16 Nissan 5779 / Sunday, April 21, 2019 | Torah Reading: Acharei Mot
 
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Lust for Eating    

Lust for Eating



The Evil Inclination has an incredible number of opportunities to trip us by using food: what we choose to eat, how much we choose to eat, how quickly we choose to eat…

 



My husband and I have recently been blessed with a second child, a little girl, at the age of 41. While I was pregnant and doing the math in my head about how old we would be, God willing, at this child’s high school graduation I realized that I need to get healthier and then I need to figure out a way to stay that way. I’m not talking about a diet to fit into a swimsuit. I need lifestyle changes that I can stick with long term to avoid the diseases that run in my family: heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer. That means I need to lose a lot of weight and keep it off.

For over three months I have been working hard to change my entire relationship with food. I have never tried to do something so different and so structured and it has been a real spiritual struggle. It has made me realize many important things.
 
* When you make healthy, educated decisions about food you CAN lose weight and still eat food that tastes good. It’s not as hard as I thought most of the time, but when it is hard, it is a full fledged spiritual battle.
 
* As we have aged, my husband and I have used food to celebrate and relax where in the past we would have popped the cork on a nice bottle of wine. We substituted the food for the alcohol, which is a good thing of course. Until, of course, it’s a bad thing! Unwinding with a terrific meal seems harmless, and it can be, but being overweight isn’t harmless. It’s no mitzva to abuse your body. When I use food to relax I’m trying to fill a hole both literally and metaphorically. If it’s not beer, then it’s food. But if it’s not food, then what do I use?
 
* Since I have been exercising portion control (a cup of whole grains or healthy starch, a palm-sized portion of lean meat or protein, and a few cups of healthy veggies) I have noticed that there are times when I am really anxious or have a crazy impulse to go shopping. It’s as if because I can’t use a glass of wine or a plate of food to unwind, now I have to fill any void in my home with stuff, stuff, and more stuff. It’s as if stealing one tool from the Evil Inclination has forced the little jerk to pick up a different weapon - my debit card.
 
* Watching what I eat has made me watch what everyone else eats. I’m a little obsessed. Of course that is a sure-fire way to end up a lonely and loathed woman. The Evil Inclination wants me to pretend I’m God and bestow my ‘wisdom’ uninvited on loved-ones, which of course is an awful thing to do. As the saying goes, I need to keep my eyes on my own plate. Who the heck am I to interfere?
 
* The plan I am using gives you a day off from the meal plan and the workouts. You get a Shabbat of sorts. This has really helped me to stay on the plan. There are moments when you need to stop and think about something else. We can’t just go, go, go. And we also can not be perfect. Only God is perfect. So during the week when I want to hop in the car and go to my favorite gourmet hamburger joint to distract me from my stress, I know that I can go there on my day off without guilt. 
 
* The day off of the plan has revealed some weird behavior that has helped me to focus on my food issues, quite frankly. For example, why on earth do I need to chow on a box of Rasinettes for breakfast? Sure that’s technically allowed on the day off, but I feel like garbage afterwards and am setting a horrible example for my children. I also realized that on the day off, I sometimes eat very little, less than a day on the actual plan. It’s just nice to not have to worry about cooking food at all. That was a surprise to me. When I have permission to eat whatever I want and feel really relaxed I don’t eat anything until 1:00 PM, sometimes.
  
* Losing weight in an intelligent way is like saving a few thousand dollars one penny at a time. The Evil Inclination has an incredible number of opportunities to get us down using food: what we choose to eat, how much we choose to eat, how quickly we choose to eat, where we choose to eat, how often we choose to eat, how much we put on the fork and how slowly we chew. It’s a minefield. Each good decision is a penny hard earned that can go away in a flash, so much faster than it took to save. And unlike drugs or alcohol, food is something we must have in our lives.
 
At a playgroup recently I ran into Julie, a friend I haven’t seen in awhile. When I met her three or four years ago she weighed seventy-five pounds more than she does now. She has slowly lost the weight month by month, year after year, and now looks very healthy and seems happier than I have ever seen her. I told her how great she looks and how proud of her I am because I know how many good decisions it takes to equal just one pound lost. She said, “I go to O.A. (Over-eaters Anonymous) so it’s not that hard, to tell you the truth. I took all that pressure off myself.” I was so surprised by her answer. She had the guts to say that in front of a room full of people who might have not understood or might have been very judgmental. And she showed how incredibly smart and humble she is.
 
How so? O.A. is a twelve step program. One of the twelve steps is admitting that you are powerless over your addiction. This leads you hopefully to surrendering to God and tapping into the most powerful Force in the universe to help you. You can’t do it without Him.
 
Some people reading this might think that we are turning everything into an addiction: alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, now eating too? But here’s the thing, I don’t really get so hung up on the term ‘addiction’. Twelve step programs embrace a philosophy that meshes beautifully with many Torah principles, which Rabbi Brody expounds upon in The Trail to Tranquility. Julie experienced the truth behind conquering anything in our lives that is bedeviling us: without God’s help we are done for. We need to ask God for help and stop taking on all of the work ourselves. We need to work smarter, not harder. We need to remember to invite God to help us and to give him the credit when He does. 
 
It was such a great moment for me to hear Julie say that. Of course God put her there for a reason, that’s what I believe. In all of the craziness and exhaustion of raising two small children at this age while simultaneously tackling such a major lifestyle change I have become quite stressed and rundown. He needed to remind me to ask for some help. Only God can fill the void I’m trying to fill with food and bargains from the local consignment shop. And I don’t need to and can not do this alone.




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