Ever since COVID began, Naomi Pelled – mother of three, happily married, gainfully employed in human resources – has been waking up before sunrise. She goes out to the balcony, puts on crazy upbeat music (in her AirPods), and exercises for about 45 minutes.
Though everyone in her household may be asleep, Naomi is hardly alone. She uploads herself doing her squats. What began as 10 squats grew to 20, then 30 until Naomi, from a benchmark weight of 154 kg., was able to do 100 squats.
That was only the beginning of a weight-loss odyssey that is as impressive as it is challenging.
“In November 2019 I did my first marathon in Modi’in. I began with 5 km. and in November 2021 got up to 10 km.,” she recalls. “I was double rear-ended in a car accident a few months ago, so this March I’m going to be jogging in the family Jerusalem Marathon.”
Naomi and her family will be easy to spot on the streets of Jerusalem. Look for a petite 1.54 m.-tall woman, her 1.85 m. husband, two identical blond five-year-old twin old boys, and Naomi’s nine-year old daughter.
“There’s the full marathon which is 42.2 km., the half-marathon, which is 21.1 km., and then there’s 10, 5 and the family runs of 1.7 km. and 800 m.”
How did everyone agree to do it? “They were just told! My daughter said she would do it and the boys love to do things as a family.”
When Naomi started training in earnest, she and her husband would go for 5 or 10 km. walks from Rishon Lezion to Bat Yam, on the new promenade. “He’d race me for 500 meters and then he’d lose stamina and start walking, and I would try to keep going. But of course I wanted to be with him at the same time. He likes to remind me that in the army, he had to hike 80 km. holding 40 kg. So this should be easy for him, but he’s 41. He’s not 19 anymore. I’m not fast, but I still go for it.
“I’m short – I was 4 feet, 11.5 inches (1.52 m.) before my abdominoplasty – skin removal surgery after weight loss. Now I’m 5 feet (1.5 m.) exactly, thanks to better posture following the surgery.”
NAOMI IS remarkably open about her weight-loss odyssey and how she managed to lose 80 kg. – with 17 kg. more to go.
She got the scare of her life right after her twin boys arrived in May 2016. “I was 139 kg. the day after they were born; 12 days postpartum I bled out and ended up in the ICU with a pulmonary embolism.
“Due to them being under 2.5 kg., we had to wait for their brit, so we didn’t decide the names, so we called them Prince and Munchkin. On top of the blood loss, I had postpartum depression. I decided to live as long as my grandmother and she lived to be 92, though she wasn’t slim or anything.
After this near-death experience, Naomi started by training her mind. In June 2017, she became reacquainted with the philosophy called “The Three Principles” – thought, mind and consciousness.
“We have millions of thoughts every day. It’s what you give focus to. I know a Jewish man in the UK who lost a crazy amount of weight this way, by using utilizing the three principles by Sidney Banks.
“It’s a practice of positivity. There’s an organization in England led by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt. He wrote this amazing book that also changed my life, called Why Bad Things Don’t Happen to Good People, after he lost his first wife. He writes how his wife approached her struggle with death and still brought positivity, which is psychological.
“Most of my struggles around weight were of psychological origin. My fat was a self-defense mechanism around me, in reaction to the bullying, derogatory behavior and negativity that came my way because of my weight. I was almost always chubby, but with the years, my fat became more solid, like a brick house around me.”
Naomi is masterful at talking straight and debunking quite a few myths around overweight girls. She laughs when she recalls how her husband, Nir, found the door to her brick house. “I laughed because Nir was able to spout off how he loved my spontaneity, directness, outgoingness, and my willingness to be myself in front of him.”
“The first time he ever phoned me was the morning of my grandmother’s funeral in Birmingham, and I felt my grandmother had sent him to me.
“The myth that overweight women don’t find husbands is not true! I’m a kind person! I had blond long hair and blue eyes and he wanted children who looked like me. His mom’s Yemenite and his father is of Polish origin.
“We’ve been married 10 years – we actually met on Purim, 13 years ago. We were at different parties and he kept trying to meet me. We met in March 2009 and married September 2011.
“He was on the plane with me when I made aliyah. I didn’t come to Israel to marry him. We got engaged in February and married in September.”
Naomi had studied business and psychology at Aston University in Birmingham. From there, she worked at Citigroup in various jobs in HR and then compensation, which is the financial side of HR.
“I actually brought my job with me for seven months and then I became pregnant with my daughter. Soon after she was born, I worked in HR in a consultancy with big companies and learned Hebrew at ulpan (while pregnant).”
The decisive moment when Naomi said to herself that she was going to lose the weight came two years, six months before her 40th birthday. “I just had enough. I changed my ‘why?’ I couldn’t find clothes. I thought that I wasn’t good enough.”
She gave herself time to lose weight – two years and five months. She turned 40 last April 6.
“I never had a proper goal. It’s not about how fast, but how consistent you are. What I care about is that it stays off,” Naomi smiles.
“When I started doing the daily squat challenge, it was more about joining a community, and along with the side business I run, Shine Brighter Together, with partners globally. I was working out what freedom meant for me, because we’re so chained by society’s judgments.
“Shine Brighter Together’s mission is to give people the freedom to see the brightness from within and stop looking at the externals of a person. When we look at the inside, fuel the inside, we heal, we shine and we glow.
“People always say you’re getting stronger. Think about it. I was carrying 154 kg. at my heaviest, which means on my legs I was probably carrying 90 kg. Everyone eats in a different way. Drinks in a different way. The problem is I don’t get enough sleep. My mind is always racing and I know that when I get enough sleep I lose weight.
“Psychologically, I don’t feel good when I don’t work out. Whether you‘re skinny or fat, happy hormones make a difference.”
After completing the squats, Naomi started a program called T-20 with fitness trainer Shaun-T and literally did it every single day according to the calendar. “A 20-minute workout using a step. And I would post stories and post on my social media for accountability.
“I have nothing to hide and everything to share, because if you want to serve others the only way of doing this is by sharing your own story. I document my journey for two reasons: one to share with others and one to keep myself accountable.
“I find that when I’m intentional, mindful, when I write down what I’ve eaten on a daily basis and not just write what’s on the scale, I feel much better,” says Naomi, who lost approximately 25 kg. between October and Passover 2019. “I don’t feel like I’m restricting myself. I actually feel better when I feed my body right.”■
Naomi dedicates her run to the Talia Trust, in memory of her cousin Talia Hyman. The trust helps children with learning disabilities have a greater chance to succeed. To follow the last days of Naomi’s 100-day challenge: m.facebook.com/naomi.pelled
NAOMI PELLED, 40From London to Modi’in, 2011