With the new Jewish year approaching, what can we learn from the past year? - opinion

I have always worked with a variety of people, but this year I think I have hit every end of the spectrum.

 IT’S THE time of year for repentance, and also for resolving to make preventive medicine our new priority, without gimmicks that don’t work, says the writer. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
IT’S THE time of year for repentance, and also for resolving to make preventive medicine our new priority, without gimmicks that don’t work, says the writer.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

As we approach the new year of 5784, we look back at the past year and, with some trepidation, we wonder what awaits us in the coming year. This past year has indeed been interesting in the arena of health and fitness. This was the year that my own eyes were opened even wider to the pronounced positive effects of lifestyle changes to our health. Let’s put it all in perspective and gain some inspiration as we approach the new year.

The people

I have always worked with a variety of people, but this year I think I have hit every end of the spectrum. I was truly privileged during the past year to help doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, rabbis, psychologists, therapists, students, yeshiva boys, mothers and fathers, grandparents, and even great-grandparents.

This was also a year where on the weight loss front, I encountered several clients who needed to lose massive amounts of weight. We had a lot of new people entering The Wellness Clinic over the last 12 months, each of them dealing with his or her unique challenge. I am in awe of all of them because the work and effort required for them to change old habits and achieve good health is great.

I have watched as those with fatty livers, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, or just lack of normal daily function, first halted the progress of their diseases and then begin the process of reversal. It’s an amazing thing to witness people getting their lives back. I would like to share a few inspiring stories.

At any age

Y. is just a little bit past her 78th birthday. A few years ago, she suffered from high cholesterol and high triglycerides, for which she was medicated. She also had chronic aches and pains. Y. has been with me for 2.5 years, and now, even without medication, her cholesterol is outstanding, her triglycerides are perfect – even on the low side, and her fitness through her exercise in our personal training program has become nothing short of excellent. But that’s not all: she got her husband to join as well, and he’s almost 80! Since beginning treatment, he has lost 15 kg. and eliminated five medications. His fitness has also improved greatly. Most importantly, he is far more functional and feels decades younger.

 A man and woman exercise together. (credit: PEXELS)
A man and woman exercise together. (credit: PEXELS)

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes

I saw more type 2 diabetics this year than ever. This disease is now running rampant. So is heart disease. To put things in perspective, 4 times more people die of complications from these diseases every year worldwide than died of COVID-19. But I am more optimistic than ever that we have found the answers to both prevention and reversal. It’s not only in the medical literature, I’ve seen it time and again with my own eyes. Take C. I like to call her the skeptic. She came in for an intake session and everything I was promoting went against the advice she had been receiving for the last 10 years. When I told her she could have some baked potato in her diet, she asked me if I was trying to kill her. She bravely gave it a go and after years of watching her hb A1C creep higher and higher, her diabetes is now in remission, and has lost weight as well. Now she refers people to my clinic.

Sometimes the rewards are beyond anyone’s expectations. E. is a Zoom client from southern Florida. His diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are gone! He lost 30 kg. (65 pounds). An added unexpected bonus is that his anti-anxiety medicine is a thing of the past.


Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Dean Ornish are two cardiologists who proved through extensive studies that a whole foods plant based diet reverses heart disease. They would also be proud of my client Rabbi D. He came to me with shortness of breath and occasional chest pain on exertion. He felt sluggish. Now, he has been able to reduce or eliminate most of his medications, and has lost 13 kg. (28 pounds) so far. He is exercising daily and doing our personal training program. No more chest pain and going up stairs is now easy.

Y. is a 50-year-old Zoom client from the New York area. He suffered from a heart attack two years ago. We have only been together for 3 weeks, and already he is in the process of getting off a diabetes drug and is likely to be off blood pressure medication very soon. In our last meeting he told me that he already has more energy. He had lost weight before we met, but was stuck. He has now lost another 2.7 kg. (6 pounds) in just 2.5 weeks. Lifestyle medicine has made the biggest difference for these two individuals.

There is one more inspirational story to share. Rabbi C , a client in Manchester, England, is a young man who approached me for help. He was on two drugs for high blood pressure and his physician was getting ready to treat him for type 2 diabetes. He contacted me and was compliant with the program from day one. Within three weeks he was off the BP drugs and after two months his A1C for diabetes was perfectly normal. He went from a 7.3% down to a 5.4%, and lost 14.4 kg. (32 pounds). He is so inspired by his transformation that he is going to become a lifestyle health coach to help his community. Now that he’s changed his health for the better, he wants to share his success and help others.

Optimism for the future

I’m optimistic about the coming year. We will be building on the back of the very first WFPB Kosher conference. Hundreds of kosher eaters participated and more will join. The year to come will see a new documentary on whole foods plant based eating and lifestyle specifically geared toward the Jewish community.

Rosh Hashanah is coming and it’s the time of year for repentance. Let’s all resolve to make preventive medicine our new priority this year without gimmicks that don’t work. So, resolve to make changes-one at a time. Making these changes will make this coming year healthy and happy and “add hours to your days, days to your years, and years to your life.”

The writer is a health and wellness coach and personal trainer with more than 25 years of professional experience. He is director of The Wellness Clinic, and can be reached at alan@alanfitness.com.