Name: Brad Bloom
Residence: Hilton Head, SC
Job: Rabbi at Congregation Beth Yam
Family status: Married with one daughter and one grandson
Peak weight: 315 pounds
Current weight: 245 pounds
Goal weight: 215 pounds, which he hopes to reach by June
Rabbi Brad Bloom says he’s struggled with his weight all his adult life. “I feel like I’m like a lot of guys. We start to get lazy and the next thing, we’ve gained five pounds or 10 pounds. That adds up over the years and one day you’re 100 pounds overweight. I think that’s what happened to me,” he says.
He says that as a rabbi, he struggles with choosing healthy foods. “When you’re a rabbi you’re on 24/7, going nonstop. It’s a socially oriented occupation. You’re going out to lunch and dinner, eating on the run, eating junk food, and eating at people’s events. And women cook for you and bake for you — they bring you cakes and pies. It’s a whole challenge you have to face,” he says.
A nudge from a friend pushed him to exercise, and the birth of his first grandchild solidified his resolve to take care of his health. “In clergy culture we’re so engaged in the mental aspect of our work, we do not focus on ourselves as vulnerable, living beings,” he says.
He made time for exercise
Bloom’s friend got him started on his weight-loss journey when she took him to CycleBar, an indoor cycling studio, in Hilton Head, SC. “I said, ‘Are you crazy? I’m not going to do this. I’ll have a heart attack.’ But I tried it,” he says.
“My legs are muscular, so I have a natural ability to get on that bike and click in and ride. The question was, would I have the ability in terms of breathing?” He stuck with it, and slowly saw his fitness improve.
Plus, he enjoyed the competition and the camaraderie. “I love being able to compete with myself and others in a joyful way. I feel like I’m accepted and welcome even though I’m one of the older ones,” he says.
Bloom committed to going to class three times a week. “I’m deadly serious about carving this out in my schedule. I explained to my congregation if you want me to be around to meet your needs — and you have every right to expect that — you have to support me,” he says.
He revamped his eating habits
Bloom knew exercise alone wouldn’t be enough for him to reach his weight-loss goals. “I knew eating and exercise had to go hand in hand, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it right for me,” he says. “I needed to do better with my health and my eating.”
He started by searching for foods he liked that were in line with his goals, and scaling back on the less-healthy options. “I focused on finding foods I could eat with less restriction but still enjoy, so I could put aside other foods and only have them occasionally,” he says.
In were sushi and poke bowls, fish, chicken, salads with protein, fruit, smoothies, oatmeal, high-fiber foods, and yogurt.
He also now:
- Shops mostly at the outer circle of the grocery store, where he can find fresh, whole foods
- Plans what he is going to eat for the next couple of days
- Watches the sizes of his portions
He’s noticed that as his weight has dropped, his appetite has decreased as well. “One of the biggest fears people like me have is how to stay satiated — how not to feel the sense of hunger,” he says. “I still have a huge appetite, but I notice I’m not eating as much as I used to eat. When I get a meal I won’t finish it, I’ll take it home. That’s a new thing. I’m not trying to do it, I’ve just had enough.”
He knows he’s in it for the long haul
Bloom acknowledges that he’ll need to focus on his eating and his physical health for the rest of his life. “I’m not going to lose the weight and somehow be done forever. It never stops. You always have to eat, and you should enjoy eating. There’s nothing wrong with it. I just had to learn how to eat sensibly,” he says. “It’s still a struggle for me — I pray about it, I have written about it, and preached about it. I’m going to be struggling with my weight until I’m in my grave.”
He’s focused on his long-term health
Bloom concedes that his appearance factors into his weight-loss goals: “I want to walk into a room with my wife on my arm and have her feel like she’s got a handsome husband.” But there’s more to it than that.
“I want to be around to see my wife grow old with me. I want my congregants to feel like they have a vibrant rabbi they can be proud of,” he says. And his first grandchild was born last November. “I look at that 9-month-old baby and I want to imagine standing there at 76 at his bar mitzvah, feeling good about myself — not just because I’m thin, but because I’m healthy,” he says.
He recognizes that religious faith brings with it an obligation to take care of himself. “I don’t care what faith you are, God breathes life into us and we are stewards of his creation,” Bloom says. “It’s up to us to use that wisely, and frankly I haven’t used it wisely. I don’t like having to admit that. I’m trying to make a correction here and I don’t feel like I succeeded, I feel like I am succeeding.”
And he’s happy with the progress he’s made. “I feel much better about my physical self. I have a lot more strength and energy,” he says. “I feel good about what I’ve done.”
It’s still a struggle for me — I pray about it, I have written about it, and preached about it. I’m going to be struggling with my weight until I’m in my grave.
A dietitian’s take
Samantha Cassetty, R.D., a New York City-based nutritionist, applauds Bloom’s strategies:
- He works out in a way he likes. She says, “Exercise is a great habit and it improves health in so many ways, but it’s only a small portion of weight loss. That’s why it’s so crucial to move in ways that you enjoy — not for the sole purpose of burning calories or burning off food. It should make you feel good!
- He doesn’t ban any foods. “Restricting your old standbys forever isn’t sane or sustainable. It’s absolutely fine to enjoy these types of foods sometimes, but as he says, they aren’t necessarily everyday choices,” Cassetty says.
- He plans what he’ll eat. “Even just making a mental map of what you plan to eat can help set your intentions and nudge you to shop for healthier foods or order them while dining out,” Cassetty says. “Making too many last-minute decisions about what to eat can feel overwhelming, and when you’re already tired and stressed at the end of the day, you might make easier, but less healthful choices.”
- He’s naturally curbing his appetite. “Increasing your veggies and balancing them out with proteins, healthful fats, and a right-size portion of starchy carbs can be a good way to amplify meals so they’re both visually appetizing and physically satisfying,” she says.
- He’s focusing on his health, strength, and energy. “I’m a huge believer in celebrating those aspects because the truth is, you might not be able to control where you wind up on the scale, but you can control how you take care of yourself. When you nourish yourself well, stay active, manage stress healthfully, and sleep sufficiently, you gain so much. That’s what healthy looks like—a collection of behaviors, not a number or a size,” Cassetty says.
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