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Avadim Ha’yinu! And we were slaves of Egypt!

I want to preface this by saying that I am no religious expert (you could argue I’m not religious at all) nor am I a fitness guru. My name is Ron. I am 30 years old, work in marketing, am a good friend of Dylan and long time client of DC Fitness. Additionally, I am very proud to say that I will be the best man at his and Ali’s wedding.

A few weeks back I wrote Dylan an idea for a blog post about the dietary restrictions of Passover; the ritualistic cleansing from leaven wheat or “hametz”. I told him to title it, “Passover: religious ritual or thousands of years of Jews getting in shape for bikini season?”

Dylan opted to stay away – I wonder why…

The other morning I had breakfast at a fancy, overpriced, under-delivering typical Santa Monica coffee shop that offered gluten-free bread with their meal which, I just recently learned, is kosher for Passover as it doesn’t have the incriminating ingredient we Jews are to avoid during the holiday: wheat.

As I ate the delicious faux-bread substitute I had this realization – yes I was following the rules, no I wasn’t guilty of any punishable Passover offense, yet it somehow felt like an unfair win. I was circumventing the essence of Passover while maintaining it on technicality. I was to avoid bread for a whole week just as I’d done since I was a little kid and my ancestors had done for many thousands of years before me and here I was sinking my teeth into a fluffy, perfectly toasted delicious piece of food-progression: gluten-free, wheat-free goodness smack in the middle of the holiday…

Every year around the Passover Seder with my family the same discussion surfaces on the meaning of the holiday. There are mixed archaeological and historical accounts of what actually happened in Egypt during the time when Passover takes place. Were the Israelites slaves that served for hundreds of years to a lineage of Egyptian Pharaohs or is the story purely metaphorical? Is Egypt just a name for one’s own personal bondage? Do we all have to take our own personal exodus out of what restricts us, defeats our spirit and halts our progress and (this is where this becomes relevant to Dylan’s blog) the bondage from deliciously tempting, flavorful, mouth-watering carbohydrates?

Law inherently feels restricting. “What if I want to drink a half-liter of vodka and drive my car the wrong way down the 101 at 90 mph, officer? Have you thought of that?” And yet, if everyone was “free” to do and act as they pleased, would one truly be able to exercise their own freedoms?

Avid believers would say that religion is freeing. It is intended to help make sense of our complicated world, and to make a lot of really hard decisions really easy for us and leave us free to make any choice he or she prefers within its structure of ethics.

Carbohydrates are the perfect example. What is so restraining about carbohydrates? What is so mentally taxing about dieting? It is the constant battle we have with ourselves between, “wanting to look better naked but, well, tacos…” It is the psychology of dieting, the constant weighing of priorities where we become victims of our own weak-willed minds to the most dangerous inhibitor to progress: options. There’s a new-age term for this as well; it is called “decision fatigue”. It is the reason the likes of Mark Zuckerburg and Steve Jobs wear the same outfit everyday and the reason nutritional-purists eat the same meal time and time again.

The holiday, whether it intended to or not, offers us a dieting structure. It tells us that this week, no matter what, we cannot eat bread or products that contain (leaven) wheat and who are we to argue? Carbs are a powerful thing but stand no chance against 3000 years (plus or minus 500 years) of tradition.

Just as Dylan has said time and time again, there is no fighting our own psychology – there are going to be temptations everywhere you look. Having and creating a structure for oneself, a schedule, a set of rules, moments to allow “cheat” meals and moments of structure allow us to live our lives and feel the freedom to enjoy the beauty of food while holding ourselves accountable.

Structure gives us the freedom to know what is acceptable and what is not. Whether that’s a dieting schedule, or a set of laws for morality and ethics, organization, or “seder” (the Hebrew word for order and, not by coincidence, the ceremony of celebrating Passover), is what frees us to make choices.

As I sat there with “bread” in my mouth I felt the meaning of the metaphor. I wanted not to find ways around the law, not just uphold the law, but to celebrate it! To indulge and embellish it!

This Passover, use the holiday to release yourself from bondage, from carbohydrates, from options and the conflict of indecision.

Whether you celebrated the holiday or not, I wish you all a “Chag Sameach” – may you be delivered from bondage, and find yourself in your own personal haven next year.

by Ron Hogen
One-Time Columnist for DC Fitness and Dylan’s Coolest Friend

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