Why I Don't Change How I Eat on Jewish Holidays


“They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.”

This is a common joke about the Jewish holidays. The holidays come with plenty of food: matzo, challah, kugel, latkes – and plenty of restrictions.

During Passover, we cannot eat any food made from wheat, barley, rye or oats. Restricting is meant to commemorate the Israelites who fled from Egypt before their bread could rise. On Yom Kippur, we are asked to fast from one sundown to the next. Fasting is a time for us to reflect and atone for our sins.

But for me, they were excuses.

As a teenager, I asked my parents to let me fast for Yom Kippur, claiming I wanted to be an adult when I was really searching for justification. A way to give in to my eating disorder while doing something right.

For years, my parents would try to suggest healthier alternatives, such as staying off my phone or not watching television for a day. I would refuse to listen and continued trying to fast for the wrong reasons. I avoided eating bread during Passover and became frustrated each time I “slipped up.”

After struggling with my eating disorder, I finally let tradition slide during the holidays. I ate three full meals on Yom Kippur and bread during Passover, even when my friends talked about how hungry they were and how hard fasting was.

I still hesitate to tell my friends and family I am going to eat as we depart from services. I’m worried they’ll think I am less Jewish. Fasting is seen as a “mitzvah,” a good deed. But a mitzvah is also taking care of your body and your mind.

Traditions must take a backseat when my eating disorder separates meaning from my intention. So I go into the holidays with the notion I can be both Jewish and in recovery without one affecting the other.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via photovs.

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