An interview with Chava Goldman, author of “How to Succeed on Any Diet: A Jewish and Friendly Guide to Dieting and Exercise”,
(distributed in the USA by Israel Book Shop, 1-888-536-7427)
Chava the first question definitely has to be, what made you write a diet and exercise book?
That’s a good question. I talk about this in short, in the intro to my book. For nearly my entire life I have been fat and on some sort of diet or another. When I finally got so sick of being 60 pounds overweight I decided I was going to research the dieting and exercise issue so thoroughly that I would become an expert in it and I would finally lose those unwanted pounds, once and for all. There were no books available that took into account my religious Jewish lifestyle so I had to read tons of secular material and take out the bits that were useful. After nearly a decade of this research, coupled with constant trial and error, I finally achieved what I wanted – my goal weight.
When I looked around I also saw that not only were there no books applicable to our lifestyle there were barely any Weight Loss Consultants that could help us either. Almost everybody I knew who was going to a proper Diet Group or a professional Weight Consultant was going to a non-Jewish one. That included some of the most holy Rebbetzins and wives of Roshei Yeshiva that I knew. I thought that perhaps I could help other women with my new found knowledge. I wanted to share what I had learned the hard way, and make it easier for them. So off I went to become a qualified Weight Consultant.
Once again I had to wade through the enormous amount of information and tips that were inapplicable, not to mention the non-Jewish world’s version of motivation and encouragement. But once I became qualified I found that my phone and doorbell were constantly busy. I started my own consultancy firm as well as a Diet Group. On top of that I began to receive calls from fellow Weight Consultants from around the world. Somewhere along the line I was asked to share my knowledge with a wider audience, and that’s how my weekly column for a national Jewish newspaper began. The column was entitled Lighten Up: Addressing Weight Loss, Nutrition and Exercise Issues for the Jewish Woman. The reception it received blew me away. Thousands of women were reading my column every week. But what really floored me, was that many people commented on how much they enjoyed reading my column, even though they didn’t need to go on a diet! I tried to make the column funny, up beat, light, snappy, at the same time as being authoritative, informative and practical. It was down to earth and it hit home. After a couple of years of writing, my husband suggested that I write a book on dieting and exercise, in the same upbeat, talking-to-you-on-the-sofa style as my column was, in order to help even more women. With guidance and encouragement from our Rav zt”l we began the journey. And this book is the result.
Your book deals with the world of exercise as well dieting. Have you always enjoyed exercise?
No, definitely not. When I first got married I used to get migraines from just running up the stairs – let alone any strenuous, huffing and puffing type exercises!
So what changed?
Well, somewhere along my dieting research journey a friend suggested I supplement my attempt at dieting with exercise. So she invited me to an aerobics class she was attending. Now I must be honest with you. Besides the migraines I used to get, I always found exercise to be very boring. But when I noticed all the cute dance steps and interesting arm movements that were incorporated into the class I was hooked. It appealed to my creative side.
Why did you decide to become an aerobics instructor?
That’s another story. After I attended exercise classes for a while, one of my friends said to me “You know what we need around here? We need a Jewish aerobics instructor. And I have just the right person for the job: You!” I laughed in her face at the absurdity of the idea of me, Mrs. I-hate-exercise and get-migraines-from-running-up-stairs, overnight becoming an aerobics instructor. But my friend was very determined and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, so I pushed her off with what I thought at the time was a very clever cop-out. I told her “You get me eight Jewish ladies who want an exercise class, who are willing to have me instruct them, who can agree to a day and a time, and then find me a place I can do it, on a weekly basis, and I’ll do it.” I was so convinced that I would never hear from her again on this topic, that when she called back in less than one hour and told me, in all seriousness, that she had arranged it all, and that the class was called for next Monday night at 9:00 I almost fell off my chair!
That’s how I got started. After I discovered how much I enjoyed giving a class, I no longer got migraines, and that the ladies themselves actually enjoyed the classes, I decided to become professionally qualified. Once again I found that there was a dearth of professionally qualified Jewish aerobics instructors around the world, not to mention a lot of misinformation and plain ignorance on the subject of exercise in the Jewish World. That’s why I decided to include the subject in my column and now in my book.
I read that you give classes to ladies, seminary girls, and high school girls and that sometimes you have 100 girls in the class. Is that true?
Yes it is. My seminary girls’ classes are very popular.
How do you handle so many participants?
Before the session I give them a pep talk about listening to my instructions throughout the lesson and not talking to their neighbors or friends (you know how girls love to shmooze…). Then I spread them out throughout the hall so they can’t touch each other’s fingers, even with arms extended. This gives them plenty of space to move around without bumping into each other. I use a headmike so my voice can be heard very clearly from all parts of the hall. Plus, I have four elevated stages set up on the four sides of the hall and I instruct from on top of those stages. Sometimes I feel like I’m jumping around on my dining room table! Every so often I turn the entire class to face a different direction in the hall and I move to another stage in front of them. This ensures that no ones remains at the back for very long. I can see everyone very clearly – so clearly in fact, that I often point out to girls that their sneaker laces have come undone.
It must be electrifying to participate in such a class.
It certainly is. The girls and I have a great time and we all get a big buzz out of it. The more the merrier!
Let’s get back to your book. You seem to have broken all the molds with this book. From the topic, to the style of writing, to the front and back cover, and even the interior layout of the book, it’s all so different and new. Why did you decide to make it so different?
It really is different. So different in fact, that when we first looked for a distributor, one of the questions that came up was, where would a Jewish bookstore put a diet book? In most of the bookstores there is no section for diet books. Then the answer came by itself. Exactly. It doesn’t matter where it goes, it will be the only one in the bookstore anyway. But you are right when you say we broke all the molds. We did it deliberately. We analyzed all the things that we didn’t like about all the other books out there, dieting and non-dieting alike, and we tried to do things differently.
For instance the style of writing is not very traditional; it’s similar to the way I wrote my column. I’m having a conversation with you, I’m not lecturing you. It makes you want to keep reading. It talks to you. The cover is neither brash, nor what you’d expect from a diet and exercise book. Who puts an ice cream cone on the front cover of a diet and exercise book anyway? It’s upbeat and positive. It says “Yeah, you can have your ice cream, still look good, and feel healthy!”. And Deenee Cohen of DC Design really outdid herself on this one. Both the front and back cover are so classy, so professional looking, so betampt and aidel, they speak to both the eye and the heart of a woman.
And when it came to the interior layout we had to work very hard to find the right person and the right style, as well. We wanted it to reflect the easy-to-read style of the writing, the classiness of the cover, and yet not come over like a text book. Which is no mean feat when your are talking about 428 pages packed with information, tips, and motivating and inspiring messages etc. But as one of our reviewers wrote, it truly is a masterpiece, so all the time and effort were well worth it.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Oh that’s easy. Keeping it a secret for so long. Keeping secrets doesn’t come easy to me and we wanted to surprise everyone, so we didn’t even let our children know what we were doing! And that was major mesiros nefesh for me!
Do you have any more projects on the horizon?
Oh, yes. We are putting together a book with inspirational stories, sayings, thoughts etc. connected to dieting and/or exercise – the type of stories other struggling dieters can benefit from hearing… and then there are a few other ideas in the pipeline that I’m also finding hard to keep secret but look forward to sharing one day!
Click HERE to purchase this book.