Contact Us

Taking Diet Lessons

Taking Diet Lessons

What I Learnt From Dieting


It has been an uphill battle for me since the age of thirteen.

The story really begins when I was nine. I was a cute and slim little boy. Then I went to summer camp and gained over twenty pounds, becoming a cute and chubby little boy.

It never dawned on me that one day my weight would become a challenge for me, and at that time no one else really took notice of my extra “baby fat.”

But by the time I hit my thirteenth birthday I was overweight. That prompted me to go on my very first diet, and I have been dieting ever since.

For a long time it was a rocky ride. Whether due to my carrot-and-water diet or my hours of exercising, every few months I would lose all my extra weight—and then gain it all back. It came to the point that I would not buy new clothes; with my pattern of losing and gaining, I knew that I might as well keep the old ones.

The cookies look me in the eye, freshly baked from the oven and the chocolate chips still softBut recently, I have stopped “cycling.” Over the past two years I have slowly and steadily lost almost a third of my weight. It is now ten years after my thirteenth birthday, and I attribute my success at shedding pounds to keeping a set of strict guidelines:

Starting Off Right

Starting the morning with a cup of herbal tea (caffeine-free, as artificial energy fades away) and a bowl of hot oatmeal is the best way to ensure that I eat well the rest of the day.

Be Wary of the First Bite

The cookies are sitting there. They look me in the eye, freshly baked from the oven and the chocolate chips still soft, the aroma drawing me closer to the tray sitting on the kitchen counter.

As I reach out to grab a cookie, looking around to see if anyone is watching, I suddenly take control and turn to the water cooler and have a glass of cold water. Slowly my craving fades away. I won!

From my dieting battles I have learnt that one cookie leads to the next until I’ve finished off a dozen. It is that first craving that I need to overcome; once I’m past that, I know I have won.


Through trial and error I have learned that dieting is not enough. It is not enough to restrict myself and just keep saying no to the many tasty but unhealthy things that come my way. I also have to exercise. Thanks to my jogging friend who keeps on my case, this has been successful.

Focus on the Future

It’s been one those hard, unsuccessful days. I am stressed and tired, and I’ve already polished off a pile of donuts in the office. Arriving home and slumping onto the couch, I close my eyes and drift away into another world. Waking up from my nap, I walk into the kitchen, yawning.

Today I feel sluggish. Like I have not accomplished anything. I want to snatch a quick bite and then climb into bed for the night. The thought flashes through my mind: do I really have to make the salad, peel the vegetables and create my own dressing? Maybe I can just keep it simple and have a frozen pizza (yes, of course with a Diet Coke)? After all, I already ate a lot of junk today.

It is at this moment that I choose to let go of the past, and instead I focus on the future. The salad will do me good. What will the pizza do for me? What will I regret and what will I look back on with satisfaction? I think about the positive outcome of eating a healthy meal, and I get out the peeler.

As a result of following these guidelines, I am finally in a stable position regarding my weight. But these guidelines have not only allowed me to shed pounds, they have also taught me how to successfully ride the roller coaster of daily life.

Starting Off Right

Starting the morning right with a positive attitude, thanking G‑d for giving me another day full of potential and opportunity to do good, is the best way to achieve the mindset I need. By starting off on this hopeful and productive note, I will be able to deal with whatever happens during the day without losing my cool.

Be Wary of the First Act

I walked over to my car—and found a parking ticket sitting casually on the windshieldThere is a conversation going on in the room that I want to join. I’m listening while others badmouth someone, and on the tip of my tongue I have just the comment that will make everyone laugh. I know that if I join in, I will slip into another one of my bad habits, and then to the next. Instead I divert myself at the very first moment, bearing in mind that this not the kind of person I want to be. I walk out of the room. I won!


Life is hard. Sometimes it seems too hard, and pointless. Like when I left work, walked over to my car—and found a parking ticket sitting casually on the windshield . . . and I just found out that I owe the government thousands in back taxes.

That is when I visualize a set of weights, and I imagine that G‑d is my personal trainer. If He’s making it hard, there must be a way for me to grow. So I didn’t swear. I decided to exercise patience.

Focus on the Future

It's been one those hard, unsuccessful days. My boss wasn’t satisfied with my work, and looking back on the week, it seems I haven’t accomplished much at all. Even more discouraging, I have not lived up to my ideals today. I joined in the gossip in my office, and chatted for too long on IM. I feel unaccomplished.

Arriving home and slumping onto the couch, I close my eyes and drift away into another world. I wake up from my nap to hear the phone ringing. It is a friend. He needs me to help him out with moving into his new home.

Today I am lazy and uninterested. I just want to crawl into bed and forget about the day. The thought flashes through my mind: do I really have to help my friend out? Maybe I can just keep out of it, tell him that today I just can’t (yes, of course with sincere regret)?

It is at this hard moment that I decide to stop regretting the past, and instead I focus on the future. Helping my friend will help me become the person I want to be. What will staying at home do for me? What will I regret and what will I not regret? I think about the positive outcome of helping my friend, and bend down to put my shoes back on.

Like lots of other people, I have up days and days that I’m down; days when I’m in a great mood, and days when I feel a bit sour.

There are days that I’m impatient. On the way to work I honk my horn, slam the door behind me as I enter the office, and avoid saying hello to my coworkers.

And then there are days like last Wednesday, when I stopped my car so a neighbor could back out of his driveway, and held the door open for the elderly secretary who was holding a large bundle of files. Then I topped it off by filling the coffee machine with fresh water and getting cups and spoons from the supply closet for the entire office to enjoy their morning drink.

The guidelines I’ve developed through years of dieting have helped me achieve a stable weight, and they are helping me succeed through all the ups and downs of daily life. Hopefully, slowly, over the span of my lifetime, I hope to have fewer unaccomplished days and more accomplished days. No quick fixes for me.

Dovid Zaklikowski is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
1000 characters remaining
sue Kanata, ON November 23, 2010

pizza idea Hi DOvid! A tip for the days that you really would like to enjoy pizza for a treat:

If you make your own bread dough recipe (following the guidelines for this as a pizza dough preparation, you knead it in olive oil to make it stretchy) try adding a third of a cup of chickpea flour (garbanzo bean).
The result makes a superior and highly digestible dough. Your nutrients (already a good nourishing admixture of veggies and cheese) will offer more, you will eat less of it, and it "slips" instead of hurting your tum. Reply

Larry Ft. Lauderdale, FL November 22, 2010

Life is not a movie Dovid is able to point out succinctly that life is not a movie where there's never any dust or rust. Life is not all fireworks, and we'd be much happier if we realized that we can't interact with the world in sound bytes. We must interact, not just interface with our environment, and we can't just fast-forward to a place and state of time and being that we desire. Growth and progress take time, and we must exercise patience and forbearance in order to get where we want to go. Put another way, we must learn to bridle the haste within us, that animal desire to want instant gratification. Reply

Anonymous phoneix, az July 19, 2009

Taking Diet Lessons I really enjoyed your thoughts and comments about dieting. I don't feel g-d is a hard taskmaster. I desperately need a challenge and movation. I think we all do. sometimes. I need a good push just to go outside my door. It really helped me to read your article and the suggestions you showed. Reply

Anonymous July 6, 2008


"That is when I visualize a set of weights, and I imagine that G‑d is my personal trainer. If He's making it hard, there must be a way for me to grow."

Forgive what may seem a nit-pick, but I see no basis for this "hard personal trainer" characterizationof God.

If God was a hard personal trainer, He would never have given Adam and Eve the garden of Eden.

While a nice thought, it is not wise to teach folks lies about God especially when they are already struggling with an issue!

God is nothing like man!

People already hate God enough because of all of the lies/actions attributed to Him!

Malachi 2:4-9,
"I have sent a charge to you that My covenant with Levi may endure...Proper rulings were in his mouth...but you have turned away from that have made many stumble at your have corrupted the covenant...I, in turn, have made you despicable and vile in the eyes of the people."

Have you forgotten, Pharoah was the hard task-master! Reply

Jonathan Landsman via January 20, 2008

Exercise is so important Thank you for your a health and fitness coach, I know how inspirational your words can be for anyone looking to enjoy a healthy body weight ... all the years of their life. Reply

Michael Minnetonka, 55345 October 8, 2007

Very nice article I enjoyed this article very much. I liked the way the writer related the sometimes overwhelming thoughts associated with unwanted behaviors into something postive and constructive. Something very practical that I hope to try myself! Reply

shlomo July 16, 2007

such a lovely article - thanks Reply

Elaine Phoenix, AZ May 3, 2007

good article I will keep a copy of this article handy to refer to. I have been overweight for over 30 years, but have not given up hope of losing it some day. Perhaps this will help me. Thanks Reply

Leigh Chisholm April 30, 2007

I am so glad that I found this article. I have the same problems myself, except sometimes I focus too much on the future. It is never when I need to though. I am going to print this article out and save it. Reply

This page in other languages