Soldier or Student?| January 17, 2023
When we choose to become students instead of soldiers, our eating issues become our teachers
Soldier or Student?
When we view our eating challenges as problems, we dive into solution mode. We spend a lot of energy focusing on control and fixing and trying to change our eating habits. To stop eating the sugar. To say NO to the extra piece of cake. To be stricter, tougher, more disciplined.
Whether it’s the overeating, emotional eating, or obsessing about food, we want our “problems” gone; we want a way out of the mess.
“I have a terrible bingeing problem — I have to stop already!” “I can’t stop eating the carbs — I need to have more control!” “My emotional eating is really out of hand — I wish I didn’t have to deal with this!”
Women come up with all types of strategies to change their eating patterns. “I won’t eat after six p.m.” “I will go on the scale every few hours to keep my weight in check.” I will tape my fridge shut.” “I will tell my husband to hide the candy.” “I will chew gum all afternoon.” These women have ambitious plans, and on paper, everything sounds nice and dandy. But ultimately, whether it’s after a few minutes, a few days, or a few weeks, the plans typically don’t work. What we try to control, controls us instead.
What if the way to feel better is not to fight these behaviors, but rather to listen and learn about those things we try so hard to get rid of? I recommend becoming a student as opposed to a soldier. What would it be like to listen to the bingeing, the mindless eating, the overstuffed feeling? To be curious about the eating behaviors? To inquire within ourselves about the shame and humiliation and the fighting?
By way of analogy, imagine this scenario: Mom is home taking care of her children when her toddler erupts into a full-blown temper tantrum. What is Mom’s response? Does she tell herself: I need to get rid of this behavior. Maybe I should offer him some ice cream, that’ll calm him down. Maybe I should put this kid in his room so I don’t have to hear him screaming so loudly. Maybe I should distract him with an exciting toy. Of course, these ideas might be productive in the moment, but in the long run, the mother won’t actually be helping her child.
Instead of jumping to action — How do I get rid of this tantrum, Mom can choose to learn about it. What would a curious response look like: Hmm, I wonder why my child is so dysregulated right now? Maybe he’s hungry? Tired? Perhaps something happened in preschool that upset him? Maybe he needs more individual attention from Mommy? Maybe he’s scared about something that he doesn’t know how to express?
When Mom is no longer trying to get the tantrum out of the way, she is free to discover that the tantrum is the way the child is communicating in this moment. When we are open to seeing that there is a deeper need being expressed, albeit through kicking and screaming, the tantrum can help us learn about the child’s inner world.
And even if we don’t have a clue why the child is having a tantrum at this particular moment, through listening and attending — rather than trying to fix or stop behavior — we can help our child feel accepted and validated. And this is how healing happens.
Applying this analogy to our eating challenges, our unwanted eating is actually a call to understand ourselves in a deeper way. When we believe we have problems that need to be fixed and tamed, it can become hard to help ourselves. Constant fighting mode causes us to feel depleted, which is a common trigger for more eating.
When we choose to become students instead of soldiers, our eating issues become our teachers. We might learn that we need to give attention to some uncomfortable emotions, or perhaps invest more in some self-care. Maybe we need to learn how to gauge our hunger and fullness cues or set healthier boundaries in relationships. Like the mother of the toddler having a tantrum, we don’t always have all the answers, but when we focus on listening and learning instead of shaming and eliminating, we give ourselves a feeling of care and connection.
There is always a place for hishtadlus; sometimes we will choose to eat certain foods and not eat others, sometimes we might not have the white sugar, sometimes we won’t eat at night. However, when we invest our efforts while wearing the hat of a student as opposed to that of a soldier, we learn how to care for ourselves in a way that truly nourishes us.
Shira Savit, MA, MHC, INHC is a mental health counselor and integrative nutritionist who specializes in emotional eating, binge eating, and somatic nutrition. Shira works both virtually and in person in Jerusalem.
Can I Polish Your Crown?
Many of us are familiar with the gemara that discusses the questions we will be asked at the end of our lives. Were we honest in business? Did we set aside time daily for Torah study? Were we busy with ensuring the continuation of Klal Yisrael, and did we wait for the Redemption?
A less commonly known question is the one referenced in the sefer Reishis Chochmah, quoting from Maseches Chibut Hakever. According to Reb Yosi, we will also be asked another question. “Himlachta es chaveircha b’nachas ruach? — Did you crown your friends pleasantly?" We are all bnei melachim, and we’re tasked with treating others royally by raising them up and focusing on their needs and honor.
A school I’m privileged to work with incorporated this essential question into the theme of their yearly middos program. They’re teaching their students to exercise great thought in ensuring the kavod of everyone around them. Along with explaining the responsibility this question targets, they are teaching their students how to do this practically, focusing on the social interactions and nuanced behaviors that facilitate this.
Each of us can guide and model this to our own children. We can help them learn to focus on complimenting others, giving people the time and space to speak while we genuinely listen, and thinking of our friends’ honor before our own by letting our peers go first in games or otherwise making them feel important.
To paraphrase the quote, “Real kings and queens polish each other’s crowns.”
Be careful not to let children confuse the idea of treating others like royalty with the concept of a class queen. A class queen likely appointed herself and created an atmosphere of exclusivity. Obviously, this is the antithesis of honoring our friends. As with any interpersonal skill, mutual give and take is key to a healthy relationship.
Zipora Schuck MA. MS. is a NYS school psychologist and educational consultant for many schools in the NY/NJ area. She works with students, teachers, principals, and parents to help children be successful.
Spit-up as Symptom
Dr. Jennie Berkovich
New babies and spit-up are kind of synonymous… that’s why no new mom leaves the house without a burp cloth! But while all babies spit up, and most babies have reflux, sometimes spit-up can be a symptom of a rare condition called pyloric stenosis.
The pylorus is a small area at the lower end of the stomach. Rarely, (less than one percent), babies develop a narrowed pylorus around three–six weeks of age. This is called pyloric stenosis, and results in a blockage from the stomach to the intestines. At about a few weeks old, babies with pyloric stenosis will present with forceful or projectile vomiting, and may have difficulty gaining weight. Pyloric stenosis is diagnosed via ultrasound and usually treated with surgery. After surgery, babies typically recover well and go on to lead normal and healthy lives.
Dr. Jennie Berkovich is a board-certified pediatrician in Chicago and serves as the Director of Education for the Jewish Orthodox Medical Association (JOWMA)
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 827)
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