I have been known to go to the gym for literally 6 minutes at a time. And those are my good days. I spend most of my life on the couch. (Like right now – I’m on the couch. Why do you think I made an entire YouTube show about a woman sitting on a couch? Because I didn’t feel like getting off of it!) I’ll take a coke over a water any time – unless I am forced to exercise more than I wanted to (this usually happens on family outings). Children walk faster than I do. Small children.
I know I’m supposed to embrace “whole grains” and “leafy greens,” but I’d rather have a big bowl of pasta smothered with cheese any day of the week. Such a lifestyle is not the most responsible way to live – not at any age, but especially not as a person begins to age. Since my last baby was born almost seven years ago, I have slowly cut out the worst foods from my diet (coke only on weekends and every time I go out to eat as opposed to twice a day every day), and less simple carbs and more lean proteins. But alas, I am not eating as healthily as I ought to be, and I was constantly making excuses for myself about how tomorrow I would cut out the junk and eat better. How next week, the serious exercise regime would begin.
And then a couple weeks ago, it hit me. My second daughter was on the verge of bat mitzvah which meant that half of my children aren’t children. My irresponsible eating and laziness seemed like an OK thing for someone young and carefree (at least that’s what I told myself for all these years), but it hit me that I’m not quite as young as I used to be. And my excuses would continue forever if I didn’t do something. Thank God, I’m healthy now, but if I don’t turn my bad habits around, I open myself up to all sorts of risks.
This realization flipped a switch in my brain and starting the next morning, I got up and exercised, more than twice what I usually manage on the elliptical (because I’m a whimp who normally gets off the moment I might break a sweat). And I changed the way I started eating. Nothing with added sugar or simple carbs. I have continued this new approach, exercising nearly everyday and only slightly cheating on my diet on Shabbos every day since I started. I am feeling stronger, have more energy and am sleeping better.
Not only has this realization helped me adopt a lifestyle I have been toying with for a while, it opened my eyes to a long standing question that always bugs me this time of year: Why is Rosh Hashana – the day of judgement – BEFORE Yom Kippur – the day of atonement? Wouldn’t it make sense, wouldn’t it be fair to get judged after you atone? Why is Hashem sitting and judging us before we had a chance to get better?
And suddenly it was so obvious: I couldn’t change my unhealthy lifestyle until a deadline made me stop and judge myself, made me stop to take stock of what I have let myself become. Once I took an honest look at my behavior, I could begin the “teshuva process” – changing the kinds of foods I consume, the lack of exercise in my life to return to a place I want to be.
But getting strong and healthy doesn’t happen over night. First I take stock (i.e. Rosh Hashana) then I change my lifestyle (i.e. aseres yemei teshuva), and then only after some time, can metamorphosis of being in good shape (i.e. Yom Kippur) come about.
May we merit to look at ourselves with clarity, to take a true accounting, to begin to journey back to who we want to be, and to shed all the things that are getting in the way from those goals.