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The Obesity Epidemic

The Obesity Epidemic


The Jewish community seems to be in real nutritional danger. This is not danger from those who seek to destroy us. We have become a serious danger to ourselves.

The Jewish calendar is filled with beautiful holidays almost every two months, each which is celebrated with elaborate meals. Yet somehow, we have failed to understand that while we should definitely eat and be joyous, we have a responsibility to eat properly and take care of ourselves. Taking care of ourselves is a Torah commandment. It is an obligation that is incumbent upon us. Eating jelly donuts during Chanukah or cheesecake during Shavuot is customary, but never at the expense of our health. We need to learn the right balance between celebrating yet not over-indulging.

We have a responsibility to eat properly and take care of ourselvesThe American Diabetes Association (ADA) recently reported that deaths due to poor diet and physical inactivity rose by 33 percent over the past decade and may soon overtake tobacco as the leading preventable cause of death. There has been a great increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes, with the age of onset getting younger all the time.

The ADA says that approximately 64 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, and Americans are growing heavier every year. Obesity is the leading controllable risk factor for type 2 diabetes, which makes it no surprise that the rate of type 2 diabetes is increasing as well.

Being overweight may also increase the likelihood of developing other diabetes health-related conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, and some types of cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the incidence of diabetes and diabetes health-related conditions has jumped nearly 50 percent in the past 10 years and is expected to increase another 165 percent by 2050 if it keeps up at the same rate. Results from the CDC's Diabetes Prevention Program showed that a person at high risk for developing diabetes could delay or prevent its onset by almost 60 percent over a 3-year period by losing initially only 10-15 percent of his or her weight and exercising 30 minutes a day, at least 5 times a week. Furthermore, even modest weight loss for an overweight person with type 2 diabetes can improve his or her blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

About 15 percent of children today are overweight. That's 4 times as many as there were 30 years ago. The numbers are stunning, but the trend can be reversed. The ADA has also reported the findings of a study which found that over half the eighth grade children surveyed in America had one or more health problems – such as overweight, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and blood glucose abnormalities that put them at high risk for diabetes and premature cardiovascular disease. The Jewish Diabetes Association (JDA) recently reported that in Israel, where there is the largest concentration of Jewish people with statistics there has been an almost 70% increase of diagnosed diabetes in the past four years bringing the reported cases to over one million people with an estimated 800,000 with pre-diabetes or undiagnosed diabetes. This is a frightening example for the Jewish community worldwide.

Children and Obesity

One-third of the mothers and half the fathers of these children, who were themselves either overweight or obese, rated their own size as "about right." And one-third of the obese girls and half of the obese boys also were rated by their parents as "about right." In addition, a British study found that most parents of obese children were unaware that their children's weight was above normal. This means that what a large portion of the general public may consider to be normal weight is seen by the medical community as hazardous. As a service to our children and ourselves, we must increase our awareness and knowledge in order to start making major changes.

It's really okay for kids not to clean their platesFirst, no-carb diets are not good for kids. They need good carbs such as whole grains, certain cereals, most fruits, vegetables and dairy products in the right amounts – combined with the correct amount of protein, fat and fiber. Kids should be avoiding foods that contain large quantities of sugar, salt and hydrogenated oil. They provide nothing but empty calories and teach kids to prefer sweeter, higher fat foods. Don't let them eat while they are reading or sitting in front of the computer, as they will almost always end up consuming more than they should.

Second, forget what your mother told you – it's really okay for kids not to clean their plates. Knowing when to stop eating is an important skill in weight management. Don't tell them about the kids that are starving in Africa – one day mothers in Africa will be telling their kids about the children in the West who are eating themselves sick!

Third, keep them moving. They don't burn many calories sitting in front of a computer or reading. Most babies are active on their own, but as kids get older, they'll most likely look to you for guidance. If you stay fit, you will be setting an example that lasts a lifetime.

We often find ourselves worrying more about our children than ourselves, but we really should make healthy choices for our own good. Children tend to eat whatever is available and to copy what adults do. If you are always grabbing the "fast food" choices, your children most likely will do the same.

Although some of these foods are truly convenient, we can easily get into the habit of having healthier "grabs" on hand, with preparation and a little forethought. Having a family is a commitment for life. We are well aware of our responsibility to pass on to our children our values and beliefs. But it's also our duty to teach them, through our example, the lessons of healthy eating. Since so much of our family life revolves around food, let's make sure that our kids are getting a healthy message!

Losing Weight the Healthy Way

Living a healthy lifestyle is about finding balance. Learning where and how to trim can make a difference in one's attitude. Here's a point that bears repeating: Slow and steady weight loss is long-term weight loss. While it's tempting to try to shed the pounds in a matter of days or weeks, losing weight too quickly can be self-defeating. When you lose too fast, you often end up rebounding to a weight that is higher than when you started out. Have you ever wondered why?

Yo-yo dieters have a hard time keeping the weight offRapid weight loss can lead to a loss of lean muscle mass in addition to fat. When you lose muscle, you decrease your metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn while sleeping). A decrease in metabolic rate can make it harder to lose the pounds that you gain when you occasionally fall off the diet wagon. Also, when you put some weight back on, you'll be tempted to find another quick diet fix – a phenomenon called yo-yo dieting. Yo-yo dieters have a hard time keeping the weight off, and recent studies have found that doing this is also extremely unhealthy and hard on the cardiovascular system.

Fat cells, once born, never die. When you lose weight rapidly, they starve and grab up whatever they can find. You need to train your body to adjust slowly. This way, you'll have a better chance of keeping the weight off. After you have been eating healthily for a while, your weight might reach a plateau and sit there for a while. When this happens, the worst thing you can do is get discouraged.

If your regimen is combined with exercise, you may be losing inches and gaining muscle (which weighs more than fat). At this point, your health-care professional can suggest different ways to get your weight moving in the right direction again. Remember, it took you years to put the weight on – it's not going to disappear overnight.

Presented here is an introduction to some of the options available for anyone who must lower his carbohydrate and/or fat consumption. Together with a nutritionist or health-care team, you will choose what's best for you.

Educate yourself. Use your common sense. Any regimen that restricts entire food groups or foods that you know are good for you (such as fruits, vegetables or whole grains) should raise a red flag. For those of you who are trying to lose weight, remember that most fad diets create some kind of nutritional deficit.

This will lead to weight loss, but what price will you pay and how long will it last? Stick with regimens that safely reduce your weight to a reasonable level, don't leave you starving, and are easy to maintain.

Try and create a realistic, healthy regimen for yourself Again, choose moderation. Carbs aren't bad. Fat isn't bad. Protein isn't bad. But too much of these can lead to weight gain and/or hinder weight loss! Lack of certain nutrients can be detrimental as well. Under the right guidance, try and create a realistic, healthy regimen for yourself that you can follow. One of the strongest indications of whether or not a regimen is for you is to realistically assess how long you can keep it up. If you cannot follow it long term, forget it. You will end up regaining all the pounds that you worked so hard to shed and undo all the health benefits you began to see.

What small changes can you make for a healthier lifestyle? You probably want safe, lasting weight reduction or maintenance. However, remember that you are looking for a better lifestyle, not simply a diet. A diet is usually something temporary; and if you look at it as temporary, you are bound to slip back into your old, less healthy lifestyle once you have reached your weight goal.

Finding ways to burn fat can sometimes seem daunting. Use this chart to find simple easy ways of burning carbs—the best way to burn fat.

Carbohydrate/Exercise Chart

Amount of carbs burned per 1 hour of activity per body weight


100 lbs.

150 lbs.

200 lbs.





Bicycling- 6 mph




10 mph




14 mph




18 mph




20 mph




Dancing - moderate




















Jump rope 80/min








Raking leaves




Running – 5 mph




8 mph




10 mph








Skating - moderate








Swimming slow crawl




fast crawl




Tennis - moderate








Walking – 3 mph




4.5 mph




Since eating too much and/or eating the wrong kinds of carbs and fats are the main cause of obesity today, a complete overview will be presented over the following weeks. The goal is to combine traditional lifestyle with healthy lifestyle without feeling deprived and finding the right balance for both emotional and physical fulfillment.

This series is composed of excerpts from EnLITEned Kosher Cooking by Nechama Cohen with permission from Feldheim Publishers. Courtesy of the Jewish Diabetes Association.
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Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA January 25, 2012

Indoor “Wind Chilling” Factors Help Dissolve Fat Turn on a fan in the winter. Sit in front of it. The best thing would be to sleep in front of a fan every night. If it feels cool, that body will work to keep the same temperature, burning calories. That is, the fan blows air that is the same temperature as the air in the room, but because naturally, skin has grease, the fan blowing the air evaporates some of this moisture, as FAT IS SOLUBLE IN AIR. Ever smell fatty fast food air? Don’t go swimming outside in the winter, as that cold is too extreme and could cause a heart attack. Therefore, we should be careful when stressing systems. Know the difference between eustress and distress. Eustress has the potential to improve. For example, laughter or fun, or even melancholy can be eustress, such that it causes us to burn fat reservoirs. Naturally, all of us should have some fat, and one can die if they don’t have enough fat, but one can also die from laughing too hard, so it is important to be careful when studying stress. Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA January 25, 2012

Weight Loss Techniques - Suggestions Using body electrodes24/7 we could use body electricity to help burn potential energy when listening to a stereo, or maybe a portable cd player or a laptop, using our fat as potential energy to power electrical devices.Other solutions - tighten your stomach muscles or any other muscles for a sustained period of time and keep doing so until it is a body reflex to always keep your stomach muscles tense.Consta-flexing will make belly fat tissue firmer (denser) muscle.In fact, your actual weight might go up, but you will lose excess fat, excess fat.The reason that so many of us have superfluous weight is that we are using devices that do the work for us too much these days and that if we did the work that our gizmos and gadgets do then we would look better ( more athletic.)Gizmos should be an extension only.Also, our bodies try to stay the temperature, so turning down the heat in the winter should make our bodies work harder to burn energy.In the same manner, drinking coffee could help. Reply

Nechama Cohen November 8, 2009

obesity and candy Obesity is most definitely both physiological and psychological--many of us, even those that are not obese eat for many reasons other than hunger
All are factors that trigger emotions that trigger hormones that tell us we are hungry when there are other things going on. As mentioned above there are also a slew of other eating disorders that are out of control and are all emotional
One of the first things we need to do is learn to recognize are emotions and listen to our body-we can also help by starting to drink more and more often-it is remarkable to see what water can do-both physically and emotionally and especially for women
Lisa take it slow recognizing is the 1st step Don't focus on ALL the weight you have left to lose go1 day at a time
Candy on Shabbos has gotten out of control and it is up to the parents and teachers to start handing out other treats and stop pacifying children with candy Reply

Anonymous Blue ash, OH November 6, 2009

Shabbos Sugar I am very concerned that the tradition of Shabbos sweets is mostly sugary candy and cookies now. When the tradition probably started it was likely figs, dates, raisins, fruit based, honey...sweet but also high fiber. Now, the children at my shul accept candy and cake and cake as a given because it Is there every week. I've seen a child with an entire ski-cap full of her Shabos candy and sharing it with her friends. My son isn't old enough to share but will be. There is a history of diabetes in my family so I don't want him to get used to sugary sweets but am nervous about my son's limits making other parents uncomfortable with their traditions. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI October 11, 2008

The Obesity Epidemic Weight gain is MORE than physical - it's also psychological. You're more likely to develop obesity when you can't learn to solve problems before they get out of hand.

I suffered from emotional problems as a child and I wasn't able to work them all out and I turned to food to comfort myself. I'm more in control of myself now, but I still have a long way to go before I lose ALL the extra weight. Reply

nechama cohen (author) January 22, 2008

obesity and other eating disorders We did mention obesity but are always referring to many other health reated eating issues---most stem from the same problem of unrecognized emotions and lack of education and the great need for changes in lifestyle within our communities.

Jonathan Landsman via January 20, 2008

A Cure for Obesity As a health and fitness professional, I feel strongly connected to this subject...Obesity is such a problem in our society. I encourage everyone to enjoy a lifestyle filled with love, creativity, physical activity and organic, whole foods. Today, more than ever, with the advent of heavily-processed foods and high-tech comforts - we would all greatly benefit from an improvement in our diets & physical activity. Yours in good health. Reply

Sara Esther Crispe via June 15, 2007

Editor's Comment The chart refers to the number of carbs that are burned per hour, not the number of calories. Reply

Anonymous June 12, 2007

There seems to be a mistake in your chart. That is the amount of calories burned per ONE HOUR of activity? I can burn 500 calories in an hour walking briskly on the treadmill - a bit more than the 15 - 59 calories that the chart shows. Reply

Anonymous May 9, 2007

While the onset of childhood (and adult) obesity truly is an important phenomenon to discuss within our community, I feel that it is also of utmost importance to stress the alarming increase of other eating disorders in our community: ANOREXIA and BULIMIA. It pains me to see so many young girls and MARRIED WOMEN struggling with these horrible diseases. What is being done about these diseases? What is being done about the girls that don't eat during the holiday meals? Reply

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