Home June 2012 Judaism & Health

Judaism & Health

“Sh’mirat HaGuf” means “taking care of our bodies” in Hebrew.  In his Guide for the Perplexed, 3.12, Maimonides wrote, “The attributes of the soul depend on the condition of the body.”  With the recent emphasis on the nation’s critical obesity problem the Merage JCC is adopting a holistic approach to health and wellness.
Recently, Melanie Silverman, MS, RD, IBCLC, was hired as the JCC’s dietitian and began working with the 75 participants of the J’s popular and successful Largest Loser program.  Jason Meyers, the JCC health and wellness director, said that, “Melanie is now working with our members because diet is one of the most important components to living a vibrant lifestyle.  We want to have an environment where physical activity, health education and healthy eating behaviors are valued and taught.  We believe in offering our members every opportunity to achieve their wellness potential.”
Silverman doesn’t want people to be confused by all the media hype about the dangers of obesity, the super foods we should eat, how to feed children or the latest food fad.  She knows people are bombarded with conflicting nutrition advice from friends, family, doctors and the media.  So she is on a mission to set the record straight and teach adults and children a common sense way to eat.
Juli So, Largest Loser participant, said, “Melanie is so committed to helping me succeed through a holistic approach to nutrition.  I had all the knowledge on nutrition, but needed help applying it to my everyday life.”
Silverman has the credentials to support her opinions about nutrition.  A registered dietitian (RD) and a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), she spent seven years as a clinical dietitian at The University of Chicago Medical Center in the neonatal intensive care unit, pediatric intensive care unit and adult and pediatric burn units.  She also served as an adjunct faculty member at Loyola University Chicago.  She is a preceptor for various dietetic internship programs and has lectured at state and national meetings for the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, March of Dimes and the Prader-Willi California Foundation.
Over the past 14 years in practice, Silverman has developed philosophies on how and what adults and kids should eat.  They consist of two principles and require real soul searching for some.
1) Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.
2) Eat a variety of different foods.

Eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full is easier said than done.  Silverman teaches adult clients to listen to their internal cues and respond appropriately to their hunger and satiety.  By doing this, adults can settle at a comfortable weight for themselves.
Another Largest Loser participant, Danielle Saffer, had this to say, “Melanie not only tackles nutrition from the perspective of food…it’s about weight loss, health, culture, upbringing, history, stress and most importantly about compassion and forgiveness.  She created a safe place for sharing between people and helping me to find the courage to face my shadows.”
For both adults and kids, choosing a variety of foods is important because this insures people have a balanced diet and a healthier life.  Picky eating is a big problem for children, especially toddlers and preschool-age children.  “I’ve treated hundreds of children who won’t eat much beyond macaroni and cheese and prehistoric animal shaped chicken (nuggets).  Breaking picky eating habits in kids is some of my favorite type of instruction, because the kids become healthier, and the parents, who are often frustrated and worried, become more relaxed.”
Silverman counsels on a wide range of adult and pediatric nutritional issues including: weight management, food allergies, vegetarian or vegan diets, healthy eating and remedies for picky eaters.  She strives to customize each JCC nutrition-counseling session.
As part of its focus on families with young children, the Jewish Communities Centers Association recently adopted CATCH, Coordinated Approach to Children’s Health (www.catchinfo.org).  Created at the University of California, the CATCH program has been successfully teaching elementary-school children about the importance of exercise and good nutrition for a while.  Now it is expanding into early childhood centers, and the Merage JCC’s preschool will be utilizing the program
this fall.
For additional information about the JCC’s health and wellness programs, contact Melanie Silverman at dietitian@jccoc.org or (949) 435-3400.

Women & Health
“Healthy Eating for Life” was the topic of Women’s Health Forum, co-sponsored by Hadassah, Heritage Pointe, the Merage Jewish Community Center and Women’s Philanthropy of Jewish Federation & Family Services.  At the first program, on May 7, participants heard from and sampled a salad made by Jean-Pierre Dubray, executive chef at Pelican Hill Resort.
Then, Anuradha (Anu) Prakash, professor and program director of the food science program at Chapman University in Orange, explained the conscious diet: “think before we eat, and make an effort in choosing food.  Mindless eating leads to poor health.”
Dr. Prakash explained that stress triggers hormones to be released, so that the body doesn’t burn fat and we don’t sleep.  Poor nutrition can cause chronic diseases, she said.  Everything we eat is a mixture of nutrients, so it’s important to eat a variety of foods.
“Dietary moderation is a matter of obtaining enough nutrients from food and avoiding excessive amounts of nutrients while balancing diet with exercise,” she added.  “The optimum amount of nutrients allows people to function optimally without toxicity.  Take in what you need and enjoy your food.”

Stress Kills;
Vacations Heal
“There’s only one more important thing than planning for rainy days – planning for sunny days, planning for happiness,” explained Rami Lazarescu, owner of Ampro Vacations in Irvine.  “Life overwhelms us, and we have to take concrete action for our own happiness.”
According to Lazarescu, who has provided what he calls “happiness insurance” for 15 years, “People are more amenable to charging their car battery than their own battery.  Most people spend money on things we don’t want, but don’t allocate resources to things we do want.  While $34 billion in vacation time was forfeited last year, $25 billion was invested in funeral insurance.”
Many people need something to look forward to, Lazarescu believes.  The knowledge that one is taking action reduces stress and changes a person’s life on an ongoing basis.
For $5 a day, Ampro’s innovative, cost-effective program enables people to take a stress-free vacation at a luxury hotel.  These vacations give people the quality time to connect with their loved ones on the highest level while saving 85 percent of the cost of future vacations.  The program has been covered in Forbes and Yahoo Finance and on Fox News.
One person who has tried it is Rabbi Alter Tenenbaum of Chabad of Irvine.  “It was out of this world,” the rabbi said.  “Vacation time is a necessity, not a luxury.  “The most important things any person needs is to get away with the family and get recharged without a cell phone or computer.  People need time to reconnect and relate to each other.”
For more information and a free, 45-minute consultation, contact Ampro at (949) 833-8883.

Why Jewish Medical Ethics?
Jewish and secular medical ethics come from a different perspective, according to Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, rector and distinguished professor of philosophy at the American Jewish University and a renowned expert on Jewish medical ethics.  “Religion is about who you are individually and what your ties are, who you should strive to be and what you should strive to create,” he said at a conference called Judaism and Medicine held at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) in April.
American Jews inherit both the American picture and the Jewish picture, and some things are “at one,” meaning that there is some overlap in what a patient gets, according to Rabbi Dorff.  He explained, “Americans have rights, and the government has to show why we can’t have them.  In Judaism we leave Egypt as a community and get 613 commandments at Sinai.  If I get up with rights, the world owes me.  If I get up with responsibilities, I owe the world.”
The life expectancy has gone from 45 to 75 in 100 years, thanks to indoor plumbing, vaccinations, antibiotics, organ transplants and microsurgeries, and sometimes medical professionals are faced with ethical questions about procedures.  “If you can’t to something, you don’t have to ask questions, but you do have to ask questions if you can do something,” Rabbi Dorff said.
How can you gain moral guidance from a tradition that never asked the questions?  There are three ways to interpret the text, according to Rabbi Dorff: connect authority and continuity of the text to the decisions you make, read into the text rather than reading out of it or go to the underlying concepts and values and take legal precedents available.
Rabbi Dorff addresses that kind of in-depth interpretation in his book, Matters of Life and Death.  “For instance, in Jewish tradition, God owns your body, while in the United States, you do,” he explained.  “Judaism believes you should take care of yourself to be able to perform mitzvot.”
Another issue is the dichotomy between the body and the mind in Western philosophical tradition, while the Jewish lens says people are not isolated individuals.  Thus, doctors need to know what non-biological factors would affect biological factors.
Dorff asks and answers a lot of thought-provoking questions in the book: If God is a healer, is it hubris for humans to practice medicine?  What does a patient become when the decision is made to stop treating him and make life palliative (comfortable)?  In the distribution of health care, do we automatically have a right?

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