Eating Disorders in the Jewish Community
Food. Aside from the life-sustaining nutrition it provides, food plays a central role in all of our lives. Whether enjoying a Shabbos seudah, participating in a luncheon, or attending a Chinese auction, we use food as a medium to serve Hashem, celebrate special occasions, and foster good feelings. Yet for one affected with an eating disorder, food takes on an added dimension — in some ways as a harmful enemy and in other ways as a secret friend. The thoughts of a person with an eating disorder can be consumed by body image, weight, fear of getting fat, and food. His or her life revolves around these issues to the point of unhealthy behaviors. The affected individual can fluctuate between being in complete denial, or admitting there’s a problem, but not being motivated to deal with it. Then there are times that they reach out for help.
In recent years, eating disorders have become increasingly prevalent. Despite our more-sheltered lifestyle, our community is not unaffected. Countless young women, and men, are struggling with eating disorders. Realizing that there were few resources available to the frum family,
Magen Avrohom was founded in 2003, With the encouragement and guidance of gedolei Yisrael and leading medical experts, Magen Avrohom assists individuals and families struggling with an eating disorder by offering education, guidance, and support.
Magen Avrohom’s philosophy was developed after observing that “strugglers” who have recovered from an eating disorder attribute a great part of their recovery to a supportive environment. Unlike a physical illness where the patient is cured due to a specific procedure, a physical/emotional disorder requires that the patient be surrounded by an environment that is conducive to recovery. Building on this observation, they developed a unique environment-based education and support program.
Magen Avrohom is there to navigate for the struggler and his or her family, school staff, friends, etc. We offer support and understanding through our mentoring program. Furthermore, we are there for the struggler’s family and other social contacts, teaching them what to say, and what not to say. Surrounded by informed and caring family and friends, the struggler can get started on the road to recovery. Equipped with years of hands- on experience, Magen Avrohom has developed a method of working with these families, to help them help the ones they love recover from the complex world of eating disorders.
To quote Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, MD, “Psychotherapy is indeed important, but contact with a therapist for one or more hours a week is not adequate in eating disorders. It is essential that help be available 24/7/365. It is also crucial that family members understand the condition and be guided on how to relate to the affected individual. Magen Avrohom meets these difficult demands and provides a life saving service.”
Magen Avrohom has developed a School Awareness Program geared to teachers and school staff. This program will train school personnel in how to maintain the emotional wellbeing of their students, and the prevention of eating disorders. It will also guide in early detection of emotional issues, and defi ne what role they play in the recovery process.
Magen Avrohom, whose main branch is located in Brooklyn, NY, has baruch Hashem been very successful in its efforts to assist families that are affected by eating disorders. They have worked with strugglers themselves, parents, spouses, and best friends, as well as expert medical doctors, psychotherapists, social workers, and nutritionists sensitive to the special needs of our community.
Is it a dieting fad? Is it an eating disorder? Address it early on,
and find out. For more information or if you are seeking assistance,
please feel free to contact Magen Avrohom.