During the days leading up to Yom Kippur I am contacted by concerned parents, physicians, and rabbis. “My daughter is recovering from anorexia, and insists she is going to fast.” Parents often turn to Rabbinical advice…but they are torn and confused. They understand the importance of fasting on Yom Kippur, but often have been on a challenging journey supporting their child in the process of healing from an eating disorder. Recovering from disordered eating, as a child, and as a family can be a prolonged process. Gaining kilos does not reflect emotional healing. Reversing that slippery slope downward into the frightening endless abyss of disordered eating is complicated. My experience as a therapist tells me that each person who battles with these disorders begins the battle with different personality, and behavioral histories that trigger them to take that first step. Gaining courage and strength to saying NO! to habits that have given structure and purpose needs a lot of support from loved ones. After all, anorexia/bulimia have been very trusted friends-directing their lives…pretty hard to step into a new scary world, one with all its expectations.
As our loved ones take steps towards healing there still exist those challenges and triggers. This is where Yom Kippur steps in. Fasting has the ability to bring us to powerful emotional places-often helping us in that spiritual elevation of the prayers of Yom Kippur. Low blood sugar caused from not eating can bring on the ‘lows’ when life can start to look pretty despairing. Perhaps we need to act with caution when it comes to recently recovering clients-can this send them on a spiral down again? There is an elating feeling of empowerment that fasting reinforces for those who get ‘into’ starving themselves…do we really want to re-introduce those triggers this Yom Kippur?
To fast or not to fast? Eating disorders often stay hidden in subterfuge and suffering for so long. Yom Kippur is around the corner. I encourage you to join your loved one who is ‘recovering’ in a therapeutic conversation about fasting. Sharing your concerns and love, and hearing what they have to say has the potential to create more understanding and healing. Perhaps a professional can be a part of that discussion. Gmar chatimah tova