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How the Festival of Passover Is Different in Eating Disorder Recovery

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

The Jewish festival of Passover, which starts Wednesday 8, starts out with posing the question of: “Why is this night different than all other nights?”

It’s answered by that we are eating different foods, allowing ourselves to rest and not eating bread. But the holiday is not about the food itself. It’s the symbolism of the food. It’s the new beginnings, not calories or macros. It’s remembering the suffering of our ancestors and how they found freedom. They were so excited to cross the Red Sea and probably did not count their steps on their journey. The holiday is about remembrance, the journey, and most of all finding freedom.

Passover has intimidated me in the past due to the course of the meal, as well as dietary restrictions that usually led to my fear of bread. But this holiday really is not about fearing bread or elimination. It’s remembering where I have come and where I am going. Just like my ancestors, I am on my journey to freedom: the freedom from my food rules and the way I think about my body. If this means participating in the holiday differently, I know it is what I have to do to find freedom because stopping eating bread would just continue to make me a slave to my eating disorder.

So with that, I ask: “Why is tonight different than other nights?”

My answer is not because I am giving up bread; it’s because I am finding freedom. Tonight is different than other nights because I have to adjust to my meal plan and still give myself permission to eat, and even eat more. Tonight is different because I am having different exposures. But it’s so much more than just food. Tonight is different from other nights because I am focusing on committing to finding my freedom and looking forward. I will always remember how it felt to be a slave to my eating disorder, but I am focusing on finding my freedom and enjoying a meal with my family for the first time in years, where my mind is free from being consumed by numbers. As the Dayenu says, “It would’ve been enough,” and so with that it would’ve been enough just to celebrate this holiday again. I’ve missed so many Passovers due to treatment. But to me, it’s so much more special that I get to celebrate this holiday while finding freedom; it means the world to me.

So with that, celebrate the holiday however you need to in recovery and do what you have to do to find your freedom. Dance your heart out with your timbrels because you deserve a life outside of your eating disorder. Eat the Passover brownies because it’s more than numbers. Let yourself rest and recline because you deserve a day outside of exercise. Here’s to finding freedom even when it seems impossible. Here’s to doing the impossible. If the story taught us anything, it’s that miracles are possible. Just like the parting of the Red Sea, your existence is a miracle and being alive is a miracle; make sure you celebrate that too.

Photo by Olivia Snow on Unsplash

Originally published: April 7, 2020
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