The following article was originally published in the Opinion section of The Jerusalem Post (9 Dec. 2022): https://www.jpost.com/opinion/article-724404
The Hebrew month of Kislev seems to have an inherent contradiction. These are the shortest and darkest days of the year. They often times feature cold and stormy weather. Yet, it is the month where almost 2,200 years ago, the Maccabees rose up to defeat the Greeks. This brought the miracle of the oil that lasted 8 days and the restoration of services in the Holy Temple, as well as a return of open Mitzvah observance. A holiday which focuses on light takes place at the darkest time of the year. But there is yet another paradox inherent in Chanukah. Families with children notice it as their children grow older.
Less is more
There was a time many years ago when every Chanukah, I would put up a large table near our window and it would be full of Chanukah Menorahs. At the peak, there were 9 of them every night. With time, our children have grown up and moved out. Each year, there were fewer menorahs on the table. For the last 5 years already, there’s only one! Candle-lighting used to take a long time as each child recited the brachot (blessings) and we sang Haneirot Hallalu and Maoz Tur afterwards. At first glance, you see much less light generated in our home on Chanukah. However, when you think about it from a different vantage point, now many more menorahs are being lit. The homes of each of those children are full from their children’s menorahs. So this is a case where less is more.
Bigger and better
A former personal training client of mine once told me that when he travels back to the United States (he’s been in Israel for more than 50 years), he notices that the word “better” in America seems to be coupled with the “bigger and more.” Success is translated as more money, more cars, bigger cars, bigger homes, bigger weddings, more food for your money in a restaurant and longer vacations. Yet, it hit me these past few years, that bigger and more are not necessarily really better. Many times, less is indeed more. Our health is somewhat built on this very concept.
More out of life
We all know that when it comes to weight or prevention of chronic disease, more seems to be harmful and less is best. Less translates into good health and a happy life. As the head of The Wellness Clinic, I spend my days working with people who want more out of life. They need to learn how to do with less of certain unhealthy behaviors and to engage in more health and wellness in order to achieve their goals.
Carrying too much weight can cause an array of life-threatening health problems. Problems may include heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, auto-immune conditions, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease and Alzheimer’s. In addition, problems that affect our quality of life such as osteoarthritis, digestive issues, depression, anxiety and problems of self-esteem and self-confidence are prevalent in the overweight and obese.
Having seen success after success in my clinic, I see how less is more. I watch week after week as people come in with new blood tests showing better sugar numbers and lower cholesterol. Their blood pressure drops and they just feel so much better. People transform over weeks and months in terms of attitude and stress. The same techniques we use to get people to lose weight – a proper food program, proper exercise, better sleep, ability to better deal with stress and making the behavioral changes necessary- are easily applied to other aspects of their lives.
Improvements and accomplishments
Less is indeed more, but it can’t happen in one day or one week. This learning process takes time – weeks and months for many people. But the rewards you gain (and the weight you lose!), both in terms of physical health and mental well-being, are the “more” here. Those who succeed find it hard to believe that they were ever in the “more and bigger is better” mode. There is a great sense of accomplishment that you feel at the end of this road.
Here are a few tips for you to consider to get started on your healthy living and weight loss journey to good health:
- Diets are not good. They initiate a fleeting process at best, only to be abandoned ultimately. The better option is to learn how to eat healthfully (plant predominant and no ultra-processed food). Control your portion sizes and don’t let yourself get hungry. Also, maintain good hydration with an abundance of water.
- Hunger? Learn the difference between real hunger and desiring food for other reasons.
- Fitness. Exercise must be part of your life, and a priority! Learn what a balanced exercise program is and fit it into you day. Even daily moderate to brisk walking accomplishes so much.
- Learn how to prioritize. Don’t be afraid to put yourself first when you have to. It is a great mitzvah to help others, but helping yourself is crucial too.
- Write it all down! Track your food and your exercise and even your feelings on at any particular moment. And when you do something great, write that down too! Giving yourself credit for your accomplishments is important.
Oh yes, back to those dark winter days in the month of Kislev. Illness, disease, and the inability to function can seem unending and can create a darkness in your life. Many times our doctors have told us that we can manage these things but we have no cure. That isn’t something we necessarily want to hear and it can certainly bring us to stress and depression.
The data clearly tells us that although we don’t have the answer to every single problem, enacting the proper lifestyle habits can certainly light up the darkness of poor health.
Make your holiday enjoyable! Be with family and friends and enjoy healthy foods. If you would like some really healthy and tasty latke recipes, email me and it would be my pleasure to send you some! But remember that in spite of what we see around us, LESS is indeed MORE, just like the menorah burning in your home or your scale trending down. And when it comes to your health, losing weight in a careful and healthy manner will bring you more “ hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”