by Rabbi Eli Glaser
Saturday night was the hardest. I have no idea why.
I had already eaten two full meals earlier in the day, not to mention some snacking in between. I certainly wasn’t hungry.
But I just HAD to eat. I couldn’t resist. The magnetism of the refrigerator was overwhelming; the lure of the leftovers too strong to withstand. As hard as I tried, I could not overcome the temptation to binge. Chicken or chulent, kugel or kishka, it didn’t matter. I was all consumed by consuming it all.
I knew this behavior kept putting on the pounds – 300 to be exact. But I couldn’t stop. I knew the damaging effects it had on my physical health and emotional wellbeing; the frustration, turmoil and humiliation of not being able to control my eating. It didn’t matter. The only thing I didn’t know was why I could not stop.
My credibility suffered. Here I was, an outreach Rabbi teaching fellow Jews the wisdom and beauty of Torah, encouraging them to incorporate Judaism as the primary focus of their lives, and I couldn’t get a handle on my hamburgers. “Rabbi,” they’d say, “I don’t understand. You keep kosher, pray three times a day, have all this structure in your life and still . . .”
As the Rabbis tell us, the question is often better than the answer - especially when I simply didn’t have one.
For years, I tried to lose the weight. I did Weight Watchers and Atkins, diet pills and diet soda. I joined a gym and worked out incessantly; shot hoops and ran around the track. But the only ride that lasted was on the roller coaster of weight loss – down 20, up 30, again and again.
I had a productive and meaningful life; a caring wife and wonderful children – but no answer when it came to the weight. Until one day, in utter desperation, G-d blessed me with the gift of despair. I acknowledged I was truly powerless over food.
I accepted the realization that nothing that I could do on my own would work. I needed a total and complete overhaul of my attitude and behavior around eating. All my will power didn’t stand a chance against the food.
It wasn’t an easy pill to swallow. It was a huge slice of humble pie – but the most important meal I’ve ever eaten.
I engaged in a comprehensive solution, treating my compulsion with the seriousness of an addiction. Besides my physical cravings and obsessions with quantities, I understood that I was using food as an emotional coping mechanism as well as a spiritual release valve. I found comfort in the cupcakes, solitude in the salami.
Pretty crazy, huh? Actually, not so much. I found out that my behaviors with food were much more common than I thought, whether others are willing to admit it or not.
I lost 110 pounds in a little less than a year by incorporating a fundamental attitude change – it wasn’t about losing weight. It was all about gaining a healthy relationship with food.
I followed a food plan that had me eating nutritiously for the first time in a long time. I learned to treat food for what it was – fuel for my body – and not for what it wasn’t – a clandestine friend who promised contentment and camaraderie, but never delivered.
But most importantly, I tried on a daily basis to outsource my governance over food to G-d, allowing Him to do for me what I could not do for myself.
And that’s why, more than ten years later, I have maintained a 110-pound weight loss. For I try to do the same thing today as when I first started. It works, so I work it – one day at a time.
Rabbi Eli Glaser is a Certified Nutrition, Wellness, and Weight Management Consultant. He has 23 years of experience in the field of Jewish outreach, education and counseling. Rabbi Glaser trained in pastoral and multi-discipline counseling while working toward his undergraduate and graduate degrees. Rabbi Glaser is a member of NEFESH, the International Network of Orthodox (Jewish) Mental Health Professionals.