills — May 20, 2014

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  1. “Kosher” Music During Exercise — 2 comments

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Know Thyself (Including Thy Body Type)

Working With What You Have


Have you ever wondered why there are some people (and I’m sure you know one or two) who seem to be able to eat whatever they want and not gain any weight? Conversely, perhaps you know others who only have to look at a piece of cake and seem to put on 5lbs? Is it just your imagination?


Actually, it isn’t. Contrary to our Declaration of Independence, we’re not all created equal, at least when it comes to body types…


Genetic Variables


There are ten major genetic variables affecting fitness, fat loss, muscle development, and athletic ability including 1) basal metabolic rate (BMR), i.e., the amount of energy (number of calories) you burn at rest just to maintain normal body functions such as breathing, circulation, digestion, thinking, etc.; 2) number of fat cells in your body; 3) limb lengths; 4) joint circumferences; 5) muscle insertions (although the muscles insert onto the same bones in all humans, the exact point of insertion can vary – even a tiny difference in insertion points can create large increases in mechanical advantage); 6) number of muscle fibers; 7) muscle fiber type; 8) digestive capabilities; 9) food allergies and sensitivities; and 10) insulin response and sensitivity to carbohydrates.




In the 1930s and 1940s, Dr. William H. Sheldon, a Harvard professor, developed a classification system for body types known as somatotyping. He identified three basic body types: ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs, although pure body types are very rare; few people are 100% of one body type and 0% of another – usually people are a mix of two or even all three types. However, most people will tend to gravitate towards one type predominantly. Perhaps you can identify your body type(s) in the following descriptions?  




Naturally skinny/wiry; long limbs; small joints, small-boned; small waist, narrow shoulders; angular, projecting bones; naturally lean (low levels of body fat without even working out); often call themselves “hard-gainers”; low strength levels prior to starting a training program; fast metabolism – they burn up everything, even when overeating; don’t store carbohydrates as fat – high carbohydrate diets are ok; high energy levels; tendency to be overactive and restless (hyperactive); natural born endurance athletes (successful at distance/endurance sports); sometimes hard to maintain weight, and extremely hard to gain weight; sometimes insomniacs.




Medium joint circumference; small waist; broad/square shoulders; chest dominates over abdominal area; naturally lean (low levels of body fat without even working out); naturally muscular (muscular before they even started working out); naturally strong (strong before they even started working out); high energy levels; don’t store carbohydrates as fat – high carbohydrate diets are ok; highly efficient (fast) metabolism; controlling body fat is easy; gaining strength and muscle is easy; losing body fat is easy; responds very quickly to just about any type of training (fast results); natural born athlete (successful at strength and power sports).




Naturally high levels of body fat (often overweight); usually large boned, large joints, large frame (but not always); short, tapering arms and legs; smooth, round body contours (round or pear shaped body); wide waist and hips; waist dominates over chest; tendency to always store excess calories as fat (can’t get away with overeating); keeping fat off after it is lost is a challenge; tendency to be sluggish, slow moving and lacking energy; slow thyroid or other hormone imbalance (sometimes); fairly good strength levels; sensitive to carbohydrates (carbs are easily stored as fat); responds better to diets with higher protein and low (or moderate) carbs; naturally slow metabolic rate/low set point (fewer calories burned at rest); falls asleep easily and sleeps deeply; a lot of cardio is necessary to lose weight and body fat; extremely difficult to lose weight (requires great effort); bouts of fatigue and tiredness; often describe themselves as having a “slow metabolism”; tendency to gain fat easily as soon as exercise is stopped; tendency to lose fat slowly, even on a “clean”, low fat, low calorie diet; often overweight, without eating very much.


It’s Still Up To You


So does all this mean that the only way to succeed in your pursuit of physical fitness is to “choose the right parents”? No, not at all, although some may have to work relatively harder than others to achieve their respective goals. Genetics may contribute to your success, but, ultimately, it’s up to you to take responsibility for your results. Factors you still control include what, when, and how much you eat; what type, how frequently, how long, and with what intensity you exercise; your overall lifestyle; and your mental attitude about your situation. At the end of the day, as I’ve said before, it’s your choice.


There are four keys to being successful in your exercise and training program: 1) learn how to recognize which is your predominant body type; 2) learn how to adjust your training and nutrition to fit your body type; 3) be patient, persistent and maintain a positive attitude as you work towards your goal; and 4) assume responsibility for the outcome, for better or worse.


As the former UCLA Bruins basketball coach, John Wooden, famously said, “The good Lord in His infinite wisdom, did not create us all equal when it comes to size, strength, appearance, or various aptitudes; but success is not being better than someone else – success is the peace of mind that is a direct result of the self-satisfaction in knowing that you gave your best effort to become the best of which you are capable.”


Exercise For Pregnancy: Could I? Should I?

Training While You’re Pregnant – Good For You And Baby


While it’s true that, as a man, I’ll never experience the intense discomfort and pain of the miracle that is pregnancy, my wife did not for one minute shirk from sharing hers with me during all three pregnancies of our children. I therefore have some inkling as to how the prospect of exercise can feel to a woman who is ″with child″; not good, to say the least. There are others who, while willing to be as healthy as possible during this challenging time, are unsure of what exercises are safe, or even whether any should be done at all.


Should I exercise if I’m pregnant?


The many benefits of regular exercise that apply to other healthy individuals also apply to pregnant women who do not have any complications that would limit their activity. Additional benefits for pregnant women who exercise consistently include a lower risk of developing pregnancy-specific conditions such as gestational diabetes, as well as some of the fun but very normal associated symptoms such as backaches, constipation, and bloating. Most healthy women can continue to exercise throughout their pregnancy with minor modifications as their pregnancy progresses and physiological changes occur.


What physiological changes?


Pregnancy temporarily alters a woman’s physiology, anatomy, kinesiology, and biomechanics; these changes may be hormonal, physiologic, and/or musculoskeletal. Each trimester brings various challenges that may interfere with consistent physical activity, and each pregnancy (even of the same woman) is different. Therefore, close communication with healthcare providers is always encouraged before, during, and after the pregnancy. It’s especially important for pregnant women with specific medical conditions such as hypertension, gestational diabetes, and morbid obesity to see their physician prior to beginning an exercise program; exercise intensity and programming will need to be adjusted according to functional capacity, fitness level, symptoms, and daily energy fluctuations. Also, don’t forget, you turn into Super Elastic Woman…


Super-human powers?


The hormone relaxin greatly increases over the course of pregnancy, with up to 10 times pre-pregnancy concentration levels occurring within the first trimester. This hormone allows the ligaments and connective tissue to stretch, which is vital during the delivery process. However, all connective tissues surrounding joints will have the ability to stretch beyond their normal length, thereby compromising joint integrity and overall stability. Therefore, certain movements need to be performed with caution, such as turns, quick changes of direction, high-impact exercises, exercises that place weight on the wrist while in extension, and exercises that work the lower back. End ranges should be avoided during stretching so as to not permanently stretch out the supporting structures of the involved joints.


So I can still do my aerobics?


Aerobic activity is important for keeping the heart and lungs strong, increasing circulation, and otherwise enhancing a woman’s overall energy level. However, the increased blood volume and decreased venous return associated with pregnancy can compromise the cardiovascular system, so some precautions need to be followed in relation to intensity and volume of aerobic activity. That being said, moderate intensity should be safe for most participants, especially in the early stages of pregnancy. Activities such as low-impact aerobics, water aerobics, swimming, walking, and cycling are recommended for pregnant women of all fitness levels.


The recommended frequency for aerobic exercise is a minimum of three times per week, and can be daily for those already participating in a program when they become pregnant. Previously sedentary individuals should begin with a shorter duration (between 5 and 15 minutes) 3 days per week and gradually lengthen their workouts (building up to 30 minutes) 4-5 days per week as they become more accustomed to regular exercise. Usually women will feel the need to decrease intensity, duration, or frequency as pregnancy progresses, especially in the second and third trimesters.


How about “pumping iron”?


The goal of resistance training is to maintain one’s strength throughout pregnancy and prevent some of the common associated aches and pains. It’s extremely important to build the stabilizing muscles of the upper back and shoulder to a) counterbalance the increased weight (see below); and b) to be able to hold the newborn for extended periods of time without experiencing neck and shoulder pain.


While exercises such as squats and lunges (not forgetting Kegel exercises) are beneficial, deep knee bends should be avoided. Maintaining lower body strength and flexibility is important for being able to move the newborn both into and out of the bassinet. Be sure to walk around between resistance sets and after exercise; it’ll enhance circulation and venous return, mitigating the effect of a hypotensive response. Also, be careful transitioning from a lying to a standing position; move slowly and in stages rather than in one quick movement.


So wrestling matches and football games are out then?


Yes, sorry. Contact sports and activities that may increase the risk of trauma to the abdominal area or present a high risk of falling – either of which may cause harm to the mother or fetus – should be avoided. But it’s not all bad news…


Yay! You get to eat more…


The added increased metabolic demand of pregnancy requires the ingestion of an additional 300 calories per day. Therefore, make sure to eat a snack before exercising to ensure that adequate fuel is available.


But with great calories increase come great responsibilities…


…and an extra 25-35 lb too, primarily during the third trimester. This weight gain alters the center of gravity, and affects balance. The distribution of this excess weight is mainly in the front, which can make it difficult to see your feet; therefore, activities that challenge balance should be avoided.


Also, the thermoregulatory system is compromised during pregnancy, increasing the risk of overheating, so be sure to exercise in a cool and well-ventilated environment, wear loose-fitting clothes, and stay hydrated.


What about after the birth?


During the postpartum period, exercise can be resumed gradually, usually within 4-6 weeks after delivery, provided there are no complications. However, it’s crucial to resume exercise only when it is physically and medically safe to do so, and after you’ve been given the all clear from your doctor(s). Gradual progressions are recommended to enhance the new mother’s physical and mental well-being.


A healthy mother is more likely to give birth to a healthy baby, so be safe, be smart, be strong, and be well; you only get to do it once per child, so look after yourself and cherish this astounding miracle.


How To Lose 15lbs in One Week

Can It Ever Be True?


I bet that post title caught your attention, right? How about this one: “Gain That 6-Pack You’ve Always Wanted Without Exercising Or Giving Up Your Favorite Desserts”, or “Lose Fat And Gain Muscle In Only 5 Minutes A Day”. I’m sure you’ve seen similar claims in newspapers, magazines, and on the internet. We’re all looking for a quick fix, but does one really exist? Is there a special diet that works for you? Are there special exercises or training equipment that really “melts the inches off”?


The short answer is “yes, absolutely”. For example, since our bodies comprise approximately 70% water, you can quickly dehydrate yourself by severely limiting your water, sodium, and carbohydrate intake, and then sweat out whatever else you can in a sauna for a day; you’ll probably lose at least 10lbs in less than 48 hours… of course, as soon as you stop this ridiculous undertaking and start drinking normally again, you’ll put all the water weight back on. You could also get liposuction (although recent research has shown that the weight just comes back in other areas of the body) or even cut off a limb or two. Personally, though, I would say any of the above options are really bad ideas.


The more appropriate long answer, however, is “no, and here’s why…”


You should always be wary of any fad diet, “miracle pill”, “super workout”, or “revolutionary exercise equipment”. Quite simply, if you can’t sustain the diet or activity for more than a few weeks, chances are it’s not a very healthy idea in the first place and likely can’t and/or shouldn’t be conducted at all. Furthermore, any changes that may occur by following these alleged claims will more than likely be temporary at best and may harm you at worst.


As I’ve found out myself the hard way, restricting or over-exerting yourself too much for too long will ultimately rebound on you. Becoming and being healthy must be an intrinsic part of your lifestyle if it is to be sustained. In fact, the true meaning of the word “diet” means what you eat, not what you don’t eat. Actually, if you want to get technical about it, the word “diet” originally came from the Old French word “diete” which came via Latin from the ancient Greek word “diaita” which meant “a way of life” – it did not mean “not eating cake and cookies” (because a world without cake and cookies would be a sad world indeed – more like a “way of death” than a “way of life”, don’t you think?).


Losing weight is not the goal; losing excess fat is the goal, being healthy is the goal. Let me remind you that muscle is metabolically-active tissue (i.e., it burns energy) and fat is not (it just hangs around your body, waiting to be used during those “emergencies” such as a famine). If you stop eating for a ‘prolonged’ period of time (and I mean, even as little as 3-4 hours), your body is far more likely to start eating away at your muscle for its energy source, rather than your fat. After all, if you were driving a car with a hybrid engine in a remote location, and you found yourself running low on gas, what do you think you should do, toss the excess baggage from the car, or toss the engine battery? Your body works the same way; if there isn’t enough food being consumed and therefore not enough energy entering the system, better to keep the battery (i.e., the fat) for its energy reserves, than use those precious few calories that are coming in to maintain heavy muscle that only burns calories.


The irony is further amplified by the fact that, when your body has less muscle, it therefore needs fewer calories to function; which is one reason why reducing your calories to lose weight may work initially, but then the weight loss will ultimately come to a grinding halt, which is typically when people do the absolutely worst thing they can do – cut their calories even further, thereby descending into a metabolic negative spiral.


So can you really lose 15lbs in one week? Not permanently, not healthily, and not enjoyably; no, you can’t.


So what can you do to lose your “excess baggage”? Eat a balanced diet (including three meals per day with snacks in between), consume fewer calories than you burn, exercise regularly, don’t eat anything within 2-3 hours of going to sleep at night, and get enough sleep at night (ideally 7 or more hours per night); do this, and the fat will come off. It will come off slowly, yes (ideally at a rate of no more than 1-2lbs per week), but it will come off. To quote Tom Venuto, you must “burn the fat, and feed the muscle”; i.e., eat to maintain your lean tissue (i.e., muscles, bones, and organs, etc.), and exercise to consume the excess energy reserves hanging around your body (i.e., excess fat).


The cold hard fact is that, once again, what your parents always told you is ultimately quite correct: “anything worth having usually doesn’t come easily or quickly”. Be wise, be patient, and work hard; in the end, that’s all you ever need to succeed in anything you want to accomplish in life.

Parsha And Yoga… Seriously?

A Book Review


Since my website went live in 2012, I’ve received calls and e-mails from people all over the world, from New York to San Diego, from Canada to Israel, and from England to Brooklyn (yes, Brooklyn, can you believe it?!?). Some people come for advice, some visit for support, and some offer business opportunities and ideas for future activities. Each person, however, shares the same goal: to maximize their God-given potential, and to better serve Hashem through optimal health.


It was in this vain, then, that I was sent a book a couple of months ago by Linda Hoffman in Dallas, Texas, titled Parsha and Yoga: Lessons from the Weekly Parsha and Yoga; Linda thought I might be interested in checking it out.


At first glance, when Linda initially reached out to me, I must admit that I thought it was a joke (sorry, Linda); I mean parsha and yoga? Seriously? What does one have to do with the other? I had images in my mind of reciting the psukim in the sedra while straining fiercely in Downward Dog or being contorted in some other tortuous pose. But I’m a big believer in extolling virtues or denigrating faults only after the person or item has been given an opportunity to plead its case; I never proclaim a book is a waste of paper… at least not until after I’ve read it, anyway, so I was willing to give this book a chance, and I’m glad I did.



The premise of the book is actually quite simple. In Linda’s own words, we need to protect and care for our body so that we can learn and develop to our highest abilities. We develop our soul by becoming the best “me” that we can be using the tools of the mind and the body that were given to us. Having studied yoga for more than 20 years, Linda shares different facets of her art, stating that yoga is a routine for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health; we discover ourselves on all these levels through yoga practice. Yoga enhances the way we live with wisdom, insight, discernment, mindfulness and acceptance. Linda also compares the study of yoga with the study of Torah: just as we understand Torah at the level of learning we have reached, so we practice our yoga at the level of flexibility and strength of our body.


The book’s structure comprises short 5-10 minute easy-to-read synopses of each weekly parsha, intertwined with Linda’s own thoughts, as well as various mefarshim and insights. An illustrated simple yoga move with explanatory text can then be found at the end of each parsha outline.


According to Linda, the book is primarily marketed to mid- to late-age women who are less observant, early-stage baalei teshuva, and reform and conservative Jews who are interested in incorporating some exercise into their lifestyles. Having said that, however, she tells me that she’s received good responses from people across the “frumkite board”, and, having read the book myself, I see no reason why that shouldn’t be the case. 


I found the book to be accessible and fun to read. I found myself strongly agreeing with many of the points that were made, and look forward to practicing much of the advice that was imparted. In fact, in many instances I wished the key points were further elaborated upon, but understand that the author wished to keep each section brief. The summaries of each parsha are concise and colorfully written, mixing biblical narrative with midrashic tales. The yoga poses are well described and illustrated, and are suitable for the beginner; more seasoned yogis, however, may crave more challenging positions. Although there are one or two factual inaccuracies throughout the book, it’s generally well presented and edited.


Personally, rather than exclusively surrounding myself with points of view and hashkafot that I already agree with – thereby bolstering my own ego and ingrained mindset – I try to expose myself to a wide range of attitudes and beliefs outside my comfort zone. Yes, this has the potential to be somewhat detrimental at times, but I believe that is how we grow best; when we’re challenged, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Reading this book reminded me of how true this notion is. Rather than dismissing this publication as something “not for me”, there were indeed pearls of wisdom buried within its pages.


In her introduction, Linda states that our mind, our body, and our soul are encompassed in one entity. Our life goal is to be the best “one” that we can be using all of our qualities. Speaking more broadly, I would add that we, our Nation, should cumulatively strive to be the best “one” that we can be. Each neshama is a conduit from and to Hashem; each has something to offer.


Parsha and yoga? Yes, even parsha and yoga. More often than not, if you don’t see Hashem’s connections in everything around us, the problem isn’t that the dots can’t be joined – it’s more likely that you’re missing some dots in the first place; the key is finding ways to discern and discover the countless dots in this beautiful world.


In describing yoga and its connection to the Torah, Linda writes we practice mastery over the physical for the benefit of the mind… BeautifulI couldn’t have said it better myself.


The Facts About Weight Loss Pills

I wish I wrote this article.  In a nutshell, it lists many of the currently available “miracle diet pills and potions”, why they don’t work and, in many cases, why they’re harmful to your body.  This is a must read.

Click here for full article.

Clothes Maketh The Man… And The Workout

Suit Up Right, Work Out Well


Pesach has ‘passed over’ for another year, and it’s usually around this time, with spring fighting to break through, that thoughts turn to exercising outside and enjoying the beautiful weather. But what to wear, what to wear? My mother always taught me, “clothes maketh the man”, instilling in me the importance of respecting one’s own body – for it houses our precious neshama – and dressing accordingly.


In addition to purporting an accurate self-value, and serving as protection from the elements, the choice in clothing can affect one’s outlook, both internally and externally. Furthermore, choosing the wrong clothes can often result in detrimental consequences, stripping us of our confidence or ability, hindering our true potential. More specifically, with regards to exercise, running in the wrong sneakers, for example, can hamper your gait, and sweating in the wrong fabric can chaff your skin; not to mention the fact that, as frum Jews, dressing appropriately for exercise comes with its own set of unique challenges.


Let me suggest 9 tips for choosing the right exercise clothes, and getting the most out of your workout:


1)    Head Covering


Most Jewish adults wear some sort of head covering, including kippot or hats for men, and sheitels, snoods, or teichels for women. Needing to cover one’s head can sometimes feel like a blessing (for all you balding guys out there) and sometimes feel like a curse (sheitels in the summer, need I say more?), and figuring out the best way to adhere to religious protocol while also training hard is no exception. Everyone’s situation is different – long hair or short; summer or winter; sweat like Niagra Falls, or merely “glow” with minimal perspiration – the best choices of head covering will keep hair and sweat out of your eyes, and wick moisture away from your skin (see below).


2)    Material


Cotton and other natural fibers are soft and comfortable, and are good for light workouts, such as walking or stretching, but, due to their absorbent quality, aren’t very good if you anticipate sweating a lot; when cotton becomes sweaty, it can feel heavy and cling to your body causing chaffing and soreness, far from ideal for more intense or aerobic activities. Choose a fabric that provides wicking – i.e., it draws the sweat away from your body – this will help keep your body cool while you exercise, and also minimize chaffing. Synthetic fibers such as polyester, Lycra and Spandex are effective.  


3)    Fit


Depending on your own body image and personal style, you may prefer workout clothes that are loose and cover most of your body, or tighter and more form-fitting. Either way, choose clothes that are not restrictive, allowing you a full range of motion.


4)    Know Thy Season


If you’re exercising outdoors, always be cognizant of the weather. Temperature, precipitation, humidity, lighting, and particulates in the air can all affect the quality and safety of your activities.


Layer your workout clothes during colder months, and even during fall and spring if you exercise in the early mornings or late evenings. Wear items you can easily remove (and carry or wear around your waist) as your body temperature heats up during your workout. You lose 40% of your body heat through your head and neck, so choosing the correct headgear is very important; in the winter, double-layered hats are a good option, and in the summer, I find a light bandana made from a synthetic material (rather than a bulky cap) works very well.


Wear lighter-colored clothes in the summer, and be weary of slippery leaf fall in the autumn and ice in the winter. Puddles after a heavy rain aren’t too much fun either if you happen to jog right into them.


Finally, for those men who favor running often, you may consider adapting a dedicated running top to incorporate four distinct corners, allowing you to attach tzitzit directly onto the top, circumventing the need to wear an additional layer underneath that may be uncomfortable during hotter temperatures. I advise consulting with your Rav further to discuss the options.


5)    Tailor Attire To Activity


Tailor your attire to the specific activity you’re conducting. If you’re running or biking, don’t wear long pants that might get stuck in the pedals or cause you to trip; or, if the weather is colder, tie the pant legs close to your legs to secure loose fabric that might get caught. For yoga and Pilates practitioners, avoid clothing that feels restrictive during different poses. If you’re running outside at night, be sure to wear reflective clothing that will allow you to be seen by motorists.


6)    Get Inspired


Choose clothes that you find attractive. While function and fit are the most important elements, you want to feel good while you’re exercising. Certain clothes, cuts, and designs may inspire and motivate more than others. Don’t underestimate or disregard the importance of feeling well-dressed – you’d be surprised at the difference it makes.


7)    Supportive Undergarments


Incorporate supportive undergarments into your workout wardrobe. Women should look for a good sports bra that offers support and flexibility, and men should use a protective cup if they’re playing contact sports. Supportive undergarments are also important for plyometrics and similar exercises that include jumping and high impact movements.


8)    Appropriate Footwear


Selecting the appropriate footwear for the exercises you perform is one of the most important decisions you’ll make – choose wisely, and your activities will likely be enhanced; pick poorly, on the other hand, and you’re likely to be less productive at best, and may injure yourself at worst. Be sure to wear a comfortable athletic shoe that supports your feet and ankles. Wear running shoes for running, and cross-training shoes for high impact plyometric training/sports (the interior supports are structured differently). Also, be aware that the life of your sneakers is finite; the older the footwear (i.e., the more you use them), the less support they offer – so going running in those dusty 10-year old sneakers you pulled out from under the bed may not be as beneficial for you as you might think.


9)    Tzniut


As frum Jews (and as respectable human beings too, for that matter), we must always be mindful of the image we portray, both to the outside world, and to ourselves. Tzniut isn’t just something specific to women, and it’s not just something to which we adhere only at certain times or in certain places. Respecting your body through exercise should be similarly mirrored in the manner in which we dress. That being said, sometimes exercising – and exercising outside in particular – can be challenging; supportive clothing is often figure-hugging, and warmer climates beg the need for reduced covering.


Maintaining a requisite level of tzniut does not automatically preclude the ability to exercise. Woman can wear sweatpants or loose leggings beneath skirts, and if you aren’t comfortable in the clingy fit of stretchy synthetic fabrics, try wearing a sweat-wicking undershirt beneath a larger looser cotton top. Supportive undergarments are important from a tzniut perspective as well. There are numerous options available these days, including modest swimwear, and double-layered tops. Gender-specific exercise classes also allow an added measure of comfort.




While many people want to look good while they exercise, your workout clothes should be less about fashion and more about comfort and fit. What you wear can impact the success and safety of your workout. Some forms of exercise, such as biking and swimming, will require specific items of clothing. For general workouts, it’s best to wear something that fits well and keeps you cool. Choose the right workout clothes by considering fabric, fit, and comfort.


Whatever you choose to wear, always dress respectfully; exercising is a mitzva and should be honored and venerated accordingly.


The Miracle Cure-all is Strength Training

Another good article by Alan Freishtat, an A.C.E.-certified Personal Trainer, about the importance of resistance training, and how cardio alone just doesn’t cut it.

Click here for full article.

Getting Younger As You Age

Excellent article by Alan Freishtat, an A.C.E.-certified Personal Trainer, about the importance of exercising and maintaining your health as you age.  For some reason, so many older people believe aging includes atrophy and poor health; it’s endemic in our society.  This is just not so.  One can do so much to delay and soften the aging process.

Click here for full article.

Eat Fat To Get Fit

The Myth Busted


It always amazes me how many people think they’ll get fat if they eat fat. I don’t know why this amazes me so much, though; after all, doesn’t it make sense? If you don’t want to get fat, don’t eat fat, right? Wrong, and here’s why:


You see, it’s the terminology that confuses people. The fat you eat is not necessarily the fat that ends up around your waist or hips, but people throw these different ‘fats’ into the same catchall “fat” category – hence, the misunderstanding.


What is dietary fat?


First, a little chemistry. Fat molecules are constructed of a carboxylic acid with 1 to 3 glyceride “tails”. The most common fats are triglycerides with, you’ve guess it, three tails. These tails have varying numbers of hydrogen atoms attached to them – they can either be totally crammed packed with hydrogen atoms (i.e., saturated fat) or only partially full of hydrogen atoms (i.e., polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats). 


Fats, as opposed to oils, are solid at room temperature and usually contain a high proportion of saturated tails; oils are liquid at room temperature and typically (there are notable exceptions) contain a high proportion of unsaturated tails.


What are fats used for in the body?


Now, a little biology. As discussed in previous articles, fats are one of the six nutrients that we all need to consume as part of a healthy balanced diet (the other necessary nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water).


Fat is a source of energy, and, at 9 calories per gram, provides more than twice the energy of a comparable amount of carbohydrate or protein. This can be good if you’re starving, but if you’re not, it means it doesn’t take a lot of fat to tip you over your daily caloric requirement. Fat also carries essential nutrients (such as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K) into and around the body; gives food flavor; and, because it takes longer to digest, stays in the stomach longer than other energy-providing nutrients, making us feel fuller for longer. Fat in and on your body also provides insulation from extreme temperatures, and cushions against concussive forces such as a fall.


Polyunsaturated fats have a tendency to lower blood cholesterol levels, and monounsaturated fats, in addition to also having a tendency to lower blood cholesterol levels, maintain high-density lipoprotein (”good”) cholesterol. So try and get your dietary fat from these healthier monounsaturated sources.


Saturated fats are, supposedly, the “bad” fats that tend to increase serum cholesterol; I write “supposedly” because new research is casting doubt on that claim. For the time being, though, until a strong scientific consensus has been reached, try to not overdo your consumption of saturated fats.


What foods should I eat that contain “healthy” fat?


The healthiest sources of fat include nuts, avocado, olive oil, flaxseed oil, and canola oil. Other healthy sources include fatty fish such as salmon. Meat and dairy products (unless reduced in fat) tend to contain a higher percentage of saturated fats and should therefore be eaten in moderation.


How much fat should I eat?


Fats should provide between 20% and 35% of your total daily caloric intake. Having said that, however, it doesn’t take a lot to consume more fat than you need. For example, an ounce of almonds (a small handful, or around 24 nuts) packs a punch of 164 calories; a mere 12 nuts more (or a slightly larger handful, around 1.5 ounces) will add another 82 calories – that could equate to as much as 4-5% of your daily caloric requirement for most women (less for most men). So be warned; go easy on the peanut butter and salad dressing.


So if eating fat is so good for me, what’s all this excess baggage hanging around my stomach/hips?


Put simply, when you consume more calories than you burn, the body has to do something with that extra energy, and so it converts it to an easily stored form of power – fat. Think of the excess fat around your body as a battery, there to be used in the future should you ever run out of food. The problem, of course, is that in our affluent society, running out of food is seldom a problem, and so the fat doesn’t go anywhere.


How do I get rid of this excess fat?


If you’re hoping I can tell you the secrets of fat loss in a sentence or two, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Using more energy than you consume sounds easy enough… so why is it so difficult to shed the pounds? That…will have to wait for a future article.


Is it all bad?


Before you panic that you’re slowly turning into a giant Duracell battery, please know that having some fat on your body is a good thing; it’s how Hashem created you, and it needs to be there for you to be healthy. The problems arise when having too much fat becomes detrimental to your health; when your quality of life deteriorates. At that point, it’s time to take charge and make some healthier decisions. 


In summary


To sum this all up, if you eat a balanced diet, perform regular exercise, and don’t eat more than your body needs, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about putting on excessive weight. While it’s true that I’ve simplified a lot of very complicated processes in this article, and that sometimes it’s not always that straightforward, as is true for most things in life, it all comes down to control and discipline; being able to say ‘no’ to that extra portion of dessert, and making wise choices that care for your body. If you respect your body, your body will respect you, allowing you to serve Hashem with all the potential with which you’ve been blessed.

Shatter Your Limitations – Leaving Your Mitzrayim

What Will You Do With Your Freedom?


What would you like to be?  What would you like to do? So nu, what are you waiting for?


Yeh, if only life were that simple…


           “I can’t because I have no time”;

           “I can’t because I have no money”;

           “I can’t because I have no control” (of my food, of my job, of my family);

           “I can’t because I have no support” (of friends, of family, of coworkers, of supervisors);

           “I can’t because I have no will or ability” (to do what is necessary).


Does any of this sound familiar? How do these excuses appear to you? Unbreakable shackles? Overwhelming obstacles?


Mitzrayim, the land from which we were redeemed, literally means “borders” or “boundaries”. In fact, ancient Egypt prided itself on its exclusivity and superiority; they had everything they needed, and there was no need or desire to leave its borders. Its workers were both physically and emotionally trapped, with no will or thought of escape. This was the land in which our nation developed. After two centuries of gradual constriction, we became slaves with a slave mentality, inured to our state of being, unable to make a difference in our own destiny. We blamed others for our downfall, we blamed others for our failures, we blamed others for our inability to pull ourselves back up.


Some of us, unfortunately, have not changed much in nearly three and a half thousand years. “I can’t because I have no…”? You need something from someone else before you can move forward? Why? What have YOU done to alleviate your misfortune? What have YOU done to attain your goals? We blame our parents, our coworkers, our boss, our spouse, and the list goes on… Enough! Change starts with YOU, not anyone else. If you don’t surround yourself with inspiring motivating supportive people, time to move on and find a new place to call “home”. In the end, your power can only come from within and from Above, nowhere else; you must use your abilities and your intellect to make it happen, and to find people who can help you make it happen yourself – the strength must come from you. Be intrinsically motivated and driven, not extrinsically pulled and cajoled.


When Hashem gave us the freedom to escape Mitzrayim, he gave us the ability to break through our own boundaries and limitations. But most people don’t push themselves hard enough. Most people don’t do what it takes to realize their God-given potential. Laziness is not an excuse; “I have no…” is not an excuse. What have you sacrificed to achieve your goals? Where are your priorities?


“If only life were that simple…”? The truth is, at the end of the day, life is that simple, and only our excuses complicate it. It’s time to shed the slave mentality.


When your body is tired, push a little more; when your mind is weak, push a little longer; when your will is drained, push a little further. Always press your limits. If you don’t, you’ll never know how much you can attain and of how much you’re truly capable. Always push against your own “Mitzrayim”.


Every day, be a better person than you were the day before, spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially, and intellectually. Progressive development, as I’ve written before, allows you to take small steps each day to achieve your goals. Your only deadline is your “deadline”, so don’t procrastinate – as long as you move forward every day, striving to do better today than you did yesterday, with the ultimate goal of being better tomorrow than you are today, one day, with Hashem’s grace, you will realize your potential.


We weren’t put here to just be, we were put here to become. This isn’t a fanciful philosophical notion, this is our chiyuv. A day without trying to improve oneself and/or one’s environment is a day wasted.


We ALL have this ability, each with our own strengths. Inspire yourself, inspire others. After all, look who led us out of Egypt: an 80-year old stuttering little brother; a humble fugitive who, ultimately, found his calling and realized his own abilities.


Freedom means the ability to choose – so choose wisely… what are you going to do with your freedom?



Why Not All Protein Is Created Equal

Beans Just Don’t Cut It


For all you vegans out there, be warned, this article won’t be pretty. Continuing my previous three articles regarding the six nutrients we all need to consume as part of a healthy balanced diet – i.e., proteins, fats, carbohydrates (“carbs”), vitamins, minerals, and water – this article focuses on protein.


So what exactly is protein? Why should you eat it? And what are the best sources to get it?


Proteins are complex compounds that are made of different connected amino acids, which uniquely contain nitrogen. Or, as I was explaining to my 5 year old boy recently, protein is the Lego that builds your body. Put simply, protein comprises small molecules called amino acids that link together to help build and maintain tissue in your body, from skin to muscle, from head to toe.  There are between 50 and 75 trillion cells in the human body, some of which are replaced in as short a cycle as three or four days; you literally are what you eat.


Additionally, as well as building and maintaining tissue, one needs protein to help transport nutrients around your body; as an energy source (in addition to carbs and fats); to produce hormones; to maintain normal fluid and acid-base balances; and to produce enzymes and other necessary compounds. All in all, it’s a pretty important nutrient – aren’t they all? – that you should know something about.


Sources of protein include eggs, milk, meat, fish, legumes, cereal grains, and nuts. In fact, short of candy and fruit, you’d be hard pressed to find a food without some protein in it. However – and here’s the part I warned you vegans about – not all protein sources are created equal…


You see, there are a total of 20 amino acids including 11 that can be produced by the body itself and don’t have to be obtained from food – these are called non-essential amino acids; and 9 that cannot be generated by the body itself and must be provided from dietary sources in order to be available for use by the body – these are called… you’ve guessed it… essential amino acids.


A complete protein source (also known as high quality protein) contains all 9 essential amino acids, and includes eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, fish, and chicken; this means that you don’t need anything else other than one of these foods to give you all the building blocks you need to keep your body well stocked and ready for construction.


Incomplete protein sources (also known as lower quality proteins) are generally plant-based, such as legumes (e.g., beans and peas) and cereal grains (e.g., rice, wheat, and oats), and don’t contain all the essential amino acids. What this means is that if you relied on any one of these foods for your protein source, you’d only be getting a portion of the Lego set; and, if you’ve ever lost even a single piece of Lego after you’ve spent an hour putting the whole set together while your kids play in the other room “helping you” build it, you know that not being able to finish the set is definitely NOT cool.


So what happens if, for whatever reason, you can’t or don’t want to eat any high quality proteins? Fear not, all you vegans and vegetarians out there, all is not lost. Although you are clearly more at risk for an inadequate protein intake, with some wise dietary planning, eating a varied and balanced diet will ensure you consume enough low quality proteins from different sources to give you the complete Lego set (and, thankfully, no progeny meltdowns).


Eating enough protein (at least 15% of your daily caloric intake) and enough of the right type of protein is vital as part of a healthy well-balanced diet. We, as Jews, know this well, of course; for generations we’ve celebrated Shabbat with only the best sources of protein – basar v’dagim, meat and fish. Throw in a decent chulent with beans, meat, and lentils, and you’re good to go.


Build your body well, and it’ll look after you.

How To Survive The Pesach Carb-Overload

Ideas To Weather The Carbohydrate Storm


For those of us trying to reduce the amount of carbohydrates (“carbs”) we’re consuming with the intention of losing some weight, without doubt, Pesach is one of the most difficult eight days of the year. Take the sedarim, for instance, epitomized by the simple equation “matzo + wine + large meal + late at night = perfect storm for weight gain”.


When it comes to maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen, Pesach and Succot are always a tough time, with at least five days of big meals squeezed into an 8-day period. Pesach is particularly challenging, though, with the added bonus of just about every course in every meal likely filled with matzo, matzo meal, and/or potatoes; total carb overload.


The festival celebrating our redemption and freedom is such a special time with so many opportunities to draw closer to Hashem. Is there a way to perform the mitzvot with both a joyful heart and a guilt-free conscious?


Of course there is. Here are seven ideas to weather the carbohydrate storm that is Pesach:


1)    Substitute matzo and matzo meal made with processed white flour with their whole wheat equivalents. As I discussed in my previous post, whole grain products don’t spike your insulin levels as much as processed grains do, and are less likely to be converted to fat; they’ll also keep you sated longer. You can even get handmade whole wheat shmura matzo which, believe it or not, tastes pretty good.

2)    Substitute heavy side dishes with lighter salads. Make sure there’s at least one green salad on the table at every meal. Feel free to load it up with tasty accoutrements such as chopped almonds or walnuts, craisins, citrus fruit slices, strawberries, mango, avocado, or different colored peppers. If you fill up on salad, you’re less likely to exceed your daily caloric requirement over the course of the day.

3)    Substitute heavy starchy foods such as potatoes and matzo with lower Glycemic Index foods. Try grilled vegetables such as peppers, onions, winter squashes and zucchini. If the weather permits, use the barbeque to grill the vegetables; the taste is divine.

4)    Substitute cake and cookies with fruit for dessert. While it’s true that Pesach cake has come a long way in recent years, it hasn’t come so far as to be calorie-free. In as many meals as possible, try to minimize the starchy desserts.

5)    Choose protein over carbs. If points 1 through 4 are still not doing it for you, and you’re still hungry, better to choose protein over carbs; protein contains the same number of calories per gram as carbohydrates, but you’re less likely to go overboard with meat and chicken than you might be with starchy side dishes, and desserts loaded with fat and sugar.

6)    Make your Shulchan Orech less “orech. The Pesach seder calls for a meal late at night. Typically, this meal is pretty large (even though every year we always tell ourselves “it’ll be a small affair this year”) and by the time it rolls around – after spending what is sometimes hours reciting from the haggadah – everyone is always ravenous and ends up eating more than they probably should. That being said, I suggest pacing yourself during the meal. Eat slowly and purposefully. Minimize your portions sizes too, and remember that just as the Jews left Mitzrayim, so should you be able to leave the yom tov table… without having to push the chair too far back or loosen your belt.

7)    Get the blood pumping. Avoiding leaven over the eight-day period doesn’t mean avoiding exercise too. Try and get as much exercise as possible over the chag. A 20-30 minute walk after heavy yom tov meals does wonders for digestion, and can burn off at least some of those carbs. During chol hamoed, exercises that include calisthenics, cardio and resistance training, and stretching are all recommended.


I think we can all agree that Pesach is “challenging”. It’s challenging for parents who clean, for kids who like their cereal, and for health nuts who like their routine. I was once told that Hashem gave us Pesach as a gift to the people who love to complain. Yes, we can focus on these challenges; but, instead, we must view them as opportunities. Opportunities to get closer to our families, closer to Hashem, and closer to the reason we were freed in the first place.



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