<i>Never on a sundae? </i>

For those who feel that the health craze is going just a bit too far.

cupcake 88 (photo credit: courtesy)
cupcake 88
(photo credit: courtesy)
Once upon a time there was a man named Danny who was an overeater and an underachiever. He was so miserable that in an effort to enhance his life, he became a slavish follower of all the health columns he could find in newspapers and magazines. Here is his unique story about his adventures in health. Among the life-enhancing facts that he learned and tried to incorporate into his daily routine were tips like these: A daily cup of black coffee is good for you. So is a daily glass of red wine. So is some daily alcohol - in moderation. So is dark chocolate in moderation. So is lots of water. So are lots of fruits and vegetables, preferably yellow and green ones. And nuts, especially walnuts, are excellent sources of nutrition, as are blueberries. And don't forget to take an aspirin every day after clearing it with your physician, and to avoid refined sugar. Daily exercise is good for you. So is learning to relax. So is keeping busy. He was busy trying to figure out how to relax while staying busy, and how to avoid sugar while eating dark chocolate - but that kept his mind active, which was good for him. Laughing and smiling is good for you. So is having friends. So is being married. Learning new skills is good for you. And it is important to get a good night's sleep, to get plenty of fresh air, to have a positive outlook on life. Most important of all, avoid worry, tension and stress. ALL THIS was going to be very good for him once he learned to remember it all - which was not easy. For example, one night he awoke with a start at 3 a.m. He suddenly remembered that he had gone without fresh air that entire day, and had not exercised. This was not good for him. So he jumped out of bed, went into the next room, opened the windows, and began jumping rope. His wife is a light sleeper and immediately called out, "What is that strange thumping?" He reassured her that it was nothing. Then she complained that suddenly the apartment felt very chilly. He closed the windows, but continued jumping rope. The downstairs neighbor began to knock on his ceiling. Obviously, the neighbor did not realize that Danny was only doing this because it was good for him. He stopped the jumping, but gradually felt a tension and stress coming over him - which was not good for him. Then he recalled to his great chagrin that he had forgotten to have coffee, green tea, and yellow vegetables. He silently gathered them all together on the kitchen table, had a moderate amount of each, washed it all down with a glass of red wine, and then tiptoed back into bed. But he tossed and turned. The yellow pepper and the wine apparently did not go together, and these, combined with the coffee, would not let him sleep. Then he remembered that laughter was good for you, so he began to laugh. This only awakened his wife again who quite unreasonably wanted to know what was so funny. His reply was rapier-like in its swiftness: "If you want a healthy husband, this is what I have to do." She was unimpressed. "First you open the windows on a freezing night, then you start jumping, then you drink wine and eat vegetables, and then you start laughing. This you call healthy?" "Very healthy. This is all very good for me. It says so in all the magazines." He took an aspirin - also good for him - and tried to go to sleep. There were so many things that were good for him that he made several checklists to keep himself focused. But he found that it was not easy to do all the things that were good for him. To eat the right things and avoid the wrong things, to exercise and smile all the time, while trying to learn new skills - all this placed heavy pressure on him. He found that he had no time for anything else, and this was not at all conducive to staying relaxed and unstressed. As for making new friends - when he told people about his to-do lists, and what he occasionally did at 3 a.m., he not only did not make new friends, but began losing old friends. It seems that not everyone was into doing what is good for them. SEVERAL MONTHS passed after he began his health project. He followed faithfully every healthful suggestion, even adding green tea to his daily diet, as well as pomegranate juice, cabbage soup (which he detests), and raw almonds. So far, however, he saw no improvement in his well-being. What he did see, on the other hand, was a deterioration in his relationships. His wife was constantly annoyed with him, his neighbors avoided him, and his few remaining friends crossed to the other side of the street when they saw him approaching. He knew that laughing was supposed to be good for him, but he was finding it hard even to force a grin under these difficult conditions. Then one night, in the middle of a restless sleep, a simple but brilliant solution to his problems occurred to him. He sprang out of bed. His wife moaned: "Are you going to do some of that stuff that is good for you?" "Yes," he answered emphatically. "This is really going to be good for me." He went into the kitchen, took several large boxes, and in them he placed all the almonds and walnuts he owned, plus the dark chocolate, plus the red wine, the pomegranate juice, the aspirin, plus the coffee, the blueberries, the green tea, the jump-rope, plus the yellow and green vegetables. He lugged the boxes downstairs and tossed the entire package into the garbage dumpster. Then he went back upstairs, ripped his checklist into shreds, and climbed back into bed. All the stress and tension seeped out of him. He felt better already, and laughed himself to sleep. And that was really good for him. IN THE morning he treated himself to a special celebratory breakfast: a three-egg omelette fried in butter, followed by two cherry-filled Danishes and a large chocolate milkshake. For his mid-morning snack, he took three large scoops of vanilla ice cream on top of a generous serving of strawberry shortcake. For lunch he had shishkebab, two large slices of seven-layer cake, a thick bar of white chocolate, several chocolate cupcakes, and a large mug of authentic German beer. For supper he had a hot fudge sundae and, for variety, several very large chocolate-chip cookies, which he washed down with a glass of white wine. And before he went to bed, he consumed half a pint of Ben & Jerry's pistachio ice cream. This was only the first of many such days. Even though he has put on a few pounds, he never felt better in his life. He no longer peruses the health columns, his wife is no longer cross with him, he sleeps contentedly through the night, his neighbors say hello, his friends all greet him warmly, and he smiles all the time. He faces each day with joy and anticipation, has become productive and creative, and although he still overeats a bit, he now also overachieves. Next month his new book is coming out which will share his discoveries with the wider world: From Sundae to Sundae: The Weekly Guide to Happy Eating. It will contain special tasty and filling recipes that will definitely not include fruits or vegetables of any kind, nor nuts, nor blueberries, nor cabbage, nor pomegranate juice. Advance reviews are stunning, and he has a contract to write his own new-age health column about how eating the wrong things can be right for you and give you a life without tension or stress. The writer, former editor of Tradition Magazine and currently one of the editors of the Encyclopedia of Mitzvot, served as a rabbi in Atlanta, Ga. for 40 years in a mixed congregation of overeaters and undereaters. He himself is a confessed chocoholic, is working on his addiction, but has never been overweight.