Health

Five Easy Ways to be Healthier… I Just Can’t Manage to Do

healthier

I want to be healthier. I want to wake up everyday refreshed and strong, with a positive feeling when I look into the mirror.

And I do a lot of the things you’re supposed to do to get there. I eat relatively healthy and exercise a whole lot. But I’m never happy with the results, and certainly not happy with a whole slew of my health woes.

No one could ever 100% pinpoint the main reason or reasons they can’t achieve their goals. But sometimes the biggest complications are staring right at me, and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to improve.

What’s worse is these ways to be healthier are objectively easy. And after years of strategizing how to develop better habits, I still fall short. Every single day.

Who knows? Maybe airing my health-related “dirty laundry” will be my motivation to improve.

Any tips world?

1) Stretching is for the Birds

I love to workout. I love getting to the gym and attacking the weights with alacrity. Sometimes I have a problem getting out the front door, or motivating myself to actually get to the gym. But once I’m there, it’s a great workout almost 100% of the time.

I don’t love cardio. But there are a handful of cardio activities I do really enjoy, like hitting the heavy bag. And when I’m into it, I’m into it.

But the evil and daunting stretch? I hate it each and every time, and the thought of stretching bores me, before I ever find myself trying to touch that toe. Sometimes I want to keep working out just to avoid needing to stretch afterwards.

Most of the time I want some excuse to leave early so I don’t have a chance to stretch.

What is the secret to enjoying this miserable necessity?

2) Water, So Mighty, So Dull

There are few topics in the world of health and fitness that don’t inspire controversy. One source says red meat is the God of all healthful items. Another says it is the devil, waiting to destroy anything you’ve ever accomplished.

Whether it’s soy or coconut oil or whole wheat bread, there’s someone out there to sing its praise, and just as many others ready to burn the sucker to a crisp.

And when all the smoke clears, the only two items everyone seems to universally agree are still healthy are vegetables and water.

But how does one learn to enjoy water? It’s so dull. It’s so non-invigorating.

Sure, it’s quite refreshing to down a bunch of ice-cold water on a super hot day. But we all know we never seem to be getting enough. Why? Because we need to be drinking the stuff even when we don’t want to.

What’s the secret to enjoying this banal necessity?

3) The Elusive Sleep

I love sleeping… but I hate going to sleep. First, it’s not and has basically never been easy for me to fall asleep. And mornings are really tough for me. Sleep just seems like that thing I do before I have to deal with waking up.

Furthermore, I like to do a lot with my days. Besides my family and my job, there are a million other things that will easily fill up any given day. And it always feels that if I want to make it all happen, I need to sacrifice something.

And when something has to go, it’s almost always sleep. If I sleep two hours fewer, bam, like magic my day has an additional two hours.

The logic is highly flawed, but never feels flawed at the moment it’s being applied. How do I get the sleep I need in the puny few hours of the average day? How can I have my sleep and eat it too!?

4) Put Down that Damn Food

I’ve got a food problem. I love the damn stuff. And I just can’t get enough.

Literally. I find myself thinking about the next bite while eating the current one. And no matter how how much I eat, I never quite feel full.

It’s a real issue, and a real blemish on my health resume.

Not to mention, it can be embarrassing. And it can get expensive.

I know I have an unhealthy relationship with food. Sometimes I hear about people who get stressed, and they just can’t eat when they feel that way. They hate it… and I feel envious. Pretty much the only thing I can think of when the stress starts pouring on is to start shoveling in the food.

I just ate a beautiful, delicious hamburger. How come I feel like I need another? How come I want the fries too, and the never-ending plate never satiates?

Why can’t I just put the food down and walk away?

5) Just Relax Already!

There are few items in the health world with endless solutions. If one wishes to relax, there are recommendations galore. Everything from certain vitamin complexes to yoga to meditation to power naps.

And yet relaxation just never seems to be a part of my life. I mean, after all, who has time to relax!? Seriously. There are only so many hours in the day. Who has the time to just stop doing and creating in order to sit back and simply enjoy God’s green earth, in peace and harmony.

Fact is, I think I’m genetically predisposed to not relaxing. Or maybe circumstances in my life led me to feeling this way. Or some level of both.

But there’s no denying that I’d rather be writing this here blog than lying down staring at a ceiling, just paying attention to my breathing. What’s the secret for me to just relax already?

***

Healthier around the Corner

And there you have it. I’m well aware that I could inch closer to becoming the pinnacle of health I so desire. All I need to do to be healthier is stretch more, drink more water, sleep a little, stop shoveling in the food, and relax already.

No problem. Healthier is right around the corner…

***

Bonus: Like everyone, I’d probably be healthier if I were to just drop alcohol from the routine… But hey, let’s not get crazy now…

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Fitness, Health, 1 comment

New Book Announcement: You’re Doing Everything Wrong

You're Doing Everything Wrong

I’m extremely excited to announce the publication of my second eBook, You’re Doing Everything Wrong. If you haven’t snatched up a copy of my first book, Teach Like a Ninja, please grab a copy at your nearest convenience (and don’t forget to write an Amazon review).

My new book, You’re Doing Everything Wrong, is a compilation of lessons I learned in the past several decades about dating, marriage, and divorce. The book has three sections with ten chapters dedicated to each of these important topics. It’s jam-packed with advice, stories, and just enough humor to make light of extremely complex and difficult topics. The basic premise: Learn from my mistakes rather than make them yourselves.

Here I’ll share some quotes from You’re Doing Everything Wrong with a bit of commentary. A little feel… before you pick up your own copy:

You’re Doing Everything Wrong: Dating

“Long-term dating and marriage are not solutions to loneliness… feeling lonely when you are married is infinitely more challenging than feeling lonely when single.” (Chapter 4)

It’s very easy to assume that when you’re single and lonely there is a magic panacea waiting for you out there. Just get married, and everything will be OK. No more loneliness. Your dreams have finally been achieved.

But this is so very wrong an approach.

Getting involved in a less-than-great marriage is a recipe for far worse pain than any loneliness you felt when single. Best to avoid learning this the hard way.

You’re Doing Everything Wrong: Marriage

“A marriage is only as good as the member of the unit who is putting in the least amount of effort.” (Chapter 13)

Never assume that any amount of effort you put into your relationship can save things if your partner is not willing to do the same. A relationship is a team effort. And the team member who shirks his duty, brings everything downward. They’re the team leader. And everything goes according to the inactive or less active partner. A good spouse and a bad spouse equals a bad marriage. Always.

“Never enter a marriage thinking you can change the other person, nor relying on the notion that they will naturally change as time goes by.” (Chapter 13)

Either assumption will leave you wide open for a very uncomfortable rude awakening. Assume that what you see is what you get. They might change, but don’t rely on it. Love the person you marry, not an idea of what you think they should be.

Wholeness and Floor Mats

“A marriage is ideally a union of two whole individuals coming together to create something far greater than the two of them separately.” (Chapter 14)

A marriage isn’t two halves creating a whole. That’s childish nonsense. A half person isn’t fit to be married. Only a person who knows himself and is happy with himself is ready to bring someone else into his life.

“You cannot be turned into a floor mat unless you let yourself be a floor mat.” (Chapter 16)

In any relationship in which someone is dominated by another, there exists fault in the one who is dominated. It is true that it is wrong and inappropriate to behave dominantly over another human being (who does not want it); however, it can only happen if the one being dominated allows it to happen.

Stand up for yourself, since you and your thoughts and opinions matter also. If you back down constantly, always trying to please the other, the end result will be your perpetual unhappiness. And that’s why this books exists! You deserve to be happy. Everyone deserves to be happy! Sometimes we just need some extra tools to help us get there.

Everyone Matters

“Everyone needs to feel like they’re important, their opinions matter, and they are a central piece of the household.” (Chapter 16)

If someone in a marriage feels secondary or neglected, the unit is broken. If someone “wins” an argument, ultimately no one does. One member gets a temporary feeling of control and victory, while one silently suffers in the background.

This feeling doesn’t go away. It just accumulates and ferments in its own juices, and over time it will destroy the unit. There’s a limit to how long anyone can let themselves be ignored before they break inside. When that happens, the marriage is essentially done. And both parties lose.

The only option is win-win solutions. All the time. Anything less is unacceptable.

You’re Doing Everything Wrong: Divorce

“All the greatness that’s yet to come in your life is built upon the shoulders of all the suffering that preceded it.” (Chapter 23)

How did you get to where you are now? And what lessons did you pick up along the way? Everything you’ve done up until this point, every shred of pain you have endured, exists for a reason. You may not know the reason yet. And you may not appreciate the benefit of what you have experienced. But it all needed to be there.

You are the person you are because of everything that happened before today. So don’t mourn over the past. Rather, embrace it, build upon it, and make your life what you want it to be.

“Deep within all of us is a kickass parent… And you finally have the opportunity to [be this] without the weight of a bad marriage holding you back.” (Chapter 27)

Co-parenting is really challenging. It’s rare that two people agree 100% on how to raise a child. And it’s even rarer that someone who is upset or depressed can parent to the best of their abilities.

Divorce provides a unique opportunity for many. You get the chance to be with your children entirely on your own terms. If you’re using this period in your life well, you should be able to escape the pain you felt earlier and be free to be the parent you want to be.

And every parent has the ability to be amazing, given the right circumstances. Embrace the kickass parent within you!

In Conclusion…

My past 20+ years have been very interesting and eventful. I made many mistakes along the way. But I’ve learned from all of them. You’re Doing Everything Wrong is a compilation of lessons I learned along the way. I learned them the hard way. Pick up my book and learn them the easiest way possible!

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, Health, opinion, parenting, 1 comment

Desperate Search for Perfect Health

perfect health

My relationship with health and fitness (and my desperate search for perfect health) has been a roller coaster.

Doctors and Perfect Health

Throughout my childhood I didn’t care much for healthy eating. I quickly learned to distrust doctors. My main example came from years of silly attempts to diagnose my violent chest pains. They were later discovered to be heart burn due to acid reflux. A half dozen doctors couldn’t figure out that a Tums would have made me feel better!

When I was 18, some friendly roughhousing from a friend, a popping noise, and a painful collapse to the floor would impact the rest of my life. I received a small tear to my ACL. Many years later I would tear the rest of the sucker along with my meniscus, and to this day I walk around with a perpetual fear of my knee giving out on me.

It All Caught Up With Me

My cruddy diet and inactive lifestyle eventually caught up with me, and in my 20s I was diagnosed as pre-Diabetic. And now, here I am. I’m 41 years old. I exercise almost every day of the week. I try to eat healthy almost all the time. And I’ve done my part in trying to get rid of chemicals from my household that are doing who knows what to my system.

And what do I get? Chronic stomach pains. Violent calf pains when I try and run. And what is likely piriformis syndrome, which basically means intense pains in one of my legs as a small inflamed muscle is strangling my sciatic nerve.

Now, my point isn’t to complain. And I certainly don’t want to compare my situation to others, since many people have it far, far worse.

But I can’t help but wonder each and every day when I yank myself out of bed in the morning: Is there a best way to live life? Is there a path I could take that will lead me down a road of less suffering and more success with my health?

Easy Answers and Fairness

I, like everyone else, want easy answers. Yes, I want to be able to drink a special tea twice a day that will give me endless energy, slim out my waist, alleviate aches and pains, and make me sleep like a rock at night.

I, like everyone else, want fairness in health. Why does one person eat whatever he wants, yet never gains a pound and lives comfortably until he’s 100? Why can someone feel like they’re doing everything right, and the results continually equal pain and discomfort?

I, like everyone else, want to be able to quickly and easily find out what exactly is wrong, and to be able to Google a simple solution that will fix the problem in a matter of weeks.

Sadly for me though, this is what I want… but I’m too educated and jaded to still have hope that any of this can happen.

Waking Up In Pain

I’ve been waking up in pain for months now. Go to the doctor, you say. Should I go to the doctors in America who couldn’t figure out to give me an antacid, or the doctor in Israel who messed up my anesthesia so I remained awake and gagging uncontrollably during a simple medical procedure? And which type of doctor should I choose? For what I have, my research has told me that the average sufferer has gone to countless different doctors over the last several years, shelled out ungodly amounts of money, and they’re still waking up wincing in pain every day.

I have chosen a life where health and fitness remain at the core. It is very clear to me that the results of my research and hard work have paid off.

Perfect Health and the Mighty Contradiction

However, I also feel confused all the time. There are constant reports of food items one person says are the answer to all health issues, while another says they will escalate any and all health issues. There are exercises some say will fix problems and others say they are everything from useless to dangerous.

Some foods are fantastic for you. Too much, whatever that amount is, becomes toxic. Exercise is obviously great for you… but do something ever so slightly wrong, and pain or injury ensues. And do just a little too much, whatever that means, and now you’ve overtrained, and the problems begin to exceed the benefits.

Frustration

If you feel frustration in my tone, it’s because I have no idea how to figure out the perfect balance, despite years of searching for it. And no matter what I do, I have trouble falling asleep at night, my stomach hurts all the time, and my legs are so riddled with miscellaneous pains, I don’t even know where to start to put these guys back together again.

Every day of my life I read more and more articles about health and fitness, and the more I read, the less I feel like I’ll ever be able to get a full handle on how to do things “correctly”.

To make matters worse, maybe it’s drastically different for each individual. Perhaps for person A this exercise will cause accelerated fat burn, for person B it will cause vicious pain later requiring physical therapy. Perhaps for person A this food will cause them to have more energy and sleep soundly at night, and for person B it will cause them headaches and constipation. I mean, in a desperate attempt at relaxing shot nerves a few years ago, I decided to heed some age old advice and I took a nice relaxing epsom salt bath. And it worked! That is until I woke up the next day with some allergic reaction with painful bumps covering my entire body.

I work really hard. I have been for quite some time.

All I want is to see the fruits of my labor. And I want to wake up without terrible pains.

And it wouldn’t hurt to be able to find reliable sources for help and advice.

Is this all too much to ask?

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in Fitness, Health, opinion, personal story, 2 comments

Five Health and Fitness Myths that Need to Die Already

Health and Fitness Myth

I have been immersed in the world of health and fitness for several years now, and there are several health and fitness myths that pop up time and time again. Their time has long passed and these myths are not only confusing, but they are downright harmful.

Wouldn’t it be nice if I had the power to somehow put these to rest forever? I know I don’t… But at least I can try and do my part. Or at the very least, I can rant a little… which always feels good.

Health and Fitness Myth #1: BMI is an Efficient Way of Determining Healthy Weight

BMI (Body Mass Index) is the stupidest measurement of healthy body weight in existence, and won’t seem to die. Doctors still use it. Trainers still use it. People still go online to check to see “where they’re holding”.

BMI is useless. It takes into account age and height (and sometimes gender), and not a single other factor. It doesn’t deal with body type or shape. And it certainly doesn’t take into account body consistency. That means an extremely athletic, muscular man can be considered obese by BMI standards, since they are “heavy” due to lean muscle weight.

I have a few pounds to lose here and there, for sure. But I’m broad shouldered with a good deal of muscle. So according to BMI, I’m on the very high end of overweight. Anyone who would look at me would know this is ridiculous, and if these are the standards, then we’re all in terrible, terrible trouble.

There are many fine ways to determine if you’re at a healthy weight, including taking your measurements and the good ole mirror. But please let BMI rest painfully in its grave!

Health and Fitness Myth #2: Running is the King of All Exercises

The story is an old one. He’s decided to get in shape, so he’s grabbing his running shoes and pounding the pavement. And a week later the only exercise he’s doing is mass Cheetos consumption.

The  truth is, running can be a wonderful exercise. It can also massacre your knees, and is frankly a miserable chore to 99.4% of the universe. There are many, many exercises out there that are not only easier on your system, but the most important thing is that you find them enjoyable. It should be a complete given that the exercise you do will always be infinitely better than the exercise you don’t do.

Search around for something you enjoy that makes you feel good. Then do it. Do it often and repeatedly. Go hiking. Play Dance Dance Revolution. Take a combat pole class. Don’t just do something because it feels like it’s the only choice due to society’s unwillingness to embrace diversity. Do what’s good for you!

Health and Fitness Myth #3: Abs Training

I recently got into a bit of an argument with someone because they were looking for an exercise class that focused on reducing fat and shaping the abs area. I told her there was no such thing; those who make the claim are just using a gimmick to get people’s attention.

I realized quite quickly we were going in circles. She wasn’t at all ready to accept what I was saying, and all I wanted to do was just hit my head against a wall.

Fact: There is no such thing as an exercise course, type, or program that can focus on the location where fat is reduced on the body.

Fact: Some exercises are more intense than others. They will therefore burn more calories and have a greater impact on your metabolism. However, if you hate them and stop after a couple of weeks, it’s not really worth it.

Fact: Trends pop up over and over again. One day it’s yoga, the next it’s Cross Fit, the next it’s naked hippo wrestling (not popular yet… but maybe I finally found my million dollar idea). They’re all great! So long as you love them and stick with them, you will get in better shape, burn calories, and ultimately have a smaller waist.

Just don’t fall for anything that claims it is the secret to trimming your core. Because the truth is and always has been, there only is one secret: Hard work.

Health and Fitness Myth #4: Low Fat is Healthy

Yes, it is true that if you reduce or remove the fat from an item, the calories will be inherently reduced. However, there are two major flaws here.

First, there are age-old misconceptions in the perspective of fat. Fat does not make you fat. It doesn’t. I swear to you! Some fats are most certainly better than others. And believe it or not, some are downright healthy and completely recommended in a healthy diet.

Second, it’s rare that fat is removed and then they’re done. Normally fat reduction will interfere with flavor, so they’ll make up for it by replacing the fat with something else, which is likely chemicals or copious amounts of sugar. Chemicals are a whole other discussion, one that is understudied, but come on. I don’t think anyone really believes that stuff is meant to be consumed by humans. Or that the industry cares whether or not it’s harming us. But sugar we know is bad news. So, you’re taking natural fat out of a product that may actually be good for you, and replacing it with something that is likely or definitely causing us harm.

But boy are we ever attracted to that “low fat” label…

Health and Fitness Myth #5: Protein Bars are a Good Source of Nutrients

Protein bars are candy bars with a bunch of soy crap in them. With, of course, brilliant marketing.

Every time I see someone eating one of these glamorized piles of sugar, I wince. They spend an hour in the gym working their butt off, knock out a good solid 300-400 calories, only to suck down two Cliff bars at the end, giving themselves a calorie surplus, a whole bunch of nasty sugar, and a false sense that they have consumed a bunch of muscle-building protein.

Throw these bars in the trash. Save some money. And figure something else out. Anything. A whey protein shake. Beef jerky. An apple with some natural peanut butter. But stop being fooled by an industry that doesn’t really care about your healthy lifestyle goals and just wants your hard-earned cash.

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in Fitness, Health, 0 comments

Weight Loss: What the Heck is Going On Here?

weight loss

A couple of decades ago, I was quite overweight. I’m 5’6 and I was over 200 pounds. Not a single pound came from muscle.

I got a bit of a scare when I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and I worked like a madman to lose nearly 50 pounds. For sure, I didn’t exactly know what I was doing, but I enjoyed watching the numbers melt away and the clothing falling off of me. I was still by no means in shape, and I had no clue what I was doing, but my confidence was increasing and lots of things that had been ailing me for years started just disappearing. For example, I had been battling chronic heartburn since as early as I could remember, and now it had simply vanished.

All was well, but…

It would seem all was well. But life is a long, insane process. And every day is a new challenge.

I watched over the next several years as my weight went up and down several times. I got certified as a personal trainer and became pretty consistent about my fitness goals.

And several summers back I was in a weight loss competition with two colleagues. I won! If I remember correctly, I lost about 37 pounds that summer. When the summer ended, and I was crowned champion of our competition, I recall standing in my office when someone came in and left a box of donuts. I decided to reward myself for a summer well done, and cut a donut in half. I enjoyed the sweet, delicious goodness… and ultimately ate three full donuts… and over the next few months, I gained everything back.

After this incident, I resolved that the next time I would go forward and fight through the all the challenges in order to successfully arrive at a healthy weight, it would be for life. No more dieting. It was time to stay fit and healthy forever.

Sugar Addiction

It was very important for me to recognize that I’m an addict. My body reacts terribly to sugar. When I eat it, I just want more and more. In fact, I’ve noticed that when I’m eating sugary foods, all I’m thinking about is the next bite. I react with such horrific addictive tendencies, I knew my only choice was to avoid these products entirely. And here I stand, nearly three years later without eating cookies and cake and pie and ice cream. And believe it or not, I don’t miss any of it.

Cutting sugar out of my diet was a challenge… until it wasn’t. It takes about two weeks before the cravings subside. I’m not going to lie. Those two weeks are awful. It’s all you want to eat. You find yourself pulled toward the cupboard or fridge. Fighting against your body’s tendencies.

And then one day, the cravings are gone.

Now I can sit at a desk with a stack of freshly baked cookies right in front of me, and I won’t take the smallest nibble. It won’t be challenging. I can ignore it, and all is well in the world.

Weight Loss Plateau

But severe sugar reduction can only take me so far. As of about two months ago, I couldn’t seem to dip below 180 pounds. And it was driving me crazy. I eat clean and healthy most of the time. I exercise a lot. But that silly scale just wouldn’t budge. Further weight loss felt impossible.

And in the last 2-3 months, it budged. Boy did it budge.

For only the second time in my adult life my scale went below 170 pounds. I’m still shocked when I see numbers that low. And very excited, since it gives me renewed hope that some of my loftier goals might still be achievable.

Unfortunately, I often try a lot of new things, so it’s hard for me know 100% what’s caused the changes. But I have three theories, and if you struggle with weight loss, I suggest you give them a shot as well:

Time-Restricted Eating

I was watching this video and I knew immediately that time-restricted eating was something I wanted to attempt to incorporate in my own life. The basic theory is like this: Everyone, everyday should have a window when they eat, and they should not be eating outside that window. The clock starts ticking the moment you put anything in your mouth that impacts your metabolism (which very much includes coffee).

The eating window can go as low as eight hours, but in its simplest form should never exceed 12 hours. What does that mean? If you sipped on a cup of coffee at 8AM, you should stop eating by 8PM.

According to the video, this inherently helps. It’s your body doing things like it’s supposed to.

That might be true. But I saw side benefits right away. First and foremost, it was the only thing I ever tried that successfully got me to stop eating at night, one of the worst things you can do for your health. It also helped me to improve at not eating in general. In order to be able to do the system correctly, I would need to delay eating in the morning, which over time has taught my body how to not constantly crave food. In addition, I found myself getting fuller quicker.

And finally, the process has made me more mindful of food in general. I think about what I eat much more. I slow down and appreciate things more than I did before, and I often make better choices, because hey, why would I do all of this in order to still not be healthy? And so I found myself in every way making healthier choices.

Kill the Gluten

Certain things in my life have led me to severely reducing my gluten intake. Now I’m no wacky, Los Angeles hippy who thinks gluten is the devil. But in order to accommodate important people in my life with gluten sensitivities, gluten has become far less prevalent in my diet. And there I was, likely eating the same amount as before. And often eating very similar foods (rice pastas, etc), but with the pounds pouring off.

Now if I ever found out definitively that it is gluten that’s causing me to hold on to all that extra fat, all I can say is that I’m more than happy to cut that crap out of my diet for good.

Holistic Approach

Finally, there’s always the classic “try whatever you can” approach to weight loss. Drink apple cider vinegar or grapefruit essential oil? Sure! Why not?

As long as they’re not invasive or insanely expensive, and there’s a good amount of evidence to support the idea that they could help, I’ve been trying to get my hands on whatever I can.

Something’s helping. Something pushed me past the annoying plateau I was trapped on earlier. I don’t know what it is. But I’m grateful. Now let’s see if I can truly accomplish each and every one of my goals!

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in Health, 0 comments

The Real Walls Necessary for Israel’s Survival

Israel's survival
Something happened to me many years ago, something I’ve been working to understand ever since it occurred.

I lived in Israel all throughout the Second Intifada, and life was painful and stressful. I recall a time walking through Jerusalem when a large bang sent everyone on the street into a panic, some running, some ducking, everyone on high alert for what turned out to be a bus tire popping.

They were stressful times, to say the least. We watched as trips were cancelled, tourism was damaged, and business after business closed down. The rampant terrorism impacted everyone, some directly, but everyone in some life-changing manner.

Dr. Shmuel Gillis

The most direct impact on my life was the death of Dr. Shmuel Gillis. I stepped on a bus to return from my army base, and it was clear to me by the looks and mannerism of everyone on the bus that something was different. Something terrible had happened.

I was living in a small yishuv (settlement) called Carmei Tzur, with around 90 families. So basically everyone knew everyone. And the impact was enormous when we discovered that one of our own didn’t make it home that day.

Dr. Shmuel Gillis was driving home from work, on the road that I’d been on hundreds of times, when a terrorist shot at his vehicle. He was hit in the face, and his car spun off the road. He was killed instantly. And five children were left without a father.

I Changed

Something changed in me that day, and it would appear the change is permanent.

A wall went up around me. I cried out my last tears due to terrorism, and shed my last emotional reactions.

Now, whenever I hear about a terrorist attack, I check to make sure the people I know are safe, and I move on with my day without looking back. No fear, no sadness, no adjustments to my life. Nothing.

Several years ago, I was living in Kansas City. A piece of trash drove several hours to open fire on two different Jewish institutions, and he killed three people. I worked in the first building. So did my wife. All of my children attended school in that building. There was an air of fear and terror throughout my community. People talked about whether or not they could go back there, what they needed to do next. The atmosphere was thick with panic.

And I felt nothing.

When the Wall Goes Up

Every Israeli I know can pinpoint the moment their wall went up, the moment when they stopped suffering and panicking as a reaction to the dangers inherent in living in this country. Are we better off for it? Yes… and no. I do believe it interferes with my ability to give an empathic reaction to someone else who has not yet built up the defense mechanisms that I have. And to a certain extent I think it has made me a colder person than I would otherwise like to be.

But I do believe it’s also essential for the survival of this nation.

Many years ago another piece of garbage blew up the Sbarro pizza shop in the heart of Jerusalem, killing men, women, and children. I walked past the spot the very next day and was mesmerized by the fact that they had already started rebuilding the restaurant. Not fearfully avoiding the scene of the crime, nor building a memorial to the fallen victims. Not waiting for some cloud to disperse, for time to heal some of the wounds of the incident. No. We were moving forward as if nothing had happened. We were living our lives despite the fact that others tried to disrupt them in the most violent manner possible.

Because we needed to.

Life is Pain

The world is filled with pain. Or to quote the Dread Pirate Roberts, “Life is pain… Anyone who says differently is selling something.” Anyone who knows me even a little knows I do not mince words when criticizing Israel. There is ample room for growth here. And that fact is renewed for me every time I pick the phone or step outside. That being said, terror is not a reason to avoid Israel. Arguably, it’s one of the biggest reasons to stay connected to Israel, and where the world can learn the most from its people.

The world is not a safe place. And no society exists without horrifying elements, nor is any locale immune to terrible tragedies at the hands of monsters. Some countries have the luxury of not being instantly associated with their hardest moments. Sadly, Israel does not.

I have felt safe while shots were being fired in the streets of Hebron, and I have been violently assaulted in a neighborhood in New York regarded as one of its safest. And I know people in perfect health who one morning just didn’t wake up.

Safety is a State of Mind

Safety is a state of mind. It’s a choice. And one could choose to feel unsafe wherever they go. Or they can choose to live without fear and anxiety.

There is a famous Hebrew song with the words:

“All the world is a bridge. And the main point is not to be afraid”

I once learned that the Hebrew words are misquoted, and the actual words better translate to: “The main point is not to make yourself afraid.”

And thus the song takes on a whole new meaning. If a lion is chasing after you, advising you to not be afraid is both unhelpful and wildly unlikely advice to be heeded. In such a situation fear is not a choice but an inevitability. However, as we walk the narrow bridge, logically we know we’ll make it to the other side.

Whether or not we choose to be afraid is entirely up to us.

Israel’s Survival

The metaphor is perfect for those of us who have lived through hard times in Israel. The average person will not be harmed by vicious, violent acts. That’s a fact. Choosing to walk around with your head held high, unscathed by the attempts of others to instill fear in us, is the best choice. It’s the only choice.

Sadly, I do not think I will see the end to violence in the Middle East in my lifetime. I’d like to believe my children will experience some semblance of peace and understanding in theirs, but I remain skeptical at best. The next best thing is coping. Moving from day to day, enjoying the 99% of the time that life is fully serene. We do that through rebuilding what others have destroyed, without delay or hesitation. We do that through keeping our wits about ourselves, and not feeling unnecessary fear. And we do that through developing emotional walls to protect ourselves from the worst the world could throw our way.

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in Health, Israel, 0 comments

The Secret to Unity: Sweat

unity

The Secret to Unity: Sweat

Anyone who knows me even a little knows I’m a tad obsessed with Mixed Martial Arts. There are so many aspects to this incredible sport that I love, one of which is how level the playing field is.

People compete from all over the world, black and white people hold titles, men and women compete on the same cards. We’re repeatedly seeing times when women’s matches are the main event for high profile Pay-Per-View events and some of the most famous and highest paid athletes in the sport are women, something unprecedented in pretty much any athletic competition.

Amanda Nunes

And I’ll always fondly remember when Amanda Nunes became the bantamweight champion. The media tried to make a big deal about the fact that she was the first openly gay champion in the UFC, and you could tell from everyone sitting alongside Amanda that to them this wasn’t a news story at all. It was normal. It was irrelevant. Amanda Nunes was gay before she won the championship, and nothing had changed now. Respect was there beforehand, and wasn’t going anywhere.

The next level in the cessation of the world’s biases is not success, but indifference.

Let me explain.

The Second Black President

I believe that having the second black president is far more important than having the first. The first is a big deal. The second means it has become normal. I don’t want parades and excitement about the miraculous change in American society. I want a shrug of the shoulders from everyone because something obvious occurred. We shouldn’t jump in the air with excitement because a person of color made it into office. We need get to the point where we can ignore externals and focus on character traits and policies, able to look past any other details, because they are wholly irrelevant.

And I believe that in Mixed Martial Arts we’ve received a taste of this new world. Religion, politics, gender, and race, they do not matter. Talent is the biggest factor in someone rising to fame and success. The media might not yet understand this, but everyone in the cage putting their health and well-being on the line for our entertainment has reached this next level. They’re not hugging someone different from themselves at the end of a fight, reluctantly or to make a statement. They’re doing so because they had a shared experience through which they are united, and those other details entirely do not matter.

Defining Experiences

When I was younger I had a couple of defining experiences that have since shaped my view of the world, a view which I consider to be evolving daily.

I arrived in Israel when I was twenty. I was hot-headed and reactionary, and after a violent and awful Intifada impacted my life all too personally, I became hardened in my perspective.

One day I was walking with a friend. He was a Palestinian who had converted to Judaism. I noticed some Arabic graffiti on the walls of the Old City. Convinced that all Arabic writing must be anti-Semitic propaganda, I asked what was written. It was a silly teenage love note! Such-and-such loves such-and-such. No more, no less.

Another time I was in the Israeli Consulate in East Jerusalem, with my ex-wife and our baby. The whole time we were there an Arab woman kept on looking over at us. We felt her penetrating gaze, as she judged us with seething hatred… until she gently apologized to us for staring. She had a child at home the same age, and she missed him terribly. It was warming her heart to look at our baby!

Please don’t misunderstand me. There are real problems in Israel. The conflict here is pure insanity, and looks as if there is no end in sight, or at least not in the foreseeable future.

But it really doesn’t have to be this way.

Waking Up

These moments woke me up to the idea that not every Arab walking around Israel wants to cause me harm. No, they want to work, sleep, eat, and spend time with their families, just like I do. Circumstances have led to a violent confrontation between our peoples, but most of us stand on our respective sides of the fence longing for a better day. Most of us are ready to move forward and start the process of living side-by-side, moving closer to the day where the unity is no longer a hot topic… but irrelevant!

But how? Where can we put all of our differences behind us? Where can we let go of a complicated and hostile history?

I feel fortunate that I see the answer to this question every day: At the gym.
I’ve belonged to two gyms here in Jerusalem (enthusiastic shoutouts to City Gym and Pro Fit), and despite the gyms having a solid representation from all walks of life in Jerusalem, everyone’s always getting along. There’s no conflict, no tension. We’re side-by-side, all happy that we’ve made it to the gym that day.

Maybe we’re all united in being the few people in the world who give a damn about their health. Maybe we’re all just happier than average, enjoying the endorphins rushing through our bloodstreams. Perhaps we are joined together in different common enemies. Enemies such as the guy who’s grunting ever too loudly as he does his curls. Or the dude occupying a bench in order to send text messages.

A Brief Break

Whatever it is, I feel that every day of my life I get a brief break from those elements that cause us to walk around annoyed and aggressive. The politics, the animosity, the bad blood, we leave it all at the door and we sweat our way to a better life.

Perhaps it’s all connected. Maybe the secret to people getting along is shared physical experiences (or maybe any shared experiences), and ceasing to focus on the external factors that bind us, but rather on common interests or pleasures.

The media loves to draw our attention to the examples in sports of where people are not seeing eye to eye. The ignored handshake or the taken knee. Meanwhile they’re pulling our attention away from the fact that nothing in this world brings people closer together than sports. Maybe the secret to a united world has been staring us in the face all along.

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in Fitness, Health, Israel, opinion, 0 comments

5 Ways to Get Started on a Path to a Healthy Lifestyle

healthy lifestyle

Healthy Lifestyle

I wrote in my last post about how the gym saved my life. We’re in a complex generation. Healthy food is often less appealing or more expensive. We sit all day at work. There is more incentive than ever to never leave your home.

Ultimately we’re harming ourselves, and sometimes setting ourselves on a long, slow path to endless health problems and lifestyle patterns that seem irreversible.

However, there is no such thing as being too unhealthy or too late in life to turn everything around. And your life and the lives of all those around you will be infinitely better for it.

If you’re having some trouble motivating yourself to start a healthy lifestyle, maybe this could help.

1) Exercise… but Find Something You Love to Do

First of all, you’ll find a lot of literature out there that tells you that diet is far more important than exercise for those trying to lose weight. Articles that make such claims are both entirely accurate… and wildly misleading if not utterly harmful. (Here is an example. My Google search for “you don’t need to exercise to lose weight” had over 18 million results!)

Losing weight should never be ones only goal. Being “skinny” isn’t necessarily healthy or appealing. There are many goals that in the grand scheme are more important than weight loss (improved health, better mood, more self control, to name a few). Weight loss is just an amazing side benefit.

There are countless reasons to exercise that go far, far beyond weight loss. And trust me, there’s not a single benefit you don’t want.

Unfortunately, when most people begin exercising, they grab an old, dusty pair of running shoes and hit the pavement. And within the month, their exercise craze has come to an end.

Why? Because most people hate running. I’m among them. I’ve never maintained a consistent running routine, partially because it causes pains in my calves and it’s really dangerous with my torn ACL, but mainly because I just don’t like to run.

Exercise is lots of fun. But only when it is!

I believe everyone has some type of physical activity they love to do. They just may not have found it yet. Try everything you can get your hands on! Yoga, cycling, soccer, weight lifting, BJJ, boxing, just keep trying and trying until one feels great. And when that happens, make it a fundamental part of your life. Make it a habit.

True, someone might argue that your choice is not the most well-rounded form of fitness and has fewer benefits than another. However, three facts:

  1. Any exercise is better than no exercise. And the exercise you do is always better than the exercise you don’t do.
  2. All forms of exercise are beneficial.
  3. And the exercise you love is the exercise you can stick with for the long haul.

2) Read Read Read

A common problem many people have with the health and fitness world is the contradictions within the literature. I read articles about exercise and nutrition every day and it can get overwhelming sometimes. In one sitting you can find one “expert” telling you breakfast is the most important meal and another saying that skipping has essential benefits and is the secret to fat loss. One will tell you to do an exercise, another will tell you that same exercise is dangerous. Someone says something is a miracle herb, another says it’s an expensive placebo at best.

What can we do when the health world is filled with endless contradictions?

Sadly, nothing.

It has been and always will be frustrating.

So why do I bother with these articles, and why do I recommend others do so as well?

It’s all about knowledge, boredom prevention, and figuring out what works for you. Yes, there’s way too much information and loads of contradictions. There are also gems of ultra-important wisdom scattered everywhere. The more you learn, the more you find what’s consistently recommended or where the food or fitness industry is being disingenuous or downright manipulative. You’ll constantly gain new insights and motivation to try things you’ve never tried before.

Most importantly, the idea that everything is the same for everybody is foolish. When  you continuously try new things, you continuously learn more about yourself and what works and doesn’t work for you. And you can get closer every day to the look you want and the optimal health you deserve.

3) What the Doctors Didn’t Tell  You

I understand that I’ve had worse luck with doctors than most people. I have few if any stories of doctors helping me with any of my health problems, and fewer positive stories of navigating the system–in America or Israel–with any any semblance of success.

What fascinates me is not what doctors have told me throughout the years, but what they never bothered to mention. What I learned on my own. I can count on one hand the amount of doctors I’ve been to in the past five years. Why? Because I eat well and I exercise regularly. What the doctors somehow neglected to tell me was that almost every health issue I’ve ever had would simply go away if I were healthier.

And go away they did. Chronic heartburn, stomach issues, back pains. Everything just fizzled away and I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been, and completely medication free.

Sadly, I have no medical background or research to back up my claims. I just have the personal empirical evidence to support them. Lose weight. Close your laptop and take a hike to the local gym. Put down your doughnut and make yourself a grilled chicken salad. Watch as your maladies and symptoms melt away alongside your excess weight.

4) Know Yourself

It’s so easy to believe there are easy fixes or magic formulas that work for everyone. This is what the health and fitness industry would like you to believe. It keeps them in business and, sadly, it’s what we all want to hear.

Unfortunately, life’s not that simple. And to live a healthy lifestyle takes a lot of getting to know all about yourself.

Like many people, I need to go to the gym at the earliest possible moment. If I don’t, there’s a stronger potential with each passing second that I’ll end up not going at all. Some people like workout partners; others, like me, prefer working out all by themselves.

A great example from my own life is my relationship to junk food. There exist people in this world who can eat a couple of cookies and then push the bag to the side. I have an insanely hard time relating to such people. For me, it’s all or nothing. I have to treat myself like an addict. If I eat one cookie, all my cravings surge back, and whether I like it or not, you can kiss that bag goodbye. So it’s been over two years now since I’ve eaten any cake, cookies, ice cream, or candy. The cravings are gone and I don’t miss the junk.

But this isn’t what everyone needs. This is what I need.

Leading a healthy lifestyle should be like a giant personal experiment, constantly exploring who you are and what works best for you. If it works, make it a part of your life. No gains? Move on. But always know that we’re all unique, and our paths to get to the treasure will all be different.

5) Tell the World

There are few things in life that give me more pride than seeing my hard work payoff in the mirror. And everyone loves a good success story!

Post everything. Take pictures before you get started. Show everyone your before and afters. Show everyone the medallion you received after your first 5K. Tell the world how you conquered a lifelong food craving. Brag about how you went from a life of Twinkies and aching knees to a figure a professional model would be jealous of. We’ll all happily cheer you on and help your successes snowball.

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Posted by jaffeworld in Fitness, Health, 0 comments

10 Ways I Survived Being Apart From My Children

I SurvivedHow I Survived

Last year was hell for me. Living almost four decades with the primary goal of being a family man and exceptional father, only to find yourself an ocean away from your most precious commodities, is jarring at best. Downright destructive at worst. I found myself seeking ways to fill in the gaps in my life. I needed outlets, ways to occupy my time, thoughts, and emotions, so that not only would I not go insane, but I was able to actually maintain a fulfilling life, until I could embrace my children once again.

These are ten ways (many of which I will write much more about in the future) I occupied my time that kept me breathing, and kept me smiling, while I readied myself to return to my children. This is how I survived:

1) The Gym

I used to be chunky. And living a healthy lifestyle was far, far from a goal of mine. About 15 years ago I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and it finally hit me that a few decades of not taking care of myself had taken its toll. I started laying the foundations for a complete life overhaul, realizing that not doing so literally could kill me. And then I proceeded to do the classic process of yoyo dieting. I lost a ton of weight. Gained it all back. Did the whole ordeal over again. And I swore to myself this would never happen again. The next time I got serious, it would be for good.

And there I was, with all the time and motivation in the world. I got my weight down to where it needed to be, went to the gym 5-6 days a week, and immersed myself in a healthy lifestyle. I can honestly say the gym saved my life. Yes, of course my health was fantastic and I looked much better. But more than that, the gym became my therapy. Days I couldn’t go were painful, and if something ached physically, I just worked around it. The good feelings the gym produced in me kept me breathing, kept me living, kept me happy despite feeling at all times a hair’s breadth away from breakdown.

World Gym, you deserve to know, you may have literally saved a person’s life.

2) Volunteering

I was very fortunate to find an organization in Kansas City that organized volunteering exactly the way I like it: Hands on, super busy, and non-stop from the time you arrive until the time you leave. These were volunteer activities that were not about donations or photo opportunities, but amazing organizations that legitimately needed help. And lots of it.

I was able to sign up for all sorts of programs, sometimes several a week. And I always left feeling, in whatever small way I could, like I made the world a better place. When I was up at night staring at the ceiling, wondering how I got to this crazy place in life, the days when I volunteered, I went to sleep content. I went to sleep knowing somebody, somewhere was better off because of my efforts. I may have not been there for my children the way they needed, but at least I was able to still do my part for the world at large.

3) Hosting Couch Surfers

I was reading a fantastic book (OK, fine I was listening to it in my car), and there was a whole section about how to make travel affordable. The author mentioned a website called Couch Surfing, a site for travelers who are looking to simply “crash” with some well-meaning folk who just love to have passersby stay at their homes. I was instantly intrigued (though not as a traveler).

I started hosting people left and right. By the time I left my Kansas apartment, I had hosted 31 different people (including a Tasmania-based death metal band called Psycroptic!) and I was psyched to keep this hobby going in Israel (at the time of this post I’ve hosted 58 surfers from nearly 20 different countries in the ten months I’ve been in my little Jerusalem apartment).

Hosting couch surfers is an unusual hobby, I’m aware. There are some obvious benefits to doing so. I now have friends all over the world, which is definitely wonderful.

But I think there’s a much deeper reason why I do this. A husband and father are (or at least should be) givers. People who give day in and day out to others, with no expectation of reward or even necessarily gratitude. And there I was, hosting people all the time who could use some shelter, a warm blanket, a glass of water, and a place to charge their phone. And once again, I got to give to others and be who I was meant to be.

4) UFC

It’s very odd not growing up a sports fan in America. It’s like you’re living in a universe different from all those around you. They’re excited by things that bore you and they speak a language utterly meaningless to you.

For nearly four decades I had no clue what it was they were excited about, sitting baffled as the conversations went on and on, replete with intricate statistics. I couldn’t understand it… until I found myself rattling off fighter statistics in the midst of a long and involved conversation about upcoming matches. Something happened. Four decades of confusion finally made sense to me. I had to find the right sport… but I was officially a sports fan.

And the timing couldn’t have been better. What a relief from the realities and craziness of life to immerse and lose yourself in the beauty and intensity of such a remarkable sport! (Not convinced I stumbled upon something special? Check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P85JNd1OYv4 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5q_XT3aF64w)

5) Clinging to My Community

Sometimes the solution is hidden in plain sight. I could have been anywhere when my kids left me. But I wasn’t just anywhere; I was in the heart of the warmest community I’ve ever been.

I’m a New Yorker, born and raised. Yes, I often talk too quickly, and I still have this entrenched belief inside me that New York is better than everywhere else, and I feel subways are the absolute best form of transportation. The problem with being from New York–or seemingly anywhere along the coasts–is you miss out on this amazing gem known as the Midwest. It’s affordable, friendly, and surprisingly fun and entertaining.

The Overland Park, Kansas, community became my family away from my family, and I loved being a part of something so special. And despite only living there for three years, and despite the craziness that I went through while there (divorce, kids moving away, the end of my teaching career, etc), I oddly feel a stronger connection to there than anywhere else I’ve ever lived.

And I very proudly wear my Kansas City t-shirt all the time!

6) Clinging to My Parents

There are no two people in this world who I trust and appreciate more than my parents. They’ve given me four decade’s worth of reasons for this. They exemplify the true spirit of selfless, unconditional love. And they’ve been with me every step of the way without missing a beat.

And I could NEVER have done this without them.

I’ll never forget the time when my ex-wife had to have emergency gall bladder surgery. My parents dropped everything (including cancelling a non-refundable vacation) to come help us and be with us in our time of desperate need. We didn’t ask for it. They just did it. That moment was the day I learned the difference between family and friends. Close friends are fantastic, and can become like family. But true family is on a whole different level.

7) Clinging to My Friends

That being said, my friends were right behind my family in helping me survive that fateful year. Whether it was listening to me, housing me, drinking with me, or just reminding me all the time how much they cared, I will never forget how amazing my friends were when I needed them the most. And I will never be able to adequately convey my gratitude.

8) Going Beyond My Comfort Zone

In my situation, the norm would be to regress. To become less of a person, so to speak. The best one could hope for might be to maintain status quo, to at least not become a worse person.

But that’s not in my nature, and it’s not the person my parents raised me to be. Yes, my life was in turmoil. Yes, I was sad and battling vigorously against depression. But stagnation is not who I am. If I’m not growing, I might as well not be here at all.

And the best way to grow, the best way to challenge oneself, is to fight against that obnoxious little voice we all have in our heads. That little voice constantly reminding us that it’s easier to stay home, relax, and do nothing. That little voice that says it’s OK to be sad and alone. That manipulative little voice that tries to convince you that it’s fine to just stay the same forever.

I did a lot of strange things that year. I’m proud of most of them. But I’m more proud that I just followed where life took me, agreed to do things outside my comfort zone, and kept on learning, adapting, growing, and persevering. I didn’t just survive. I grew.

9) Enjoying Whatever Connection I Still Had

My kids are young. I knew that part of my agreement in which I allowed my children to leave was that I would be Skyping with them twice a week. Thank goodness for such technology! However, what I did not know–and what no parent should ever have to learn–is that parenting small children is all about touch. Skype is great, but not nearly enough. And that sharp realization was so very painful.

That being said, I had what I had, and it was fundamental that it become central to my life. I did whatever I could to never miss the calls. I tried to give my full attention, despite all the technical mishaps, the craziness that could come along with children who don’t understand the technology, or somehow managing fighting children via a computer screen.

And despite the financial and logistical challenge, I came to Israel for my son’s Bar Mitzvah, knowing full well that I didn’t want to go through life thinking I could have been there and wasn’t. And when he came to visit me for two weeks that summer, I made sure we had the most unforgettable two weeks of his life.

It’s all just nuggets. But I clung to anything and everything I could.

10) Holding on to Hope

I dreaded returning to Israel for countless reasons. And I knew returning a year earlier was not within my abilities. But that’s where the treasure was located, and I knew what my future held.

If I thought for a moment that my life with my children would be relegated permanently to Skype chats and extremely rare visits, I would have been broken, no matter what I used to heal or distract me. But there was an end. Returning to my children was not a possibility; it was an inevitability. And it kept me alive from the moment I said goodbye until the moment I was able to regularly hug my children again.

* * *

That year was a nightmare for me, one I wouldn’t wish upon anybody. However, through my pain, I learned new things. I grew as an individual. I became a better version of myself. And I put myself on a never-ending path of becoming a better me, one that is enhanced a thousandfold when I’m with my children.

Maybe you’ve suffered or are suffering. I would never be so insensitive as to belittle your pain. However, fight through it. Find the right distractions. Discover new things. Grow through the difficulties. Even if it challenges you, the pain should never break you. Find out how you can fight back in your own unique way, and you’ll find yourself emerging on the other side a much better person.

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, Health, 0 comments