click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​



21 friends, 252 pounds, 8 weeks... $10,000


Two years ago I decided to do something about my weight problem. Fed up carrying around an extra 30 pounds, it was time to join a gym. So off I went to the local JCC, three days a week. I was religious about it – running three miles and doing some weights as well – every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

22 months later, I was sitting in the gym, not a pound lighter, wondering what in the world was going on. Isn’t running and lifting supposed to shed that excess baggage?

I met up with a good friend, Seth, and together we bemoaned a similar fate. “I’ve been working out so hard for so long," I told him, "and I’m at least three months pregnant with this stomach.”

“Yitz, I’m working out just as hard, and if you’re three months, look at me – I'm four.”

We realized that working out by itself wasn’t going to help us lose weight. But what else was there?

“No, not that,” Seth said. “You’re not thinking diet are you?”

It was the only logical conclusion.

We were committed to working out, but not prepared to cut down on the food intake in a serious way. Why? Habit mainly. We both like food (who doesn’t?) and we figured that if we would do the heavy lifting (pun intended) then the boat should right itself. Wasn’t happening. The heavy lifting we concluded was to diet in a serious way.

The Challenge

We decided to start with an initial goal of losing 12 pounds in two months. It was the end of May and we said, let’s give ourselves eight weeks to lose this weight. The stakes: If either of us didn't lose the 12 pounds, we’d have to give the other guy $500. $500 is not the end of the world, but enough of a sum to make us reconsider that Snickers bar. The game was on.

"Why don't we bring some other guys into this?" I suggested.

"Fine," Seth replied, "but who?"

"Give me two days. I have an idea."

The next day I sent out an email to my colleagues around the world asking if anyone wanted to join us in this challenge. Lose 12 pounds by August or lose $500 to those who do. 19 of my colleagues joined from four continents. Now we’re 21 people, each with a chance to lose $500 or gain a maximum of $10,000 by August 1st.

Bird Food Tastes Good

We’re six weeks in and I’m down 10 pounds and I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that eating like a bird isn’t as bad as I thought. Eating like a bird is my way of describing life without ice cream, chocolate bars, lots of bread, French fries, pizza etc. Who’s going to support Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s if I don’t do my share?

It might sound crazy but once you get used to eating less, you can live with less food. That whole controlled portion thing actually makes sense.

I’ve learned that healthy food isn’t that bad either. In fact, it starts to grow on you. After all, God did make those little green apples and they’re mighty tasty. So are peaches, plums, cherries and berries….and oh yeah, salads, lots of salads.

I’ve learned that losing 12 pounds is a heck of a lot easier if you weigh more than 240 pounds. Some of my bigger friends have lost all their weight already and my sense is that all they had to was stop drinking Coke.

I’ve learned that our Sages knew what they were talking about when they said: "Nothing stands before the will of a person." If you really want to do something (like lose weight) and you're motivated, you can actually do it. You get some Heavenly assistance.

I’ve learned that losing a relatively small amount of money could be a motivator for someone to do something very meaningful and helpful. It’s working for almost all of us so far.

I’ve learned that the fear of embarrassment of not losing the 12 pounds is also an incredible motivator.

I've learned that working on a challenging goal can have a positive impact on other parts of your life, unrelated to the goal you're working on achieving.

And lastly, I’ve learned that if you write an article about a goal that you have not yet achieved, you’re going look really foolish if you don’t succeed! That’s a motivator too. Wish us luck!

July 17, 2010

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 14

(14) Leah Bennett, September 26, 2010 3:23 AM

Shkoiach Rabbi Greenman. You look great.

(13) Karin Houston, July 23, 2010 5:46 PM

working out makes me hungry though!

Big people lose 12 lbs easier but usually by working out, not necessarily by dropping soda consumption. As a big person I know that my metabolism is slow due to inactivity so dieting is ineffective alone. Loved the article.

(12) Chana, July 22, 2010 5:25 AM

Great article...

Hi Rabbi! It's so nice to see people taking physical health more seriously. It sounds like you are on your way to embarking upon the holistic approach to Judaism. This can be an exciting new image for Aish. Next step is to improve our environment - Aish going GREEN...I have some ideas :)

(11) Arthur, July 22, 2010 12:39 AM

You don't look like you need to loose weight but my prayers are with you. Great Motivation.

(10) L.S., July 21, 2010 10:58 AM

Our culture needs a change in that way

For whatever reason, I have noticed that Jews are either grossly overweight or anorexic. Look at Shabbos; after davening, people put vodka and cake into their mouth--NOT the breakfast of champions, my friends! Then a big, extravagant meal of fat, sugar, starch, starch, starch, and oh yeah, dessert. G-D forbid we eat any *vegetables* unless they are deep fried in bread crumbs and covered in oil. I lost weight by saying NO to kugel, cholent, potatoes, cake, and a host of other gross, unhealthy foods. At my Shabbos table, I serve *salads*, grilled fish or meat, and fruit for dessert. You are not doing a mitzvah in stuffing yourself. In fact, the Rambam even talks about the importance of not being a glutton and associating with gluttons and makes it clear to us that we have a responsibility to take care of our know...*exercise*. Oy vey, seriously people, we need a culture change! If HASHEM made a food (vegetable, fruit, fish, eggs) then it is good for you; if MAN made it (french fries, pizza, hot dogs) then it is bad for you.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment