Some of us climb a scale each day in terror and dread. Some of us alight a scale, with our hearts thumping and throats tightening. We may know how to jump off and on, or gyrate this way or that to create a different number. And we will stare at that all important number – which could very well dictate our mood for the rest of the day. We believe the final number to be the true judge of our worth – of how well we are doing. And we are sorry that the scale could not be fooled.
I try not to think back to those obsessive weighing-in days. Yes, I am not as slender as I was back then. Yes, I still have days where I feel very large, and need to remind myself that I am much more than a dress size. One day I discovered other ways to monitor size, and my scale lost its power over me. No longer was my self-worth tied to random blinking numbers. I bravely abandoned the scale that was my companion most of my youth and put it away. I learned about a whole world that did not revolve around food plans and rigid choices. I learned that food could be my friend, and I could enjoy it based on my tastes and likes. I learned that my body actually knows when food is necessary, and that I could trust my hunger. I realized that G-d wants us to eat and enjoy, instead of feeling tortured when faced with tasty food.
Eating is a constant, and we ought to notice what it is we consume. What am I choosing to eat at this moment? Do I eat with abandon, or with awareness? Am I even enjoying the food? Am I making my blessings properly, before and after a meal or snack, expressing to G-d how grateful I am for these choices?
I think of a friend, a mentor from my days in New York. She was a truly special woman who not only raised a large family, but had also begun to have grandchildren. Then she succumbed to an awful illness and quickly was gone. The first thought I had then upon hearing the news was “but she never got to be as thin as she wanted.” Yet, G-d took her. Her time was up.
What if we spend our all our waking moments mourning over an extra morsel of cake? What if we regret our food decisions each time we make them? What if we don’t see what we’ve become?
All of us are expert calorie counters. We know all the labels, and can recite the calories fat and carbs of each item. Our generation is truly more educated than any other about food, and the consequences of eating poorly. Even young children have jumped on the food bandwagon, and can rattle off the fat contents and calories. We have the knowledge to make better choices.
It is good to be aware, to be sure we are not eating recreationally, to fill time, but rather that we are reaching for food based on our internal hunger signals. I wonder, though, do we focus equally on our spiritual progress?
The High Holidays are just a few weeks behind us. We have been judged by the one true Judge – and we made promises and resolutions. The real world, the real judgement of our worth, lies entirely in our behaviors and choices. Good intentions are nice, but only valuable if we make them concrete with action. G-d does not care about the number on the scales; He does not care how much we weigh. However, He does care about how we treat our mothers and fathers. He will measure the nuances of our speech around our coworkers and how we act when we are behind the steering wheel.
Am I spending all my waking moments mourning over something I ate that was high in calorie? Am I noticing how I look or who I have become? Do I appreciate the gift of what I do have? Do I truly revel in the present, appreciating life? Do I count my blessings or my calorie consumption?
There is so much around us we can choose to do. If we have time, there is chesed/kind acts waiting to be actualized. And there is always that load of laundry or the shopping to do for our own families. Let’s not come in on the short end of the scales that really matter, the measure of our deeds or the shortcomings of bad choices.
Some of us play the “body check” game. To play, we decide who is the thinnest in the room, usually at some gathering. We may envy the thinner people around us, without truly knowing their struggles. It could be that the thin person we emulate is undereating with dire consequences. It could be that the person we admire has a disturbed relationship with food, and needs outside help to become a normal eater. We also may not realize that some people do have higher metabolisms and cannot hold on to weight. And some people are not tested in the arena of food at all.
When we are judged, let’s applaud the strengths we have, and mourn our poor choices. Let’s remember to aim not just for goal weight, but the goals that really matter to us.Penina Scheiner
About the Author: Penina Scheiner is a kindergarten teacher, writer, and busy wife and mom who lives over the rainbow with her husband and kids.
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