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Wellness - Feb 05, 2019

How the PJCC Community Helped Me Lose Over 80 Pounds in 2018

David A. Shaywitz

As a physician and biologist, I am perhaps ideally suited to appreciate the benefits of a healthy weight, but achieving this goal has long been a challenge. While I wasn’t overweight in college, I found myself, insidiously, getting heavier over time. Repeated attempts over the years at dietary restriction resulted in a series of yo-yo cycles, first losing weight, then gaining more.

I had planned to “get serious” about my weight prior to turning 50, a year ago, and when this didn’t materialize, I thought I’d start in earnest when I hit 50. I turned to my usual approach, dietary restriction, only to discover it no longer seemed to work. This was a scary moment, as I began to worry that perhaps I’d be stuck here, at the worst part of the yo-yo cycle. It occurred to me that if I wanted to change, I needed something more substantial and holistic. As I recently described in Forbes, what I landed on involved the combination of a low-carb diet (through the Virta program, which provides supervision and coaching, but not the actual food) and a regular exercise program, almost entirely at the PJCC. As a result, I lost over 80 pounds in 2018, and I’m continuing to adhere to this regimen today.

While the low-carb aspect was described in the Forbes post, I wanted to highlight the importance of the PJCC community in my ongoing efforts, and in helping me achieve the results I have so far.

The Value of Community

When our family moved to the Peninsula from the East Coast, we quickly discovered the PJCC was the welcoming community we had hoped to find. Our children learned soccer here and took lessons to improve their swimming. One of our kids had a laser tag birthday party here, and all of us enjoy the pool in the summer. We appreciated the sense of inclusion you feel from the moment you approach the building; the PJCC welcomes everyone, and the diversity of members contributes to the appeal. At the same time, I’ve also appreciated the unapologetic recognition of Jewish holidays and tradition, enhancing my connection to my culture and faith—especially meaningful as our oldest daughter celebrated her bat mitzvah in September.

The value of this community connection became increasingly apparent to me over the last year as I evolved from an occasional gym user to a regular member of the 5am crowd, the hardy souls who queue up before the doors open, eager to start the day. Many are here to swim, some to lift, others to use the cardiovascular equipment. I soon fell into a pattern of using the elliptical every day and doing a small amount of lifting every other day.

I quickly found how much I appreciated the entire routine: the welcoming smiles from the staff at the desk and the encouraging nods from members sweating on their favorite machines; even the friendly Starbucks baristas who I would regularly see before heading home. Beyond this, I found I loved the deeper connection with my Jewish identity that developed over the days and weeks, as I was reminded of different holidays, or of a music performance, or an interesting talk, and as I purchased challah for our family every Friday on my way out.

Changing an aspect of your life, like diet and exercise, is hard. But the consistent presence of a nurturing, encouraging, and hamish (Yiddish for homey) community like the PJCC, which engenders connection on so many levels, grounds you, strengthens you, and helps you succeed.

David Shaywitz trained as a physician/scientist and is now a venture investor focused on the application of data science and technology (DST) to the discovery, development and delivery of new medicines. He and his family have been members of the PJCC since 2012.