Columns - 2004

    The fastest diet

    By Doug Brook
    Deep South Jewish Voice Columnist

    You can't read a publication with the word 'Jewish' in the title without periodically hearing about how few Jews there are in the world, or about the risk of there eventually being even fewer.

    This column presents a slightly tangential view. Which is only reasonable considering how often this columnist goes off on a tangent. But I take a tangent only when I see a sine of things to come. It's a civic duty which I cannot wave. It's a moral contract which I cannot merely cosine.

    As the Talmud, based on the writings brought through the Sinai in the Arc of the Covenant, says, "secant ye shall find."

    With that in mind (whatever that was), this column does not explore the topic of there being a smaller Jewish population. Rather, it deals with how to make a portion of the Jewish population a little smaller.

    While sitting at Yom Kippur services this year, I took the opportunity to reflect. And the fact that I did have a reflection proved once and for all that I am not a vampire. And that there would be six more weeks of winter.

    I also reflected on the fact that Judaism has a vast cupboard full of dietary laws (called kashrut, which has more to do with keeping kosher than with eating the root of a mythical kash plant).

    I first reflected on this Jew's cupboard full of food and how I might even eat the jar of artichoke hearts, including the jar itself, if the sun didn't set pretty soon.

    But I suddenly realized that, outside of any health implications in the laws of kashrut, Judaism says nothing about specific rules for an actual diet.

    Of course, Judaism does provide a proscribed workout regimen. Strict adherence to Shabbat entails one day a week of walking without driving.

    But to fill the culinary gap, I have created the latest diet craze. Puts Atkins on ice. Blows away South Beach. Far more palatable than the Diet of Worms. It will make you Zone out.

    I present, for those of you brave enough and Jewish enough, the fastest diet ever devised: the Yom Kippur Diet.

    As with all things Jewish, there are many ways to apply the YK Diet. It's not a single restrictive regimen. After all, not everyone fasts the same.

    Of course, there are people who can't fast due to medical reasons. That's fine, all good. Can't make a joke about these people. If I do, I'll be one of them next year.

    While anything is better than nothing, it's reasonable to acknowledge that people practice different levels of fasting. Some people don't last all the way until sunset. Some people let themselves drink. Some people hope that the Big G is too busy taking names at services to notice their seven-year-old hands sneaking a twinkie from the pantry.

    But the YK Diet is so simple that it has room even for these people who only do Yom Kippur half-fast. (Okay, try saying it out loud. Sound it out. There, you got it now.)

    Wearing white on Yom Kippur is a crucial part of the YK Diet. Of course, it is tradition to wear white on the High Holy Days as a symbol of purity as we atone.

    But it is also a wonderful reminder that most of us just can't pull off wearing white. So we spend many, many, many long hours at services surrounded by more Jews assembled in one place than anywhere outside of Wall Street.

    Have you ever noticed how uniformly congregants rise and sit? It's not just because the rabbi says to. It often has military precision. This is because if everyone rises and sits together, nobody stands out among the crowd. Everyone is hiding from being seen by each other.

    The ingestion part of the diet is even simpler: Don't eat or drink. At all. Hey, after twenty-seven hours of fasting, I lost two and a half pounds. And the only exercise I got was standing, sitting, restraining myself from going home to watch the Alabama game during the break, and the cumulative arm curls of holding a machzor open for the entire service.

    And I felt fine. Okay, I had a little bit of a headache from dehydration. And I felt a little weak. But otherwise I could've kept going, wasn't even very hungry.

    Let your stomach shrink. Of course, that's the ultimate goal. But I don't mean your He'Brew gut. I mean your stomach. If you must eat after the fast is over, you don't have to eat much. Your stomach has shrunk to about the size of a pea. Why force it to expand by eating lots of food again?

    After all, if it wanted more food, why would it shrink so much? Further, your stomach shrinking internally symbolizes the greater goal of the reduction of its surrounding waistline. We're Jewish. Our history is full of seeing signs, except for the one that said "Exit From Sinai Desert, This Way."

    And if you think that signs are just coincidence, I leave you with an absolutely true sign of... well, you be the judge.

    On September 11 this year, the New York Mets hosted the Philadelphia Phillies in a regrettably, depressingly meaningless game during the pennant race.

    That particular day was the third anniversary of The 9/11 Event.

    The game went 13 innings. The Mets lost 9 to 11. At the end of nine innings, both teams had exactly 9 runs and 11 hits each.

    Mr. Serling has left the building.

    Doug Brook is a technical publications program manager in Silicon Valley whose writing is taking the nation by a half-fast storm. The twinkie was actually during Passover, he thinks. Hard to remember. But he was seven years old, so cut him some slack. For more information, past columns, other writing, and other current events, visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.