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 a compulsive overeater, that 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 really like to eat a lot), 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 got great support and encouragement from a fellowship of people who were recovering from compulsive eating. I learned about myself from the examples of others.
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 regaining a healthy relationship with food – one day at a time.
I followed a suggested 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 seven 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.
Zakah Glaser’s Story of Overcoming Overeating
I started dieting when I was eight years old. By the time I was in my early 20’s, I was incapable of sticking to a diet for even one day. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to eat, but that I had to eat. The obsession would not be relieved until I had my binge. Even then, I didn’t enjoy it. I barely noticed the taste as I inhaled the food. I just needed my fix. But I felt utterly broken afterward.
It was an insane mental obsession, coupled with an overwhelming physical craving. I was completely powerless.
Successful in many other areas of my life, no one could say I had no will power. Why couldn’t I apply the same discipline and focus to my eating habits?
I was walking through life in a food fog – lethargic and fatigued, confused and frustrated. I put on a happy face, but I was aching within. Outwardly religious, inside I felt spiritually barren. Every bite was a brick in the wall between me and G-d. Instead of turning to G-d during times of need, I turned to food. I used food to escape from uncomfortable feelings and situations.
I tried everything to control my eating. I joined diet clubs, got hypnotized, took herbal remedies and diet pills, did acupuncture, chiropractic, psychotherapy, exercised, went to weight loss spas. Spent lots of money we didn’t have looking for a cure. Nothing was more important than finding a solution to this absolutely confounding problem.
It wasn’t just the extra weight that weighed me down, but the mental anguish of being out of control. I ate in total privacy, and the dishonesty of sneaking and hiding my eating behavior ate away at my integrity. It was a vicious downward spiral of self-loathing, anger, self-pity, and blaming others for my problems.
I finally realized that I had to ask G-d for help with my eating problem. I had to become willing to make a lot of changes and I needed G-d’s help with that too.
It’s been a process of learning how to live without turning to food as a coping mechanism. I now utilize healthy, productive tools to help me walk through life situations. I’ve cut out foods that trigger physical cravings and I have complete neutrality around food. It does not beckon or tempt me in the least. Today I am free from the mental obsession with eating. Plus, I have maintained a healthy, normal body weight for the past 8 years.
There is a solution. It’s simple, but not easy. It works and I am extremely grateful.
Rabbi Eli and Mrs. Zakah Glaser created, SOVEYA, a non-profit organization offering confidential counseling, educational programs, teleconferences, seminars, and newsletters for the Jewish community regarding compulsive eating, obesity prevention and the Torah obligation to eat right and take proper care of our bodies.
SOVEYA raises awareness about compulsive overeating and obesity and the urgent need to address the situation. We know first hand how difficult it is to regain a healthy relationship with food; to lose the weight as well as the daily obsession.
SOVEYA was created by Rabbi Eli and Mrs. Zakah Glaser specifically for fellow Jews who have found frustration and failure with various diet and weight-loss programs. Our approach is based on Torah principles for personal growth and healthy eating as well as proven tools adapted from recovery programs for compulsive behaviors. The Glasers both struggled with overeating for many years, and have personally benefited from this type of method. They understand the central role food plays in the Jewish community and the particular challenge that it creates for many of us.