Jews, Non-Jews and Weight Loss
A little more than four years ago, I was walking on Cashio Street and I dropped something on the ground. When I bent down to get it, let’s just say it wasn’t easy to stand back up. I was almost 200 pounds with a big puffy face. I was really starting to feel old.
A day or two later, as I was being introduced to go on stage, Dom Irrera, a comedian friend, said to me, “Look how fat you are.” Soon after that, I was with another friend when he pointed to an old guy using a walker while crossing a street and said, “We don’t want to end up like that.”
OK, message received: Lose weight. So the next day, I decided to crawl out of my fat suit and do something about it. It took a year, but I lost 50 pounds and have kept those 50 pounds off for more than four years. Losing the weight was not hard. It was exciting. But keeping it off is murder. I now exercise seven days a week. That’s good, but the food is where it’s at. I have been an overeater my whole life — still am and always will be. I remember when I was 3 months old being breastfed and my mother screaming at me, “Enough already. Don’t you ever stop eating?” My problem is I’m never full. I could eat a 15-course dinner and on the way home, stop for popcorn and pie á la mode. I have an empty space inside of me that is very demanding and never satisfied.
In order to lose the weight and keep it off, I had to do just one little thing: change just about everything. For me, that means not eating things I used to enjoy and not having them ever again. And doing this one day at a time. I don’t eat pizza, pasta, bread (except on Shabbat) and my dessert is fruit (no more cakes or cookies). To the best of my ability, I’ve given up all sugar. My diet now is whole food, and plant based. I recently talked to my rabbi to see if he could somehow get rid of the 7,000-calorie-a-day holidays such as Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot. They are killers for a person like me.
As I was losing the weight, a funny thing happened. I noticed that my losing weight bothered my Jewish friends more than my non-Jewish friends. Jews get very worried when you lose weight. They all think they are doctors and diagnosticians. They say things like, “Are you OK?” “Why did you lose the weight?” “Did you want to lose the weight?” On the other hand, when my non-Jewish friends would see me, I’d hear, “You look great!” “How’d you do it?” “Bet you feel terrific!” “Want to go to the rodeo?”
A few of my Jewish friends called my wife to try to pry out of her how long I had to live. Sometimes they would walk up to me in the street and scream, “Enough already.” “Stop it.” “Don’t lose any more weight.” The crème de la crème was when I was in Glatt Mart supermarket and this woman I know looked at me, turned white and started running away. I quickly caught up with her and asked if she was all right. She was trembling right there in the middle of the store. She told me she had heard I was very sick and that I had died. And she always liked me and was very sad to get the news of my death. I thanked her for her kind words, told her I was all right and went back to eat some free grapes.
About an hour later, I thought: If she liked me so much, why didn’t she send a card or make a small donation in memory of me? Fooey on her.
A few months later, I was visiting my 85-year-old aunt, who offered me a piece of cake. I said, “I don’t eat cake.” She said, “Life is not worth living without cake.” I guess if I were married to my Uncle Louie like she was, I might feel the same.
One rabbi who wanted to lose weight called and asked me to meet him and tell him how he could do it. I asked, “Where do you want to meet to talk?” He said, “Schwartz Bakery.”
Keeping off the weight is a daily fight. It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Everyday I am on the battlefield trying to stay alive. To my Jewish friends, I know you mean well. And when I do die one day while eating a bowl of broccoli, you can all have your laugh. What I’ve come to understand is that all the foods that I thought I could not live without, I hardly ever miss. And as I get older, I realize that almost everything in life is overrated anyway. Keeping off weight is a full-time job. My paycheck is getting my health back and wearing my kids’ clothes.
Two Jews Walk Into Israel
On Dec. 19 and 20, Jerry Seinfeld and I will be performing stand-up comedy at the Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv. I have not been this excited about doing a gig in years. Jerry and I had talked about going to Israel to perform and, God willing, it’s now happening.
Jerry and I have been touring together for more than a decade. Touring with Jerry is a total first-class experience. We travel in a private jet, which is a lot better than an El Al flight, where every 10 minutes people wake you up to join a minyan or some woman with 14 kids wants you to hold the triplets while she tries to get the other 11 kids out of the bathroom. We stay in the best hotels and we laugh more in a day than most people laugh in a year. Plus, the people who come to see Jerry’s shows are, by far, the best audiences on the planet.
I expect Israel to be all that and more. For me, performing in Israel is different from performing anywhere else in the world. The people in Israel are more than just an audience. They are my brothers and sisters. They are modern-day heroes. And now more than ever is a perfect time for Jerry and I or anyone else to go and show support for the people who live there.
People ask me, “Aren’t you scared to go to Israel with all that’s going on now?” Not really. My job calls for me to go wherever people want and need to laugh. Bob Hope taught us all about that. Israel is under immense pressure on almost every level. Just having a Jewish mother is enough pressure for anyone. Now add to it all their other mishegoss and your head could pop off.
I love Israel and I love the Jewish people. In stand-up comedy, Jews have always reigned supreme. They set the standard for the art form, and have raised the bar pretty darn high. A question that comes up a lot is, “What keeps the Jewish people going? How have they survived when, in every generation, someone or some group is trying to wipe them out?” One answer might be laughter. Jews love to laugh. Jews like to tell funny stories. Jews don’t mind jokes at their own expense. In a rabbi, a priest and a minister joke, the rabbi is almost always the fall guy. And no one laughs harder than the rabbis.
So, on Dec. 19 and 20, two Jews will walk into the Menora Mivtachim Arena and tell some funny stories to the great people of Israel, who will listen and laugh. You know what? Not even terrorism can stop the laughter.