As one who's been battling the bulge for as long as I can remember, my ears perk up when I hear about various weight loss schemes. A magic pill; a great-tasting, nutritious, herbal-based, one-a-day power drink or energy bar that will leave you satiated, invigorated, and many pounds leaner; a radical plan that lets you eat all you like—with the exception of carbs/protein/sugar/fats etc.

As much as I'd love to trim off a few pounds, I've never given any of these ideas serious thought. I'm seriously scared of the side effects that these pills or other potions might have. And with regards to those magic diets mentioned above – even if they do work without depriving me of necessary nutritional elements of my diet – I know that they are unsustainable. I'm not going to go all my life eating only watermelon and blueberries before noon. I know that bread, meat, and dairy will always be part of my regular diet. So what's the point of temporarily eliminating them from my diet?

We don't want the materialism we ingest to leave us with a spiritual pot bellyMy doctor has told me that the concept behind losing weight is very simple. It's a matter of having the discipline not to consume more calories than the body burns. So, if I want to lose weight in a sustainable way, I have three options: A) Eat less—but not to an extreme. B) Exercise more. C) A combination of A and B.

Spiritual fitness runs more or less on the same principle. We consume and we burn. The key to maintaining a healthy spi-sique is properly balancing the two.

We enjoy food, sleep, entertainment, money, fun—and many other worldly things. But we don't want the materialism we ingest to leave us with a spiritual pot belly, insensitivity to matters of the spirit. So we need to burn it all off. This is accomplished by converting all the abovementioned pursuits into spiritual energy.

We sleep in order to have a rested mind to study Torah. We eat to have the energy to help a fellow in need. We go to work in order to be able to have money to live, and we live in order to serve our Creator. Whatever we do has a higher purpose. Anything (permissible according to the Torah) that fuels our service of G‑d is thus "burned," i.e., elevated, along with the actual service—with no residual spiritual sluggishness whatsoever.

Now, on the market you'll find a variety of spiritual weight loss schemes, methods that claim to keep you spiritually fit.

Some claim to offer a magic pill. A once-a-week class on mysticism, a daily mediation or exercise—and you're all set, despite all the materialism you consume.

Others tell you to cut large swathes of materialism consumption out of your lifestyle. Stay celibate, join a monastery in Nepal, and don't talk to anyone.

A healthy spiritual diet does not require any unsustainable asceticismSo allow me to paraphrase my doctor's advice:

A healthy spiritual diet does not require any unsustainable asceticism. But to stay spiritually healthy, we do need to burn as much as we consume—to find the G‑dly potential in everything we do.

It takes some creativity. But it's the key to life-long spiritual health.