The case for a slice of cake

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It’s nearly Pesach. Think about that for a second. It’s halfway through the Jewish year. That means that it’s been six months since the flurry of chaggim around Rosh Hashana.

It makes one wonder what happened to our New Year resolutions. But sometimes resolutions take us to extremes. We end up doing one thing too much, and leaving out other, similarly important, aspects of our lives. Have we eliminated the middle ground? What happened to balance and moderation?

Dr. Harry says, “everything in moderation!”. This is one of the first things that I remember my dad saying to me when I was little. I don’t remember the context in which it was said, but I’m sure it had to do with that extra chocolate I may have wanted, or the little bit more ice cream after supper. But, those words have always stuck in my head. Everything in moderation!

Dr. Harry Seftel was, and still is, a great proponent of this, and I think about it often.

Now, this doesn’t just mean our eating habits. There are many sites which see this mantra for a healthy diet as a myth. Some would say it allows you to have some cake, just not the whole cake. And what is the size of the piece that you’re eating? And what kind of cake is it? And why is it just cake I’m speaking about? I’m not a dietician and I won’t (and can’t) make a dietary plan to which you should subscribe. But, everything in moderation is my go to guide not only when I’m eating, but for all facets of my style of life.

I love having fun. I enjoy watching movies, having a beer with my friends while watching sport, reading a book, playing with my daughter and wife, singing with my choir, and eating delicious food. I enjoy life and enjoy living. And I’m sure most people do as well. But sometimes things get in the way. I have to go to work (which, although I enjoy it, is still work). I have to look after my daughter (which, although I enjoy it, it does take some time away from that last episode of The Night Of which I just can’t seem to finish). And I have to study (which, although I enjoy, is a bit stressful every now and then). While looking at this list of things which I have to do: work; being a responsible parent; and studying, it can seem rather daunting. Where can I fit the time in to still enjoy life?

A former Olympic athlete turned motivational speaker, Silken Laumann, says that when she was training to be a champion rower, although she got her return on investment through her high performance, she forgot to have fun. “The pressure of performing and the seriousness of a bad performance took some of the playfulness out of my approach”, she recalled. She further went on to say, “A healthy life should include a playful attitude and an attitude of moderation when it comes to fitness.”

So, other than diet and exercise, what is there to moderate, to balance in our lives? I think a major problem that has developed over the last few years is our reliance on technology. We continuously look down at our cellphones, checking out our Whatsapps, Facebook messages, emails and tweets (who uses a phone to make calls these days?). We are so connected with the global community that we have stopped connecting with our own community, and most importantly, our families. Technology is something incredible! A real gift to the world. But when it gets in the way of quality time with your friend or loved one, you need to prioritise which comes first — phone or family.

And lastly, stress. We stress about so many things during the day. The other night, while trying to fall asleep, I was worrying about a few things and the order in which I had to do them and how I was going to get it all done and that I wouldn’t be able to… It was bad. I ended up waking up late and rushing to work (don’t worry, I was on time). Stress can be good and is necessary to achieve your goals. But we need to manage it constantly. Sometimes we must stop, take a deep breath in and focus on what we are looking forward to, instead of what is looming around the corner.

I find that my mantra, ‘everything in moderation’, gives me a certain freedom. It allows me to find that space where I can eat healthily, with a tasty snack in between. It makes me value my time at work, and my time with my family. I enjoy the freedom to follow a fitness regimen that suits my lifestyle, and not one that controls me. I still need to learn to find a balanced approach to technology, but I’m working on it.

So, this Pesach, when we are speaking about freedom, think about the balance in your life and the personal freedom it brings you. I’m not saying we must stop looking at the world in general. The world in which we live is not balanced. From Trump to Le Pen, from Zuma to Mugabe, refugees from Syria to 17 million people without social grants in South Africa, our world is unequal and off-key. The world is not free from oppression and current forms of bondage. But for one moment at the Seder, think about how you can be more balanced. Hopefully that will tilt the world in the right direction.

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