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Your Body’s Keeper

Yael Schuster

Protecting your health is not just a lifestyle option, but a mitzvah. When a Jew eats to fortify the body for spiritual work, each meal becomes a seudas mitzvah

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

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PORTION CONTROL “The mahn came in premeasured portions, at set times. This was to teach us that eating is meant to have boundaries”—Rabbi Eli Glaser

W hen Rabbi Eli Glaser was a kiruv rabbi at Aish HaTorah in the 1990s, showing newcomers to Yiddishkeit the beauty of living a life with boundaries and restraint, his dynamic classes often left his students puzzled: How could this paragon of self-control, who made a cogent argument for trading in one’s yetzer hara for Hashem’s will, weigh 300 pounds?

“I’d been trying to lose weight for years, but nothing worked,” Rabbi Glaser shares, remembering how he would always cave in to his cravings. “Finally I reached the pit of despair, realizing my willpower would never stand a chance against food. I’d hit a brick wall.” But that wall turned out to be a door, and the only way through it was to completely overhaul his relationship with food.

Rabbi Glaser says the transformation came with the realization that nothing he could do on his own would work, that he needed a total revamping of his attitude and behavior toward eating. And so he began treating his relationship with food as both a physiological and emotional addiction. By harnessing his spiritual reserves and turning to Torah sources, he learned to treat food for what it was — fuel for a healthy body, and not a substance that made the elusive promise of fulfillment but never really delivered.

“To have a healthy relationship with anything, you have to understand its purpose. The Torah defines the function of food as fuel for health and vitality. In Hashem’s love for us, He makes the process of nourishment an enjoyable experience. But the gezunt is primary, and the geshmak is secondary. People often reverse that order, which is abusing the function of food,” Rabbi Glaser explains.

 

Fences Around Food

Protecting one’s health — which encompasses diet, exercise, and other sound choices — is not just a lifestyle option, but a mitzvah. And that idea hasn’t been lost on many health practitioners in their quest to synthesize timeless Torah principles with modern-day understanding of nutrition in helping to combat food abuse and getting people healthier.

Rabbi Eli Glaser: “…the gezunt is primary, and the geshmak is secondary. People often reverse that order, which is abusing the function of food”

While the Torah’s viewpoint on diet and health has been accessible through seforim throughout the centuries, over the past number of years the frum consumer has been introduced to an assortment of eating plans that consolidate the Torah’s wisdom on health into formalized, user-friendly programs.

One of those programs is Soveya, founded by Rabbi Glaser and his wife Zakah, after they figured out how to successfully manage their own weight (between the two of them, they lost 250 pounds). Their approach is based on Torah principles for personal growth and healthy eating, as well as tools adapted from recovery programs for compulsive behaviors.

“The Sages ask us to make the connection between proper eating and our spiritual essence,” Rabbi Glaser says. “I had become a baal teshuvah some years before, and I tapped into that same teshuvah process again. Both situations required me to change my lifestyle so that it was consistent with what I knew to be true.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 705)

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