Disciplined… Dedicated… Habitual… Mindful… Human…
All words that could perfectly describe someone who is deeply devoted to their Judaism—including their practice of keeping kosher. Living an observant, or frum, lifestyle comes along with the decision to adhere to a strong set of rules by which we choose to live our lives. It would be natural to expect that these traits and practices that define our spiritual fitness would easily translate over to our physical fitness—but often this isn’t the case.
Disciplined and Dedicated
When you break it down to its basic components, discipline comes down to a single word—choice. We know that we are blessed with free will and that the Torah teaches us to choose good over evil. Of course we know that with free will and the power to choose comes tremendous challenge—the challenge to make the choices that we know are the best for ourselves and those around us.
What are we dedicated to? Often the answer comes down to our family and our faith. Are we also dedicated to our physical health and fitness? We know that these are all connected and depend upon each other. The power to choose physical health comes with tremendous responsibility and should not be taken for granted.
I know that my personal dedication to physical health revolves around trying to live until 120 in order to be there for my wife and children. Our dedication to our physical health should serve as a reflection of our dedication to our family and our faith. This discipline and dedication should be exhibited in the habits that we keep each and every day.
Habitual and Mindful
The habits that we keep can often define who we are, and serve as examples to the world around us. As a light unto the nations, are we showing that our habits are those of gluttony at the expense of our physical well-being? When one looks at our most important habit, the practice of Shabbat—and the indulgent food fest and Kiddush that go with it—one might think so! Do Shabbat meals and Kiddush need to be so unhealthy? What habits are we displaying for our children and passing to the next generation? Is it a formula for a healthy existence and a long life?
The formula for physical fitness is a relatively straightforward one, and following habits of healthy eating and exercise is not rocket science—but it does take discipline. We know that we should pray three times a day and eat kosher food, but do we apply that same rigor when choosing the nutritional value of our food or how often we eat it? Do we apply the same rigor when we choose how frequently we exercise?
I’m proud to say that when I look around my synagogue, I do see that we are a mindful bunch who do view physical health as important. I can say that I’ve spent hours hanging out with the guys talking about exercise and diet practices. We may have been having a BBQ and drinking scotch as we chatted, but it’s important to understand that with mindfulness and habits come balance and enjoyment. That being said, it only takes one plate of kishka-filled cholent followed by [insert name of unhealthy Jewish food here] to know that it is easy to go from balance to over-indulgence.
In all of this I want to stress that no one is perfect—and we shouldn’t expect to be. I know that I’m not. I’m just like you—a human with faults and imperfections. As we go through each day, we try to be the best version of ourselves that we can—the best parent, child, spouse, employee, student etc. By continuing to be disciplined, dedicated, habitual and mindful in both our spiritual and physical endeavors, we will truly be a light unto the nations, live until 120 and pass on the habits that are best for us from generation to generation!
By Jason Demby
Jason Demby is a Certified Health Coach and contributor to Kosher-Fit.com, where he writes about healthy habits in the context of Jewish life. His successful work with clients has been featured in Prevention Magazine and he can be reached at [email protected]