The NY Times ran an article yesterday “Rabbis Sound Alarm Over Eating Disorders” that brings to light the suffering of many young women in the Orthodox world that are suffering from eating disorders. This paragraph jumped out at me.
“There are a lot of mixed messages,” said a 27-year-old woman from a strict Orthodox community in Brooklyn, who once carried less than 100 pounds on her 5-foot-6 frame. “My grandmother would see me and say, ‘You look so good, you’re so skinny — come eat, eat.’ ”
Our world revolves so much around food and celebratory holiday and Shabbat meals, but unfortunately there is a lot of focus put on the girls to be skinny. One of my Boro Park charedi cousins once told me “you can never be too rich or too skinny” and she totally believed it.
I find it interesting though, that this obsession with being thin does not seem to apply to the boys. Very few mothers of girls are asking the boy’s waist size or weight when they are discussing a shidduch.
Size shouldn’t be a consideration in shidduchim – health is more important. Let me tell you something, being pregnant takes a lot out of a healthy body – if the body is starved of nutrients beforehand in order to maintain that size 2 that got a girl married – that will only lead to problems in the pregnancy and perhaps long term.
We need to focus on health, and how to maintain good eating and exercise habits – but how are we going to get this message through to those who need to hear it? How are we going to help those already suffering from eating disorders as a result of the peer pressure? How do we remove the shame and stigma associated with mental illness in our communities? How can we teach self-acceptance to those who are unwilling to learn?