10 Fitness tips for the New Year from “Body by Simone”

1. Diets don’t work.

Eating well and working out does. Approach weight loss as a lifestyle change, not a diet. Unless you’re going to be on a diet for the rest of your life, you’re just going to go back to your former way of eating and likely gain back any weight you’ve lost. Eating whole, nutritious foods has to become a daily habit.

2. Graze like a cow!

Think of it like this: your metabolism is a fire, and when you put more wood on it, it burns hotter. If you deprive it of wood, it dies out. Continually supplying your metabolism with fuel by eating four to six small meals a day means it's always burning hot, incinerating fat and burning calories.

3. Start your workout with Mirror Minutes.

Stand about a foot away from a mirror and look into your eyes. No, not the floor, or the coffee table, or the mole on your cheek—your eyes. Spend some time here. See yourself for who you are right now.

Mentally list your attributes. Do you like your lips? Your collarbones? Your booty? Your abs? Give yourself some positive credit. Be patient and kind to yourself. Your emotional state has a lot to do with shedding pounds. A good mind-set is key to a good workout!

4. Pick a mantra.

When you’re struggling with Mirror Minutes or with any other exercise, repeating a mantra in your head can give you strength to push through fear and doubt. Some of my favorites are: Confidence, strength, beauty or This time is mine.

5. Make a playlist!

The right music can make a workout inspiring and uplifting, and motivate you to keep going. Faster music can help pump you up for cardio, while chiller tunes are great for toning and sculpting. Set a playlist you know you have to get through entirely before you finish your workout. When it’s your favorite music, you can get lost in it, and before you know it the hour is up!

6. Keep a food and exercise journal.

This allows you to reflect on the day—maybe see where that extra cookie or glass of wine could be avoided. It also gives you a chance to set goals and track your progress so you can see just how far you’ve come. Just like any other to-do list, it’s very satisfying to write down your accomplishments at the end of the day.

7. Take selfies.

I have absolutely no idea how much I weigh, and I don’t particularly care. Your weight is nothing more than a measure of how hard gravity is working to pull your body toward the center of the earth. It does not take into account your muscle mass, your fat mass, how much you ate that day, or how much water you’re retaining. Most of us take selfies all the time. How about skipping the scale and putting that technology to use for your health and snapping a few photos of your body in the here and now? Take a candid look at these photos—no negative talk allowed—to check in as you progress and see how your body is changing.

8. Dress for success.

Wear clothes that make you feel good about yourself. If you love your arms, wear a sports tank. If you adore your calves, get some capri pants. As you make progress, allow yourself to splurge on a new top or bottom to show off your sexy new muscles. Not only will this help to keep you motivated, but paying attention to your clothing’s fit is a much better way to gauge weight loss than a scale.

9. Know that strength training is a must.

Many women fear the words “strength training,” but it's absolutely essential for women of all ages. Not only does it help you get in shape by building muscle and burning fat, it also helps to increase bone density and defend against osteoporosis. Plus, a great strength-training session is the perfect way to manage stress and let off some steam.

10. Work out with a girlfriend.

Tons of research suggests that exercising with a friend increases adherence to a program since workout partners provide motivation as well as accountability. I highly recommend buddying up with a friend or two and having a real Girlfriend Workout. Both of you will get into shape and have fun doing it!

With increasingly particular eaters, Shabbat meals get tough

There’s a scene in the 1991 film “L.A. Story” where a waiter in a trendy eatery takes increasingly complex coffee orders from a table of Hollywood types, ending with the sublimely ridiculous “half double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon.”

What caused a guffaw back then might hardly merit a chuckle in today’s world of low-carb, no-sugar, gluten-free and locally sourced food preferences.

Add in kosher laws, and this laundry list of dietary restrictions can make hosting Shabbat and holiday meals a real headache.

“What we see in the Jewish community mirrors what we see in the larger community,” says Morlie Levin, CEO of Birthright Israel NEXT, which has subsidized nearly 12,000 home-hosted Shabbat meals for young alumni of its 10-day Israel programs over the past three years. “You can even get gluten-free challah now.”

In order to receive their subsidy, hosts in the program have to fill out questionnaires detailing what they served. The data show that 25 percent of the meals are vegetarian, 5 percent are vegan, 20 percent are organic and 30 percent are “local.” When the meals are meat-based, at least half of them offer a vegetarian option.

Staffers say they don’t hear many complaints about hard-to-handle dietary requests.

“My impression is that the people who host the meals are people who eat that way anyway,” says program manager Emily Comisar. “A vegetarian will host a vegetarian meal.”

In today’s society, it has become commonplace for hosts to ask guests about food restrictions ahead of time. The old standard, “Are you vegetarian?” has morphed into the broader query, “Is there anything you can’t eat?”

The change reflects a growing awareness of morally and spiritually motivated diets as well as actual food allergies.

Public relations consultant Gary Wexler was putting together a meal for a group of Jewish professionals in Los Angeles recently.

“This one doesn’t eat dairy,” he wrote in mock frustration. “This one doesn’t eat meat. This one only eats vegetarian. This one only eats vegetarian from a kosher restaurant. Is there anything I’m missing before I buy the food tomorrow???”

As someone who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, Wexler says he sympathizes. He belongs to an “empty nesters” Shabbat group that eats together one Friday night a month. While they are careful to prepare food he can eat—no legumes, low on dairy and leafy greens—there is always something he can’t eat.

“It’s become very PC and fashionable for people to ask if I have any food restrictions, especially younger people,” Wexler says. “But when they ask, what they mean is am I vegetarian. They’re not expecting some guy turning 60 to say yeah, I’ve got irritable bowel syndrome.”

Younger Jews certainly seem to be more attuned to particular eating, from those who want their produce to be locally sourced and pesticide-free to those who insist their meat be sustainably raised and humanely slaughtered. And it had better taste good, too.

“What’s changed in recent years is that many more people are presenting various food restrictions and preferences to the host with the expectation not only that they’ll be accommodated, but that the quality and sophistication of the food will be comparable to those without such restrictions,” says Rabbi Rebecca Joseph, chef-owner of 12 Tribes Kosher Foods in San Francisco.

In addition to her catering business, Joseph regularly hosts groups of up to 40 friends for Shabbat and holidays meals. Years ago the most common restriction she would hear was from people who did not want bread or dessert because they were dieting.

“We don’t hear that much anymore, but we do hear stand-ins,” Joseph says. “People who say they’re vegan or gluten-free, which often means they’re on a diet.”

While she says she would never dismiss a food allergy, Joseph says the growing awareness of such allergies leads some people to “medicalize” what are really food preferences.

“If they don’t like almonds, they think they have a physical reaction to it and they’ll say they’re allergic,” she says.

On the East Coast, Tamar Fox matches up people with hosts for Shabbat and holiday meals at Kehillat Hadar, an independent minyan in New York that caters to Jews in their 20s and 30s. Hadar has a published kosher policy that hosts are expected to follow.

Beyond that, Fox asks people whether they have dietary restrictions, and then tries to send them to appropriate hosts. It doesn’t always work, especially when food worlds collide.

“If someone is vegan, we try to give the hosts notice, but there are some hosts who can’t or won’t accommodate them,” she says. “The host might be lactose-intolerant, so prefers to serve a meat meal and can’t accommodate a vegan.”

Fox says she doesn’t get many ethically based food requests, although she recently hosted a guest who said he ate organic eggs only.

“He told me at the meal and there wasn’t anything I could do about it,” she says. “Generally I don’t hear people say they only eat organic or local. People do say, I’m vegetarian, I’m vegan, I don’t eat gluten.”

Fox says that recenty she has come across more and more people with food allergies. One person she hosted was allergic to dairy, fish, poultry, sesame oil and cantaloupe.

“That was pretty hard,” she says.

In general, Fox and her peers say they’re used to fielding such requests. It’s par for the course, especially in the under-40 generation.

Alix Wall, a personal chef in Oakland, Calif., says things have gotten out of hand. She loves to host Shabbat meals with a friend, and says the two of them sometimes don’t invite certain people because they don’t want to deal with the dietary restrictions.

“Sometimes we have to rule out certain combinations of people,” she tells JTA. “This one doesn’t eat meat, this one doesn’t eat wheat, so you’re left with nothing. You just have to throw up your hands.

“All the dietary stuff you have to deal with in the Bay Area is really annoying,” Wall adds. “Some of it is allergies, but a lot of it isn’t.”

Chalk it up to affluence, says Joseph.

“We live in a world of such abundance that we have the luxury of having a long list of things we won’t eat, and we still eat very well,” she says.

“This is a problem of an affluent society and,” referring to the Jewish community, “an affluent group within that society.”

Healthy Diet Can Be a Heart Hazard

Johnny Carson used to have a joke about it. A friend of his had sworn off coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, red meat and sex. The guy was doing just fine, Carson quipped, until he committed suicide.

Well, I haven’t reached the brink of despair just yet. But I am having a hard time trying to figure out exactly what I’m supposed to swear off. Yes, I know that the information on nicotine and caffeine is cut and dry, so I’ve cut them. But what about alcohol? Word has it that consuming at least one glass a day (or is it two?) improves your cholesterol level. This comes in handy because all the confusion over everything else on the menu could lead a person to drink.

The most pronounced dietary mixed-message centers on carbohydrates vs. fats.

"Eat meat, cheese, avoid carbs at all costs," the protein-purveyors insist.

"Meat? Are you mad?" the carbivores carp. "Grains, vegetables, fruit and salad: those are the tickets if you want to live a long and healthful life."

Well, salad can get dull, but then death is no picnic, either. So we store up and dine on leaves and sprouts and anything green and raw, and suspect we’re so on top of this health thing that our virtue will be rewarded with pain-free longevity. And we begin to relax about our culinary well-being, when out of the blue, it hits us — that latest and hottest of ailments: heartburn.

Yes, heartburn has made a noticeable comeback. So, for anyone experiencing heartburn, or its more avant-garde appellation, "acid reflux disease," guess what? No raw fruit, no veggies, no salad. Yes, you read correctly, no need to put on the reading glasses. Raw fruits and vegetables are actually bad for something, and that something just happens to be the ailment du jour. Salad, it turns out, can be bad for your health.

So, it’s back to the cutting board. Trying to sort through it all — complex and simple carbohydrates, butter vs. margarine, monounsaturated fats (good), polyunsaturated fats (bad), the fats in salmon (good), the fats in a slab of bacon (bad), omega-3 oils vs. partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (good, bad, respectively) — trying to make sense of the myriad edibles at our disposal can make us quite anxious. And that, we know is bad.

Unfortunately, the conflicting messages regarding our health are not restricted to the kitchen. A few years ago, we women learned that an extensive study coming out of China threw the venerable breast self-exam into question. After years of being exhorted by the medical profession to conscientiously conduct these monthly examinations, we’re now told they make no difference whatsoever in our effort to get the jump on breast cancer.

Then there’s estrogen — the modern medical miracle that’s been found to temper our mood swings, forestall aging, maintain memory and increase the likelihood of blood clots and strokes.

And let’s not forget the much-ballyhooed medications that can retard, even reverse, bone deterioration. A generation of thin-boned women who remember all too well the broken hips of their female forebears have been popping these osteoporosis-fighting tablets with glee. Whoops, we learn, the pills might have a side effect or two: like blood clots and heartburn. OK, so we incorporate the medication into our ever-expanding repertoire of life-extending potions and vow to stay away from salad (to stave off the heartburn), dairy and meat (to beat the clots). We’ll limit ourselves to well-cooked carbohydrates.

What’s so bad about carbs, again? Oh, that’s right, they’re fattening. But then, just when we decide that we’re over being vain, that we can live with being a bit pudgy if it means we will, indeed, live, we remember that excess weight can kill us, too. And, besides, who’s over being vain?

It would seem there’s nothing for it but to drown our confusion in drink, our frustration in cupcakes, and to hope, as we binge, that Woody Allen turns out to be right. Remember when the long-comatose character in his film, "Sleeper," awakens at some date in the not-so-distant future to learn that our contemporary researchers were wrong? That hot dogs and Ding-Dongs and cigarettes were actually good for us? Yes, of course, this is just wishful thinking. But then what, I wonder, is the rest of it, the diets and medical breakthroughs? Science?

Elyce Wakerman teaches composition at California State University Northridge and is the author of “Father Loss: Daughters Discuss the Man That Got Away” (Henry Holt, 1987).

Obesity WeighsHeavily on Jews

Lynn Kaufman admits that she comes from “big, hearty stock.”
But after 30 years of being overweight, the Westside resident decided to get

“I had gotten to a really scary number on the scale,” said
Kaufman, a veteran of numerous diets and 10 years with Overeaters Anonymous. At
long last, Kaufman lost 42 pounds with Weight Watchers and has kept them off
for two years.

Of course, she needs to stay slim to keep her job as a
Weight Watchers group leader.Spirited and passionate about health
consciousness, Kaufman even drastically curtailed her hours as a personal
injury attorney in favor of a far less lucrative career with the weight-loss

In fact, Kaufman is one of the busiest  leaders in town,
running 11 meetings weekly. Several are in the Beverly-La Brea area, where
Kaufman estimated that close to 70 percent of the members are Jewish, including
many who are Orthodox.

As the nation’s obese population has increased since the
1980s, even Jews in image-conscious Los Angeles have followed suit.

“In my clinical expereince, obesity is just as prevalent in
the Jewish community as in the general population,” said Dr. David Medway, a Los
Angeles physican specializing in obesity and weight control. “It’s a problem
that is pervasive throughout all economic groups: It’s an epidemic,” he said.

Up until the 1970s, the nation’s obese population had
remained fairly stable at about 13 percent. However, by the end of the 1980s,
nearly 25 percent of the population was obese, and the numbers have continued
to rise since then, according to National Center for Health Statistics. The
number of overweight children has nearly tripled.

It’s easy to see why. People are generally less physically
active today, yet live high-stress lives. Less inclined to cook at home, sales
of convenience or take-out meals have soared in recent years. In addition, U.S.
restaurants serve portions dramatically larger than those in Europe — often,
far more than an individual should eat at a sitting.

For ritually observant Jews, who celebrate the holidays and
Shabbat, managing their weight becomes even more of a challenge.

“People who eat OK during the week have a hard time keeping
it together on Shabbat,” Kaufman said. In fact, Kaufman’s Sunday meetings are
especially crowded with Orthodox Jews. One member confided that she likes
Sunday weigh-ins because they keep her from overindulging on Shabbat.

“I tell people to eat whatever they want but just know what
they’re eating and how it will affect their goals,” Kaufman said. “Don’t expect
to go out and eat a huge bowl of fettuccini Alfredo for dinner three nights in
a row and lose any weight.”

As Kaufman warms up before a meeting, Laura Weinman is often
behind the desk, accepting payments from members. As the Orthodox mother of two
young children, Weinman, who is also on the program, believes that many
observant Jews need to “change the way they think about food. We come together
as a community through food. You want to keep the traditions, but you also have
to ask yourself, ‘Do I really want to eat this?’ It can be tremendously hard.”

To keep her weight down, Weinman swears off all but homemade
challah on Shabbat and exercises at least three times a week. An avid cook, she
has also learned to retool her recipes, such as substituting applesauce for oil
and low-fat Toffuti products for cream cheese. “I find ways to make a beautiful
meal without sacrificing taste or volume,” she said. “There’s no recipe I can’t

But some people prefer other weight loss programs. Zvi
Hollander, rabbi of Young Israel of Venice, battled his weight and struggled to
control his diabetes for years. His exercise regimen of weekend mountain-biking
and hiking — he has climbed Mount Whitney twice — didn’t help.

Hollander finally found success through Compulsive Eaters
Anonymous-Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness (CEA-HOW). The program is
based on the 12-step philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous and promotes abstinence
–  not only from compulsive eating but also from foods considered particularly
addictive: white sugar and flour.

Since joining CEA-HOW 16 months ago, Hollander has lost 44
pounds and is still losing at a rate of a half-pound to a pound each week. His
goal is to lose another 20. However, Hollander is frustrated by what he sees as
the denial of many in the observant Jewish community about the problem of
obesity and its underlying issues.

“We eat for comfort, or because we’re angry, or other
reasons that have nothing to do with real hunger,” he observed. He pointed out
the irony of the Orthodox Union recently devoting a cover story in its magazine
to eating disorders among Jews.

“You know what they focused on? Anorexia and bulimia,”
Hollander said. “Those are serious concerns, but they affect only a fraction of
the number of people who are obese.”

The rabbi is clearly relieved to have found a solution that
works for him. “I can admit that I feel powerless over food,” he said. “Only
the Almighty can help me. And these 12-step ideas are also rooted in Torah.”

Before he joined the program, Hollander consulted with Rabbi
Abraham Twerski, a nationally known expert in issues of addiction. Twerski, the
author of dozens of books on psychology and self-help, including “The Thin You
Within You,” endorsed the 12-step philosophy wholeheartedly, because it helps
people recognize what Judaism calls the yetzer hara (the inclination to follow
one’s desires rather than one’s better instincts).

“To the extent that I let go, food no longer controls me,”
Hollander said. “God can take away the obsession. How we deal with food is a
true test of spirituality.”

Hollander is thrilled with his weight loss but is even
happier that as a result, he is now almost completely off insulin. A group
leader for CEA-HOW, he is trying to encourage many of his heavy friends and
colleagues to get serious about managing their own weight. Unfortunately, he
has met a lot of resistance.

“Just because obesity is a slow killer doesn’t mean it isn’t
a killer,” noted Hollander, who lost an overweight friend only in his mid-40s
to a heart attack last year. “People have no problem viewing alcohol as
addictive, but they don’t see food that way. I think we have desensitized
ourselves to viewing obesity as a disease.”

The Venice-based rabbi is proud that Ohr Eliyahu, the day
school where he teaches, has stopped dangling the incentives of pizza or ice
cream parties for children to learn or behave well. Now, they are rewarded with
outings or new books.

That’s the kind of change Kaufman would also like to see at
the day school where her children go, where ice cream parties are the norm to
celebrate in class. Kaufman is also disturbed when she sees very obese school
staff, who she said provide a poor role model for children.

Yet, given a lifetime of reinforcement of the idea of food
as reward, Kaufman admits that it’s hard even for her not to reward her own
children with food for good grades. But she is also determined to break the

Sometimes people have to experiment with many diet
philosophies before they find the solution that works best for them. For Michel
Mazouz, a Los Angeles internist in private practice, weight management became
an almost accidental specialty in his practice.

“I had noticed a trend in the medical literature,” Mazouz
recalled. “It seemed that no matter what the main medical problem was, the
physician also noted, ‘Patient also needs to lose weight,’ or ‘Patient needs to
control diabetes.’ It seemed that being overweight was causing many additional
health problems for more and more people.”

After an orthopedist colleague sent Mazouz a patient for
help with weight loss, both physicians realized that losing weight also cleared
up the patient’s knee problem. As word of his success with patients has grown,
Mazouz’s practice has grown from having almost no patients coming for weight
loss help to nearly one-third.

“There are 1,001 reasons why people gain weight,” Mazouz
explained. “It’s very time-consuming to treat these patients, because you have
to know who you’re dealing with. I explain the chain reactions of foods,
because the more they know the more they’ll do right.”

Mazouz developed a weight-loss program that he describes as
a “modified Atkins diet,” referring to the no-carbohydrate diet that is back in
vogue after 20 years of being ostracized by the medical practice. He allows
more carbohydrates than Atkins, although they are still limited. Mazouz
explains to his patients that quite simply, limiting carbohydrates promotes the
burning of fat.

After weight loss is achieved, Mazouz emphasizes maintenance
for his patients, which is, he acknowledges, the most important step.
“Ultimately,” he said, “I want my patients to become their own doctors.”

Mazouz, who is Orthodox, believes in the importance of
managing one’s weight not only for health, but also because “the body is like
the soul. Both are on loan from God. We need to take care of both.”

Yet, even those who have succeeded in taming the beast of
obesity know they must stay vigilant. As Weinman observed, “I’d love to have a
day when I didn’t have to think about food. Every day is a struggle.”