Shlomo Assayag has lived a large life. “At 6’4”, I’m a big guy. I grew up big and was constantly being bullied in school because of my weight. There were many challenges,” said Assayag, Toronto’s “Kosher Guru,” who runs a Facebook page for kosher consumers that has more than 13,000 followers.
As a husband and father of three, Assayag was determined to conquer his food addiction, get active and be a role model for his family and his Speedy Meaty Kosher Guru Facebook followers.
“I needed to take care of my health, so I sought out professional help,” he said.
On Dec. 1, 2016, Assayag underwent gastric bypass surgery.
“Over the last year, I have lost 136 pounds,” he said with pride. “Even with the surgery, it’s a battle. I get fuller quicker, but I must exercise and eat healthier. I hope to inspire anyone who is thinking about gastric surgery. It will change your life.”
Assayag, who continues on his journey towards living a healthier lifestyle, said he was inspired to use his personal mission to benefit Chai Lifeline, a charity that supports children with serious illnesses, as well as their families.
“I have proudly witnessed first hand the immense work of Chai Lifeline. I did a barbecue for their families and kids. I saw too many Jewish families affected by illness. If the children of Chai Lifeline and their families can fight each day, if they can push themselves to go through hospital stays and treatments, I can push myself out of my comfort zone,” he said.
So for the past five months, Assayag has been training for the 13th Annual Team Lifeline Miami Marathon and Half Marathon on Jan. 28. The race will raise money for Chai Lifeline, whose mission is to alleviate the emotional, social and financial challenges facing patients, as well as their parents and siblings, who are coping with pediatric illnesses.
“Team Lifeline is one of Chai Lifeline Canada’s biggest fundraisers. Funds raised by each runner directly support many of the Chai Lifeline programs we run in Toronto, such as Shining Stars, which is an after school program,” said Miriam Leibowitz, Team Lifeline Canada’s program manager.
“It offers recreation and respite to children who are sick, as well as their siblings, so that they can enjoy an activity together in a safe environment. This program allows the sibling to be the ‘shining star.’ ”
Proceeds from the marathon will also support Camp Simcha, Big Brother/Big Sister programs and Camp Lifeline.
Assayag said that before his surgery, his back pain prevented him from walking for more than 15 minutes.
“For the last five months, I’ve been training to walk the 21 kilometre half marathon. Fridays are my big walk. Up until the cold snap, we were outside. The last couple of weeks, we (Assayag and his trainer) have been walking between 13 and 14 kilometres inside shopping malls for about three hours. I have been posting pictures to inspire people to donate,” Assayag said.
To date, he has raised almost $17,000 and hopes to reach chai, $18,000, with the help of the community.
“Every month, I give away a couple thousand dollars in giveaways and promotions to my Speedy Meaty Facebook followers, so I said, ‘why not once a year ask the group to give back to charity?’ ”
About 20,000 runners from around the world will participate in the Miami marathon. Total funds raised to date in North America exceed $2 million.
“This year, we have 400 runners who will run or walk as part of the charity group Team Lifeline that includes 120 from Toronto and Montreal. We provide running, coaching, nutrition and fundraising support to help our runners get from start to finish,” said Leibowitz.