This article was originally published as an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post on 10 Sept. 2023: https://www.jpost.com/opinion/article-758299
As we approach the New Year of 5784, we look back at the past year. With some trepidation, we wonder what awaits us in the coming year. This past year has indeed been interesting in the arena of health and fitness. For me, it’s been a year where I encountered very interesting and even extremely difficult cases. In addition, this year my eyes were opened even wider to the pronounced positive effects of lifestyle changes to health. Let’s put it in perspective and gain some inspiration as we approach the new year.
I have always worked with a variety of people. This year I think I have hit every end of the spectrum. I was truly privileged to help doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, Rabbis, psychologists, therapists, students, yeshiva boys, mothers and fathers, grandparents, and even great-grandparents. This was also a year where on the weight loss front, I encountered several clients who needed to lose massive amounts of weight.
We had many new clients entering The Wellness Clinic over the last 12 months, each dealing with his or her unique challenge. I am in awe of all of them! They put in work and effort to change old habits and achieve good health. I have watched as those with fatty livers, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and just lack of normal daily function, first halt the progress of their disease and then begin the process of reversal. It’s an amazing thing to witness as they get their lives back.
A few inspiring stories!
At any age
Y. is just a little bit past her 78th birthday. A few years ago, she suffered from high cholesterol and high triglycerides for which she was medicated. She also had chronic aches and pains. Y. has been a client for 2.5 years. Without medication now, her cholesterol isn’t just good, it’s outstanding, her triglycerides are perfect—even on the low side. Through our personal training program, Y.’s fitness level has become nothing short of excellent. But that’s not all–she got her husband, A., to join also. A. is almost 80! He has lost 15 kilograms of weight and, more importantly, has eliminated 5 medications. His fitness has also improved greatly, far more significant, A. feels functional and decades younger!
The Prevalence of Type 2 diabetes
I saw more type 2 diabetics this year than ever. This disease is now running rampant. So is heart disease. To put things in perspective, 4 times more people die of complications from these diseases every year worldwide than died of Covid-19. Nevertheless, I am more optimistic than ever that we have found the answers to both prevention and reversal. It’s not only in the medical literature, I’ve seen it time and again with my own eyes.
Take C. I like to call her the skeptic. She came in for an intake session and everything I was promoting went against the advice she had been receiving for the last 10 years. When I told her she could have some baked potato in her diet, she asked me if I was trying to kill her. C. bravely gave it a go and after years of watching her hb A1C creep higher and higher, her diabetes is now in remission. Weight also came off. Now she sends people to my clinic.
Sometimes the rewards are beyond anyone’s expectations. E. is a Zoom client from southern Florida. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are gone! He lost 65 pounds (almost 30 kilo). An added unexpected bonus is that his anti-anxiety medicine is a thing of the past.
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Dean Ornish, are two cardiologists who proved through extensive studies that a whole-foods, plant-based diet reverses heart disease. They would be proud of my client, Rabbi D. He came to me with shortness of breath and occasional chest pain on exertion. He felt sluggish. Rabbi D. has been able to reduce or eliminate most of his medications, and has lost 13 kilograms (28 pounds) so far. He is exercising daily and doing our personal training program. NO MORE CHEST PAIN and going up stairs is now easy.
J. is a 50 years old Zoom client from the New York area. He suffered from a heart attack 2 years ago. (Yes–the average age of heart attack and stroke has been dropping.) We have only been together for 3 weeks. Already he is in the process of getting off a diabetes drug and he’s likely to be off blood pressure medication very soon. In our last meeting, J. told me that he already has more energy. He had lost weight before we met, but was stuck. J. has now lost another 6 pounds (2.7 kilos) over 2.5 weeks. Lifestyle medicine has made the biggest difference for these two individuals.
Sharing his success
There is one more inspirational story to share. Rabbi C., a client in Manchester, England, is a young man who approached me for help. He was on 2 drugs for high blood pressure and his physician was getting ready to treat him for type 2 diabetes. He contacted me and was compliant with the program from day one. Within 3 weeks he was off the BP drugs and after two months his A1C for diabetes was perfectly normal. He went from a 7.3% down to a 5.4%. He lost 14.4 kilo (32 pounds). The inspiration from his personal experience has led him to train and become a lifestyle health coach to help his community. Now that he’s changed his health for the better he wants to share his success and help others.
Optimism for the future
I’m optimistic about the coming year. We will be building on the back of the very first WFPB Kosher conference. Hundreds of kosher eaters participated and more will join. The year to come will see a new documentary on whole-foods, plant-based eating and lifestyle, specifically geared toward the Jewish community.
The coming year—doing this together
Rosh Hashanah is coming and it’s the time of year for repentance. Let’s all resolve to make preventative medicine our new priority this year. Resolve to make changes one at a time. Making these changes will make this coming year healthy and happy and “add hours to your days, days to your years, and years to your life.”