A Very Weighty Issue: How Are Your Personal Values Calculated?
I had never been on a diet – that is, until two months ago. I was one of those obnoxious people who could eat as much of whatever I wanted, whenever I pleased. God, life was good. Even my postpartum weight came off easily with my first three pregnancies by simply nursing and sticking to a strict regimen of sloth.
Pregnancy number four was different. It was only time I had gestated in my 30’s, and I think that blessed metabolism of mine went rogue. It all began at my first doctor’s appointment when the scale indicated that I was ten pounds fatter than I should have been. (Hey, when I find out that I’m eating for two my policy has always been to start eating for two.)
Despite the weight this scale “claimed” I had packed on I didn’t make any changes to my diet. Like I said, I had never needed to diet, and I didn’t want to suddenly become one of those people who did, so I just didn’t. (The logic is solid!) By the end of the pregnancy, I had gained ten pounds more than I had with my previous pregnancies (in addition to the initial ten pounds I started off with) and when the doctor took note and advised me to stop drinking fruit juice I thought to myself, “he sooo doesn’t realize that I’m drinking 1-2 cans of Coke a day in addition to fruit juice or he definitely would have gone there first!”
When the baby came, the first thirty pounds (!) went with him, quickly, easily, and without my having to contemplate things like “restricting what I ate” or “exerting myself more than usual.” But then, the weight loss suddenly halted, much to my cha-grinny-grin-grin, and I had to make a choice.
Would I go on, as I had been, and one day tell young girls “I was also a size 4 when I was your age,” or would I bite the bullet and learn to control my unbridled eating?
Well, folks, I chose the latter – vanity vanquished gastronomy. But since I’m not very good at things like “willpower” or “following rules” I needed some easy guidelines that tasted good in my mouth. A low-carb (modified Atkins) diet seemed like the way to go. The results have been awesome, so far, although when a person stops eating dessert for breakfast and replaces copious amount of regular soda with water, the results had better be awesome.
With only two pounds left to go, imagine my surprise when I stepped on the scale yesterday and it said that I had lost 25 pounds overnight. I knew some- thing was wrong, so I tried to reset it, but no luck. I walked around for a bit, jumped up and down, drank some water, came back, but still the scale wasn’t registering correctly.
I bent down to pick it up, ready to throw it in the garbage, when suddenly I noticed that a pen had been underneath it! The pen was allowing a reading to come in, but was throwing the measurement off. And then I got to thinking – what if there was something smaller under the scale that didn’t change my weight so drastically? What if it altered it only slightly, so I didn’t second guess it, but my perception of my weight was just always slightly off?
When I started hanging out with Orthodox Jews over a dozen years ago, many of their values seemed weird to me. A bit off compared to what I was used to. I knew what I knew about life, society, gender, morality. But the more I hung out with them, the more I saw that there was a depth and a beauty to their beliefs, despite the fact that those beliefs pushed the limits of what I considered to be “normal.”
So I re-examined the calibration of my personal values. Where were they coming from? Who were my guides? After some introspection, I saw that many of my ideas orginated from the (secular American) culture I was immersed in, which is one that idolizes actors, athletes, and politicians who don’t always operate on the highest levels of morality. Many of these celebrities’ values trickle down to regular people. Not in a major way – most people out there are decent people – but in a more dangerous, silent way, in which our standards slowly become lower and lower without us realizing it. Instead of having values we hold true no matter what, many of us adopt an attitude of moral relativism.
And how about the values religious Jews live by? From where do they come? We believe that they were given by the Creator of the world and expounded on by holy sages who spent their lives striving for moral and spiritual excellence. Though the wisdom is millenia old, it has stood the test of time, and when understood properly, is just as relevant today as it ever was. It was hard to acknowledge that I had gotten some things wrong, but it was the greatness of Torah thought and Torah life that tipped the scales for me.
When we receive the Torah this Shavuos, may we be able to use it as the ultimate gauge in our lives. Chag Sameach!