…Recognizing that many other natural physical pleasures can be subbed in for food — like spending time in nature or dancing to great music — is freeing. Subbing in more natural foods instead of the more addictive processed food also works. And this isn’t a distraction technique. It is providing our essence what it desperately needs to thrive.
So many of us have tried dieting. All too often though, many of us lose 10–20 pounds, but we end up gaining it back. Not only is yo-yo dieting unhealthy, it is also demoralizing and makes us feel like giving up. What exactly do we have to do to achieve a healthy body weight and to stick with it forever?
In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve A Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently” we are interviewing health and wellness professionals who can share lessons from their research and experience about how to do this.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bracha Goetz.
Bracha Goetz is a Harvard-educated wellness expert and the author of 39 books that help children’s souls shine and a memoir about becoming an Orthodox Jew and overcoming food addictions joyfully: Searching for God in the Garbage. All of her books can be found here:
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series Bracha! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in a small apartment in Rego Park, New York, went to Forest Hills High School (where Simon and Garfunkel went before me), graduated from Harvard University, and then studied in medical school.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Dr.Seuss inspired me to write joyful and rhyming picture books. I loved his books as a child, and they still continue to fill me with wonder now.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
From Rabbi Noach Weinberg I learned about the purpose of life. I was searching for this wisdom for years, and when I finally discovered what it was, my life was transformed.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
When I was in medical school, I was searching through the garbage for what still had value that had been tossed away. The title of my memoir comes from that interesting (OK, bizarre) behavior. While compiling the memoir, I realized it was part of my desperate search to find the treasures from my heritage that had been tossed. I was searching for what could nourish my hungry soul.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Jeff Bezos said, “Everything I have ever done has started small.” Amazon is the epitome of big, and if even he, is saying that everything he has ever done has started small, that gives great validation to every person’s tiny effort.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
My next children’s book which is due to be released soon is “Let’s Stay Healthy.” It is vital to help children develop healthy habits from early on in life in a joyful way so that they can hopefully live longer, happier, and more productive lives.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field?
I offer a spiritual approach to enjoying fitness and wellbeing. People often try to fill the emptiness inside with addictive behaviors, but once we recognize that the emptiness within is a sign of spiritual hunger, we can joyfully find the fulfillment we have been craving.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about achieving a healthy body weight. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Healthy Body Weight”?
A healthy body weight is a body weight that helps you to enjoy good health and feel energized.
How can an individual learn what is a healthy body weight for them? How can we discern what is “too overweight” or what is “too underweight”?
If a person’s weight is causing deleterious health issues, then a person may be too overweight or underweight. A shocking statistic released from the CDC is that more than 73% of adults in the US were overweight — even before the pandemic.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons why being over your healthy body weight, or under your healthy body weight, can be harmful to your health?
People under their healthy body weight generally suffer from a lack of energy and many other debilitating conditions can develop if a person becomes anorexic. Being overweight can cause Type II diabetes (which is now surging in the US), cardiovascular diseases, and even some types of cancer, to name just a few repercussions.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few examples of how a person who achieves and maintains a healthy body weight will feel better and perform better in many areas of life?
Eating nutritious food and being active promotes and enhances life. We were designed to eat natural whole foods and move around a lot, not be sedentary.
Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve a Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently?” If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
The ancient mystical wisdom that I learned from Rabbi Noach Weinberg is that the purpose of life is to experience the greatest pleasure possible! Imagine that — we were actually put here to have an awesome time! And not only that, but we were even given clear directions for how to achieve the greatest pleasure in life: The Pleasure Ladder.
The five rungs of pleasure on the ladder correspond to the five levels of the human soul which are explained in the ancient mystical wisdom of the Kaballah.
Many of us become stuck on the first and lowest level of pleasure which consists of all the natural physical pleasures of this world. Widespread addiction is an indication that a vast amount of people have gotten stuck on this rung. When people need more pleasure in their lives, it is easy to overeat, for instance, because food brings immediate pleasure. And wanting the pleasure to keep lasting, people overeat.
Recognizing that many other natural physical pleasures can be subbed in for food — like spending time in nature or dancing to great music — is freeing. Subbing in more natural foods instead of the more addictive processed food also works. And this isn’t a distraction technique. It is providing our essence what it desperately needs to thrive.
On the second rung of The Pleasure Ladder is love. But people don’t have to ever wait or long for love. It is actually not dependent on anyone else. We can bring the pleasure of love into our lives at any moment, simply by appreciating the virtues of another. That is what fills us with a warm and uplifting feeling.
On the third rung up The Pleasure Ladder is meaning. Engaging in meaningful pursuits that make a positive difference brings an even greater level of pleasure.
The fourth level of the ladder is creative wisdom. Tapping into the creative force of the Universe is exhilarating. We all know how pleasurable it is to be so immersed in doing something creative that we go into an indescribable zone in which we could care less about sleeping or eating. It is that all encompassing.
Each level up, in fact, brings not only more pleasure, but more energy and more connection. The fifth and most lasting level of pleasure is transcendence, transcending limitations — the experience of connecting with everyone and everything. It’s when the illusion of estrangement clearly dissolves. The veil of separation lifts and we see clearly how we are all connected to the very same energy Source and how we all need each other. That’s when we are filled with the greatest sense of gratitude of all.
Each level up the pleasure ladder brings wider realms of connection into our lives, moving us away from the feeling of estrangement that leads to addictions, including food addictions. When we overeat, for instance, we are trying to fill inner emptiness by continuing to eat, which brings immediate, though fleeting pleasure, but the inner emptiness is a spiritual one, so no amount of food can fill it up.
What is the price we need to pay to experience pleasure this very moment and enjoy each rung on The Pleasure Ladder? Gratitude. As the sages of the Talmud explain, “Who is rich? Those who are happy with what they have.” Focus on what you enjoy, and savor it. That’s really why we are here — to nourish our hungry souls and let them shine with the joy that gratitude brings.
The emphasis of this series is how to maintain an ideal weight for the long term, and how to avoid yo-yo dieting. Specifically, how does a person lose weight and then maintain that permanently?
When you feel like overeating, ask yourself, “Is it my body that is hungry, or my soul?” You know that finishing off the whole container of ice cream won’t fill your soul. How do you know that? Because it won’t bring you gratitude! When you feel like eating the whole box of cookies, think of what could give you more pleasure right that moment. Going outside to feel the sunshine? Putting on some music and stretching? How about leaving a message of appreciation for someone? Whatever fills your soul with greater sweetness works!
What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to lose weight? What errors cause people to just snap back to their old unhealthy selves? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?
How long can anyone stay on a diet that makes them feel restricted in life? What we need to do is add MORE joy to our lives — not less. Identify what brings you more pleasure than eating junk. The big food industry purposely designs food that is delicious but addictive, packed with large amounts of fat and sugar that don’t normally occur in nature. And junk food doesn’t supply us with the nutrients our bodies need. So what is the most effective way to break out of the habit of eating ( and addictively overeating) unhealthy food? Fill yourself with the pleasures on The Pleasure Ladder — including the abundance of natural foods that are not only delicious — but also nutritious!
How do we take all this information and integrate it into our actual lives? The truth is that we all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
Just the bad habits we’ve gotten into — with the assistance of the big food industry! And what is the easiest way to break a bad habit? Do it joyfully! It can take 400 repetitions to form new synapses in the brain to create a new habit. But when we do it joyfully — with just 10–20 repetitions, we’ve got the new good habit ingrained!
On the flip side, how can we prevent these ideas from just being trapped in a rarified, theoretical ideal that never gets put into practice? What specific habits can we develop to take these intellectual ideas and integrate them into our normal routine?
Here’s a great one to try: If you chew more, you eat less! Chewing food longer helps you to digest your food better, but it also helps you to enjoy it more too. If you don’t start preparing your next forkful or spoonful until you have completely chewed the food that is already in your mouth, you will find that you have more time to savor the pleasure from your taste buds. And the pause helps you to have more gratitude for what you are eating. And guess what? Once eating becomes a slower and more pleasurable experience, the gratitude practice begins to extend out to other areas of your life as well.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
We can turn the food addictions that are prevalent in our society into an opportunity to have gratitude become prevalent instead, as we recognize that what we are really hungry for is more pleasure in life. Because as we have just learned, the way to experience more pleasure in life is through practicing gratitude.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I was in the dorm with Bill Gates when he was at Harvard, and I would love to meet him again, and help him understand that, as Wayne Dyer said, “Success is an inside job!” We are all spiritual beings going through a temporary human experience so let’s focus on helping souls to shine with vitality! To overcome a bad habit, we need greater and more lasting pleasures to sub in. And educating people about how gratitude brings the most pleasure in life is key.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Dear readers, you are welcome to meet all of my books on the Bracha Goetz Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/spiritualkidsbooks-brachagoetz
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.