Tag Archives: health

3 Reasons You Should Not Abstain

Have you been following the news about sugar lately? Even the health press has declared it as bad as smoking. Many people I know are swearing it off.

3 Reasons You Should Not Abstain

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Indulge me for a moment. This means no:

  • Ice cream
  • Chocolate
  • Cake
  • Cookies
  • Wine
  • Liquor

Besides toothpaste, have I missed anything?

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These are the obvious foods. Sugar is an ingredient in many others. Aside from the health benefits of wine and chocolate, I find a great deal of emotional satisfaction from having a dish of fantastically creamy ice cream or a nicely chilled martini.

Abstain or Indulge?

Undoubtedly it's the case that many people eat too much sugar. However, unless you have a serious health condition that warrants it, you shouldn't abstain. Consider its adverse effects:

  1. Indulgence and abstention are the same. They both indicate a person has insufficient self-control. If you abstain from cookies because when you eat one you eat the whole bag you're avoiding the trigger not demonstrating willpower. Self-control means you decide how many cookies you'll eat despite your urge to do otherwise.
  2. Abstention is rarely a long-term solution. Alcoholics can attest to the difficulty of renouncing liquor. According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter 50% relapse into drinking. Most often abstention works only after a serious accident or the onset of health problems.
  3. Abstention creates stress. When you abstain as the cure for overindulgence you are constantly under the pressure of suppressing your desire. Backsliding often leads to self-condemnation. In the end, you have traded the stress caused by a negative behavior with a different stress source.

The better response is to:

Use your aspiration to a healthier life as the catalyst for greater self-discipline.

Running 45 to 50 minutes burns the 600 calories contained in half of a pint container of Haagen Dazs. Use the ice cream as a reward for stepping up your exercise program.

Instead of buying a regular bag of Oreo cookies, get the 100-calorie packs. Commit to eating just one package per day.

Make a ritual of drinking a glass of wine, perhaps with your spouse or a friend with whom you can be mutually accountable.

With all of the delights in this life, why restrict yourself? As I wrote several months ago, moderation is the key. While lack of restraint is destructive, abstinence is not the answer.

In which situations do you think abstention is the only choice?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below

How to Achieve Better Health and Financial Well-Being

“When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all.” Augusten Burroughs

When you decide to live an intentional life, like most big changes typically the difficult part can be getting started. As I mentioned in my previous post, How to Get Your Life Moving in All Areas, I recommend you begin with fitness in the physical pillar. Progress toward goals in this area can be made quickly. Moreover, it is difficult to focus on mental and spiritual fitness when you are concerned about your health or financial matters.

How to Achieve Better Health and Financial Well-Being

The physical pillar of fitness comprises three realms:

  1. Health – Sleep | Diet | Exercise
  2. Finances – Cash Flow | Debt | Investments
  3. Play – Recreation | Hobbies | Entertainment

First, you need to assess where you currently are with respect to each realm. Some questions are:

  1. How much sleep do you get?
  2. What is the quality of your rest?
  3. How is your health?
  4. When was the last time you had a complete physical?
  5. What is your exercise program?
  6. What do you eat on a regular basis?
  7. How much income do you receive from salary, interest and investments, pensions, etc?
  8. What are your expenses?
  9. What preparations have you made for the future: emergencies, buying a house or car, retirement, etc?
  10. What activities do you engage in to relax?

These questions are designed to get you started. As you delve into this pillar you will think of others. You may need to consult with professionals, such as your doctor or financial planner. Chronic or debilitating conditions will complicate your plan to live intentionally, but need not derail it. Next gather sufficient information from reliable sources on such issues as sleep, diet, exercise, personal finances, and hobbies, so that you are comfortable making decisions about your life direction in each realm. Some of the resources I use are:

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Now, start setting goals. Three to five is generally the most you can work on at one time.  For example, you may be trying to get by on four hours of sleep a night but numerous studies show that seven is the minimum amount most adults require. If you want to lose weight, have more energy during the day, be able to work with greater focus, and have more patience with your spouse and children, being properly rested is crucial. So an excellent goal is to get seven hours of sleep a night.

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The essential tool for achieving goals in the physical pillar is self-discipline. Sleep disorders aside, getting the rest you need is a matter of being disciplined about the environment in which you sleep, the preparations you make before bedtime, the time you go to bed, and the time you wake up. It takes 21 days to ingrain a new habit but you should notice a change after as little as a week, perhaps less.

The state of your health, physical condition, finances, and play is essentially a factual matter, The path to improvement is well defined. Because you can control what you say and do it is within your power to improve your physical fitness. You are on the way to building your first solid pillar.

Start right now: Set your first goal toward better fitness in the physical pillar. If you have questions leave them below or email me and we will work together.

Question – How do you build self-discipline?

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Secret to Lifelong Fitness – For Men and Women

Imagine a group of sailors standing on one foot who reached over and gave the person next to them a nudge. Trust me it was funny since most of them fell down. Exercise number 2: the same group of sailors standing on their two feet and they gave the person next to them a push on the back. Not as many fell but they laughed. Last one: they got in a three-point stance. Despite some good shoves, nobody fell down.

Why the workout? To demonstrate that only a three-legged structure is inherently stable. Consider a four-legged chair. No matter how carefully the legs are measured they will not be the same length so it will rest on three and rock on the fourth. The same is true for five or more. This is the model for your fitness. There are three aspects: physical ∞ mental ∞ spiritual.

Aside from physical steadiness, our mental conception of the world is three-based:

  • In geometry, we learn that two lines cannot define a space. It takes a minimum of three.
  • We live in a three-dimensional world of length, breadth, and height thus a cube is a manifestation of three.
  • Time has three aspects: Past, present, and future.
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In the spiritual realm three has profound significance:

  • The blessing of the Jewish Temple priests has three parts: May G-d bless you and safeguard you, may G-d illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you, may G-d turn His countenance to you and establish peace for you. The societal bedrock of marriage is the joining of a man, a woman, and G-d
  • Buddhism’s foundational elements are known as the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Darma (teachings), and the Sangha (community). One “takes refuge in the triple gem” when committing to the Buddhist path.
  • Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, also described as Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwara, are the three gods of the Hindu Triad, personifying the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction.
  • Christianity affirms the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • There are three levels of faith in Islam: Islam, Iman, and I'hsan.

Thus the power of three is manifest in our world. Living intentionally by working within the triadic concept of the Three Pillars of Fitness aligns you with this potent force.

Question: Where else do you see three at work in physical, mental, and spiritual matters?

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Why You Should Eat for Mental and Spiritual Fitness

Diet certainly impacts our physical well-being. Weekend jocks and Olympic athletes are becoming ever more attuned to what and when to eat for maximum performance. Less focused on is the impact food has on spiritual and mental fitness.Why You Should Eat for Mental and Spiritual Fitness

Among the most common question I am asked as a navy rabbi is “what is kosher?” Wrongly believed to mean food is blessed, the Jewish dietary rules explain which foods may be eaten and how they must be prepared. Like any discipline, keeping kosher is about improving fitness, in this case spiritual health. For example, blood has to be drained from meat. To eat what the Bible calls the life force of an animal impairs a person’s ability to connect with G-d.

Of course, others view this differently. Native Americans ate the heart of a bison to gain a measure of its good qualities: bravery, endurance, and strength, as well as to thank the essence or spirit of a creature from which one has taken. In both these examples, while nutrition may play a part, spiritual sustenance is the paramount concern.

Research shows that certain foods improve mental acuity. While coffee drinkers know they are sharper after their first cup, Joy Bauer also identifies beets, fish, berries, lean protein, and walnuts as brain healthy foods.

Food can also help you learn to take risks. Did you hate brussels sprouts as a kid? Me too. But when I tried them again as an adult I found they were not the traumatic experience I remembered. Now I love them. As I have matured my tastes have changed so it makes sense to try foods again. Likewise, though I failed at certain tasks before I need to risk trying them again if I want to succeed.

“You are what you eat,” said Victor Lindlahr in his 1942 book You Are What You Eat: How to Win and Keep Health with Diet. But more than a century earlier, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, in Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante: "Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es," meaning “tell me what you eat, I will tell you what you are.” To the famed epicure, diet is indicative of a person’s state of mind.

Question – What do you eat to improve your mental and spiritual fitness?

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You Listen, You Stay Healthy

“You will surely become weary, also you, also this people that is with you.” (Shemos/Exodus 18:18)

Jethro meets Moses in the wilderness and expresses his concern that constantly teaching and judging the Children of Israel is too exhausting.

This coming Sabbath we read Parshas Yisro. In it Moses is reunited with his father-in-law Yisro/Jethro, a Mindianite priest who heard about the wonders G-d performed for the Children of Israel. Jethro recommends a leadership plan to Moses that he implements.

The Children of Israel arrive at Mount Sinai where they voluntarily accept the Torah. Then they prepare themselves to receive the Ten Commandments. Our sages bring several opinions as to what they heard. Rashi and the Rambam explain that every Jew heard all Ten Commandments in one instant but could not comprehend them. So G-d repeated them and after the first two they were so overawed they begged Moses to intercede and then teach them the other eight.

Perhaps in your mind’s ear you can hear the proverbial Yiddishe mama worrying about her boy’s health, but a Yiddishe father-in-law?

Moses was very idealistic, with seemingly limitless compassion for his people. Great as he was, it took an outsider to perceive that he needed to share his burden so as not to burn out. Seems to be an obvious lesson, yet how often have you found your life out of balance because you were so focused on your goal? Did your spouse, child, or a friend try to get you to broaden your perspective? Did you listen?

Many times while I was deployed sailors whose job performance was not up to par came to see me. Frequently they justified their substandard work by listing the many people: family, friends, and coworkers, whom they were helping. My response never varied: “How does it help them if you lose your job? No more money for financial assistance to be sure, but worse, you would become a burden.”

Selflessness is admirable. But it cannot come at the cost of your physical, mental, or spiritual wellbeing. Comes Jethro to remind you to be open to the message of a loved one to guard your health.

Question – Is self-sacrifice noble? Please leave a comment below.

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