Disordered Eating Blocks My Spirituality

I just failed another “lunchtime challenge.” A few months ago, I started working full-time at an organization that doesn’t have a cafeteria. Our building is surrounded by restaurants, so most employees head downstairs to grab a bite.

It sounds simple enough, unless you are a person who struggles with binge eating. I start obsessively thinking about what I am going to eat almost immediately upon arriving at work. I tell myself, “Today will be different,” but more often than not, I order fatty, unhealthy food in large quantities. Because I’m embarrassed about my terrible habits, I usually eat alone, in my office.

Predictably, this kind of binge eating has negatively impacted my life. At 5’11, I weigh around 230 pounds. I’m a 38-year-old on blood pressure medication and I also have a bad back.

Obviously I realize that I’m hurting myself, so why do I continue to binge?

1.  As a person who suffers from low self-esteem, I get easily stressed out when someone expects something from me. The “expectation” might be a request at work, having to fix something at home or even someone asking me for directions (I have a terrible sense of direction).

Being scared to let someone down brings up a lot of negative self-talk: “You are useless.” “You don’t know how to do anything!” Rather than allow myself to feel that stress, attempt to process it and maybe even counteract it, more often than not I run to food – that soothing friend that expects nothing from me, is always there and never lets me down.

2.  On a related note, the bloated, slightly nauseated feeling that follows a crazy eating binge feels like the punishment that I believe I deserve.

3.  There are several aspects of my life that are bothering me. Sometimes it feels so overwhelming to deal with even one of these issues, let alone all of them. But I don’t have to deal with them. Because instead of really thinking about how I can improve my life and experience true simcha (Jewish joy), I obsess about food. That way, I don’t have to think about my real problems.

4.  It doesn’t really matter if I binge today, because tomorrow I am going to start a big diet, right? So today, I can eat whatever I want. This is what Gretchen Rubin, of The Happiness Project, calls “The Tomorrow Loophole.” I’ve been doing this “trick” to myself for so many years – it’s very appealing (even addictive).

Despite the fact that I’m a man, I had a major revelation when reading the book Woman Food and G-d by Geneen Roth. Not only is my disordered eating hurting my body, my productivity and some of my relationships, it is also blocking my spiritual life.

How can I be doing mitzvot, engaging in Torah study and really concentrating on prayer while I am spending so much time obsessing about food? As Geneen writes on the front flap of her book:

…going beyond both the food and feelings takes you deeper into realms of spirit and soul to the bright center of your own life.

To authentically experience simcha, I know I will need to move beyond food and feelings. As I embark upon that journey, I’ll share my experiences here. Hopefully you’ll also share some of your own experiences…

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