My Liberation from Compulsive Eating by Anonymous (Passover Semifinalist #3)
Welcome to our “My Personal Exodus from Egypt” Contest! Each day of Passover I will be posting a new semifinalist, and after Pesach one grand prize $100 winner will be chosen at random…
Anyone who says there is nothing good to eat on Pesach, has clearly never tasted Passover Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.
While many people will attest that they are quite yummy and delicious, a few years ago, they were the catalyst for my own “Exodus from Egypt.”
Struggling with healthy eating has always been a challenge for me. My mother is quite overweight and my grandmother was obese. Over the years I have expended a lot of effort striving to break that pattern through exercise and eating properly.
In the erev Pesach chaos one year, however, there was so much to accomplish. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc. I felt very pressured and stressed, and fell back on my old habitual coping mechanism- compulsive eating.
As I was preparing the cookies, I nibbled on the batter again and again. Once they were baked and sitting out to cool, every time I passed by the baking trays, I found myself taking another cookie. After a while I realized that even though I felt stuffed, I kept on eating. I was feeling anxious about all my Pesach preparations and couldn’t restrain myself.
I felt so disappointed in myself and my lack of willpower. I felt very frustrated and disempowered, but then my feelings shifted as I remembered a concept I had learned a few months before.
In his Personal Development Chaburas, Rabbi Aryeh Nivin discusses the verse “Toras Hashem temima, meshivas nefesh… misamchei lev (The Torah of Hashem is pure, it restores the soul… brings joy to the heart).”
As humans, we are flooded with thoughts from both our body and our soul- but how do we know which thoughts are emes (true)? Rabbi Nivin teaches that thoughts which restore the soul and bring joy to the heart are true thoughts from the soul. On the other hand, he explained, disempowering thoughts are simply not correct!
I realized that while I certainly did not want to be eating all those cookies, beating myself up in my mind was not helpful and not even aligned with Torah!
I suddenly understood that even when I fall into negative behaviors and make mistakes, I don’t need to feel horrible and judge myself as a loser. It was clear to me that I can always move forward–no matter how many cookies I have eaten (or how many errors I’ve made in other areas of my life).
This insight lifted a giant weight off my shoulders. In the past, my negative thinking about my compulsive eating left me feeling low and miserable, which made my desire for sugar even stronger!
With this insight, for the first time I felt like I was free and could make a new choice in the present moment despite the mistakes of my past.
In that calm state, it occurred to me that based on my personality and genetics, eating foods with sugar was like giving a glass of wine to an alcoholic. I understood in that moment that even just one cookie triggered my cravings; it created a very strong yearning for more sugar that was very challenging for me to resist. I realized that it would actually be easier for me to not have any foods with sugar at all, rather than to just have a taste.
A feeling of peace and clarity settled over me, and I felt inspired to try for the rest of Pesach to not have any desserts made with sugar at all. I decided I would set aside fruit to satisfy my sweet tooth. I knew it would definitely be challenging, but I was confident I could do it.
The yen for chocolates, cakes, etc. did certainly arise frequently over that Pesach, yet I found that as the days passed, the cravings lessened in both strength and frequency. I realized how much of my energy and thoughts had been taken up by thinking about food, and dealing with the highs and lows that sugar causes within me. I actually felt calmer, had a clearer head, and felt free!
I was so grateful for the many benefits I had experienced from weaning myself off sugar that I decided after Pesach to continue. It got easier and easier to not eat sugar and the quality of my life improved tremendously. My family and most others, while often incredulous, were generally quite understanding and supportive when I explained why I couldn’t have dessert.
That one insight had a profound impact on my life. As shocking as it may sound, I actually continued to not have any desserts with sugar for two full years from that Pesach! Baruch Hashem I was able to lose weight, feel great, and experience a quality of life that I had never known was possible
Currently, a number of years later, I will occasionally allow myself to indulge in a sweet treat and often I can handle it without any major repercussions.
Sometimes though, I do get triggered and find that I will end up eating more than I want.
But my experience from that Pesach taught me that there is no point in beating myself up and wallowing in my frustration.
Instead, I know now that I can let go of the disempowered thoughts and find the wisdom I need to move forward in this moment. I no longer feel enslaved to my food- and for that, I am so grateful.
So thank you Pesach chocolate crinkle cookies!