A Time for Change

The following article was originally published in the Opinion section of The Jerusalem Post (9th Sept. 2022): https://www.jpost.com/opinion/article-716706


On the Jewish calendar, we are well into the month of Elul.  Our tradition is such that we are in a process of repentance. The slichot prayers take us into the high holy days of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.  It is a time of reflection and, based upon that reflection, a time for change—to make our lives better.  Although this certainly applies to life in general, I would like to concentrate on our health and health habits.

Downward trend

Western civilization has been in a downhill dive when it comes to health and healthcare for almost a century already.  That slope has become steeper and more dangerous over the last 40 years to be sure.  As mentioned in previous articles, the amount of chronic and autoimmune disease has increase exponentially. Consequently, 70% of yearly deaths on the planet are now a result of disease and illnesses.  My colleagues and I who practice lifestyle medicine find this both frustrating and very sad.  Most of this is preventable, controllable, and yes, even reversible.

Change in lifestyle would extend and bring great quality to our lives. We could also use these changes to solve the health care crises that takes such a terrible financial toll in so many countries.

A wonderful side effect of moving to a more plant-based way of eating is that it is good for the quality of the environment – even more so than electric vehicles!

What’s holding our society back?

I’ve written in these pages in the past about food addictions and also about paradigms.  The ultra-processed foods we eat and drink – pizza, burgers, chips (fries), soft drinks, snack foods, and “diet” products – are nutrient deficient and are engineered by food scientists to be as addictive as possible.

We’ve all been there!  You decide to cut back on these junk foods, but after a short while you say, “Okay, just a little this time.”  Then there is another time, and then it’s more than a little, and we are back to where we started.  Food companies know exactly what they are doing in order to get you hooked on their product.  This, over time, will bring upon all of the dreaded illnesses – the ones most people look on as inevitable.  Nothing could be more false!!

There is great confusion worldwide about what foods are really healthy.  Industry has done a great job of misinforming us about “health benefits” of their products and of creating confusion. We think that we need to eat meat.  We think we must get as much protein as possible. We forget that dairy is just really liquid meat.  And just as important, we are negligent on feeding our bodies the all-important fuel that allows it to both fend off disease and heal us when it needs to.  Some health professionals, including doctors, give out terrible nutritional advice.

We have reversed diabetes in The Wellness Clinic several times through the consumption of a diet that includes fruits and includes potatoes.  A neighbor of mind with type 2 diabetes was told by his doctor stop eating fruit and white potatoes despite evidence to the contrary.  We now surely know nothing is further from the truth.  As Dr. Neal Barnard points out so well in his book on reversing type 2 diabetes, and as many other experts tell us, type 2 diabetes is not a disease of sugar.  High blood sugar is a result of the disease.  It is a disease of the over consumption of the Western diet and fat in particular. How is it in 2022 that there are still doctors giving people advice that will keep them as their patients forever instead of trying to cure the disease?

Commit and change

So, it is that time of the year.  It’s time to commit and change.  But how?  There is a continuing debate over going cold turkey or taking things one step at a time.  Dr. Milton Mills, a plant-based physician in northern Virginia in the United States, is a big advocate of “let them scream, yell and throw a tantrum, but go for it 100%.”  He says that way, people see the almost magical effect of eating whole, plant-foods along with the other lifestyle factors of exercise, sleep, and stress management. It’s a very motivating experience.  Others feel that even though it takes longer to see results, a step-by-step process might be more sustainable.

Both sides of this argument have valid points.  I personally try to assess each client’s ability to make changes and proceed accordingly. But the one thing we must do is indeed make the change.  Just this past week in my clinic I saw someone age 91 and someone age 13.  It’s never too early to start and yes, it’s never too late.

The sainted and revered Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, known as the Chofetz Chaim, who lived from 1838 –1933 spoke openly about the importance of our health from a Torah perspective. He wrote the following in his volume Nidchei Yisrael Ch. 19:

Since God loves us and wants to bring us merit through Torah and mitzvot to Olam Haba, He warned us about our health, to maintain before Him a strong and healthy body in order to serve Him in this world, as the verse says, “And guard my decrees…and live through them” (Vayikra/ Lev. 18:5).

As we enter this most spiritual time of the year, let’s remember the Chofetz Chaim’s words.  Without a healthy body, one can’t have spiritual health either.  We know what to do, but now we have to resolve to do it.  The transformation will change your life for the better forever.  It will  add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”


One Comment

  1. Samantha Hambling September 12, 2022 at 10:01 am - Reply

    Very sensible words as usual. My late grandfather developed type 2 diabetes in the late 1970s. He had quite a controlling personality and immediately changed his diet to the extent of measuring the size of each potato or piece of fruit he ate. Consequently he never needed insulin injections and I believe by the end of his life didn’t even take tablets. Tested several times each day and stuck firmly to his diet. He also went from overweight to slim. The diabetes didn’t kill him (he was 88)

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