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How Gratitude for Life Beats Fat

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It took losing 50 pounds for Brad Hirschfield to even realize that he was overweight, or so he jokes. The joke is, in fact, on point: Hirschfield, 38, is a teacher and Orthodox rabbi who was taught that pursuing a life of the mind and the spirit meant everything -- except pursuing health, sexuality, or body consciousness. So he let his body go.

Many of us fall into the spirit-body divide. For Hirschfield, it meant keeping his eyes on heaven and not sweating the chocolate cake. To others, it usually means cutting out the chocolate cake to look better, and maybe even find romance, but heaven has nothing to do with any of it. Either way, physicality is divorced from spirituality. Then Hirschfield had a revelation: God created humans with the breath, or so says the Bible, and every spiritual tradition connects the breath with the divine. Yet he was so heavy, he couldn't breathe properly. Then he contemplated his own preaching -- that a spiritual life is a life lived with gratitude -- and that decided that he wasn't practicing what he preached.

Hirschfield had actually been struggling most of his life with his weight, but it wasn't until this revelation that connected his spirituality to his weight that the pounds -- all 100 of them -- came off and stayed off. Dieting, it turns out, can actually be a spiritual endeavor. Getting healthy isn't about looking better. It's about feeling better, happier, and more grateful for the blessing of a healthy body that is the receptacle -- and the expression -- of our spirituality.


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