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3 years ago  ::  Aug 21, 2011 - 4:42AM #1
Gendenwitha
Posts: 32
I go to school with an Orthodox Jew.  One of the first things I noticed about her was she was extremely thin (in a very unhealthy looking way). But I know some people are very thin naturally and didn't know her that well, so I didn't say anything--athough I was really tempted to, because this seemed way past normal skinny, even among the naturally skinny folks I know.

I happen to be on a gluten-free diet, and a while back I ran across an article on a study that indicated that some people were using gluten-free diets as a cover for anorexia... it's an excuse to turn down food, and at the same time you get affirmation for the diet because you're doing something for your health.

So the other day in class we watched a movie, and our teacher went out of his way to buy organic popcorn for us that was labeled Kosher/Dairy on the outside and some disposable paper bowls.  She turned down the food, saying "for most Jews it would be fine, but..." she was just... I wish I remember how she phrased it, but it was in some way making light of situation, like 'crazy kosher' or something like that.  Which brought to mind the article I had read about using special diets as a cover for anorexia. (That alone I wouldn't have thought anything of, it's that, paired with her thinness that raised a red flag for me.)

I know her a little better now, and I think I'd like to at least gently express some concern to her, but don't want to do it in a way that insults her faith, and I would like some idea of how unusual it would be for someone to go above and beyond what most Jews would consider okay diet-wise.
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3 years ago  ::  Aug 21, 2011 - 5:12AM #2
Gendenwitha
Posts: 32

P.S. The other red flags, the next class she was drinking a vitamin water, zero calories, but has electrolytes which you often lack if you're not eating. And this is grad school, so everyone is kind of a perfectionist, but she makes the rest of us look like slackers when it comes to obsessing about making everything perfect--and anorexia is a control thing and linked with perfectionist personality types.


 

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3 years ago  ::  Aug 21, 2011 - 6:20AM #3
NahumS
Posts: 1,758

When it comes to dairy foods, some especially strict orthodox Jews use only milk that was milked under rabbincal supervision - "cholov yisrael". Most rely on rabbinic opinions that say that gov't supervision is sufficient to ensure that the milk is indeed cow milk, and not from an unkosher animal like a pig or horse. When the (non-Jewish) farmer, who had a cow, a horse and a few pigs in his barn, used to sell milk this made sense. Now that milk is produced in huge dairies with gov't supervision, this is not so relevant. Still, some prefer to observe the letter of the law that says another Jew must be present at milking.


It's interesting how religious observance can provide a cover for compulsive or neurotic behavior. There have been a number of articles in the religious press about anorexia among orthodox girls. Part is the psychological need for control - and part is the tension about finding a match.


In some orthodox circles, usually the more insular ones, young men and women do not mix or meet on their own. Before a young man asks a girl out on a date, the two check each other out through the individual (either a friend, relative or professional matchmaker) who has introduced them, or by doing some research (we tend to know each other). While family, education, personality, character, religiousity and economics are ostensibly the factors that determine compatibility - physical attractiveness is a big issue - mostly for the girl. Unfair, but true.


So some young women, perhaps your fellow student, get it into their heads that if their dress size is too big they will be rejected by anyone approaching normal. Unfortunately, some otherwise fine young men may have the same opinion. For a number of reasons the supply of religious young men is somewhat smaller than young women, so there is a good deal of competition. Some boys think that they are so much in demand that they don't even have to think of meeting a girl who is less than perfect in every way. (I've heard rumors that some fellows check out the girl's mother as well - who wants to marry a pretty girl who will get fat when she hits 40?) These girls are not going to meet anyone at a party or a bar (or even a university cafeteria or a game) so they panic. There is also pressure to get married at a fairly young age. It is only necessary to go a little too far - and you have an eating disorder.

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3 years ago  ::  Aug 21, 2011 - 9:58AM #4
Pam34
Posts: 2,650

It's not unique to Orthodox Judaism either. Most restrictive, authoritarian religious groups kind of 'support' a degree of obsessive/compulsive behavior. They just have different things to be OC ABOUT, that's all.


 


 

Blessed are You, HaShem, Who blesses the years.
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3 years ago  ::  Aug 22, 2011 - 4:28PM #5
Bunsinspace
Posts: 5,900

BS"D


I'd like to comment on the "crazy kosher" remark.  That is a BAD sign.  Kashrus is following a divine command.  Strictly speaking it is NOT OK for a Jew to cling to "cost-benefit" rationales for doing mitzvos.  They are done in love, not with an expectation of some kind of reward.  That may be OK for a child but not a responsible adult IMHO.  This notion that one is doing kashrus for health reasons alone such that one balks at other levels of observance of the mitzvo is, to me, a warning sign that not all is well with the world for that person.  Even if a person acknowledges physical health benefits one has no excuse for remaining stagnant in one's level of observance IMHO.  That is a sign that one is merely going through the motions rather than seeking to repair the world from the perspective of love of the divine.  Just my opinion for what its worth.

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3 years ago  ::  Aug 22, 2011 - 8:22PM #6
Gendenwitha
Posts: 32

I think maybe you misunderstood... she said her standards of Kosher were higher but didn't explain other than to make a causal comment that unfortuately I couldn't remember word-for-word.  *I* was the one comparing it to the article I read about anorexics who say they're gluten-free for their health as an excuse for turning down food.  Because I thought both would create the same sort of diversion for an anorexic--praise or admiration for setting high standards--rather than conern about lack of nutritional intake.

Another possiblity (seems more unlikley but would be a happier possibility) is that she genuinely desires to follow a strict diet for religious reasons, but having moved to a new area with a much lower Jewish population than where she was before, and being overworked with schoolwork, she may inadveranely be not getting enough nutrition.

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