Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yom Kippur, Fasting, and Eating Disorders

In case you missed it, this Saturday was Yom Kippur. To quote from Wikipedia
Yom Kippur, also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jews. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora'im ("Days of Awe"). Yom Kippur is the tenth day of the month of Tishrei. According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to "seal" the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings. The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt. At the end of Yom Kippur, one considers oneself absolved by God.
Yom Kippur reminds me of my human frailty and how much I need God's guidance to survive. How grateful I am to know He has a plan for me. I need not doubt, only have faith in Him and His plan, and know that His grace is protecting me.

For me Yom Kippur and the other days of fasting are also difficult times. They remind me of part of my senior year when I nearly died from anorexia. No one around me noticed how much weight I had lost. Luckily, for me, I had a good friend end up hospitalized because of anorexia. She had passed out and they finally noticed she was anorexic. I was almost to that point as well. Her experience scared me badly enough that I began eating again.
The fasting days also remind me of not long later in my senior year when I'd had a migraine every day for a month. Drs. couldn't figure out what was wrong with me, tests were coming up completely negative on everything. So they ordered me to fast for a week. I was worried the whole time that I would end up anorexic again if I got in the habit of not eating. Results were inconclusive, so they ordered me to have another week of fasting. I almost refused, but so badly wanted to find out what was wrong with me, that I went through with it. After that second week, they found I have a liver disorder that effects my metabolism, I need to eat more often that most people or my body stops functioning correctly. Even just a one day fast like Yom Kippur will result in a major headache, weakness, fatigue, and possibly passing out. Due to all that this is the first time in ten to eleven years that I've participate in a fast.

But my experiences have also given me one of my personal crusades, fighting eating disorders.
Very few people realize how many suffer from them. We all likely know at least two people with one, and very likely never noticed that they have one. Anorexia and bulimia are probably the most well known types, but there are many others. There are lots of different causes of them too. They can be caused by psychological, biological, or environmental effects upon someone's life. Even such common things as depression and peer pressure can cause one to occur, and ADHD is known to increase the chances of developing one. Most forms can be easy to correct, and often are totally avoidable in the first place.
The easiest prevention is the person's knowing they have someone who cares for them just as they are. Even a smile could help someone. Who amongst us couldn't use those?