The upcoming Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah offers a perspective that can be beneficial to people who struggle with their relationship to food and body image – regardless of their religion, or lack thereof.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, offers the opportunity to reflect on the past months, and consider where we have perhaps strayed from the path we envisioned for ourselves. In the new year, we are encouraged to do teshuvah, which roughly translates as “turning back” or “returning” to who we were meant to be. The invitation is to do a course correction that steers us back toward acting in ways that we can be proud of, that exemplify our highest selves.
For people who struggle with compulsive eating, food obsession, and body image issues, these holidays are an opportunity to consider how we may have fallen into unhealthy patterns, such as binging, purging, or starving to cope with anxiety. For example, many people experience the changes inherent in autumn – change of season, new responsibilities, school starting, etc.— with trepidation, and may be tempted to overeat, or reach for sugary and fatty foods to comfort themselves. However, If we focus on teshuvah, we can turn away from those negative coping skills and replace them with healthier choices.
For example, we can redirect our anxiety into more useful pursuits like meditation, mindfulness, physical activity, or sharing with a friend, family member, therapist, or support group. Rather than focusing on self-conscious worries about our clothing, people’s opinions of our appearance, or an inability to live up to unreasonable expectations of ourselves, we can direct our thinking toward gratitude and self-acceptance. Practically speaking, we can start by incorporating regular movement and healthy or intuitive eating into our lifestyle – which can help us to feel good about our bodies and help us achieve a sense of serenity and joy.
Whether you observe these holidays or not, you are welcome to borrow from Jewish tradition and use the fall as an opportunity to return to your best self.