By Rabbi Pinny Super
Let’s not misdiagnose.
I recently read an article on COLlive by Shmarya Richler where he calls us to pay attention to “The pandemic no one is talking about.”
I was sucked in by the title, and curious to see what is this serious issue that we’re being called to pay urgent attention to.
The article focuses on overeating and unhealthy behaviors around food. The author goes into detail and bring awareness to the negative health consequences around unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise.
The grand solution suggested in the article is to practice self-control and consume smaller portion sizes.
The main issue I have with this article is this: Overeating is simply not always just about “bad choices.”
There’s a real thing called food addiction. (Overeating and under-eating) It’s a very common human way of coping with pain and suffering and using food to cope through life and uncomfortable feelings – using food as an escape.
Food is always readily available, and in our culture, good food is central to Shabbos and Yom Tov, and Simchas. When you’re feeling an uncomfortable feeling – binge eating is a really easy (yet ultimately debilitating) escape.
For many who suffer with eating disorders – over or under eating – telling them to get onto a health program or a diet, or practice self control via portion control – not only doesn’t address the cause of the unhealthy behavior, but can very often hurt a person’s mental health (feelings like being a faliure are the obvious ones) and ultimately their chances of overcoming what’s going on for them underneath with their feelings.
Instead of asking what and how,
We have to ask why the pain.
As renowned addiction specialist, Dr. Gabor Mate says: “Instead of asking why the addiction – ask why the pain.” Why is the individual struggling in pain and how can they heal and recover, and improve their mental health.
We have a ‘humans suffering in pain’ pandemic in our communities, not a ‘self-control pandemic.’
When we can properly address the underlying issues with compassion and the right care – then healing can happen – and a person can then hopefully be successful at a healthy diet. [There’s overeaters anonymous 12 step programs in every major city. In these support programs – and with the right therapy – healing and a more healthy, balanced lifestyle are possible.]