Chai for Chai- 18 For Life-Jewish Weight Loss

By Rabbi Emily Ilana Losben-Ostrov

During Shabbat Shuvah- the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I gave a sermon about sharing our New Year’s resolutions with one another so that we can help hold each other accountable to be better in this coming year.  That night, I woke up with an idea and here it is…”Chai for Chai” or “18 for Life!” Basically, I thought of an idea where as a group, we can encourage each other to get healthier by taking small steps, with the goal of losing 18 lbs in 18 weeks.

Many of us- myself included have some weight to lose. A few years ago I participated with other rabbis in a weekly “support group” via conference calls where we studied Jewish texts on health and encouraged one another to lose weight. It was great, and with the support of other rabbis, I lost about 10 lbs. While I had hoped to lose much more, at least the scale was moving in the right direction.

However, after being pregnant and losing the baby (see “Saying Goodbye before Saying Hello”), I lost and gained a great deal of weight. I have tried a few things- such as a “Biggest Loser” challenge and a “DietBet” but they didn’t work. I realized that I wasn’t being motivated by money to lose weight and while there was a support system in play, it really wasn’t strong enough. I felt that if I didn’t follow through, the only person I was hurting was myself. I needed something else…

So, I came up with this idea- “Chai for Chai” or “18 for Life.” My goal is to lose 18 lbs in 18 weeks and thereby make a change in my LIFE by practicing better habits. Truth be told, I hope to lose more than 18lbs, but I figure that is a good place to start- not too much pressure. But I need more of an incentive- not money, but support- a reason why I can’t give up.

I put this idea up on Facebook with the hopes of getting a few friends to do this with me… Lo and behold- over 30 people have agreed to try and get healthier l’at-l’at...slowly, slowly. We started today and will go until the Middle of February. My hope is that we can help each other not only to lose weight, but more importantly to reclaim our lives.

Let me know if you, too, want to try Chai for Chai- making a commitment to take a few small steps to make a big difference!


I am not a nutritionist, I’m not a diet expert…All I am is one person looking to motivate others and be motivated by others to make a difference. Please let me know if you want to join our Facebook group! 



3 thoughts on “Chai for Chai- 18 For Life-Jewish Weight Loss

  1. Good for you. After my cancer two years ago, I made the same commitment. Between October of 2011 and March of 2013, I lost close to 50 pounds and have managed to keep most of it off. It takes discipline and support, but I always kept thinking about getting healthy for the ones whom I love. Let me know if you want to talk or just need a boost of support.

  2. Rabbi Emily:

    I think the idea you’ve come up with is interesting and certainly good-natured, I’m sure. However, my concern is that you go back and forth between talking about the goal of losing weight and the goal of getting healthy. While these are often put together in the same sentence, it is important to note that they are not, in fact, the same thing. Losing weight does not automatically mean a person is becoming healthier.

    I have also found that weight loss challenges are not as effective as the support itself, especially when there is a set number attached. If you would like to truly help each other become healthier, while I think the idea of incorporating “chai” in the goal is cute, it should be encouraged that everyone work toward their own individual goals together. Some people may feel they need to lose less, some more. Some who follow your guidance may even need to gain weight in order to become healthier and they should also be encouraged and supported equally. You hold a high rank in your community and I believe you should leave yourself open to consider others’ health needs rather than 1 very specific goal. You could have an incredible effect on people of all sizes. Perhaps even work in talks about self-image and self-esteem, as accepting yourself at different weights is even more important than the weight itself.

    Health is never “one size fits all.” Consider making “chai” less about the number and more about the meaning (i.e. life).


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