We are living in an era where so many of us are obsessed with losing weight, attempting to squeeze into a certain size outfit, trying new diets and exercise plans, doing detoxes, and much more. Let’s add some stats to understand the magnitude of this trend. In 2014, the weight loss industry was a $64 billion market AND the popular Weight Watchers program spent almost $83 million on advertising in the first six months of 2014.

Yet, in spite of thisobsession and the abundance and variety of diet plans and products, fat-reduction surgeries, gyms, spinning, Pilates studios, and home fitness equipment, the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. is high and has been climbing.

In a 2015-2016 study performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 40 per cent of adults living in the U.S. were obese. The obesity rates for children between the ages of two to five was 13.9 per cent, for ages six to eleven, 18.4 per cent, and 20.6 per cent for ages 12-19. There was a “significantly increasing trend in obesity” in both adults and children noted from the years 1999-2000 through 2015-2016.

The bad news is that there is no quick fix to solving the obesity epidemic, nor is there a magic diet or silver bullet that will keep you thin forever. There are no shortcuts to losing weight and keeping it off.

The good news is that experts agree that the key to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is embracing a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and consistent physical activity.

How can we implement this approach successfully?

How can we learn how to eat to live, rather than living to eat?

As a person who has struggled with her weight for over 40 years, I needed some new and inspiring answers to these questions.

I decided to organize a healthy eating workshop for my female friends who had the same concerns. I enlisted my friend and colleague, Jodi Krizer Graber, a holistic health counselor, to lead the group. I explained to Jodi that I wanted to integrate the Rambam’s teachings in our presentation. I have always been fascinated by the Rambam, and only recently learned that the 12th century scholar and physician had provided guidelines on healthy eating in Hilchot De’ot, the Laws of Personal Development (Chapter 4 Verse 1).

Rambam wrote that maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of Hashem, and he advocated regular and balanced meals. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sachs (the former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth) aptly concluded that Rambam practiced holistic medicine well before it became popular in the 20th century. Holistic healing looks at the whole person, their physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects, in pursuit of wellness and optimum health.

Rambam introduced wellness concepts 800 years ago that are still practiced and accepted today. For example, eating fruit before the meal, sitting when one eats, and eating slowly, drinking lots of water, and eating to satisfy one’s hunger and not overeating. He taught that we should eat with joy because food can also heal the body. He advocated not eating a large meal before exercising.

Jodi suggested the perfect name for our workshop that truly resonated with me – Feed Your Heart, Nourish Your Soul. Embracing and living a healthy lifestyle involves more than the appropriate nutrition. It’s about getting the right body-mind-spirit-connection – all three components need to be present to enjoy a healthy lifestyle: the physical components (nutrition, exercise, stress management, rest, and sleep), the mind or emotional component (the emotional you, your attitude, your motivation, positive thoughts, and actions, self-love, and self-care)and the spiritual component (your soul and spirituality, your inner calmness, your essence and spark).

Rambam taught us about the golden path, the middle road, the concept of balance, and to avoid being extreme in our practices or beliefs. A healthy lifestyle is totally about balance, and is a daily and lifelong process. We don’t live in a vacuum or in a bubble. We need to slow down and listen to our bodies, our gut, and our intuition. The same way a computer or smart phone sometimes requires a reset, so do our bodies, minds, and souls.

As a life coach, I am trained to help people make positive changes in their lives. Becoming self-aware, being mindful and present, making conscious choices,and creating new healthy habits to replace negative ones, are steps we can take to adopt a healthy lifestyle. For example, pause and think about it – am
I eating because I am hungry or for other reasons, i.e. is it emotional eating?

To jump start your healthy eating lifestyle; try “adding-in to crowd-out.” What does this mean? Integrative health coaches recommend that you start adding healthy foods to your diet to crowd out the junk food or other unhealthy foods. The theory is that the more healthy foods you add to your diet, the less room you will have for the junk food. For example, if you have a craving for candy or cookies in the mid-afternoon, make sure to have cut-up
veggies to snack on, or a small bag of almonds. Buy organic peanut butter or cashew or almond butter instead of the peanut butter with added sugars. Start eating real, clean, or whole food, “food that is as close to its natural and original state without any alteration.” You may also be surprised to discover that you enjoy the healthier foods.

By the way, the same techniqueworks with habits. Crowd out bad habits with good ones. Instead of checking your social media accounts, get on the treadmill.

Another significant factor to consider in embarking on a new and healthy lifestyle is one’s readiness.

Are you ready to commit to addressing the habits you want to change?

Are you ready to take a “helicopter view” of your life and figure out what is off balance?

One way to determine where your life is off balance is with a Wheel of Life exercise. Life coaches use a Wheel of Life, a popular assessment tool to help their clients evaluate different areas of their lives (such as career, health, family, and finances) and determine which require improvement.

I recently interviewed two health coaches from our very own community for the Woman to Woman column. I asked them to share with us what “feeding your heart and nourishing your soul” means to them. Eve Scaba-Elenhorn is a Certified Health Coach, Fitness Trainer, and National Gourmet Chef, and she is the founder of Flavorful FIT. The Flavorful FIT Movement is a program for those who want to lose weight, improve their health, and lead a healthier lifestyle using a whole foods (food in its least processed form) approach. Eve enables her clients to experience lifestyle habit changes that eliminate sugar cravings and keep them feeling energized. Clean eating and exercise are also key components of her plan.

What does feeding your heart and nourishing your soul mean
to Eve?

“You can’t start a diet and expect long term effects if your relationships, finances, and spirituality aren’t growing. In order to gain self-esteem with ‘eating good to feel good,’ we need to nourish our souls and minds. In return, our positive mindset will lead to positive choices with food. Our lives need to be fulfilledin all areas as best as we can; not just for ourselves but for our children to learn from as well.”

Etty Cytryn joined her husband Charlie and became a health coach after witnessing her husband’s commitment to getting healthy. After turning 40, Charlie decided that it was time to take control of his health. Charlie joined a weight loss program and dropped 50 pounds in four months, and his whole mindset and lifestyle changed.

Here’s Etty’s take on feeding your heart and nourishing your soul: “Nourishing yourself doesn’t only pertain to the body. Feeding your heart and nourishing your soul is a big part of taking care of yourself. It’s important to appreciate the person you are now, while working to achieve the best version of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually. Your biggest motivation is your own thoughts, so think positively. Live, love, and laugh!”

We just started a new year – is there a better time to start a journey to get healthy? Please check in and let me know which new healthy habit you have woven into your day.

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach. Her coaching specialties include life, career, and
dating coaching. Ellen helps people find their passion, purpose, and positivity
in life and relationships. Ellen can be contacted at ellen@lifecoachellen.com