Can Orthodox Women Separate Weight Loss from Exercise?
When I first began working out regularly at the age of 21, I noticed something intriguing. I had thought that I was the only one who hated exercising and rarely went to the gym, but as I would talk to people about my exercise experience, I realized that I was actually part of the majority.
Most orthodox women do not make fitness a priority.
Understandably, many have full time jobs, families to take care of and Shabbos and yomim tovim to prep for. It’s not like anyone’s sitting around twiddling their thumbs with extra time on their hands.
And let’s not forget tight budgets. Between private school tuition, kosher food, the cost of living within an orthodox community and basic necessities for a growing family, living a frum lifestyle is no cheap endeavor.
Hiring a personal trainer can get real costly real fast and finding the time to make it to the gym can quickly get frustrating.
I get it.
So what’s the alternative?
There is one, and I’m in the process of developing it, but before we get there, let’s take a step back and discuss why we’re letting the issues of time and money get in the way of our health.
I’d like to propose a thought here – and I say this taking into consideration that this doesn’t apply to many of you, so if you feel I’m not addressing you, feel free to move on. Or, you can read and share this with someone who might need to see it…
The funny thing is that when talking to people who find out I’m a fitness coach, here’s what happens.
Woman eating a piece of chocolate cake for dessert at a wedding: “Oh, I probably shouldn’t eat this in front of you. What can I say? I’m bad today.”
Me in my head: “What makes you bad? Did you murder someone? And why would I care if you eat chocolate cake in front of me? It tastes good. Also, I train people how to exercise, I’m not a dietitian…not that a dietitian would care either.”
Woman I bump into at a networking event: “Oh my gosh, I could really use your services. I’m so out of shape! I need to lose at least ten pounds from my hips.”
Me in my head: “I can help you get into shape, but targeted fat loss is a myth. Plus, what does being out of shape have to do with losing ten pounds?”
Woman who just had a baby: “Oy, don’t look at me. I’m so fat.”
Me in my head: “Um… I’m fatter than you. And I didn’t just have a baby. Why would I not want to look at you? I’m confused.”
Ok, so to be honest, I’m not totally confused by those responses because I too grew up in a society that mandates that they are the norm. I am however, saddened by them.
Because exercise really is so much more than a weight loss tool. In fact, it really shouldn’t be viewed as a weight loss tool at all.
Working out is a way for us to become healthier versions of ourselves while enjoying the process.
Physical and Emotional Benefits of Exercise
Physical benefits of exercise include increased bone density and muscle mass, both of which lower overall risk of injury.
Interestingly, a gym friend of mine was in a biking accident when a vehicle hit her and threw her from her bike. The paramedics showed up certain that based on the nature of the incident her foot would be broken. They were shocked to find that she was able to just get up and walk away from the scene on her own and credited that to her regularly doing CrossFit.
Muscle surrounds bone in your body and the more muscle you have, the stronger that muscle is, the more protected your bones are.
Every day functions like sitting down in a chair, picking up your toddler from her crib and bringing the groceries in from the car are all movements that can be poorly or properly performed. Taking the time to learn how to execute those movements safely and efficiently also greatly lowers your risk of injury.
In other words, being coached to do a technically correct squat and deadlift can make basic functions far easier.
And imagine being able to play tag with your kids or nieces and nephews without worrying about getting out of breath or needed to call a time out because you simply have no energy left…
Jumping rope and burpees can go a long way in helping you get to that point.
Additionally, the emotional benefits of exercise are well documented as well.
As you exercise, there is a chemical reaction that goes on inside your brain and “feel good” hormones are released into your body.
I personally use my workouts as a stress and tension reliever. If I’m having a particularly frustrating day or feel down for one reason or another, I’ll try to get in a workout, even if it wasn’t originally in my schedule because despite not understanding the exact science of how it works, I know the practical change in my mood is significant and worth it.
In fact, doctors recommend some form of exercise for women struggling with depression, and in particular those with postpartum depression. It might be the last thing on your mind that you think you want to do, but give it a shot and see what a difference it makes to the rest of your day.
For some unknown reason, it seems that exercise has developed a direct correlation with weight loss and for someone whose sole goal is to become a smaller dress size, with so much energy going to dieting, it’s understandable that exercise falls to the side.
Or, if it does get incorporated into one’s routine with a weight loss goal, it gets just as quickly dropped when she realizes that weight loss is not an achievable goal in the long run.
(Click here for more info about Why You Can’t Lose Weight On A Diet.)
I believe that if I had been taught about the amazing physical and emotional benefits of exercise I would have been willing to give it a shot long before my 21 years of age when I was initiated into the world of fitness.
Of course, it’s easy to use the “time + money” excuse when you don’t value what it is that working out has to offer.
Therefore, I’d like to propose a solution.
I’d really love to start seeing more orthodox women work out for the right reasons. To become healthier versions of themselves so that they can be better individuals, wives, mamas and community members. Exercising with a healthy attitude goes a long way!
To help move this idea along, while still acknowledging the time + money issue, I’m in the process of producing a workout video that you can access whenever you’d like wherever you’d like.
However, unlike any other “kosher DVD” you’ve come across, this one is different. This one has no mention of burning calories, melting fat or losing weight, because as I may have mentioned, that’s not what exercise is about.
You will hear talk of increasing your energy, getting stronger with every rep and working out all that built up tension.
You’ll hear talk about getting to know the body you live in, becoming comfortable with different movements and learning to recognize your own limits and comfort zones – and yes, getting comfortable with pushing them.
This project is a huge undertaking that can only become a reality with your support.
Please partner with me on the production of this video and let’s make a positive change for the entire orthodox community!